Arugula is a leafy green packs a peppery punch! Here’s more about this ingredient and how to use it in recipes.
Here’s a leafy green that’s all the rage these days: arugula! This peppery, subtly bitter green is popular in restaurants in fancy salads and as a fresh, crunchy topping for pizzas. But this ingredient isn’t new: it’s been around since ancient Rome! Don’t jump on the arugula train just because it’s trendy: this tasty vegetable is here to stay. Here’s more about it: what to look for when buying this leafy green and all the best ways to use it in recipes.
What is arugula?
Arugula, also known as rocket or rucola, is a peppery, delicate leafy green. It might seem trendy today, but this ingredient dates back to ancient Rome, originally believed to be an aphrodisiac. Arugula has a bold, peppery flavor with a mildly bitter finish. It’s a cruciferous vegetable that’s in the same plant family as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Arugula is popular in green salads, but it’s incredibly versatile. Add it to pastas or omelets, toss it into soups or potato salads, or make it into pesto. In Northern India, arugula seeds are even pressed to make into a cooking oil. There’s nothing this tasty green can’t do!
Buying and storing arugula
What to look for when you’re buying arugula at the store? Here’s what to know:
- Choose perky leaves with a vibrant green color. Avoid arugula with wilted, slimy, yellowing or browned leaves.
- Look for baby arugula versus mature arugula (sold in bunches). Baby arugula has a delicate, feathery texture and a milder flavor than the more mature version, which has thick stems and is sold in bunches. Mature arugula can be very spicy and has a thicker, leafier texture. But if it’s all you can find, go for it! Just keep in mind it will have a stronger flavor.
- Store in an airtight container, plastic bag or in plastic wrap in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. It should stay good for up to 1 week.
Arugula is a nutritious leafy green, though interestingly it’s not as nutrient-dense as related leafy greens like spinach or watercress. For example, in this CDC study ranking powerhouse fruits and vegetables on a scale of 1 to 100, watercress was most nutrient-dense with a score of 100, spinach scored 86, and arugula ranked in at 37. Of course, it’s still a healthy food that’s part of a nutritious diet! Here’s an outline of arugula nutrition:
- It’s very low in calories. One cup has only 5 calories (source).
- It’s high in Vitamin K. One cup has 27% of your daily Vitamin K.
- It also contains calcium. One cup has 3.2% of your daily calcium.
Arugula is extremely versatile: it’s not just for salads! But it’s feathery, delicate texture is ideal for green salads. Whiz it up into pesto, use it as a pizza topping, or stuff handfuls into sandwiches and quesadillas. The sky’s the limit! Here are some ideas for arugula recipes.
Introducing: the simplest arugula salad: possibly the easiest salad you’ll make. No need to make salad dressing: just toss the greens with olive oil and lemon juice. In minutes, you’ve got an elegant salad that goes with literally everything.
A great trick to dress up your pizza? Mix baby arugula with olive oil and a little salt, then toss it on the top of your pizza! It adds a peppery crunch to each bite. Do this on any of your favorite pizza recipes, or click the button below for ours.
Got handfuls of arugula to use up? Try making this silky, garlicky Arugula Pesto! Arugula is ideal for a bright green pesto: the flavor is boldly peppery but brilliant. This glistening sauce announces its presence! Stir it into hot pasta, spread on a pizza, or dollop onto crostini with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. There are so many options for this versatile sauce!
Here’s a favorite salad using baby arugula: this Goat Cheese Salad with Arugula and Apples! It’s simple and comes together quickly, but my does it deliver on flavor! The crunch of the apples, creamy goat cheese, and fluffy arugula are the ideal pair for the tangy sweet dressing.
Arugula is great as a sandwich garnish! Here it makes for a quick breakfast, paired with pesto and a fried egg. Lightly wilt the arugula and throw it all on an English muffin for a truly quick way to start the day.
Peppery arugula pairs perfectly with earthy beets! Try them together in this salad with jewel-toned roasted beets with baby arugula, all covered in a zingy citrus vinaigrette. Add thin-sliced shallots and toasted walnuts, and it tastes sophisticated with minimal effort.
Here’s a salad that’s about as delightful as they come: this fresh and herby Couscous Salad! Throw couscous and arugula together with fresh dill and mint, garlic, lemon and a pile of vegetables, then sprinkle with salty feta. Take a bite and it’s irresistibly fresh and savory: we couldn’t stop eating it!
More quick guides
Mystified by an ingredient, or want to learn more about flavor secrets? Here are a few more quick guides to peruse:
- Understand the magic of Fire Roasted Tomatoes
- Learn about spicy Calabrian Chilis or Chipotle Peppers in Adobo
- Review your leafy greens: Watercress, Butter Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce and Endive
- See why Castelvetrano Olives make an olive lover out of anyone
Arugula & Apple Salad
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
This arugula apple salad is simple but a symphony of flavor! Apples, pecans and balsamic dressing make perfection on a plate.
- 1 recipe Balsamic Dressing (or Citrus Salad Dressing or Dijon Dressing)
- 1 crisp apple
- 1 shallot
- 5 ounces (8 cups) baby arugula (not standard arugula*)
- ¼ cup pecans, roughly chopped (toasted or glazed, if desired)
- 2 ounces soft goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
- Sea salt
- In a medium bowl, make the dressing.
- Thinly slice the apple and shallot.
- Place the greens on a plate. Top with the sliced shallot, apple, pecans, and crumbles of soft goat cheese. Drizzle with dressing and top with a sprinkle of sea salt.
*Standard arugula has much too spicy of a flavor; look for the small baby arugula leaves like you see in the photo. It comes packaged in the produce section near the greens, or may be available at your local farmer’s market.
- Category: Salad
- Method: No cook
- Cuisine: Salad
- Diet: Vegetarian
Let us know if you have any questions!