5 Substitutes for Arugula

Arugula isn’t always the green for everyone. At first bite, one might think that something’s wrong with their salad, especially when accustomed to the mild wateriness of all varieties of lettuce.

But with its peppery bite and subtle crunch, arugula can be a star in any number of dishes from salads to pestos to plain topping on a sandwich. What do you do, however, if arugula isn’t for you or if you don’t have any. Here are some substitutes for arugula.

While no green exactly replicates arugula’s flavor, watercress, escarole, and radicchio are excellent substitutions. If you’re looking for a less pungent flavor, frisee and baby spinach are your best bets for the base of your salads.

How to Substitute Arugula

It’s fair to say that arugula’s delicious punch is not for everyone, and sometimes the leaf itself isn’t even around. If you can’t get your hands on any, or are looking to replace it with something, here’s a non-exhaustive list of some substitutes.


This fun-looking vegetable has become something of a stable in high-end cookeries, and for good reason.

Radicchio most closely resembles a purple cabbage with its deep-red, near aubergine color. When raw, the leaves have a spicy, bitter taste, much like arugula. When cooked, radicchio’s flavors mellow.

Not only can radicchio liven up a salad, taco, or burger with its red-wine color, but it can also pack a healthy punch. Radicchio is loaded with Vitamin K and antioxidants, making it a great, healthful addition to any meal.


Escarole leaves can be considered radicchio’s green cousin. They’re also packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, but escarole kicks back on the harsh vegetal notes.

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Escarole’s hearty, leafy greens can make for a perfect salad. However, try cutting some up and adding them at the end of cooking your next soup or stew, and enjoy your daily servings of vegetables in perfect, warm contentment.

Heating escarole up makes nutrient digestion easier too!


If you’re an arugula lover but can’t find any on hand, watercress is your best bet.

This semi-aquatic plant boasts a spicy, mustardy pop that makes it an excellent topper for savory sandwiches and salads alike. Watercress is as versatile as greens come and work best as a type of garnish on everything from morning eggs to a slice of pizza.


The name of this frizzy leaf shouldn’t be hard to remember as you make a beautiful springtime salad with a bunch.

Frisee looks delicate with its pale and curly leaves, but is in fact hearty and full-bodied, making it the perfect base for holding up to warm salad components like freshly grilled chicken, poached eggs, or crispy, fried bacon.

Baby Spinach

Baby spinach needs no introduction as the supermarket and salad staple that it is.

Spinach boasts health benefits, is widely accessible, has a deep green color without too much bitter harshness, and is as versatile as any green.

Make your salads with it, cook it on top of a pizza, put it raw into your smoothies. The possibilities are endless.


When looking to substitute for arugula, make your decision based off of flavor. If you’re looking for equally peppery, spicy greens, opt for watercress, radicchio, or escarole. If you’re looking for a lighter flavor, frisee and baby spinach are excellent salad stuffers and sandwich toppers.