Arugula 101 – The Basics
Arugula (Eruca vesicaria) is a member of the Brassica (Cruciferous) family of plants. It is cousin to kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and others. Arugula may also be known as rocket, rucola, and Italian cress, among other names. Technically, arugula is an herb, although we usually refer of it as a vegetable. The young leaves of arugula are often harvested since the larger, mature leaves can be very strong tasting. The flavor of arugula is often described as peppery, spicy, or mustardy. It may be used raw or very lightly cooked.
Arugula is native to the Mediterranean, where it has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for thousands of years. Today, arugula is enjoyed around the world as a peppery salad green. Arugula is especially favored in Europe and North America, and is used as a salad green, leafy green vegetable, and an herb in a wide array of culinary applications.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Arugula is a nutrient-dense food that is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Also, it is low in calories, sugar, carbohydrates, and fat, making it a very healthful leafy green to include in your meals whenever you can. It is high in calcium, potassium, folate, fiber, iron, magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Vitamin A.
Antioxidant Protection and Cancer. Arugula is full of antioxidants that can help to protect us from harmful free radical cellular damage. Among the antioxidants in arugula are glucosinolates. These compounds have strong anti-cancer benefits by preventing the initiation of cancer through blocking specific carcinogen-activating enzymes. These substances, which give arugula its strong flavor, may help to protect us against breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers. They also help to fight inflammation.
Bone Health. Arugula is high in Vitamin K and calcium. These two nutrients work together to help keep our bones strong, preventing osteoporosis. Vitamin K helps to improve how the body absorbs, utilizes, and excretes calcium. One cup of arugula provides one-fifth of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin K, which is substantial.
Diabetes. Leafy green vegetables have been shown to be especially helpful in reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In a study reported in the January 2017 issue of Pharmaceutical Biology, researchers found that extracts of arugula stimulated the update of glucose by insulin-responsive tissue.
Also, arugula and other vegetables in the Brassica plant family are good sources of fiber, which helps to regulate blood glucose and may reduce insulin resistance.
Heart Health. Vegetables, especially those in the Brassica plant family (including arugula) have protective effects on the heart. In a report published in the February 2017 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology researchers found that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables, salads, and green leafy vegetables are linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In another study reported in the 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers reported that consuming a diet high in cruciferous vegetables could reduce atherosclerosis in older women. Atherosclerosis is where plaque builds up in the arteries, which increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. Researchers speculate that the protective effects of vegetables in the Brassica (cruciferous) plant family are due to their high concentration of healthful compounds, including polyphenols and organosulfur compounds.
Liver Protection. Arugula is rich in chlorophyll. This plant compound has been found to help prevent liver and DNA damage from aflatoxins. Aflatoxins, which are toxins known to raise the risk for liver cancer, are made by some fungi that are found in crops such as corn, peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts. Eating a lot of green vegetables, including arugula, helps to fight the potential effects of aflatoxin. To get the most chlorophyll from arugula, eat it raw.
How to Select Arugula
Look for brightly colored, dry, fresh-looking arugula. It should have no signs of wilting or yellow leaves.
How to Store Arugula
Arugula is very perishable. Store it in the refrigerator, unwashed, and tightly wrapped in a plastic bag or tub that it came in. It is helpful to line the bag or container with a clean cloth or dry paper towels so they can absorb any moisture released by the leaves during storage. Excess moisture in the container can cause the arugula leaves to rot. Use your arugula as soon as possible. Look for the “Best By” date on the package and be sure to use it by then. When bought freshly harvested, arugula may keep for up to ten days in the refrigerator.
How to Prepare Arugula
When you are ready to use your arugula, give it a quick rinse and spin it dry in a salad spinner. Use it as desired.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Arugula
* Try making a pesto with arugula instead of basil. Or, if you have both on hand, try using a blend of both arugula and basil.
* Add some arugula along with spinach when you make lasagna.
* Toss some arugula with roasted vegetables right after they come out of the oven. Roasted squash, beets, potatoes, and carrots would work well together.
* Toss in a little arugula with cooked rice, wild rice, farro, or couscous. Add the arugula after the grains have cooked, just so it becomes lightly wilted.
* Try arugula instead of lettuce (or a lettuce/arugula mixture) in a sandwich, wrap, or on a burger.
* Add a little arugula to a soup or stew after it’s finished cooking.
* Add arugula with other greens to a tossed salad. Since arugula has a spicy flavor, the milder lettuce will help to balance the flavors. A sweet balsamic vinaigrette will complement the flavor of arugula with its peppery flavor.
* If you have a recipe that calls for arugula and you don’t have any or enough, you could substitute the following: watercress, Belgian endive, dandelion greens, escarole, radicchio (for salads), or baby spinach leaves. Note that spinach lacks the peppery flavor of arugula, so add pepper to your recipe to compensate.
* One ounce of arugula is about 1 cup.
* Add some arugula to pasta, noodle, potato, grain, and bean salads.
* Include arugula into warm pasta dishes, grain pilafs, and risotto.
* Add arugula to a stir-fry at the last minute.
* Add arugula to avocado toast.
* If the flavor of arugula is too strong for you, try lightly cooking it, which will make it more mellow. Lightly sautéing arugula with a little garlic, then finishing it with a drizzle of lemon juice will mellow the strong, pungent flavor and offer another health-promoting leafy green to your diet.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Arugula
Basil, chervil, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, fennel seeds, garlic, ginger, horseradish, mint, mustard, salt
Foods That Go Well with Arugula
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beans (i.e., black, cannellini, fava, green, white), beef, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, hazelnuts, lentils, nuts (in general), peas, pecans, pine nuts, pork, poultry (in general), pumpkin seeds, seafood, turkey, walnuts
Vegetables: Asparagus, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, chiles, cucumbers, daikon radishes, eggplant, endive, fennel, greens (greens milder in flavor than arugula, and salad greens), jicama, leeks, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radicchio, scallions, shallots, sprouts (i.e., sunflower), spinach, squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes
Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocado, berries (in general), dates, figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemon, lime, melon (esp. honeydew), olives, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranate seeds, raisins, strawberries, watermelon
Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur, corn, couscous, croutons, farro, grains (in general), millet, pasta, quinoa, rice, wild rice
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (i.e., blue, cheddar, feta, goat, Grana Padano, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, Parmesan, pecorino, ricotta)
Other Foods: Honey, maple syrup, mustard (prepared), oil (esp. canola, hazelnut, nut, olive, walnut), pesto, vinegar (esp. apple cider, balsamic, raspberry, red wine, sherry, white balsamic, white wine)
Arugula has been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Gratins, Italian cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine, pasta dishes, pestos, pizza, risotto, salads, sandwiches (i.e., grilled cheese), soups (i.e., arugula, leek, potato), stir-fries
Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Arugula
Add arugula to any of the following combinations…
Apples + Cheddar Cheese + Mustard + Walnuts
Apples + Lemon Juice + Maple Syrup + Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar + Parmesan Cheese
Balsamic Vinegar + Parmesan Cheese + Red Onions + Tomatoes [in a risotto]
Beets + Feta Cheese + Garlic
Cheese + Fruit + Nuts
Cheese (i.e., Parmesan) + Garlic + Olive Oil + Pasta + Pine Nuts
Chickpeas + Red Onions + Spinach
Cucumbers + Feta Cheese + Quinoa + Red Onions + Tahini + Tomatoes
Fennel + Figs
Fennel + Grapefruit [in a salad]
Fennel + Hazelnuts + Orange + Radicchio
Fennel + Lemon + Pasta
Feta Cheese + Figs
Garlic + Pesto + Portobello Mushrooms + White Beans
Goat Cheese + Honey + Lemon
Lemon + Pecorino Cheese + Summer Squash
Mint + Pecorino Cheese + Pine Nuts
Mozzarella Cheese + Tomatoes
Olives + Oranges + Parmesan Cheese
Pears + Rosemary
31 Arugula Recipes So You Can Eat It All the Time https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/get-spicy-19-awesome-ways-eat-arugula
Grilled Broccoli and Arugula Salad https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grilled-broccoli-and-arugula-salad
Arugula, Apple, and Parsnip with Buttermilk Dressing https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/arugula-apple-and-parsnip-with-buttermilk-dressing
Arugula, Grape, and Almond Salad with Saba Vinaigrette https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/arugula-grape-and-almond-salad-with-saba-vinaigrette
Roasted Peach and Arugula Salad https://www.purewow.com/recipes/roasted-peach-arugula-salad
35 Arugula Recipes to Add to Your Arsenal While It’s in Season https://www.purewow.com/food/arugula-recipes
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Arugula and Pumpkin Seeds https://theveganatlas.com/roasted-butternut-squash-salad-with-arugula-pumpkin-seeds/
Pasta with Asparagus, Arugula, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes https://theveganatlas.com/pasta-with-asparagus-arugula-sun-dried-tomatoes/
Spinach or Arugula Scrambled Tofu https://theveganatlas.com/spinach-or-arugula-scrambled-tofu/
Pasta with Leafy Greens Pesto https://theveganatlas.com/pasta-with-leafy-greens-pesto/
Lemony Spinach (or Arugula) with Fresh Herbs https://theveganatlas.com/lemony-spinach-rice-with-fresh-herbs/
Avocado and Tahini Dip with Baby Greens https://theveganatlas.com/avocado-tahini-and-spinach-or-baby-greens-dip/
Mixed Greens Salad with Avocado and Blueberries https://theveganatlas.com/mixed-greens-salad-with-avocado-and-blueberries/
Tri-Color Potato and Arugula Salad https://theveganatlas.com/tri-color-potato-and-arugula-salad/
Wild Arugula Salad with Garlic Croutons, Shaved Parmesan, and Lemon https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/wild-arugula-salad-with-garlic-croutons-shaved-parmesan-and-lemon
Sunflower Seed Pesto (with Arugula) https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sunflower-seed-pesto
Cherry, Arugula, and Quinoa Salad https://nesfp.org/world-peas-food-hub/world-peas-csa/produce-recipes/cherry-arugula-and-quinoa-salad
Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.