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.
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.
Like other members of the chicory family, escarole gets its bitter notes from a plant compound called lactucopicrin, which is also known as intybin.
Every 2 cups of raw escarole, about one-sixth of a medium head, provides:
- Calories: 15
- Carbs: 3 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Iron: 4% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin A: 58% of the DV
- Vitamin K: 164% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 10% of the DV
- Folate: 30% of the DV
- Zinc: 6% of the DV
- Copper: 9% of the DV
Escarole has very few calories and no fat. It is high in micronutrients and fiber. Just 2 raw cups deliver 12% of the DV for fiber. This same serving provides 9% of the DV for copper and 30% for folate. Copper supports proper bone, connective tissue, and red blood cell formation, whereas folate helps ensure proper metabolism and create red and white blood cells.
The two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, act differently in your body.
While soluble fiber bulks up your stool and feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut, the insoluble type passes through your digestive system unchanged, promoting gut health by pushing food through your gut and stimulating bowel movements. Escarole provides mostly insoluble fiber.
Escarole is rich in provitamin A, providing 54% of the DV in only 2 cups. Vitamin A promotes eye health, as it’s an important component of rhodopsin, a pigment in your retina that helps discern between lightness and darkness. Vitamin A deficiencies are also associated with macular degeneration, an age-related decline in eyesight that results in blindness.
Escarole has many powerful antioxidants, which are compounds that defend your body against oxidative stress and unstable molecules called free radicals. Long-term oxidative stress may trigger inflammation. Studies suggest that kaempferol, an antioxidant in escarole, may safeguard your cells against chronic inflammation.
Vitamin K is important for normal blood clotting, as well as regulating calcium levels in your heart and bones. Leafy greens like escarole deliver a subtype called vitamin K1. Two cups provides 164% of your daily needs of this nutrient. A 2-year study in 440 postmenopausal women found that supplementing with 5 mg of vitamin K1 daily resulted in a 50% reduction in bone fractures, compared with a placebo group.
A 3-year study in 181 postmenopausal women found that combining vitamin K1 with vitamin D significantly slowed the hardening of arteries associated with heart disease.
Like any raw vegetable, escarole should be thoroughly washed in clean, running water before eating it. This reduces the threat of food-born illnesses by flushing out harmful bacteria.
Blood thinners like warfarin are known to interact with vitamin K. Rapid fluctuations in levels of this vitamin can counter the effects of your blood thinner, putting you at risk of serious side effects, such as blood clots, which can lead to stroke and heart attack. Limit your intake of escarole if you are taking these drugs.
Eating escarole regularly can exacerbate kidney stones in people with kidney problems. Its high content of oxalate, a plant compound that helps get rid of excess calcium, is filtered by your kidneys.
How to Buy
You can find escarole bunched in with the kales and lettuces at the supermarket.
Look for the vegetable, which can range from the size of a grapefruit to a large head of lettuce. 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.
How to Store
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.
How to Cook
The wider, darker outer leaves of escarole 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 used in pasta and soup recipes, especially in Italian cuisine.
An acid like lemon juice or vinegar counters the bitterness of raw escarole.
For a salad, the inner, lighter-colored leaves are a good choice.
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.