Known for its fresh, peppery taste, Arugula is delicious in everything from salad greens to pasta. Finding an arugula substitute when you can’t find any or want to use a different green is fairly easy with all the options in your grocery store or farmer’s market.
Arugula adds a slightly bitter flavor when eaten raw in a mixed salad or as a fresh component to top a pizza once it comes out of the oven. While many people love the earthy flavor and peppery taste profile of arugula, for some, it may be too much, so substitutes for arugula with a much milder flavor may be necessary. Read on to learn about the best substitutes for arugula.
What is Arugula?
Arugula, also known as rocket, roquette, or eruca, is part of the Brassicaceae family. Along with other greens such as cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, arugula is a healthy and delicious salad green. Arugula’s unique flavor and bitter taste stand out amongst other mild and herbaceous greens.
Arugula is a leafy vegetable often used in Italian cuisine to balance heavier flavors and textures. It is great for mixed greens, arugula salad, pesto, soups, sandwiches, and grain bowls. The slightly bitter taste of arugula and its signature peppery flavor is more pronounced when eaten raw, as are the antioxidant and mineral properties of the leafy green.
Similar to baby spinach, baby arugula is harvested earlier than regular arugula, giving it a milder taste while still having the same flavor that is distinct to arugula. You can easily replace arugula with baby arugula in any recipe that you would use it, and it may be ideal for people who don’t prefer the flavor profile of arugula.
How to Choose the Best Substitutes for Arugula
It’s easy to find an arugula substitute since many great options can be used similarly to the leafy green. For dishes like salads, picking a leafy vegetable that is similar in dark green color will ensure that the appearance and texture are the same.
Most greens have a milder flavor than arugula, except for a few that we will discuss, but they still make a great substitute to replace arugula, depending on the dish.
When searching for an arugula substitute, it is important for you to consider what flavor profile you are looking for and whether or not having the same peppery flavor of arugula will be missed in your dish.
If you are making a raw dish like fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, the tangy flavor will really stand out as opposed to cooked dishes like frittatas, where the arugula greens offer mostly some color and a little nutritional value.
What Green is Closest to Arugula?
The easiest and most accessible versatile green you can use as a substitute for arugula is baby spinach. Baby spinach is similar in color and texture to arugula and contains loads of nutrients and vitamins, like arugula. Baby spinach has a milder taste than arugula, with some slight bitterness, and the leafy green works well in raw and cooked recipes that may call for arugula.
10 Arugula Substitutes
Below is a list of the 10 best substitutes for arugula that I’ve compiled so that you can find the best fit for your culinary needs. Although many of these substitutes for arugula are different in taste and appearance, they are suitable to replace when you’re looking for leafy greens to enjoy with or as part of your meal.
Whether you’re out of arugula or simply looking for a substitute, here is a list of appropriate stand-ins for the flavorful green.
Loaded with nutrients and vitamins like potassium, iron, folate, vitamins A, C, and K, baby spinach is a great substitute for arugula. Baby spinach is harvested in the early stages of growth, making it more tender and sweet than regular spinach.
Baby spinach’s mild taste is versatile and can be used in lots of different recipes like mixed greens, smoothies, soups, pasta, eggs, and sandwiches. Great when cooked but also crunchy and satisfying in texture when raw, baby spinach is on of the top choices to substitute arugula. Baby spinach is also low in fat, comprising of nearly 90% water, and less expensive than arugula.
Often thought of as a pesky weed, dandelion greens are a completely edible plant packed with Vitamin A, K, and C, as well as folate, calcium, and potassium. Dandelion greens are an ideal substitute for arugula as they have a slightly bitter taste when eaten raw, with the smaller, younger leaves yielding a milder taste profile.
Dandelion greens, like arugula, lose some of their bitterness when they are sauteed, making them almost indistinguishable from arugula in a cooked dish. Dandelion greens can be sauteed with garlic and herbs for a simple sidedish, or added to scrambled eggs to increase your nutrient intake first thing in the morning.
Although dandelion greens may grow all over, be careful not to pick them from just anywhere, as they may be sprayed with pesticides. It is best to buy your greens from a trusted source like the farmer’s market or grocery store.
As far as nutrition goes, baby kale is an excellent substitute for arugula, with similar vitamins and minerals. Baby kale is considered a superfood since it has so much nutritional value and health benefits such as antioxidants and anti inflammatory properties. Baby kale has also been shown to help with eye health, lower cholesterol, and overall heart health.
Baby kale is good in many recipes; sauteed with garlic and olive oil, cooked in soups and stews, and raw in a salad when lightly massaged to soften the leaves. Baby kale has a slightly peppery taste similar to arugula that compliments braised and roasted meats seamlessly.
Romaine lettuce is a common and popular green salad component that works well to substitute arugula eaten cooked or raw. Large green leaves surround the lighter colored center, or romaine heart in this delicious leaf vegetable with a crunchy texture that is often used to make caesar salads topped with parmesan cheese, sturdy lettuce cups, and can even stand up to being lightly grilled in halves before being topped with tomatoes, bacon, and crumbled bleu cheese for a real treat.
Romaine lettuce is low in calories and full of Vitamin A and K, as well as folate. Romaine lettuce is very versatile and often a go to lettuce for many, due to it’s accessibility and ability to keep well in the refrigerator, unlike many greens that turn quickly.
Endive, also known as curly endive and frisee, is another acceptable substitute for arugula. Not to be mistaken for Belgian endive, which is cylindrical in shape and can also be used as a substitute for arugula, they are both part of the chicory family.
Endive has a slightly peppery flavor that is a little bitter, making it close in flavor profile to arugula. Nutritionally, endive has a similar profile to most other greens, with high amounts of Vitamin A, K, and folate to offer. Endive works as a great addition to salads, or meals with fatty meats, as the flavorful green cuts through the heavy flavors or the meats.
Escarole, a dark green leafy vegetable with inner pale green leaves, works as a replacement for arugula in some applications. Escarole leaves are a bitter green, also part of the chicory family, like others on this list.
Escarole is a key ingredient in Italian wedding soup, and works great in sautes and braises because it keeps a favorable texture when cooked, like other leafy vegetables kale and collard greens. Escarole can be enjoyed raw, but it should be balanced with an acidic salad dressing to tone down some of the bitterness.
Purslane is a unique replacement for arugula that is packed with omega-3 fatty acids and lots of nutrients. Purslane has a tangy and slightly sour taste that mellows out a little bit when it is sauteed. Purslane can be enjoyed raw thrown into a salad or as a topping on a sandwich. Purslane is a flavorful herb that adds interesting texture and flavor to any dish that you may use arugula in.
Also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad, mache is an interesting and less common substitute for arugula. Mache is extremely high in Vitamin C as well as omega-3 fatty acids, making it a very healthy replacement in any recipe. Mache typically has a sweet, nutty flavor that stands out in a mixed salad when consumed raw.
Cabbage is a versatile and inexpensive substitute for arugula. Whether using green or purple cabbage, you can get lots of nutrition and flavor from raw or cooked cabbage in a variety of dishes. Cabbage has been shown to lower cholesterol, and contains essential vitamins and minerals.
Peppery radish sprouts are an interesting and unique replacement for arugula in a recipe. Rich in amino acids and chlorophyll, radish sprouts provide a healthy option full of flavor. Add radish sprouts to salads, sandwiches, and pastas for a little bite of flavor.