What can I use instead of arugula? The ideal substitutes for arugula are watercress, dandelion greens, purslane, and escarole, as they have very similar peppery flavors. Other handy substitutes are frisée, mustard greens, radish greens, romaine lettuce, and Swiss chard.
Arugula, also known as rocket, rucola, and Italian cress, is a green, leafy vegetable that is part of the mustard family. The leaves are bitter and peppery, adding zest to salads, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, stir-fries, and soups.
Arugula has a distinctive flavor and crisp, tender leaves. Let’s look at the nine best substitutes for arugula.
The best substitute for arugula is watercress.
This semi-aquatic herb has a surprisingly robust peppery flavor, considering the leaves are tiny and delicate. The older the watercress, the more bitter the leaves become.
One of the most ancient greens in the human diet, watercress is a superfood related to cruciferous vegetables, making it highly nutritious.
It contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and a dose of vitamins A, B, C, and K, far outpacing all other leafy greens in this department.
Use watercress to replace arugula in salads, sandwiches, and a flavor note on fresh pizza.
You can add watercress to pasta and stir-fries, but do so at the end of the cooking time as it doesn’t hold up to heat as well as arugula. Replace arugula with similar quantities of watercress.
A second substitute for arugula is the more unusual dandelion greens.
These leaves are commonly eaten in Italy, where people forage for them, picking the dark, narrow leaves of wild dandelion plants.
It is possible to pick your own, but take care that they have not been sprayed with insecticide, weedkiller, or grown near dogs. It’s best to buy dandelion leaves at farmers’ markets or health stores.
Dandelion greens are very nutritious, higher in iron than spinach, and reduce inflammation. They contain more nutrients than arugula.
Dandelion leaves have a similar flavor profile to arugula, peppery and bitter but slightly milder.
Use dandelion leaves as you would arugula, as they are versatile and tasty, whether raw or cooked.
They’re a great addition to a salad of mixed leaves and pair well with Parmesan cheese in pasta. You can add them to simple stews and vegetable soups to add a bit of zing.
Use the same amount of dandelion greens in salad as arugula, but you can add more in cooked dishes.
Another delicious substitute for arugula is the herb purslane.
Originally from the Far East, purslane is now so common in the US that it is regarded as a weed.
However, the small green leaves have a delightfully tart and lemony flavor and make an excellent addition to your pantry.
The herb carries many health benefits, being one of the few plants that contains omega-3. It also packs a massive vitamin A and C punch, which is why it has long been used medicinally.
Purslane is a wild plant you can forage, but you can find it at farmers’ markets and specialist stores. It is also straightforward to grow.
Replace arugula with purslane in salads, where its tender leaves are best. It is also a handy green leafy veg to throw into soups or stews just before serving, but take care not to overcook it. Purslane is milder than arugula, so you can use more to get a more robust flavor.
Escarole, another leafy green beloved in Italian cuisine, can be used instead of arugula.
Escarole has pale, frilly leaves somewhat like lettuce, but it is related to the endive or chicory family. However, it is far more bitter than lettuce and has a strong taste.
Escarole is very high in fiber and contains several vitamins and minerals.
Substitute arugula with the tender inner leaves of escarole to add a bitter hint to salads. Escarole is also excellent cooked. Add escarole to soups, stews, and casseroles.
Although escarole is bitter, it lacks arugula’s characteristic pepperiness. Use as a direct 1:1 replacement for arugula, or use less if the leaves are too bitter.
Frisée is a delicious green that can substitute for arugula.
This lettuce-like plant has small, curly leaves and is also known as curly endive or chicory.
You’ll notice that the leaves are darker on the outside and get lighter and yellow towards the center because the leaf tops are tied together while growing.
Curly endives are rich in vitamins K and C, folate, phosphorus, potassium, and fiber.
Frisée is a delightful choice to replace arugula in salads, as it provides bitterness but not spiciness.
It is bolder than most other greens, so don’t use it alone. Its flavor is less intense when cooked, and it is good lightly wilted in a pan. Because of its extreme bitterness, use half the amount of curly endives than you would arugula.
Other members of the mustard family are suitable replacements for their cousin arugula.
Mustard greens is a general term for any leafy greens related to mustard. They include the broad-leaved savory greens, the curly-leaved spicy greens, and the pink-edged mild greens.
Like other greens, mustard greens are high in vitamins A, C, and K, particularly in the mineral copper. They support eye and heart health.
Because mustard leaves have a peppery, spicy flavor, they’re a handy substitute for arugula. Use baby mustard greens as a replacement for arugula in salads.
The more mature leaves have a tougher, kale-like texture and a real bite, so do best cooked. They are delicious in Asian dishes, standing up to garlic, soy, and ginger zest. Use fewer mustard greens than arugula because of their intense flavor.
A surprising substitute for arugula is something you usually discard – radish greens.
The leaves of radishes are edible and pocket-friendly; they’re also full of health benefits.
They contain calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamin C, and fiber. Eating these leaves helps to regulate your metabolism, especially your digestive and urinary systems.
Radish leaves are as peppery as arugula but sometimes have an unpleasant fuzzy texture. If you’ve got the smooth-leafed variety and the leaves are very fresh, they are lovely in a salad instead of arugula.
Otherwise, sauté the radish greens as a side vegetable, or add them to a savory soup. Use radish greens as a direct replacement for arugula.
A practical substitute from the lettuce family is romaine lettuce.
Romaine lettuce is available at most stores and markets and is a familiar salad ingredient. Used since ancient times as a food source, medicine, and “spoon,” romaine lettuce has a pleasingly tart flavor.
Like most lettuces, romaine is 95% water, but it is as nutritious as mustard greens, with a high level of vitamins and minerals.
Use romaine lettuce instead of arugula on sandwiches, in salads, and quickly wilted in a pan, as it will provide a similar peppery bite. However, it is unsuitable for extended cooking, so don’t use it in soups or stews. Replace arugula with equal quantities of romaine lettuce.
Swiss Chard is another alternative to arugula.
With its beautifully colored leaves, green, red, yellow, and rainbow chard is part of the beetroot family. Swiss chard is also known as beet spinach and leaf beet and is popular in Mediterranean cuisine.
Like other green, leafy vegetables, chard is rich in vitamins A, K, C, and E, as well as antioxidants, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Swiss chard’s health benefits include regulating blood sugar and encouraging bone health.
Swiss chard has a bitter flavor far more delicate than arugula. Still, you can use baby Swiss chard leaves in salads.
The bigger leaves are tasty cooked and can be steamed, braised, wilted, and sautéed. Even more versatile than arugula, chard is also a good filling for a savory quiche or ravioli.
You can replace arugula with equal quantities of Swiss chard, but you may want to add more as the mild pepperiness is very appealing.