What is escarole?

What Is Escarole, and How Is It Eaten?

Escarole is nutrient-dense and boasts many potential health benefits.

May promote gut health

The two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble — act differently in your body.

While soluble fiber bulks up your stool and feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut, the insoluble type passes through your digestive system unchanged, promoting gut health by pushing food through your gut and stimulating bowel movements (7).

Notably, escarole provides mostly insoluble fiber. Boasting 12% of your daily fiber needs per 2 cups (85 gram), it can help keep your bowels regular and prevent the discomfort of constipation and piles (5, 6, 7).

May support eye health

Escarole is rich in provitamin A, providing 54% of the DV in only 2 cups (85 grams) (5, 6).

This vitamin promotes eye health, as it’s an important component of rhodopsin, a pigment in your retina that helps discern between lightness and darkness (11).

Chronic vitamin A deficiencies are linked to visual issues like night blindness, a condition in which people can’t see well at night but have no trouble with their vision in the daylight (11).

Vitamin A deficiencies are also associated with macular degeneration, an age-related decline in eyesight that results in blindness (11, 12).

May reduce inflammation

In addition to its impressive nutrient profile, escarole boasts many powerful antioxidants, which are compounds that defend your body against oxidative stress and unstable molecules called free radicals. Long-term oxidative stress may trigger inflammation (13).

Studies suggest that kaempferol, an antioxidant in escarole, may safeguard your cells against chronic inflammation (13, 14, 15).

Yet, these studies are limited to rats and test tubes. Human research is needed to fully understand kaempferol’s effects on inflammation (13, 16, 17).

May promote bone and heart health

Vitamin K is important for normal blood clotting, as well as regulating calcium levels in your heart and bones. Leafy greens like escarole deliver a subtype called vitamin K1.

This vegetable offers a whopping 164% of your daily needs of this nutrient per 2-cup (85-gram) raw serving (5, 6, 18).

A 2-year study in 440 postmenopausal women found that supplementing with 5 mg of vitamin K1 daily resulted in a 50% reduction in bone fractures, compared with a placebo group (18).

Furthermore, a 3-year study in 181 postmenopausal women found that combining vitamin K1 with vitamin D significantly slowed the hardening of arteries associated with heart disease (18).

Sufficient vitamin K intake is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and early death from this condition (18).


Escarole’s many benefits include supporting gut and eye health. It may likewise reduce inflammation and promote proper blood clotting and bone health.

Escarole substitutes

Have you ever come across cooking with escarole? Lucky you! This leafy lettuce-like vegetable is just what you need when you are looking to add a bit of crunch to your meal. If you haven’t yet heard of escarole or don’t really know exactly what it is, how to consume it, or what to substitute it with – not to worry. This article is equipped with the best suggestions for escarole substitutes and you’ll learn all there is to know about escarole. Also, this article is handy if you are looking for different ways of preparing, cooking and serving escarole. So keep reading for more information!

Photo credit: MarthaStewart.com

what is escarole

Escarole is a type of endive that belongs to the chicory family. You can find the exact definition here. You might also know escarole as scarola, scarole, broad-leaved endive, grumolo, Batavian endive or Bavarian endive. It is a green and leafy vegetable that is commonly used in salads, in a similar fashion as with other endives. You can eat it raw, grill it, sauté it or even cook it and use it in soups or stews. In summary, it is a sort of lettuce which is similar to a lot of greens. Therefore, there are a lot of escarole substitutes! To learn more about endives, click here.

escarole picture

What you should look for when you are looking for escarole is a salad-looking vegetable with broad leaves. You can tell escaroles apart from other endives and other escarole substitutes by their pale green leaves. Plus, they are much broader and almost have a rough and coarse texture on the top. The bottom generally looks like a classical endive. Look at the picture above to get an idea of how to recognize escarole in a store. How about making tuna lettuce wraps?

escarole taste

Escarole has a slightly bitter taste. If you compare it to a curly endive, it’s almost as bitter but the escarole is a bit smoother. When you bite into the outer leaves, which are darker and courser, they are more bitter than the inner lighter leaves. When you cook the escarole, the bitter flavour will mellow out. It even holds it’s firm texture when cooked. Otherwise, it is crispy and crunchy.


Generally speaking, escarole is available all year-round. Although, you might have to go to a larger or a premium supermarket. The chances of you finding it in smaller or express stores is highly unlikely. Also, for the best possible escarole, you should buy it in the spring and summer months fresh from a farmer’s market.

how to store

Escarole and escarole substitutes are really easy to store. First cut the leaves up and wrap them up in paper towels. This is to prevent the escarole from becoming damp. If the escarole or any other types of green become wet, they rot a lot quicker. When they are dry, they store much longer! So, once you complete this step, store them in an unsealed plastic bag. You’ll be able to store them in the refrigerator for up to four days. If your fridge is not as cold or if you have too many ingredients inside, then store them up to three days.

1. Iceberg lettuce

Since escarole is a lettuce-like vegetable, iceberg lettuce is one of the most common escarole substitutes. You’ll be able to source iceberg lettuce quite easily and it is commonly found in any supermarket. Flavourwise, it is more mellow than escarole but holds a similar crunch when you bite into it. Nonetheless, escarole has more than three times the amount of vitamin A and fiber in the same weight as compared to iceberg lettuce.

2.Rocket salad or arugula

If you fancy the bitter aftertaste of escarole, then rocket salad is probably the substitute you want! Rocket salad is famous for its distinct bitter, almost peppery flavour. Sometimes, when picked fresh, it can be quite powerful and almost overwhelming. However, it is a very delicious addition in salads as the tangy bitter flavour complements the other ingredients. It is commonly found in Italian cuisine, even as toppings.

3. kale

You might know kale from Asian dishes. It is very nice boiled, steam or pan-fried. When you don’t cook it completely through, it leaves a subtle bitter flavour in the leaves. Although compared to escarole, the flavour profile is more peppery than bitter. Belonging in the cabbage family, kale comes in two forms: smooth or curly. You can use both varieties as substitutes for escarole.

4. frisee

Frisee is probably one of the crispest escarole substitutes, that is very commonly used in salads or in sides. Once you bite into this light green leaf, you’ll see that the frisee carries a firm crunch! Surprisingly, it also carries a very bitter flavour, so it is perfect if you haven’t got any escarole around. Have you ever made a fattoush salad from these?

5. spinach

Spinach, also known as palak, is completely packed with iron. Compared to escarole, spinach leaves aren’t as bitter, but they much more versatile. You can eat spinach as it is, pan-fry it, cook it as a side dish with butter or blend it in soups or smoothies. If you have a lot of leftovers, try making this creamed spinach recipe.

6. radicchio

Radicchio also belongs to the chicory family and it is very common in Italian cuisine. Radicchio leaves have a deep red, sometimes almost purple colour. They are quite bitter when it comes to flavour, so they are also one of the top escarole substitutes. They make a great addition to plain old salads or serve as a base for heavy meat dishes. Try making this vibrant and colourful summer salad.

7. chard

Chard has a very beautiful aesthetic in my opinion. I love decorating my salads with chard leaves. You’ll easily recognize them with their distinct red-pinkish veins that run along the chard leaf. In terms of taste, they are quite mild, however, they also carry a beet-like flavour. Chard leaves take a little longer to cook, but the end result is totally worth it. It works wonders with this honey mustard dressing and an egg. Delish!

8. mustard greens

Mustard greens are very typical in Asian cuisine, as they are peppery and quite pungent when it comes to texture. They are more relatable to the kale family, but since they are bitter, they can easily be used as a substitute for escarole and jazz up any salad.

What Is Escarole: Learn How To Grow Escarole In The Garden

Among the wonderful varieties of greens available to grow late in the season there is escarole. What is escarole? Keep reading to find out how to grow escarole and how to take care of escarole.

What is Escarole?

Escarole, related to endive, is a cool season biennial commonly cultivated as an annual. Like chard, kale and radicchio, escarole is a hearty green that thrives late in the growing season. Escarole has smooth, broad, green leaves that are commonly used in salad. The flavor of escarole is less bitter than other members of the endive family, very much akin to the taste of radicchio. It grows from a large rosette of light green leaves that gradate outwards to dark green on the outer edges.

Escarole is high in vitamins A and K as well as folic acid. Usually, eaten raw, escarole is also sometimes lightly cooked with a simple wilting of the green or chopped into soup.

How to Grow Escarole

Plant escarole in full sun in well-draining soil that is amended with compost to aid in water retention. The soil should have a pH of 5.0 to 6.8.

Propagation from seed should start 4-6 weeks before the last average frost date for your area. Seeds can also be started indoors for later transplantation 8-10 weeks before the last average frost date. While they are more tolerant of heat than lettuce, the plan when growing escarole plants is to have them harvestable before temps regularly get into the 80’s. It takes 85-100 days until it’s time for harvesting escarole.

Sow the seeds ¼ inch deep and 1 to 2 inches apart. Thin the seedlings to 6-12 inches apart. Growing escarole plants should be spaced 18-24 inches apart.

Care of Escarole

Keep the escarole plants consistently moist. Allowing the plants to dry out too frequently will result in bitter greens. Side-dress the escarole plants with compost midway through their growing season.

Escarole is often blanched. This entails covering the plant to deprive it of sunlight. This slows the production of chlorophyll, which can make the greens bitter. Blanch escarole 2-3 weeks before harvesting when the exterior leaves are 4-5 inches long. You can blanch several different ways.

The most common methods is to simply pull the outer leaves together and secure them with a rubber band or string. Make sure the leaves are dry so they don’t rot.
You could also cover the plants with a flower pot, or use your imagination and come up with another solution.

The point is to deprive the escarole of sunlight. Blanching takes between 2-3 weeks at which time you can begin harvesting escarole.

Escarole can be sown every 2 weeks beginning in midsummer for continuous crops through the growing season or in areas with mild winters, in the spring, fall and winter. It can also be easily grown in pots for those without an actual garden plot.

Escarole lettuce is a popular leafy green vegetable used in Italian dishes, especially the wedding soup. It belongs to the chicory plant family that also includes Belgian endive and frisée. Its history can be traced back to Greece, Egypt and England in the 1500s. The leaves were said to have been cultivated in the United States by the early colonists.

Escarole is popular across the world for its rich nutritional content and low-calorie. Each serving has ample amounts of vitamins C, A, K, calcium and iron. The bitter tasting leaves are eaten along with salads and can be used in different dishes, either in raw form or as part of a salad.

The versatile vegetable is mixed with white beans in soup and sometimes escarole is put together as a side dish with bacon. It can be cooked in various ways, such as sautéed and grilled. Here are five health benefits that you can enjoy from incorporating this green leafy vegetable in your diet.


According to a study in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, sufficient amount of vitamin C reduces symptoms of the common cold, flu, respiratory conditions, malaria and pneumonia. Escarole not only has vitamin C, it also has vitamin A, which helps fight inflammation, thereby improves immune function.

Weight Loss

Fiber present in escarole aids weight loss because it gives the feeling of fullness, reducing appetite and helps push out the stool with enough bulk through the gastrointestinal tract efficiently.

Also, because the leafy vegetable is a low-calorie food. According to studies, adding fiber and green vegetables to the diet promotes weight loss in the long term.


Antioxidants help fight free radicals and prevent oxidative stress that can lead to various diseases and chronic conditions. Escarole is filled with polyphenols and flavonoids that are two important antioxidants.

Digestive Health

Since escarole is a great source of fiber, it aids digestive health since it contains nearly three grams in one helping. Fiber also helps good bacteria grow in the gut, which is needed for nutrient absorption and inflammation. Many digestive conditions are also prevented such as constipation and hemorrhoids.

Eye Health

Vitamin A deficiency is related to poor eye health especially dry eyes and night vision loss. Age-related macular degeneration can be improved by taking a multivitamin with vitamin A and C.

A plate of salad with blood oranges, dates, arugula and parmesan chees prepared by Lucques chef Suzanne Goin is on display during food and wine event at Lucques in preparation of 17th annual SAG Awards on January 24, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Endive nutrition facts

Health benefits of Endive

  • Endive is one of the very low-calorie leafy vegetables. 100 g fresh leaves carry just 17 calories; however, it contributes about 8% of daily-required intake (DRI) of fiber.

  • Current research studies suggest that high inulin and fiber content in escarole help reduce glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels in diabetes and obese patients.

  • Endive and escarole carry numerous medicinally important compounds such as sesquiterpene lactones, and plant sterols. Lactones such as lactucopicrin which cofer bitter taste to endive have been found to have anti-tumor, and anti-inflammotory properties.

  • Endive composes good amount Vitamin-A and ß-carotene. Both these compounds are known to have antioxidant properties. Carotenes convert into vitamin-A inside the human body. Furthermore, vitamin-A required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin. Also, it is also an essential vitamin for good eyesight. Consumption of natural vegetables/greens rich in vitamin-A helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  • Further, it contains good amounts of many essential B-complex groups of vitamins such as folic acid, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3). These vitamins are essential in the sense that human body requires them through external sources to replenish. They take part as cofacors in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.

  • Additionally, escarole is a good source of minerals like manganese, copper, iron, and potassium. Manganese used as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Potassium is an important intracellular electrolyte helps counter the hypertension effects of sodium.

Want to Know Some Escarole Substitutes? Here are About 7 of Them

If you’ve found yourself wondering if you can substitute arugula for escarole or what could be a good replacement, then look no further.

A Few Handy Tips

❧ Refrigerate the greens unwashed until right before cooking. If they are damp, they quickly rot.
❧ Wash them in a sink full of lukewarm water, rather than cold water. This will help the soil and dirt to come off easily and vitalize the leaves.

Escaroles are often used in many meals. They are rich in vitamin A and K, and high in fiber and folic acid. These flavorful greens can be eaten raw, cooked, or sautéed. They have a less bitter taste, making them a great addition to soups, salads, and side dishes.

Escarole Substitutes


Arugula is a salad green that is often seen in Italian cuisines. It is known for its slightly peppery and bitter flavor. They often make great additions to salads, tomato dishes, sautéed vegetables, egg dishes, and pastas. They best complement ingredients, viz., walnuts, potatoes, nuts, pears, Parmesan and/or blue cheese, olive oil, lemon, garlic, and avocado.

Substitutes: Watercress, spinach, Belgian endive, escarole, dandelion greens, young mustard greens, and radicchio.


Chards have fleshy, thick, tender, emerald green leaves, and a light beet-like flavor to it. The leaves take longer time to cook but they make a great side dish and work as an add-on to pasta dishes, risotto, and pizza.

Alternative Names: Leaf Beet, Seakale Beet, Silver Beet, Spinach Beet, Swiss Chard.

Substitutes: Spinach, beet greens, turnip greens, bok choy, escarole, and mustard greens.


Frisées are crisp and bitter greens that are often used in salads and side dishes. The leaves go well with a mixture of baby greens. Frisée derives its name for its unique appearance, which has narrow, curly, and frizzy leaves. Frisée aux Lardons is a classic traditional dish that puts the spotlight on frisée itself. These leaves make a great garnish on poached eggs.

Alternative Names: Chicory, curly chicory, curly endive, chicory endive.

Substitutes:Rocket, raddichio, dandelion greens, and mustard greens.


Kale is from the cabbage family and comes in two distinct forms: curly or smooth form. Curly is best known amongst the two. These greens are more peppery than bitter. Their taste and texture make them ideal for Kale chips, pesto, sauté, soups, and lasagna.

Alternative Names: Curly kale, dinosaur kale, Georgia collards, ornamental kale, salad savoy.

Substitutes: Cabbage and dandelion greens.

Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are closely related to broccoli and kale. They have a mild peppery flavor and pungent bite. These leaves work especially well when boiled, steamed, or sautéed. Mustard greens are best in African, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and soul food cuisines.

Alternative Names: Brown mustard, Indian mustard, leaf mustard, mustard.

Substitutes: Turnip greens and Kale.


Radicchio is the Italian relative of chicory. It is known for its distinct burgundy leaves with white ribs. These leaves makes a great addition to any old green salad. The leaves can be used as a base for many d’oeuvres or as a side dish to a meal. It has a slightly bitter flavor, which makes it ideal to zest up any salad, pasta, or pizza.

Alternative Names: Red chicory, red leaf chicory, red Italian chicory.

Substitutes: Chicory


Spinach is power-packed with iron. It can be cooked, made into soup, baked, tossed into a salad, or served up as a side dish. The leaves have a distinct bitter flavor, but they are a highly versatile vegetable to work with. Spinach goes well with butter, cardamom, carrots, cottage cheese, chilies, peas, cream, egg, fish, ginger, garlic, hollandaise sauce, cumin, lemon, mushroom, mustard, nutmeg, olive oil, olives, tomatoes, vinegar, soy, etc.

Alternative Names: Palak.

Substitutes: Amaranth greens, beet greens, arugula, Chinese spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, kale, turnip greens, etc.

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As the plants get larger, the outer leaves are pushed up and around each head by the neighboring plants, creating a self-blanching environment. The blanched area is about 6 inches across on 10-inch-diameter plants, or greater than half.

Once the centers are nicely blanched, I cut out the hearts with a knife, taking only the tender, pale-yellow inner leaves. Replacement leaves will continue to grow until the weather becomes either too hot or too cold, depending on whether they were planted in spring or late summer.

To produce larger heads from this kind of scattered planting, harvest some heads whole, allowing the remaining plants space to spread. These will have to be blanched by the terra-cotta-pot method or the rubber-band technique, as the leaves will not be close enough to neighboring plants in late growth to blanch a large center.

The most common variety of escarole is Full Heart Batavian, and of endive, Salad King. Both produce large plants and, once blanched, are quite delicious. In Europe, many more varieties have been developed, and some are available here. Fine Maraichere, Tres Fine and Galia are popular frisees, producing comparatively small plants, about 10 inches in diameter. Their very, very fine leaves are classically used in Parisian-style frisee salads topped with warm goat cheese — reason enough to grow frisee at home.

Grosse Boucle is a French escarole that, when given the space, produces huge plants with thick, juicy leaves, though I also find that the plants adapt well to being planted close together for self-blanching. Two particularly flavorful escaroles are Cornet d’Anjou and Cornet de Bordeaux, which grow upright, their delicate leaves wrapping around one another. These are especially amenable to self-blanching. A particularly voluptuous escarole is White Napoli, from Pagano, an Italian company whose seeds are sold in some garden centers in this country.

In temperate climates, escarole and endive can be planted in spring for an early summer crop and in late summer for a fall crop. In colder climates, they are best planted in late June and harvested in late summer and early fall.

How to plant:

Propagate by seed

Germination temperature: 35 F to 85 F – 75 F is optimal

Days to emergence: 5 to 7

Seed can be saved 5 years.

Maintenance and care: Like lettuce and other cool-season greens, endive needs short days and cool temperatures.

Direct seed ¼-inch deep in rows 18 inches apart 2 to 4 weeks before average last frost. Make succession plantings for continuous harvest. Thin to 8 to 12 inches.

For extra-early crops, start seed inside 6 to 8 weeks before last frost. Transplant into garden about 2 weeks before last frost.

To prevent plants from going to seed (bolting), keep them well-watered and shaded when temperatures are above 75 F. Mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

For fall harvests, direct seed in garden about 2 to 3 months before expected fall frost. Light frost enhances flavor.

Blanch heading varieties for a milder flavor. A week or so before harvest, pull outer leaves over head and tie. Make sure leaves are dry to avoid rot. Other blanching alternatives include placing a flower pot over the plant, or covering with a cardboard disk or plastic container. Self-blanching varieties are available. Close plant spacing (about 8 inches) encourages self-blanching.

Pests: Aphids

You can’t make Italian wedding soup without escarole. Well, you can. But it just doesn’t feel right. The pasta shape is flexible. (Or optional, in the case of some recipes.) The meatball makeup is flexible. The beans are flexible. The broth is flexible. But the greens? No, not flexible. It has to be escarole. Why? Because, wedding soup or otherwise, escarole is the best green for soups. Hands down. Full stop. End of story. Period.

Wait, what is escarole though? It’s green and leafy, but is it like kale? Like spinach? Like lettuce? Well, it looks kind of like all of those things. Escarole is leafier than kale, and is usually sold in bunches that look a lot like a head of lettuce, with short, wide, wavy-edged leaves. The color and texture of the leaves varies—those on the outside are darker-green and a bit tougher, while the interior leaves are pale-yellow and more tender.

Flavor-wise, escarole is part of the chicory family, which means it’s related to stuff like endive, radicchio, and other bitter greens. And yes, as the family name “bitter greens” suggests, escarole is a tad bitter. There’s a sharpness that comes with escarole’s wide leaves, not quite as much as radicchio, but definitely more than a piece of romaine.

At the grocery store, escarole can be easy to miss, since it’s a chicory that looks like lettuce. If your grocery store carries it, you usually won’t find it in the bins with its cousins radicchio and endive; instead, it’s normally tucked up near the heads of lettuce and bunches of kale and collards.

Soup BAE.

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