Arugula, that leafy green with the strong peppery, spicy, and sometimes bitter taste. Some love it and some hate it, but there’s no denying it’s highly nutritious. It’s in a league with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli, they’ve been getting a lot of hype these days due to their anti-inflammatory, detox, and potential cancer-fighting properties. They are also rich in vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. But what happens if you are out of arugula or it just isn’t your jam? Whether you are eating it in a salad or adding it to your favorite dish, I’ve got an arugula substitute below that is sure to work for you!
The 7 Best Substitutes for Arugula
Watercress is the best overall substitute for arugula, as its taste is the most similar of any leafy greens. It has a similar mustard-like, peppery taste. Watercress does not hold up as well as arugula in cooking though and can quickly turn to mush, so it’s typically treated more like an herb. Watercress works best raw in salads, smoothies, sandwiches, soups, and as a garnish.
Using spinach instead of arugula is a great choice for a milder taste than arugula. While spinach and arugula have similar nutritional qualities, what you will miss with spinach is that peppery taste- but maybe that’s what you’re looking for! Spinach and baby spinach go great in salads and most dishes that you would use arugula for.
3. Dandelion greens
Dandelion greens are packed full of nutrients, also known as a medicinal herb. They are believed to help support the liver, heart, and eye health; while also packed full of vitamins and nutrients that benefit the entire body. Dandelion greens will also have a bitter taste; younger plants will be less bitter than older plants- just like arugula. If you like dandelion greens, this is an excellent substation for arugula as the nutritional benefits are outstanding!
Radicchio is a great substitute because it also has an earthy, spicy, bitter flavor, some say its bitter quality is similar to that of dandelion greens. When cooked, radicchio becomes less bitter and sweeter, while still maintaining some bitterness. The strong, tough leaves are going to be more similar to that of cabbage, so texture-wise radicchio is going to be different from the delicate arugula leaves. Radicchio can be a nice substitute because it is high in vitamin K, while also being a purple vegetable- we want to eat the rainbow!
Escarole, related to radicchio is going to have some bitterness to it, but not as strong as radicchio. Escarole works great in soups, stews, and sautéed. The inner lighter green leaves will work better in salads as they are sweeter and not as bitter. Loaded with vitamins A, K, and C it’s a winner!
Frisée is a leafy green that can bring great texture to any dish with its curly light green leaves. Its taste is mildly bitter, peppery with crunchy leaves. Frisée is going to be great for a bold salad that compliments its unique bittery taste such as cured meats, nuts, dried fruits, and creamy dressings. One thing to note is frisée cooks fast, so if you decide to use it in a soup or in a cooked dish- add it last and be sure to keep an eye on it.
While kale is going to have a much different taste than arugula, depending on your dish, it can still be a great substitute, especially if arugula isn’t your thing- or if you’re just scrambling. Kale is highly nutritious, right up there with arugula. It’s a much milder taste without the spice or pepper that arugula has. Kale is fairly versatile, so you can toss it in a sauce, add it to a salad, or on top of your favorite pizza; from raw to boiled to a sautée, it holds up well.
Arugula and these great arugula substitutions are all packed full of nutritional benefits also go great in smoothies!