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As a home cook, you’re always on the lookout for ingredient substitutions that will help you create your favorite dishes with the ingredients you have on hand. When it comes to watercress, this can be a little tricky, as watercress has a unique flavor and texture.
But don’t worry – we’ve got this! In today’s post, we’ll share some of our favorite watercress substitutes that will add flavor and crunch to your meals.
But before we check out these subs, let’s learn a little more about watercress to find the perfect swap.
What Is Watercress and What Does It Taste Like?
Watercress is a leafy green vegetable that is often used in salads and sandwiches. It has a slightly peppery taste, but it’s also bright and crisp in flavor. It can also be a bit bitter.
Watercress is native to Europe and Asia, but it is now grown in many parts of the world.
The plant grows best in cool, running water, which is why it is often found growing near streams and rivers.
This is why it has water in its name. In addition to being eaten fresh, watercress can also be cooked and even pickled. It is often used as a garnish or added to soups and stews.
Characteristics To Look For When Finding A Replacement for Watercress
- Leafy Green
- Slightly Bitter
- Can Be Eaten Fresh Or Cooked
All these alternatives are 1:1 substitutes! This makes everything easier when cooking.
Arugula, also known as rocket, is a leafy green vegetable with a peppery flavor. That alone makes this a GREAT substitute for watercress. Plus, this leafy green is easier to find in at the grocery store than watercress.
Arugula is popular in salads and pesto and can also be used as a garnish or cooked like spinach. Arugula is a member of the brassica family, which includes other leafy greens such as kale and mustard greens.
The plant has long, tapered leaves that are dark green in color. Arugula is low in calories and a good source of vitamins A and C. It also contains calcium, iron, and magnesium.
While arugula is native to the Mediterranean region, it is now grown in many parts of the world.
Baby spinach is a type of leafy green vegetable that is harvested before the plant reaches full maturity. Unlike mature spinach, which has large, tough leaves, baby spinach has delicate, tender leaves that are easy to eat.
Baby spinach is extremely versatile and can be used in various dishes, from salads to smoothies. This can work quite well as an alternative to watercress, especially for those picky eaters.
Baby spinach will be missing that peppery note which might be more palatable to some. If you really love that peppery bite, then add a pinch of black pepper to help add that flavor.
Another benefit is that baby spinach is also high in vitamins and minerals, making it a nutritional powerhouse. It’s good to note that while it is available year-round, baby spinach is at its peak during the spring months.
Radish sprouts are a type of microgreen that are harvested from radish plants. Unlike radishes, which are typically eaten as root vegetables, radish sprouts are eaten as greens when the plant is very young, either as a sprout or microgreen. They have a peppery flavor that is similar to arugula or watercress.
Radish sprouts are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K. They also contain folate, calcium, and iron. Radish sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked like watercress.
They can be added to salads, sandwiches, and wraps. They can also be sauteed or stir-fried.
Tender Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens are leafy vegetables that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They have a slightly bitter taste and are often used in salads or as cooked vegetables.
You want to look for tender dandelion greens (like baby spinach), which will cut back on the bitterness. If you can’t find them tender, you can also blanch the dandelion green before using them if they are used in a cooked recipe.
You may have never heard of nasturtium leaves. But they are an edible plant that is native to Peru. The leaves have a peppery flavor, much like watercress.
The nasturtium plant is a member of the mustard family, and its leaves contain high levels of Vitamin C. In addition to being eaten, nasturtium leaves can also eat the flowers.
The NOT so Best Watercress Replacement
When we walk into the produce aisle at the market, there are tons of leafy green options, but the truth is not all of them will work as a watercress alternative. It’s just the truth. Here are a few leafy greens I wouldn’t swap with.
- Lettuce: Even though lettuce is super easy to find at the store, it doesn’t really fit the bill as a replacement watercress. Depending on the lettuce, you will have a very mild flavor to a slightly bitter note.
- Cabbage: Cabbage is a wonderful veggie, but it is a poor alternative for this. Cabbage has a specific flavor that can get stronger as it cooks. Its texture is also very different than watercress.
- Kale: Many will say you can use kale for watercress but for there are much better options out there that will be closer to the original recipe. Kale tends to be bitter and has a tough leafy green.
- Collard Greens: Collards are more neutral in flavor and bitterness than kale but lack the bright, peppery flavor that watercress has. Collard greens are usually served cooked, but you can enjoy them raw, also.
My Final Thoughts About Watercress Alternatives
All of these alternatives are good substitutes for watercress, but if you are looking for something that has a peppery flavor, then arugula or radish sprouts would be the best choice.
If you can’t find those at your grocery store, then baby spinach is a great alternative. Dandelion greens are also a good choice and have a slightly bitter taste that people may enjoy. I hope one of these has worked