Radicchio is one of the most in-demand leafy vegetables. It is popular for working well in different cooking dishes, as well as salads.
However, radicchio isn’t perfect, and there could be times when you need to substitute it for something else.
What is the best substitute for radicchio? Belgian endive, with its slightly bitter taste and lovely green color, is the ideal substitute for radicchio. It works for the same dishes, and it is a great aesthetic addition to any recipe.
An Overview of Radicchio
Radicchio is a popular leaf chicory. A perennial plant, the leafy vegetable is especially popular in European cooking.
Amongst other things, radicchio is popular for its combination of bitter and spicy taste profiles. Interestingly, the taste gets mellowed down with some grilling and roasting. When you combine this taste with the vegetable’s colorful leaves and crown, you’ll see why it is so popular in salads.
Radicchio is also famously compatible with several other versatile ingredients – including olive oil and risotto. Besides salads, this vegetable works well in pasta, cooked rice dishes, and even for stuffing turkeys. It’s definitely a Thanksgiving treat!
Why Replace Radicchio?
- Non-availability: Despite its many benefits, radicchio isn’t readily available. If you can’t find it, you’ll need to get something more available.
- Recipe compatibility: While radicchio is known for its versatility, there are some recipes where it might not be the best choice. So, you’ll need to find something better if you want to make these dishes.
Options for Radicchio Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Radicchio: Belgian Endive
Originating from France, the Belgian endive is quite the irony. It looks like the head of a lettuce, with its cylindrical head and pale yellow leaves. It is a regular in many Western dishes, with many using it to garnish recipes thanks to its pretty bitter taste.
Belgian endives are similar to radicchio in many ways. With their flavor profile, they work incredibly well in salads. The endives can be consumed pretty much anyhow – cooked, grilled, baked, even raw!
Another benefit of Belgian endives is that they look pretty nice. So, if you’re looking for something to make your dish look lovely, they’re a great option for you as well.
Belgian endives are a great side for roasted foods – chicken, fish, what have you. They’re easy to prepare and very clean – you can just remove the outer leaves and let the inner ones garnish your dish. But of course, you’ve got to clean the first.
You can use Belgian endives as you like when it comes to proportions. Apply them to your heart’s desire, although we recommend that you keep them in moderation.
A Great Second Choice: Curly Endive
Not dissimilar to the first option, the curly endive is another impressive option if you’re looking for substitutes for radicchio. It comes with a green color, as well as a narrow stem and very curly leaves. Sometimes, the leaves might have frills. If you see one with frilly leaves, don’t worry – it’s healthy too.
The curly endive can be consumed raw and added to salads. It comes with a famously buttery taste, which is a tad different from the radicchio. But, the taste is a pretty delightful addition to any green salad recipe. If you’d like to mellow down the taste, just cook the endive for a few minutes and you should be fine.
When shopping for the curly endive, we recommend that you get those with deep green leaves and yellow interiors. You should also watch to ensure that the stems aren’t brown at the end, and the leaves aren’t turning black yet.
Best Substitute for a Flavor Change: Arugula
Also known as “rocket,” arugula is an edible plant that works pretty well as a substitute for radicchio. It is a leafy vegetable with a proper mixture or taste profiles. It combines tartness with a bitter aftertaste and even some hints of pepper – talk about a triple threat!
Many cooks use arugula in their salads. It is delicious, but not too sweet that its taste overwhelms the entire recipe. You can also mix it well with several other ingredients, including extra virgin oil and lemon juice.
Interestingly, salads aren’t the only thing you can use arugula for. It works well in vegan pizzas, as well as pasta dishes, and more.
Even better, arugula is very healthy. It contains healthy proteins, carbohydrates, as well as several vitamins – C, K, and A. Arugula is also a good source of magnesium, calcium, folate, and manganese. You can apply it as you wish since there are no proportional limits.
Sadly, arugula isn’t so common. You probably won’t find it in most grocery stores. But, if you do find time to check a local market, this is something you should really give a try.
Best Available Substitute: Watercress
If you’re in a time crunch and would need to get something to work in your dish quickly, watercress is probably the best option for you.
Watercress is an aquatic flowering plant with a leafy structure. So, in a way, it’s very similar to radicchio. It can be consumed raw or processed, and it even has edible fruits and a chewy stem.
Watercress comes with a bit of a bitter taste, so we recommend that you eat it carefully. If your palette can’t handle the taste, you could just add a small quantity of it to your dish and you’ll be fine.
For those wondering, watercress is also quite healthy. It contains a healthy dose of antioxidants, which can help to lower the risk of high blood pressure and several heart conditions.