Although it may be most well-known as a star ingredient of Italian wedding soup, escarole lettuce is a nutritious bitter green that makes an awesome addition to raw and cooked dishes alike.
In addition to being delicious and easy to enjoy, this leafy green also boasts a similar set of nutrients and health benefits to other popular veggies, such as spinach, kale and lettuce. Plus, it’s also versatile, flavorful and a great way to mix up your weekly meal rotation.
Ready to learn more? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this leafy green, including some easy ways to add it to your diet.
What Is Escarole?
Escarole lettuce is a type of leafy green vegetable that is a member of the chicory family of plants. It’s closely related to several other types of greens, including endive, Belgian endive and frisée.
The escarole nutrition profile is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A. Each serving also contains a small amount of calcium, vitamin K and iron as well.
It has a flavor that is slightly bitter and sharp with broad green leaves that are versatile and can be easily incorporated in a variety of different recipes.
Although escarole is native to the East Indies, it has been a popular ingredient in many other areas around the world, including ancient Greece and Egypt.
Historical records show that this delicious leafy green has also been cultivated in England since the 1500s and was eventually introduced to the United States in later years by early colonists.
1. Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are powerful compounds that neutralize disease-causing free radicals to protect against oxidative damage to the cells.
Not only that, but some research also shows that antioxidants can aid in the prevention of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
2. Boosts Immune Function
Escarole is loaded with vitamin C, an important water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in immune health.
Studies show that it could even help prevent common respiratory conditions, such as the cold and flu. For instance, one study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism found that getting enough vitamin C could help reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold, while also improving the outcomes of other clinical conditions, such as malaria and pneumonia.
What’s more, escarole is also high in vitamin A, which helps reduce inflammation and regulate immune function.
3. Promotes Weight Loss
Low in calories but high in fiber, escarole can be a great addition to a healthy weight loss diet. Fiber moves slowly through the gastrointestinal tract, helping keep you feeling fuller for longer to promote weight loss.
One study in the Journal of Nutrition analyzed the diets of 252 women over a 20-month period and found that eating more fiber was tied to significant reductions in body weight and fat mass.
Furthermore, other research has found that eating more vegetables — especially high-fiber leafy greens like escarole — may be linked to a reduced risk of weight gain over time.
4. Improves Digestive Health
With nearly three grams of fiber in every serving, adding this leafy green vegetable to your diet is a great way to ramp up fiber intake and enhance digestive health.
Research has found that increasing your intake of dietary fiber could be linked to a lower risk of several digestive conditions, including constipation, hemorrhoids, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and diverticulitis.
Fiber can also support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which is involved in many aspects of health, including nutrient absorption, immune function and inflammation.
5. Supports Healthy Vision
According to one study in the Archives of Ophthalmology, taking a daily multivitamin containing several nutrients, including vitamin A and vitamin C, was associated with a 25 percent lower risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a condition that is considered the leading cause of vision loss.
How to Use It (Plus Recipes)
Wondering where to buy escarole and how to add it to your diet?
This incredibly versatile ingredient is widely available at most grocery stores, farmers markets and health shops. It can be found in the produce section, usually alongside other greens, such as kale, lettuce and romaine.
With its bright color and unique flavor, there are a number of ways to enjoy this vibrant veggie.
It can be eaten raw, either in an escarole salad or paired with fruits, such as apples and pears. It can also be cooked and used in escarole lettuce recipes, like pastas, stews and side dishes.
It’s also a staple in escarole soup, also known as Italian wedding soup.
What is escarole soup?
This Italian soup consists of green veggies and meat, often with other ingredients like pasta, lentils or Parmesan cheese.
Because the inner leaves are less bitter, they are better suited for raw dishes like salads, while the outer leaves work well sautéed or grilled.
There are plenty of other ways to use this delicious and nutritious ingredient. Here are a few easy escarole recipes to help get you going:
- Sautéed Escarole and Beans
- Tomato, Avocado and Escarole Salad
- Escarole and Bean Soup
- Apple and Escarole Salad with Blue Cheese and Hazelnuts
Escarole Substitute Options
If you find yourself running short on this leafy green, there are several escarole lettuce substitute options that you can swap in instead.
Leafy greens, like spinach, chard and kale, are excellent escarole substitutes, especially for dishes that are cooked, such as pasta or soup. Arugula can be used in salads and makes a great alternative, thanks to its peppery, slightly bitter taste.
Endive is another type of chicory that can also work well in place of escarole lettuce. In fact, there are few differences between escarole vs. endive, and the two are very similar in terms of taste and appearance.
However, escarole is a bit less bitter and has smooth, broad leaves. Meanwhile, endive is more narrow and has curly leaves that can be used as a substitute for other types of chicories.
Risks and Side Effects
Allergic reactions to escarole lettuce are uncommon but have been reported. If you experience any symptoms such as hives, rash, itching or swelling, discontinue use immediately and talk to your doctor.
If you take Warfarin or other blood thinners, be sure to moderate your intake of leafy green vegetables, including escarole lettuce. This is because sudden changes in vitamin K intake can impair the effectiveness of these medications, which can have adverse effects on health.
- What is escarole lettuce? Escarole is a type of leafy green vegetable that belongs to the chicory family of plants, alongside other veggies like endive and frisée.
- It’s high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as an array of important antioxidants.
- Thanks to its extensive nutrient profile, adding this versatile vegetable to your diet may help improve digestive health, support healthy vision, increase weight loss and enhance immune function.
- It can be enjoyed raw or cooked and used in a variety of recipes, including soups, stews and salads.
- It can also be used interchangeably with other leafy greens, including spinach, arugula, kale, chard and endive.