I never fully appreciated the wonders of arugula until I started working at an Italian restaurant. As a kid, my aunties would prepare arugula salad at the table and everyone had to eat it. Everyone loved it except for me. I didn’t understand why this pepper and bitter leafy green was so much loved by everyone at the table.
Fast-forward to 15 years later, I started working with an Italian chef at an Italian restaurant. He made us try different kinds of arugula alone to appreciate each kind. I must admit that it wasn’t so bad. It was actually one of my best culinary experiences as a young cook. He taught us different recipes that go with arugula.
Arugula is fantastic and I wouldn’t change it. But what if there comes a time wherein we don’t get to have arugula? Here are some substitutes for arugula that could work!
Watercress is one of my favorite types of green and what I consider to be the best substitute for arugula. It’s so delicate as its name describes it. The flavor of watercress is similar to radish, which makes sense because these two are related. It has a milder pepper, mustard-like taste compared to arugula.
This can be used in salads, pizza garnish and even meat! This can also be used as an arugula substitute in smoothies.
Escarole, like arugula, has a bitter taste and is a good replacement for arugula. It is related to radicchio. It contains the same kind of nutrients making it a super healthy choice for a substitute for arugula.
When you first look at radicchio, it looks like purple cabbage. Radicchio is part of the chicory family tree. When eaten raw, this red leaf is bitter and spicy but when cooked, the flavors mellow down.
Given the very beautiful natural color, radicchio is not only a substitute for arugula but also a substitute for whatever red cabbage is used for. It’s great to add to your fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. Chiffonade slices of radicchio would also be pleasant to top a taco with or a rich bruschetta.
Frisee reminds me of golden curls and is a great alternative to arugula. I love how these leaves look because they’re appetizing. They look like the wild card in salad and they are often added into salads along with other mixed greens. Frisee, like radicchio, is also part of the chicory family tree. It has a mild bitter flavor making it a good substitute for arugula in salads.
If you’re feeling a little daring, try finely chopping frisee and adding it to soups or garnish to rich flavored meat dishes.
5. Baby Spinach
Small, cute, nutrient-dense and delicious. Baby spinach is the kindest arugula substitute on this list. It doesn’t have a bitter taste, unlike the ones that have already been mentioned above. It provides great variety for your salad greens and it can be eaten with literally anything.
You can toss it in a salad, add it to pasta, toss it in stew right before serving, you can even turn it into a ravioli filling. If you’re not up for the bitterness of healthy leafy greens, this is the perfect green for you.
For the longest time, kale was in the headlines under the best leafy green category. Kale is a nutrient-dense leafy green that is a little bit more coarse than arugula. It is usually blanched lightly or chopped finely to add to those Buddha bowls or healthy grain bowls made for our vegan friends.
Kale gained so much popularity that it helped normalize green smoothies. Kale is perfect for salad and other healthy bowls. It’s a great substitute for arugula in salad and soups when you’re out.
7. Dandelion Greens
These aren’t widely available in the market but when you see them, get them! This is your chance. Dandelion greens are only usually available between January and May.
Dandelion greens share the same flavor profile as arugula, bitter and peppery. They kind of look the same too! This is a good substitute for a well-glazed salad and pizza topping.
A great way to use dandelion greens would be to top it on a prosciutto con burro pasta. The strong flavor of prosciutto will jive very well with the mild bitterness of the dandelion green.
Purslane is a weed that grows anywhere, even in the city gardens. Purslane is often the enemy of those who just want to maintain perfectly manicured flower gardens yet this weed keeps on growing. However, this weed is a perfect arugula substitute in salads and as a side dish and many more dishes.
Purslane has a lemony flavor that actually complements the flavor of arugula. It could be used as a substitute in salad and even sides with arugula in them. In one of the research articles we read, purslane is even chopped up finely and added into meatballs and sauces. Try giving this weed a go. You might just enjoy it!