What Is Escarole?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

A plate of escarole

 Gary Soup / Flickr / CC by 2.0

Escarole (pronounced "es-ka-roll") is a leafy green vegetable and member of the chicory family along with frisée, endive, and Belgian endive. Like other chicories, it is popular in Italian cuisine and can be served either raw or cooked.

What Is Escarole?

Also known as broad-leaved endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive, and scarole, escarole has broad, curly green leaves and a slightly bitter flavor. The outer leaves tend to be darker in color and more bitter, while the inner leaves are more tender. The chicory is often bunched and placed with heads of fresh lettuce, away from its close relatives radicchio and endive. It's more expensive than lettuce since it is considered a specialty item. The veggie requires little preparation before using, often only needing a quick rinse.

How to Cook With Escarole

The wider, darker outer leaves tend to be a bit chewy and bitter, making them ideal for cooking. The leaves can be sautéed or braised similarly to collard greens and are frequently included in pasta and soup recipes, especially in Italian cuisine.

For a salad, the inner, lighter-colored leaves are a good choice. Tear them into pieces and toss with other ingredients and vinaigrette. Raw escarole pairs well with fruit in salads as well as cheese, including strongly flavored varieties such as blue cheese and goat cheese. Whether cooked or raw, escarole pairs well with strong salty and sweet flavors which balance its bitterness nicely.

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What Does Escarole Taste Like?

Escarole has a fresh, vegetal taste with light bitterness. It's less bitter than other chicories, with the level of bitterness varying throughout the head. The inner, lighter-colored leaves are sweeter than the outer, darker green leaves. The flavor is brighter and more pronounced when raw, and more mellow when cooked.

Escarole Recipes

Escarole can be used in a variety of ways, both raw and cooked. One popular use for the leafy green is wilted in Italian wedding soup. It's frequently paired with white beans, whether in soup form or as a side dish with bacon or ham. Escarole can also be sautéed or grilled for a simple side dish, or left raw and used as a salad green.

The versatile veggie can easily be used in recipes that call for radicchio. The result will be a slightly sweeter and less bitter dish. Substitute escarole in the grilled and sautéed recipes below.

Where to Buy Escarole

Escarole can be found at well-stocked grocery stores and specialty markets priced by the pound or by the head. Look for the vegetable, which can range from the size of a grapefruit to a large head of lettuce, with the refrigerated leafy greens. For the freshest escarole or when buying locally, look for it in the cold weather months. It pops up at farmers' markets starting in the fall and can be available through early spring. Choose heads that have firm, bright leaves without brown spots or wilting.

Esacrole can be grown in mild and cool-weather climates. Grow as you would lettuce and harvest as it matures, or grow full heads and blanch about five days before picking in the fall.

How to Store Escarole

Keep fresh escarole in the crisper for up to five days. Don't wash the leafy green until you're ready to prepare it since water will encourage deterioration. It will lose crispness the longer you store it, so use as soon as possible for the best results, especially when serving raw.

Cooked escarole will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge. Freezing is not recommended since it will break down the delicate leaves.

Nutrition and Benefits

Escarole provides more vitamins and minerals by weight than common iceberg lettuce. Escarole is low in calories and high in vitamin A, fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. A serving of 1/6 of a medium head (about 86 grams) has 15 calories, 3 grams of carbohydrates (all fiber), 1 gram protein, and provides 35 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin A.

Escarole vs. Frisée

Both members of the chicory family, escarole and frisée are often mistaken for each other. Escarole has wider leaves, more like curly-leaf lettuce, while frisée lives up to its name with frizzy, branch-like leaves. Frisée doesn't hold up to cooking like escarole and is best served raw in salads with bacon, salty cheese, or a poached egg. Both are sometimes mistaken for lettuces but have a more substantial texture and a bitter bite.