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The Greens Gambit: 5 Simple Substitutes for Arugula

If arugula is the crown jewel of peppery greens, then our bustling kitchen is the treasure trove of creative catering.

Delving into the world of salad-dressing intrigue, the warm heart of a sandwich, or even the bubbling depth of a simmering pot of soup, arugula’s flair cannot be denied.

Yet, what if we told you that hidden amidst your pantry’s recesses or perhaps within reach at your local grocer were five fantastic stand-ins for this leafy delicacy?

For every food aficionado, and every home chef navigating the fulfilling mysteries of their culinary path, discovering a reliable arugula substitute can be as enriching as it is essential.

Now, in our latest digest, we’ll boldly replace the beloved arugula with watercress, baby spinach, kale, radicchio, and endive, revealing each one’s rightful place in your gastronomic escapades.

What’s Arugula?

Before we jump into our awesome substitutes, it’s cool to know a bit more about arugula, right? Often rocking the salad bowl with its signature zing, arugula is one leafy green that doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. Its taste?

Think peppery with a slight bitterness, kind of like mustard greens but with its own unique kick. This green isn’t just a one-trick pony, though.

Beyond salads, arugula finds its way into sandwiches for an extra punch, atop pizzas for a fresh, peppery finish, or even blended into pesto for a spicy twist on the classic.

It’s versatile, vibrant, and just a bit vivacious – making it a beloved ingredient for anyone looking to add a little pizzazz to their plates.

The Greens Gambit: 5 Substitutes for Arugula

1 – Watercress

In our quest for an arugula alternative, we find Watercress standing tall, its assertive peppery profile making it a seamless substitute. Imagine, for each salad, sandwich, or soup where arugula dances, Watercress can lead with the same fervor.

Our discerning palates will discern a hint of bitterness, a slightly lighter peppery punch, but a texture so similar, it’s as if Watercress was arugula’s first cousin.

In your salad and sandwich domain, Watercress can lead as effortlessly as arugula. Pair it with bitter greens, radicchio, or belgian endive to craft a salad that sings from the rooftops. A toothsome blend of Watercress, shredded chicory, and a dollop of your favorite vinaigrette is an ode to gastronomic gratification.

Granted, swapping arugula for one of our stellar substitutes in your kitchen chronicles requires a bit of a guideline, doesn’t it? Here’s the lowdown – the swap ratio is pretty much a breeze.

Whether you’re eyeing Watercress, baby spinach, kale, radicchio, or endive as your arugula understudy, the substitution game is straightforward: use them in a 1:1 ratio. Yep, it’s that simple!

2 – Baby Spinach

Enter Baby Spinach, the milder acquaintance in our splendid substitute saga. In the salad spectrum, this emerald guard is not just versatile; it often offers a smoother departure from arugula’s peppery edge.

But make no mistake—its presence is not to be mistaken for weakness. Baby Spinach is here to stand its ground, whether in a salad, sandwich, or wrap, offering a more tender bite that can entice even the most finicky eater.

When plotting your substitution, swap in Baby Spinach at a 1:1 ratio with arugula. Its amiability and widespread availability make it a staple in its own right, ensuring that when arugula is but a whisper on your grocery list, Baby Spinach is a shout away from your shopping cart.

For those nights when the clock spins faster than our culinary aspirations, a salad of grated carrots, a handful of raisins, and a show-stopping mix of Baby Spinach and feta cheese drizzled with a balsamic glaze can turn an ordinary evening into a soiree.

3 – Kale

Kale, with its earthy demeanor and chewy disposition, steps into the role of arugula with a robust poise. If you’re simmering a pot of soul-comforting soup or stew, Kale’s sturdy leaves and slightly bitter taste assert themselves in a way that commands respect while paying homage to the missing arugula’s zest.

This green giant isn’t just here to fill a void; it’s here to enhance the culinary narrative with every savory mouthful.

The robust kale can be a primary player in dishes that demand a heartier green. Its texture, albeit a tad denser than arugula, ensures it doesn’t wilt under pressure, both literally and figuratively.

Just like we’ve been doing, remember to keep things simple and straightforward when swapping in Kale as your arugula substitute. Aim for that golden 1:1 substitution ratio, but feel free to adjust according to the specific flavors and textures you’re after in your dish.

Given Kale’s sturdier nature, it’s perfect for cooking down in warm dishes where you want the greens to hold their own. In raw creations like salads, giving it a little massage with some olive oil can soften it up, making it more palatable and a closer match to arugula’s more delicate constitution.

4 – Radicchio

Radicchio, with its striking purple hues and slightly bitter taste, raises its leafy hand as an arugula alternative that’s as visually stunning as it is distinct on the palate.

Its texture treads down a path akin to arugula’s, making it a favorable replacement in the salad sphere. The role of Radicchio in culinary lore extends further, propelling it as a forerunner in various cooking methods that demand both nuance and nutrition.

For those who appreciate a little culinary confrontation, Radicchio’s slightly bitter notes can be a triumph in taste. Pair it with grilled peaches, goat cheese, and a honey vinaigrette, and the flavors dance a tango of tantalization.

When it comes to swapping in Radicchio for arugula, the versatility of both ingredients allows for a comfortable 1:1 substitution ratio. This means you can easily incorporate Radicchio into any dish where arugula was the star, without having to fuss over complicated math.

5 – Endive

Endive arrives with a slightly bitter taste and a crunch that can bring an element of texture to your dish that might have been missing in arugula’s absence.

Perfectly at home in a salad, sandwich, or wrap, Endive offers a palatable bitterness that—much like arugula—divides opinion in the most agreeable of ways. Its nutritional profile, a blend of vitamins and minerals, echoes the sentiment that sometimes, the right substitute is closer than you think.

With Endive, the beauty lies not just within its nutritional offerings but in the symphonic crunch it brings to the table. In a salad of shredded cabbage, chives, and a creamy yogurt dressing, Endive pays an unequivocal homage to arugula’s versatility.

For the discerning diner, Endive can be a matter of taste. But in the great culinary conversation, options often lead to opinions, and the Endive stands as a testament to the fact that sometimes, variety is not just the spice—it’s the whole recipe.


And there you have it, a lineup of stellar substitutes for when arugula decides to play hard to get. Each brings its own flair and flavor profile to the table, ensuring your dishes remain vibrant and delightful.

Remember, the essence of cooking lies in experimenting and finding what suits your taste buds. Whether it’s the peppery punch of Watercress, the gentle caress of Baby Spinach, the earthy resilience of Kale, the boldness of Radicchio, or the crisp bite of Endive, there’s always a way to keep your greens exciting. Here’s a quick recap of our all-star substitutes:

  • Watercress: Peppery and vibrant, perfect for salads and sandwiches.
  • Baby Spinach: Mild and versatile, easy to incorporate into any dish.
  • Kale: Earthy and robust, great for soups and sautéed dishes.
  • Radicchio: Slightly bitter with a stunning color, ideal for adding a dash of drama.
  • Endive: Crisp and with a pleasant bitterness, excellent for a crunchy texture.