Arugula is a popular leafy green used in both cold salads and hot meals. With lots of peppery flavor, arugula is so tasty, but what if you need an arugula substitute to make your tasty meals? Let's talk through some alternatives to arugula!
Here I share 12 different types of greens, vegetables and herbs that can be used to replace arugula, in both hot and cold dishes. And give some tasty recipes too!
If you need some more swaps for your vegetables and leafy greens, do have a peek at my posts on alternatives to spinach, alternatives to kale and alternatives to celery for some easy and healthy ideas.
Please note that this post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or dietetic advice in any way.
What is arugula?
Arugula (also known as rocket in the UK and other countries, and rucola in Italy) is a common salad green, with dark green leaves. It's a member of the Brassica family and closely related to mustard (Lettuce Info).
In terms of flavor, arugula is famous for its peppery taste, which sets itself apart from other milder lettuces and salad greens. Older, more mature leaves, have a spicier taste than young leaves.
In their overview of the health benefits of arugula, Healthline notes that this salad green is high in calcium, folate, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin A.
How can you cook with arugula?
Arugula is most commonly used raw in salads, where it provides that delicious peppery flavor. It can be paired with salad vegetables, grains or seeds, such as in my arugula quinoa salad.
You can also use arugula leaves as a garnish for pizzas, pasta dishes, soups and other hot meals, as well as adding it to sandwiches or to top crackers. Or perhaps try making:
Why may you wish to substitute arugula?
While arugula is a delicious and healthy green, there are a few reasons why you may need to use an alternative.
Perhaps you simply do not like the taste of arugula, or go to the fridge and you discover that you are out! Or maybe there wasn't a package left in the store to grab for your meal.
It's also the case that you may have an allergy or food intolerance to arugula.
Whether you are making a fresh summer salad or looking to top your pizza or pasta dishes, there are many alternatives to arugula to choose from.
Watercress has dark green leaves with lighter stems and is fairly easy to find in stores year-round. It's a member of the cruciferous family, alongside arugula, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts (Medical News Today).
In terms of flavor, watercress is peppery with a hint of spice. The similar flavor profile makes watercress an excellent substitute for arugula in so many meals!
The health benefits of watercress abound, and Healthline reports that it is a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C and numerous antioxidants.
A very popular salad green, kale has become known as the 'healthy' green to eat hasn't it. I'm actually growing some in my back yard right now, so I'm hoping for sun and rain to get my homegrown leaves!
Kale is a cruciferous vegetable that comes in many different varieties, including curly kale and lacinato kale. Curly kale is the most common type where I live, and has dark green crinkled leaves.
In their overview of the health benefits of kale, BBC Good Food describes that it is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium and vitamin K.
To use kale as a substitute for arugula in salads, it is usually best to remove the stems, then massage it with a little oil and vinegar or lemon juice first. This breaks down the tough leaves and makes it much softer in texture.
Kale can also be used in hot dishes such as wilted in soups and in pasta dishes, or used cold to make pesto or smoothies.
Romaine lettuce has a different appearance to arugula as it has larger lighter green rounded leaves and has a crunchy texture. It's quite easy to find in stores and you can grow it yourself too.
As a swap for arugula, romaine lettuce works well in summer salads. You can opt for a more classic Caesar salad or dice to use as the base of a salad with other ingredients such as vegetables, fruits, grains and herbs.
You can also enjoy romaine lettuce as a warm side dish, so have a peek at my air fried romaine lettuce recipe!
In their description of the health benefits of romaine lettuce, Healthline notes that this leaf is a good source of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium, as well as vitamin C, K and folate.
Beet greens will be on my plate a lot this spring and summer as I have so many beets growing in my back yard! If you wish to grow your own beet greens too, it's very simple and they are very low maintenance.
As an alternative to arugula, beet greens are a leafy green that is often overlooked, especially in the UK I find. Beet greens have a slightly sweet flavor, so aren't similar in taste to peppery arugula, but are still delicious in salads or hot meals.
In their overview of the benefits of beet greens, Taste of Home describes that they are a good source of iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and fiber.
Also known as pak choi or pok choi, bok choy is a cruciferous vegetable with dark green rounded leaves and a paler bulb. Both the leaves and bulb are edible (and delicious!).
Bok choy has a mild flavor, with the bulb being similar to celery in taste and the leaves having a slightly bitter taste.
In terms of health benefits, bok choy is a good source of folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium, amongst many other nutrients (Medical News Today).
Mustard greens (also known as brown mustard) make for a good alternative to arugula as they have a similar peppery flavor, although are stronger in taste. Given their bitter taste, you may wish to use a little less mustard greens than you would arugula in your recipes.
While mustard greens can be eaten raw, they are often served hot as a side dish or stirred into mashed potatoes, stir fry recipes, pasta dishes or soups.
In their overview of the health benefits of mustard greens, Healthline describes that they are a particularly good source of vitamin C and vitamin K, amongst other nutrients.
Spinach is a very popular leafy green and can easily be found fresh or frozen in stores. It has an earthy taste that is quite distinctive.
As a replacement for arugula, spinach works in both hot and cold dishes. You can easily add young fresh baby spinach leaves to a salad in similarity to arugula, or lightly saute or steam the leaves for a warm side or to top pizza or pasta dishes.
In their overview of the health benefits of spinach, BBC Good Food describes that it is high in polyphenols, beta-carotene and vitamin K.
Just a note that if you are making low histamine meals, spinach likely isn't suitable as it is a high histamine food (per the SIGHI list).
Swiss chard comes in an array of colors, and I always grow a rainbow chard mix in my back yard to enjoy during the summer months. It's not as easy to find during the winter months, or at least not where I live, so enjoy it during the warmer months!
As an arugula replacement, Swiss chard leaves give you another healthy leafy green to enjoy in stir-fry recipes, salads, on pizzas or simply steamed as a side dish.
Swiss chard leaves have a bitterness when used as they are in salads, but this reduces once cooked to serve in hot meals.
In their description of the health benefits of Swiss chard, Healthline notes that it is high in magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamins A, C and K.
While collard greens have a different appearance, taste and texture to arugula, they are such a healthy leafy green to add to your weekly menu!
A popular green in the Southern United States, collard greens can easily be steamed, sauted, used in soups, stews or as a gluten free wrap for an easy lunch.
Collard greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium, vitamin K, iron, magnesium and vitamin B6 (Medical News Today).
There are many types of cabbage that would work as an alternative to arugula in hot and cold meals. While they are rather different in taste and texture, cabbage is definitely a healthy vegetable to add to your meals!
White, red and napa cabbage works so well to make slaws, such as my broccolini slaw and mango slaw, while green cabbage and savoy cabbage are so good steamed, added to stir-fry recipes, soups, stews and pasta dishes.
If you're looking to make a tasty side dish, do check out my vegan fried cabbage recipe!
Endive is a less common leafy green, and a little tricky to find in stores where I live. But if you're able to find some, then it makes for a delicious substitute for arugula!
Curly endive (also known as frisee) has a bitter flavor, with a pale bulb and darker green curly leaves. It's most commonly used in salads but you can also lightly saute for a light green side.
Not a lettuce or cruciferous vegetable, but fresh herbs are so good for adding so much flavor to hot and cold meals.
Fragrant basil, cilantro, mint and parsley are delicious added to cold salads, while rosemary, thyme and sage all pack a punch for flavor in hot chicken, fish and plant-based meals.
Frequently asked questions
Arugula has a light peppery, slightly earthy flavor.
Watercress is a good substitute for arugula as it has a similar peppery flavor and can be used in salads, sandwiches and soups.
There are many substitutes for arugula in salads including shredded kale, spinach, endive and Swiss chard.
Kale and spinach are both good substitutes for arugula in soups, and can be added towards the end of cook time.