Arugula: Varieties, Flavor, Uses & How to Store It

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What is arugula?

Arugula is a leafy green vegetable in the Brassicaceae family, also known as rocket. It has a slightly spicy mustard-like flavor and is often used in salads or as a garnish.

It’s a pretty popular ingredient in the culinary world, but you may not know much about it. Let’s look at the definition, history, and uses of this tasty green.

What is arugula

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What’s the Deal with Arugula?

Arugula, also known as rocket or roquette, is a leafy green plant that belongs to the Brassicaceae family. It is a member of the same family as mustard and is commonly found in the spring. The leaves of the arugula plant are peppery and have a flavor similar to mustard.

The History: Arugula’s Longtime Popularity

Despite its current popularity among chefs and foodies, arugula has been a staple food for centuries. It appears in records dating back to ancient Rome and was commonly eaten in the Mediterranean region. Arugula was also included in the diets of ancient Egyptians and Persians.

The Varieties: Different Types of Arugula

Arugula comes in a variety of types, including wild arugula, which is smaller and has a slightly stronger flavor than the more common plain arugula. The flavor of arugula varies depending on where it is grown and how it is picked. Young arugula leaves are less spicy than mature leaves, and arugula that is picked in cool weather tends to be less strong than arugula that is picked in hot weather.

The Uses: How to Cook and Serve Arugula

Arugula is a versatile leafy green that can be used in a variety of dishes. It is commonly used in salads, but can also be included in sandwiches, pasta dishes, and even pizza. Arugula can be served raw or cooked, depending on the dish. When cooking with arugula, it is important to note that it wilts quickly, so it should be added at the end of the cooking process.

The Nutrition: Arugula’s Health Benefits

Arugula is a nutrient-dense food that is low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of vitamin K, which is essential for bone health, and vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system. Arugula also contains compounds called glucosinolates, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

The Market: Where to Find Arugula

Arugula is commonly sold in grocery stores and farmers markets. It is often sold in smaller bunches and may appear less uniform than other leafy greens. Arugula can be a bit more expensive than other vegetables, but it is easy to prepare and can be a great addition to any meal.

Arugula: The Many Varieties You Need to Know About

Arugula, also known as rocket, is a widely used food ingredient that consists of three main forms: Diplotaxis, Eruca, and Tenuifolia.

  • Diplotaxis: This wild arugula is generally found in the Mediterranean region and has a more pronounced peppery flavor than other varieties.
  • Eruca: This is the most commonly cultivated variety of arugula and is often found in garden salads or cooked as a vegetable or added to pastas.
  • Tenuifolia: This variety has finely leaved foliage and is often added to baked goods for an extra kick of flavor.

The Ecology of Arugula

Arugula is a plant species that is generally found in the wild and is commonly used as a food ingredient. The larvae of the Lepidoptera species often feed on the leaves of the arugula plant.

Note on Arugula

Arugula is a delicate ingredient that wilts immediately after the cooking period ends. It is best used as a fresh ingredient or added at the end of the cooking process.

Arugula Flavor: Exploring the Peppery Taste of This Mustard Family Green

Arugula is a green leafy vegetable that is sold in most markets and grocery stores. It appears in rounded, tender leaves that are notched and have a deep green color. Arugula tends to retain its size and shape even when cooked, making it a good item to consider when going for a salad or cooking. The flavor of arugula can be described as a bit peppery, similar to wild mustard, but overall, it has a mild taste.

Arugula Varieties: Maximilian and Wild Arugula

There are two main varieties of arugula: Maximilian and wild arugula. Maximilian arugula tends to be larger and darker in color, with a more intense peppery taste. Wild arugula, on the other hand, has a more rounded and tender leaf and a milder taste.

Arugula Flavor in Salad and Cooking

Arugula is a popular green for salads because of its mild, yet peppery taste. It adds a nice depth of flavor to any salad and pairs well with other greens like spinach and Mizuna. When cooking, arugula can be used in a similar way to spinach, but it tends to have a bit more of a bite. It’s a great addition to pasta dishes, soups, and even as a topping on pizza.

Arugula Storage: How to Retain the Flavor

To store arugula, it’s best to keep it in the fridge in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. This will help retain its freshness and flavor. Arugula tends to wilt quickly, so it’s best to use it within a few days of purchasing.

In summary, arugula is a member of the mustard family and has a mild, yet peppery taste. It comes in two main varieties, Maximilian and wild arugula, with Maximilian having a more intense flavor. Arugula is a great addition to salads and cooking and should be stored in the fridge with a damp paper towel to retain its freshness and flavor.

Arugula: More Than Just a Salad Green

Arugula is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of ways, making it a popular choice among cooks and chefs. Here are some ways arugula is used in cooking:

  • Arugula is commonly used in salads alongside other greens, but it can also be added to sandwiches, pizzas, and pasta dishes.
  • The peppery flavor of arugula makes it a great addition to raw dishes, such as spring rolls and sushi.
  • Arugula can be cooked and used as a side dish or added to soups and stews.
  • The leaves of young arugula plants can be picked and used as a garnish.

Arugula’s Signature Flavor

Arugula is known for its slightly bitter and peppery flavor, which is caused by a compound known as erucin. This compound is also found in other members of the Brassicaceae family, such as mustard greens and cabbage. However, the flavor of arugula varies depending on the type of plant and the conditions in which it was grown. Some arugula plants have a mellow flavor, while others have a strong and spicy taste.

Arugula as a Substitute

Arugula can be used as a substitute for other greens, such as spinach and kale, in many dishes. However, it’s important to note that the flavor of arugula is quite distinct from these other greens, so it may not be the best choice for every recipe. Arugula is also a great substitute for basil in pesto, as it has a similar flavor profile.

Arugula’s Nutritional Value

Arugula is a nutrient-dense food that is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Some of the nutrients found in arugula include:

  • Vitamin K: essential for blood clotting and bone health.
  • Vitamin C: important for immune function and skin health.
  • Folate: necessary for DNA synthesis and cell growth.
  • Calcium: important for bone health.
  • Iron: essential for oxygen transport in the body.

Arugula’s Popularity

Arugula has become a popular ingredient in recent years, appearing on menus in restaurants all over the world. Chefs prize arugula for its unique flavor and versatility, and home cooks have come to appreciate its easy preparation and natural quality. Arugula is also a prized ingredient in independent research, which has found that it may have anti-cancer properties.

Arugula’s Seasonality

Arugula is a cool-season crop that is typically at its peak in early spring and fall. However, it can be grown year-round in some regions. When buying arugula, look for leaves that are tender and bright green. Avoid arugula that appears wilted or has yellow spots.

Keeping Your Arugula Fresh: Tips for Proper Storage

Arugula is a highly perishable vegetable that can quickly lose its nutrients and flavor if not stored properly. Here are some tips on how to store arugula to keep it fresh for as long as possible:

  • If you bought a bunch of arugula from the store or harvested it from your garden, start by cutting off the root ends and washing the leaves thoroughly in cold water.
  • Dry the leaves gently with paper towels or a clean cloth, making sure to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Wrap the arugula loosely in a damp paper towel or cloth to keep it hydrated.
  • Place the wrapped arugula in a plastic zipper bag or a perforated vegetable bag.
  • Store the bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, where the temperature is relatively high and the humidity is optimal for arugula.
  • Arugula can be stored in the refrigerator for up to seven days, but it’s best to eat it as soon as possible to enjoy its flavorful and tender leaves.

How to Store Arugula for Long-Term Storage

If you have a large amount of arugula that you want to store for a longer period, you can also try these methods:

  • Freeze the arugula: Arugula can be frozen for up to six months if you blanch it briefly in boiling water, cool it down in ice water, and then store it in a freezer bag or container. However, keep in mind that frozen arugula will lose some of its texture and flavor.
  • Cover the arugula with straw: If you have a garden where arugula grows, you can cover the plants with straw or a tunnel to delay the rise of the outer leaves and keep the arugula producing for a longer time.
  • Processed arugula: Arugula can be processed into pesto, soup, or other dishes and stored in the freezer for later use.

How to Store Baby Arugula and Bunching Arugula

Baby arugula and bunching arugula are two popular varieties of arugula that require slightly different storage methods:

  • Baby arugula: Baby arugula is more tender and perishable than regular arugula, so it’s best to eat it within a day or two of buying or harvesting it. To store baby arugula, wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in a plastic zipper bag or a perforated vegetable bag in the refrigerator.
  • Bunching arugula: Bunching arugula has a larger crown and tougher leaves than regular arugula, so it can be stored for a longer time. To store bunching arugula, wrap the crown in a damp paper towel and place it in a plastic zipper bag or a perforated vegetable bag in the refrigerator.

Arugula Substitutes: Mix It Up With These Leafy Greens

Arugula is an essential ingredient in many recipes, but sometimes it’s simply not available or you’re looking to switch things up a bit. Don’t worry, there are plenty of leafy greens that can offer a similar flavor and nutritional value. Here are some great options to choose from:

Leafy Greens Similar to Arugula


  • Mustard Greens:

    These greens have a slightly spicy flavor, making them a perfect substitute for arugula in salads or as a topping for sandwiches.

  • Dandelion Greens:

    These greens have a bitter flavor that’s similar to arugula, making them a great substitute in salads or as a side dish.

  • Endive:

    This leafy green has a slightly sweet flavor and a crisp texture, making it a great substitute for arugula in salads or as a garnish.

  • Radicchio:

    This leafy green has a slightly bitter flavor and a beautiful red color, making it a perfect substitute for arugula in salads or as a topping for pizzas.

  • Spinach:

    This leafy green is a great substitute for arugula in salads or as a base for a spread. It contains plenty of vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy choice.

Leafy Greens That Offer a Different Flavor


  • Baby Kale:

    This leafy green has a slightly sweeter flavor than arugula and is a great substitute in salads or as a base for a spread.

  • Broccoli Rabe:

    This leafy green has a slightly bitter flavor and is a great substitute for arugula in pasta dishes or as a side dish.

  • Escarole:

    This leafy green has a slightly sweet flavor and is a great substitute for arugula in salads or as a topping for pizzas.

  • Napa Cabbage:

    This leafy green has a slightly sweet flavor and a crisp texture, making it a great substitute for arugula in salads or as a garnish.

  • Romaine Lettuce:

    This leafy green has a mild flavor and is a great substitute for arugula in salads or as a base for a spread.

Arugula vs Spinach: A Nutritional Comparison

When looking at the nutritional value of arugula and spinach, it’s worthwhile noting that they are both rich in nutrients, but they differ slightly in their composition. Here’s a breakdown of the nutritional content of both:

  • Arugula (raw, 1 cup): 5 calories, 0.5 g protein, 0.7 g carbohydrates, 0.3 g fiber, 0.1 g fat, 32 mg calcium, 74 mcg vitamin K, 8 mg vitamin C, 0.1 mg pantothenic acid, 10 mcg folate, 8 IU vitamin A, 0.1 mg iron, 0.1 mg manganese, 10 mg phosphorous, 74 mg potassium
  • Spinach (raw, 1 cup): 7 calories, 0.9 g protein, 1.1 g carbohydrates, 0.7 g fiber, 0.1 g fat, 30 mg calcium, 145 mcg vitamin K, 8 mg vitamin C, 0.1 mg pantothenic acid, 58 mcg folate, 141 IU vitamin A, 0.1 mg iron, 0.1 mg manganese, 14 mg magnesium, 24 mg phosphorous, 167 mg potassium

Minerals and Vitamins

When it comes to minerals and vitamins, both arugula and spinach are good sources of various nutrients. However, spinach has a slightly higher nutritional value compared to arugula, containing more:

  • Vitamin K: Spinach contains almost double the amount of vitamin K compared to arugula, which is critical for blood clotting and bone health.
  • Iron: Spinach contains more iron compared to arugula, which is essential for transporting oxygen throughout the body.
  • Magnesium: Spinach contains more magnesium compared to arugula, which is important for energy production, muscle and nerve function, and bone health.

Fatty Acids and Carbohydrates

When it comes to fatty acids and carbohydrates, both arugula and spinach are low in fat and carbohydrates. However, arugula contains slightly more fiber compared to spinach, which can help increase satiety and aid in digestion. Additionally, arugula contains lower amounts of oxalates compared to spinach, which can be an issue for people at risk of kidney stones or those who have kidney disease.

Lutein and Other Nutrients

Both arugula and spinach contain lutein, which is critical for eye health. However, spinach contains more lutein compared to arugula. Additionally, spinach contains more copper and phosphorous compared to arugula, which are important for various bodily functions.

Incorporating Arugula and Spinach into Your Diet

When it comes to incorporating arugula and spinach into your diet, both are great options for adding nutritional value to your meals. Here are some ideas for how to mix them into your diet:

  • Mix arugula and spinach into a salad for a nutrient-dense meal.
  • Add arugula and spinach to smoothies for an extra boost of vitamins and minerals.
  • Incorporate arugula and spinach into pasta dishes or omelets for added flavor and nutrition.

Arugula vs Mizuna: The Battle of the Greens

Mizuna is a Japanese mustard green that is also referred to as “Japanese greens” or “spider mustard.” It is a delicate, leafy vegetable with serrated edges and a slightly spicy taste. Mizuna is a staple in Japanese cuisine and is sold in most supermarkets.

How is Mizuna Different from Arugula?

While arugula and mizuna may look similar, they have some key differences:

  • Mizuna has a more delicate texture than arugula, which makes it more suitable for delicate dishes.
  • Mizuna has a slightly sweet taste, while arugula is more peppery.
  • Mizuna is highly sensitive to heat, so it’s better served raw or lightly cooked. Arugula can handle higher temperatures and is often used in hot dishes.
  • Mizuna is a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine, while arugula is more commonly used in Mediterranean dishes.

How to Use Mizuna in a Recipe

Mizuna is a versatile ingredient that can add a nice touch to many dishes. Here’s a simple recipe to try:

  • Start by finely chopping a small piece of fresh ginger and set it aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of cooked rice, 1 cup of chopped mizuna, and 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
  • Mix well and let it stand for a few minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
  • In a hot pan, add a little oil and stir in the ginger. Cook for a few seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the rice mixture to the pan and stir-fry for a few minutes until the mizuna is wilted and the rice is slightly sticky.
  • Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes.
  • Pour the rice mixture into a serving dish and slice some white and red radishes on top for an extra pop of color.

Conclusion

So there you have it- everything you need to know about arugula. It’s a delicious, nutritious green leafy vegetable that you can add to salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes. Plus, it’s a great way to add a bit of peppery flavor to your dishes.

You can’t go wrong with arugula, especially if you’re looking for a new way to spice up your meals. So don’t be afraid to give it a try!

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.