If you’re looking to add more leafy greens into your diet, don’t forget to use arugula amongst the spinach, kale, and broccoli – it’s packed full of goodness and has a distinctive peppery flavor that’s great for salads, sandwiches, and more.
So many of us resolve to eat more veggies when the new year rolls around. But who among us hasn’t been put off by a shelf of green vegetables we don’t know how to cook? Cruciferous veggies in particular have a myriad of benefits for our health, so I’m on a mission to demystify the best and make your plate more colorful. Today, we will be talking about all things arugula – what is it and what do we do with it?
What Is Arugula
Despite its leafy green appearance, arugula is a cruciferous vegetable – one of the best vegetable groups for our health. Known as rocket in some countries, arugula leaves are part of the brassica family that grow native to the many regions of the Mediterranean.
It’s no wonder, therefore, that it has such a significant part of Mediterranean cuisine, particularly as a simple arugula salad – a restaurant staple in Italy and Greece. Usually dressed with olive oil or lemon juice and sprinkled with salt and pepper, the distinctive flavor of arugula differentiates it from its cruciferous companions and makes it a very versatile ingredient.
Peppery arugula is not to be confused with baby arugula. Though they’re both the same plant, the baby kind is picked and harvested much earlier in the growth process. If you like to eat arugula, but don’t like the arugula taste, the baby variety is smaller in size, has a much milder taste, and is more tender in the mouth, making it perfect for an easy arugula salad or just as a garnish.
What Does Arugula Taste Like
If you order an arugula salad in a restaurant, you’re in for a punchy, peppery flavor. It’s why it’s used as a garnish for many dishes – it adds an extra oomph to potentially blander dishes. It’s also a great flavor to build meals around; the best arugula salad recipe will complement the spicy, slightly nutty flavors rather than overwhelm them.
Benefits of Arugula
As a cruciferous vegetable, arugula is packed full of amazing health benefits. Dishes with it are naturally low-calorie and low fat, but high in Vitamin A, C, and K, as well as calcium, iron, and folate. Arugula is also naturally high in antioxidants. The use of arugula has also been shown to help support the normal functioning of the brain and liver, reduce inflammation around the body, and more.
Substitutes for Arugula
If you need something to use in place of arugula, it’s best to go to the other members of the brassica family first. You can swap it out for kale or baby kale, dandelion greens, baby spinach, or watercress. They’re all highly nutritious and are a great support for other flavors in a salad, sandwich, or as part of a garnish.
How to Store Arugula
To keep your arugula fresh, you just need to use a fridge-safe bag or box. When it’s at its freshest, the arugula will be bright green with the stems still attached. Wash it thoroughly with cold water, then wrap the root stems in a damp piece of kitchen towel. Put it in a bag or container in the refrigerator – and you can use it for 3-7 days.
How to Use Arugula
There are many ways to use arugula beyond the traditional simple salad – and it’s such a versatile veggie. You can eat it raw or cooked, throw it on as a garnish, make pesto, or integrate it into your favorite meals or side dishes as a way to boost the nutrient count.
As an arugula fan myself, these are my three favorite recipes with this nutritious leafy green:
Simple, easy and so quick – this is how you make cooked arugula. I’m sure that my sauteed arugula recipe that’s packed with garlic and lemon will become a favorite of yours.
Traditionally made with basil and pine nuts, this recipe infuses arugula with parmesan, adds some walnuts, and blitzes it up to make a delicious, creamy pesto sauce. It’s perfect for pouring over pasta or pizza, drizzling over a larger salad or just being used for dipping.
Here’s a simple recipe for my lemon arugula salad with parmesan.
What to Put in Arugula Salad
- Baby arugula: These have a much more mild flavor than the larger arugula leaves – perfect for a salad.
- Shaved parmesan cheese: You can instead add feta or goat cheese or a plant-based alternative like nutritional yeast if you prefer.
- Salad dressing: I’ve made a lemon dressing for arugula salad. For it, you’ll need balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, honey, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
How to Make Arugula Salad
Mix all of the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. If the parmesan is not shaved, use a vegetable peeler to shave it into flakes.
Pour the lemon dressing over the arugula leaves and sprinkle with the cheese. You can also add any extra toppings you enjoy – I love to use dried cranberries to offset the deep taste of the arugula.
Server with your favorite main. It goes great with salmon, shrimp, or mushrooms.
More Ingredient How-Tos
- Fennel – How to Cook It
- How to Cook Asparagus
- Leeks – How to Cut and Cook
- How to Prep Red Kidney Beans
- Okra – 6 Easy Methods to Cook It
If you try any of these recipes, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Simple Arugula Salad
- 3 oz baby arugula 3 cups
- 1.5 oz parmesan 1/2 cup shaved
- Rinse the arugula/rocket leaves well, then dry them with a salad spinner or clean kitchen towel.
- Mix all of the ingredients together for the dressing. If the parmesan is not shaved, use a vegetable peeler to shave it into flakes. Alternatively, you can grate it.
- Pour the dressing over the arugula leaves and sprinkle with the cheese. You can also add any extra toppings you enjoy (e.g. dried cranberries, walnuts, etc). Enjoy!
How to Make Ahead and Store?
- Make ahead: you can prepare the arugula leaves and the dressing separately and store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to three days. Then, when you’re ready to serve, assemble the prepared ingredients and add the parmesan.Store: once fully assembled and dressed, this salad is best eaten immediately. However, any leftovers could be stored in the refrigerator for an additional day.
- Dry the arugula well: (after rinsing) if you don’t, you can end up with a soggy salad.
- Use the ingredient amounts as a guideline: after making this salad a few times, you’ll come to know “by eye” what your preferred amounts are and won’t even need to refer to a recipe!