Have you ever reached for escarole at the grocery store or farmers market only to find they were out? Don't worry; plenty of excellent substitutes for escarole in salads, soups, and other dishes exist.
What is Escarole?
Escarole is a leafy green belonging to the Chicory family, including veggies like endive and radicchio. It has pale green leaves that are slightly wider than romaine lettuce. The tips are curly, and the leaves get broader towards the base.
When raw, escarole has a pleasant crunch and mildly bitter taste. The leaves become softer and lose some bitterness when cooked. Its earthy, tangy flavor works well in salads, soups, stews, sandwiches, and more. An absolute staple in Italian cuisine, escarole is also delicious sautéed in olive oil and garlic.
Top Reasons to Substitute Escarole
Several circumstances call for swapping out escarole for another leafy green:
- Unavailable at the Store - Escarole can be hard to find since it's less common than other lettuces. You'll need a backup plan if your grocery store or farmers market doesn't carry it.
- Dislike the Bitter Taste - Some people don't enjoy the characteristic bitterness of escarole, especially when eaten raw. Substituting can remove the intense flavor.
- Dietary Restrictions - The mild flavor of certain greens like butter lettuce or spinach can be better for restricted diets.
- Cost - While not overly expensive, escarole is pricier than leafy greens. Subbing with romaine can save money.
- Recipe Experimentation - Switching up greens can bring a new twist to favorite dishes.
12 Best Escarole Substitutes
1. Romaine Lettuce
Why it works: Romaine has a similar mild flavor and crunchy texture that mimics raw escarole well. It's easy to find and typically cheaper than escarole.
Example dishes: Salads, sandwiches, pizza
Measurement guidance: Use the same amount of romaine as called for escarole.
Why it works: Spinach becomes silky and tender when cooked, similar to escarole. It has a delicate, sweet taste.
Example dishes: Soups, sautés, casseroles
Measurement guidance: Use 1 cup of packed spinach leaves for every 1 head of escarole.
3. Butter Lettuce
Why it works: The smooth, neutral-tasting leaves work for raw preparations. It's not ideal for cooking.
Example dishes: Salads, sandwiches, wraps
Measurement guidance: Replace escarole 1:1 with butter lettuce.
Why it works: When cooked, chard has a soft texture and earthy flavor like escarole. The stems need to be removed.
Example dishes: Soups, stews, casseroles, sautés
Measurement guidance: Use 1 bunch of chard for 1 head of escarole.
Why it works: Curly kale leaves mimic escarole's appearance. It has a slightly sweeter taste. Use stemmed chopped kale leaves.
Example dishes: Sautéed side dishes, soups, pasta dishes
Measurement guidance: Replace escarole 1:1 with chopped kale leaves.
Why it works: A chicory family member, radicchio, has a similar pleasant bitterness that works when swapped for escarole.
Example dishes: Salads, panini, pasta dishes
Measurement guidance: Use 1 small head of radicchio for 1 head of escarole.
7. Belgian Endive
Why it works: Endive, also part of the chicory family, leaves provide a good crunch and mild bitterness like escarole.
Example dishes: Salads, sandwiches, wraps
Measurement guidance: Replace escarole 1:1 with endive.
Why it works: Arugula's peppery, tangy flavor approximates escarole's bite, especially when used raw.
Example dishes: Salads, pizza, pesto
Measurement guidance: Use 2 cups of arugula leaves for 1 head of escarole.
9. Mustard Greens
Why it works: Mustard greens have dark green leaves and a spicy, bold taste that works well cooked into dishes. Remove thick stems.
Example dishes: Soups, curries, stews
Measurement guidance: Use 1 bunch of mustard greens for 1 head of escarole.
10. Bok Choy
Why it works: Bok choy provides a nice crunch similar to escarole. It has a very mellow, clean flavor.
Example dishes: Stir-fries, soups
Measurement guidance: Use 1 cup chopped bok choy per 1 cup escarole.
11. Collard Greens
Why it works: Collards are leafy greens with a slightly bitter taste that replicates escarole when cooked. Remove tough ribs and stems.
Example dishes: Soups, stews, sautés
Measurement guidance: Use 1 bunch of collard greens for 1 head of escarole.
12. Curly Endive
Why it works: Curly endive has delicate, mildly bitter leaves similar to escarole. It makes a good raw substitution.
Example dishes: Salads, sandwiches, antipasto
Measurement guidance: Replace escarole 1:1 with curly endive leaves.
How to Use Escarole Substitutes in Popular Dishes
Escarole adds a pleasant bitter note and crunchy texture to leafy green salads when used raw.
Escarole substitute: Romaine lettuce makes an excellent substitute with its crisp leaves and mild flavor.
In soups, escarole turns soft and tender when cooked, imparting an earthy, vegetal flavor.
Escarole substitutes: Spinach or chard replicate the texture and mild taste wonderfully.
Sliced escarole provides delicious bitterness tucked into subs, paninis, and more.
Escarole substitutes: For sandwiches, romaine or butter lettuce are great stand-ins.
Sautéed in oil, escarole shines as a simple garlic-flavored side dish.
Escarole substitutes: Kale or collard greens mimic the flavor nicely.
Escarole substitutes: Mustard greens substitute well.
In stir-fries, escarole provides a fresh crunch.
Escarole substitute: Bok choy stands in very well with its crisp texture.
Added to tomato sauces, escarole boosts flavor.
Best escarole substitutes: Spinach adds a similar earthiness.
Handy Tips for Substituting Escarole
Follow these simple tricks to guarantee your escarole swap tastes fantastic:
- Stick with crunchy greens like romaine, endive, or butter lettuce to mimic the fresh texture for raw applications.
- Opt for quick-wilting greens like spinach, chard, kale, or mustard greens to replicate tender escarole.
- To balance out bitterness, add a touch of sweetness with lemon juice, olive oil, or sweet onions.
- Undercook more delicate lettuces and greens to avoid a slimy texture.
- For greens with thick ribs or stems, remove the tough parts before using them as a substitute.
FAQs: Finding the Best Substitutes for Escarole
What can be used in place of escarole?
The best substitutes for escarole are romaine lettuce, spinach, butter lettuce, chard, kale, radicchio, Belgian endive, arugula, mustard greens, bok choy, and collard greens.
What is a good substitute for escarole in Italian wedding soup?
For Italian wedding soup, spinach, and chard make great substitutes for escarole since they wilt down and mimic the tender texture when cooked.
What's another name for escarole?
Escarole is also sometimes called Batavian endive or broad-leaved endive. These all refer to the same leafy green vegetable.
What is escarole compared to?
Escarole has curly, pale green leaves like romaine lettuce but with a slightly wider shape and more bitter taste. It belongs to the same plant family as veggies like endive and radicchio.
What does escarole taste like?
Escarole has an earthy, mildly bitter taste, especially when eaten raw. When cooked, the flavor becomes more mellow and green-tasting.
What greens are closest to escarole?
Romaine and butter lettuce have the closest flavor, texture, and appearance to raw escarole leaves. For cooked escarole, chard and spinach make great substitutes.
Is escarole a spinach?
No, escarole is not the same as spinach. It has curly green leaves and a more bitter taste. Spinach has very tender, smooth leaves and a delicate, sweet flavor.
What’s the difference between kale and escarole?
Kale has dark, ruffly leaves compared to the pale, broad escarole leaves. Kale has a slightly sweeter, more vegetal taste, while escarole is more bitter and tangy.