What Is Escarole and How Is It Used In Cooking?

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Odette Published: August 6, 2021 Modified: October 8, 2021
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Ever came across escarole in your favorite dishes? You might have, but you simply confused it with another type of lettuce like frisée or endive. If you don’t know yet, escarole is a famous ingredient in the popular traditional Italian wedding soup. In fact, those who have already tried it will say how the dish just won’t feel right if you use an alternative veggie. And they’re right. Escarole is just the perfect leafy green to put in your soup because of its not-so bitter taste.

However, it’s not every day you encounter or even see this leafy vegetable in your soups and salads. Also, not everyone is familiar with what escarole is. As a matter of fact, when it comes to the chicory family, you’re more likely to find escarole at the bottom of the list.

The good thing is that in this article, you’ll learn what escarole is, how it is used in cooking, and what substitutes you can use in its place!

What Is Escarole?

escarole on colander, What Is Escarole?

Flickr | Don LaVange

Right now you know escarole is a primary ingredient for Italian wedding soup. But what exactly is it? Escarole (pronounced as es-ka-roll) is a leafy vegetable that resembles most lettuce variants like the curly endives. In fact, another name for this leafy green is broad-leaved endives because they look similar. This is another reason why people confuse them together. Along with radicchio, endive, and Belgian endive, escarole is a member of the chicory family.

But even though they look practically the same when placed on a plate, they have distinctive features and tastes that set them apart from each other. Escaroles have broad, round green leaves with jagged and crumpled edges. Meanwhile, endives have narrow green leaves with white stems. Taste-wise, escarole is slightly sweeter and less bitter compared to its look-alike and other relatives in the chicory family.

Like many lettuce variants, escarole is also a nice addition to your salads as they can be eaten cooked and raw. Many, however, not only prize these veggies because it’s less bitter than other chicories. They also love that it’s packed with nutrients and vitamins A, C, and K. Unsurprisingly, it is also low in calories on top of being zero fat.

How To Cook and Prepare Escarole

bowl of italian wedding soup, How To Cook Escarole

Preparing escarole is pretty much like how you would prepare lettuce. Basically, you start by trimming off the ends. After that, give it a good wash under the sink. Remember to wash in between the leaves to thoroughly remove all the dirt. You can also soak it in a bowl of water after trimming the ends.

However, cooking escarole is nothing like cooking with lettuce. For example, in Italian cuisine, they use the outer leaves for cooked dishes because it’s slightly bitter. Adding it to your soups and braised dishes is one good way to mask the bitterness. For salads, they use the inner, lighter-colored leaves because it’s sweeter and you’ll have no problem munching on these crisp leaves.

Delicious Escarole Recipes To Try at Home

Now that you know how to cook and prepare escarole, how about we introduce you to some popular recipes for these underrated leafy greens?

  • Escarole Soup RecipeThis is one of the popular Italian recipes for escarole. We love that this recipe uses ingredients that are already in your pantries like vegetable stock, onion, and olive oil. You can also throw in leftover carrots if you like.
  • Sautéed Escarole Recipe If you want a dish that’s quick and easy to whip up, this recipe is definitely the way to go. We’re sure you’ll love the tasty greens sauteed with garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Peach and Escarole SaladTired of your old salad recipes? Try this refreshing salad made with escarole, peach, and goat cheese. With this recipe, you’ll get the perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness with the help of sherry!

READ ALSO: 25 Healthy Recipes For A Low Cholesterol Diet

8 Best Escarole Substitutes

Spotting these obscure veggies in your local groceries can be pretty tricky sometimes. After all, this is the most underrated leafy green among chicories. With that said, you can always substitute escarole with other bitter greens you can easily find in the supermarket!

In this section, we put together alternatives you can use in place of this leafy vegetable in your dishes.

Frisée (Curly Endive)

bowl of frisee

Frisée (also called curly endive) is the closest you’ll get to broad-leaved endive when it comes to appearance, texture, and taste. That is because both escarole and frisée have mildly bitter tastes. Both also have jagged, curly edges on the leaves. But escarole’s leaves are broader and thicker, while frisée has curly fern-like leaves. Aside from sharing slightly bitter tones, frisée has a slight peppery kick compared to escarole’s sweeter undertones, which you can easily mask away in recipes.

Endive

endive on a bowl

As previously stated, the endive is another chicory that you may use as a substitute for escarole. Though slightly bitter than its broad-leaved relative, it’s nothing that a good ingredient and spice adjustment can’t fix. Hence, this plant is also a good option to choose next to the curly endive.

Spinach

sauteed spinach with garlic

Much like escaroles, spinach is also known for its versatility. They can be cooked, baked, tossed in pasta, salads, and even be used as a topping for pizza. Hence, this leafy green is also one of the best alternatives for escarole.

Arugula

arugula on white background

Like escaroles, arugula is also a staple in Italian cuisine. Despite its bitter and slightly peppery flavor profile, this one too is a good substitute especially for soups, sautéed vegetables, and pasta where you can mask its bitter and peppery taste.

Radicchio

chard on wooden table

Flickr | Steven Jackson

Radicchio (also known as Italian chicory) may not look like escaroles because of its reddish-purple leaves. However, it’s one of the best alternatives lying around due to its similar slightly bitter taste. On top of that, it’s also used in the kitchen the same way as escaroles.

Chard

chard on wooden table

Chard compares more to spinach than it is to escaroles in terms of appearance and texture. However, its sweet beet-like flavor and slight bitterness are alike to that of escarole. If you don’t mind the difference in appearance, you can use this in place of broad-leaved endives for any recipe.

Kale

sea salt and vinegar kale chips recipe

Unlike most leafy vegetables, kale tastes more peppery than bitter. Because of its peppery taste, kale is more suited for dishes like pesto and lasagna. However, it also goes well with soups, just like escaroles do.

Mustard Greens

mustard greens in a pot  

Flickr | Gloria Cabada-Leman

Mustard greens are a staple in several cuisines including African, Indian, Chinese, and Italian (just to name a few). So, this alternative is perfect for any recipes from said cuisines that use escarole as well. Mustard greens are also a known substitute for kale because of their mild peppery taste. So naturally, it also works well as a substitute for escarole too.

Where To Buy Escarole?

Spotting these broad-leaved veggies in the grocery store can be challenging, especially if you don’t keep a keen eye on them. Fortunately, they’re more likely to be found sitting right next to lettuce, spinach, arugula,  and other leafy greens in the vegetable aisle. So, just find the lettuce and we’re sure you’ll spot them in no time.

READ ALSO: 6 Reasons Why You Should Shop At A Farmers Market

How To Store Escarole

First things first! If you can, try to buy escarole with roots. Your leafy greens can last longer with the roots intact compared to those without it. And although it is important to wash your vegetables before you eat and cook them, it’s actually not advisable to wash vegetables when you plan on storing them for later use. Doing so will only help vegetables deteriorate quickly.

There are two ways you can go about storing your escarole. First, you can store them in the refrigerator in a ziplock bag or in an airtight container.

In the refrigerator, if stored properly, they will last for three to five days. If you wish to store them longer than that, freeze them. However, we recommend doing this method only if you’re planning on using your escarole for soups or pasta dishes. This is because freezing them breaks down its leaves and turns them to mush. For this method, store them in freezer containers and simply place them in the freezer. Your escaroles can last up to six months when frozen.

Escarole Is A Tasty Leafy Green You Can Add To Your Dishes

Escaroles are actually versatile leafy greens you can add to all sorts of dishes. That being said, they’re good to go with soups, salads, and even with different kinds of pasta. If you want to have healthy leafy greens on your food without the bitter taste, then you should definitely give escarole a try!

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Odette

Odette is a content writer and proofreader by day, and living her inner artist as a poet and singer by night. She's also a former member of a publication who she now mentors from time to time. She likes how sharing a tiny bit of her life and her journey can help others in return. And because she is a curl embassador, she finds joy in empowering fellow curlies to embrace their natural curls. She also loves doing random acts of service to people she loves by cooking for them during her free time. This girl loves anything pasta and French cuisine though she just went through her Japanese and Korean cuisine phase.

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