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What Does Escarole Taste Like?
Escarole’s dark green outer leaves are tough, with a pronounced bitterness that’s a great addition to soups, stews, sautés, or wilted into pasta. The inner leaves of escarole are mild, with a tender, palatable texture—good for adding into mixed green salads or sandwiches.
3 Ways to Use Escarole
Escarole’s broad leaves and mild, peppery flavor make it a popular ingredient to serve both raw and cooked.
- In a salad. Thanks to its light bitterness, raw escarole pairs especially well with stronger, more assertive flavors, like ripe, jammy fruit, funky aged cheeses, poached eggs, and zingy vinaigrettes made with pan drippings—or even just a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of flaky salt.
- As a side dish. Escarole sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil with thinly-sliced garlic cloves and red pepper flakes is a versatile side dish that keeps well in the fridge.
- Add to soup. Italian wedding soup, minestra maritata, is a white bean soup made creamy cannellini beans, spiced Italian sausage, and whatever sturdy greens are on hand—escarole, with its mellow, earthy kick, makes a great addition to this soup.
4 Substitutes for Escarole
Choose an escarole substitute that shares its signature bitter flavor and can maintain its structure in the cooking process, if you plan to sauté or braise it.
- Broccoli rabe: Broccoli rabe (rapini) is a cruciferous vegetable that may be more related to broccoli than to escarole, but it’s tender stems and bitter, tangy leaves make it a close second to the flavors of cooked escarole. Brocolli rabe comes with small flower buds attached, which will add more texture and dimension to your finished dish.
- Swiss chard and kale: While Swiss chard and kale are considerably less bitter and bright-tasting than escarole, these dark leafy greens are a prime choice for adding to soups, stews, and pasta. The vitamin-packed greens wilt well, without losing their structure, and absorb flavors wonderfully.
- Radicchio: Escarole’s magenta-leaved cousin is a good substitute for preparations where you’d use raw escarole, like salads and sandwiches.
- Mustard greens and dandelion greens: These greens can bring more pungency and bitterness to any dish than escarole. Pair mustard and dandelion greens with ingredients that can temper their strong flavors, like rice or beans.
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