Escarole is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the chicory family, so it resembles endive and frisee.
Like other members of this family, escarole is used most popularly in Italian dishes. However, it’s becoming more and more popular around the world due to its distinctive flavor profile.
Many people have difficulty deciding whether escarole can be classified as endive or lettuce. If you’re one of them, here is everything you need to know about escarole.
Escarole is a bitter green vegetable with wide, green, and flat leaves which feature jagged edges. It’s more bitter than lettuce. However, it’s still milder in taste as compared to endive. As it is, it’s typically considered a unique and ideal cross between a lettuce and an endive.
Escarole is grown globally, but it’s still considered a specialty item, making it slightly more expensive than its leafy green counterparts.
Escarole lettuce is also highly nutritious as it contains vitamins A, K, and C and is full of fiber. It has fewer calories and carbs, so health-conscious individuals should love it.
The color and texture of the escarole leaves vary. The outer edges are dark green and harder as compared to the inside, which is pale yellow.
What does escarole taste like?
Since escarole belongs to the chicory family, it packs a tinge of sharpness in its taste.Still, escarole is not as bitter as chicory and endive.
The level of bitterness also varies throughout the leafy vegetable. The ends, where the leaves are dark, taste bitter, but the inner part of the vegetable, which is a pale yellow, tastes sweet.
Much like most vegetables, the flavor is more pronounced when raw than when cooked.
How to store escarole
When you buy escarole, it can stay fresh for up to five days, only that’s if you store it properly. The hearty vegetable needs to be stored in the crisper, so it stays fresh.
The crispiness of the leaves will deteriorate over time. Don’t wash escarole until you have to use it because water will damage the vegetable, resulting in its loss of freshness.
Raw escarole can be stored in a cool and dry place. Don’t store it in the freezer. Cooked escarole can be stored in an airtight container, and it will stay fresh for up to three days, so long as you keep it in the fridge.
How to cook with escarole
Escarole is a versatile vegetable, so you can use it as is – cook, sauté, braise it, or add it to other recipes. The vegetable is popularly used in pasta, soups, and salads. Due to escarole’s bitterness, it pairs well with sweet and mild ingredients.
When using escarole for cooking, you must know where the bitter flavor lies and which parts of the vegetable to use. The outer and darker parts of the leaves, which are also bitter, tend to be chewier, which is why they may require more cooking time than the other parts of the vegetable.
On the other hand, the inner leaves are not as tough and bitter, so they are ideal for salads or to eat raw.
Substitutes for escarole
Buying escarole can be tricky as it’s not readily available. Plus, because it’s a specialty ingredient, it’s slightly more expensive than other vegetables.
As such, you can opt for alternatives that have a similar taste. The best substitute for escarole is chicory or endives; many other dark leafy greens would also work. Here are some you can consider:
The bottom line
Escarole is, without a doubt, one of the most versatile ingredients. It can be served raw or cooked and ultimately adds a unique, bitter flavor to any dish.
The vegetable is popularly used in Italian wedding soups. If you’re keen on trying out this soup and vegetable, here’s a great Italian Wedding Soup with Escarole recipe that you can try.