Finding The Perfect Escarole Substitute: 7 Veggies That Made The Final Cut

Yesterday, while I was chopping some leafy greens for my salad, I asked my son to bring me escarole from the fridge.

The confused look on his face was enough – he had no clue what I was talking about, and, as it turned out, I was out of it, anyway.

Remember when I talked about substitutes for sage spice?

Yeah, that same scenario all over again, only this time, I was searching for the best escarole substitute, and over time, I managed to find seven other leafy greens you can use, instead! 🙂

Leafy Greens 101: What Is Escarole?

If you’re not entirely sure what escarole is, don't feel ashamed – there was a time I had no clue what it was, either. 🙂

Everything from escarole to radicchio was chicory to me. It doesn’t sound like the Barbara you know, but nobody’s born knowing everything, right?

Luckily, I got to know my leafy greens pretty quick, and you will, too!

Anyway, let’s get back to our mystery veggie of the day – escarole. 

  • Flavor - Escarole belongs to the chicory family (see, I wasn’t wrong about that), also known as the "bitter greens," which, I think, tells you a lot about escaroles taste. It’s not overpowering, though, and if you know how to cook it correctly, you can reduce that bitterness even more. Keep in mind that inner leaves are generally less bitter, and as such, a better choice for salads.
  • Nutritional Value - High content of vitamins A, K, and C, with the addition of small, but still significant amounts of vitamins B and E, as well as folate, calcium, iron, and magnesium – need I say more? It’s obvious why people around the world are ditching lettuce in favor of escarole, isn’t it? 

Escarole Substitute: 7 Veggies You Can Use

You know me – I always like to try new things and tweak recipes a little bit, to see how they turn out. Sometimes it’s out of pure curiosity, but sometimes it’s out of necessity. 

Whatever the case may be, by doing that over the years, I’ve built quite a list of escarole substitutes for everything from soups and salads to lasagna and pizza.

Here are my favorites:

1. Arugula – A Staple In Italian Cuisine

Maybe you know it by one of its many names – wild rocket, rugola, or if you speak Italian – rucola, or even ruchetta. Whatever you call it, chances are you’ve had it before, either in pasta, salads, or tomato dishes.

But did you know it could also serve as an excellent escarole substitute?

It may be difficult to find a suitable replacement for that slight bitterness that escarole brings to the table. With its bitter and slightly peppery flavor, arugula proves it’s not impossible, though. 

2. Spinach – Iron-Packed And Flexible

Raise your hands if you ever told your kids that eating spinach will make them strong – older generations will probably think of Popeye right now. The wonders of parenting, right?

I first came to the idea of using spinach as a replacement for escarole because of the slight, but essential differences in their nutritional values. Plus, I loved the idea of not having to overthink things – I could serve it as a side dish, toss it in the salad, bake something with it, or make soup. With its distinct bitter flavor, anything goes! 

So, if you want flexibility, you should go with spinach. 

3. Kale – A Popular "Superfood"

Ah, kale - one of the most talked about "superfood" out there, according to many health and nutrition experts, and the worst vegetable that ever existed, according to my boys.

If you ask me, though, there’s nothing super about it – I never liked the term "superfood" anyway – but it’s a staple in my kitchen, nonetheless. 

I was planning on making escarole soup one day, but I made the mistake of not checking whether or not I had some in the fridge. Long story short, determined not to abandon my idea of making soup, I tried using kale, instead.

And even though curly kale is a bit more on the peppery side, when it comes to taking on the role of escarole substitute in soups and lasagna, it’s my go-to vegetable! 

4. Radicchio – Adds A Pop Of Color To Your Dish

You might be thinking: But doesn’t radicchio have burgundy leaves? How can it possibly pass as a replacement for escarole?

The thing is, you should be looking for a vegetable with a similar flavor, not appearance. And speaking of taste, as it turns out, radicchio does have a slight bitterness to it – enough to replace escarole.

Plus, the beautiful burgundy leaves with distinct white ribs will breath new life into a bowl of plain green salad. That’s how I first tried it as an escarole substitute. All I wanted to do was add a splash of color to my salad bowl, but I gave radicchio an entirely new role, instead. 

5. Chard – Doesn’t Look Like Much, But Tastes Great

Whether you need a side dish or something to add to your risotto, pizza, or even pasta, know that the thick and fleshy, vibrantly colored chard leaves are an option.

However, beware that cooking chards take a bit longer than your typical leafy green, and when cooked, they don’t look nearly as appetizing as fresh, emerald green leaves.

Don’t let that put you off of giving chard a try as an escarole substitute – their light beet-like aroma works excellent in the form of a side dish.

Sadly, I can only get my boys to eat it as an add-on to my homemade pizza, but anything is better than nothing, right? 

6. Frisée – The Green Beauty

I’ll be honest with you – I only used frisée for garnishing for the longest time. Can you blame me?

With those frizzy, curly leaves – hence that fancy name frisée – I couldn’t help but think it would bring an element of uniqueness to my dishes.

Somewhere along the way, though, I completely forgot about using it for cooking purposes – until I mixed it in a salad with some baby greens, that is. 

The crisp texture and bitterness, although very mild, reminded me of escarole almost instantly. 

7. Mustard Greens – Kale’s Close Relative

Lastly, I suggest you give mustard greens, a staple in Asian cuisine, a try as an escarole substitute.

When I first tried this one, I figured it’s kale’s close relative, so it’s bound to work – and it did!

One thing you should keep in mind is that sauteing, boiling, or steaming is what gives mustard greens their chance to shine.

So, if your recipe calls for escarole prepared in the same way, you’re good to go. However, if you need it raw, take my advice and stick to one of the previously mentioned veggies, instead. 

Related: Learn To Find The Best Vegetable Steamer Basket With Barbara

Speaking Of Asian Cuisine, You Should Check Out My Recommendations For The Best Electric Wok On The Market

Final Thoughts

Finding the right escarole substitute could potentially save your entire dish, or create a new variation of it that you like even better than the original!

These are some of the veggies I learned work great as replacements, but as always, I strongly encourage you to try different things and see what works for you the best.

Which one of these seems to you like the best alternative to you?

Do you have any more suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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