Learn all about the leafy green, including what arugula tastes like and different ways to prepare it.
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Arugula
Credit: Helen Norman

Arugula is a delicate, leafy green with many monikers around the world. Known as rocket in England, roquette in France and rucola (or ruchetta or rughetta) in Italy, arugula is used in many cuisines and dishes. Read on to learn more about the leafy green, including what arugula tastes like and ways to prepare it.

What Is Arugula?

Arugula is a leafy green, part of the cabbage and mustard green family. The leaves are a rich green and feature notches up and down both sides. Depending on the variety, the notches may be pointy or have a full, round end. Wild arugula has a narrower leaf.

The leafy green is available year-round, but peaks in the spring and fall. Arugula is at its best when the leaves are young and tender. As the temperature warms, the leaves get bigger and the flavor is more intense. You can find arugula in bunches with the stems attached, as well as prewashed in bags or containers.

What Does Arugula Taste Like?

With a distinct peppery flavor, arugula is known for its spicy, sharp bite. The green's flavor may vary depending on its maturity and variety. Baby arugula, for example, is a small, less mature version of arugula and is often milder in taste, whereas wild arugula has a fiercer flavor. The flavor of raw arugula mellows out when it is cooked, yielding a milder flavor.

Ways to Use Arugula

Arugula is typically eaten raw, similarly to other leafy greens like lettuce or spinach. It's often used in salads, like Citrus-Arugula Salad or Cantaloupe, Arugula & Goat Cheese Salad, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy it. Try arugula as a topping to pizza like Prosciutto Pizza with Corn & Arugula. Arugula can also be used in a grain bowl or blended to create a pesto. The spicy bite of arugula balances many flavors, from the sweetness of figs to the sharpness of goat cheese. Its pungency also pairs well with the acidity in vinegar and citrus.

Can You Cook Arugula?

Yes, you can cook arugula! When warmed, arugula's character changes slightly as it wilts and the snappy flavor slightly softens. Try Sautéed Arugula for a quick and easy side dish. Or, toss arugula into pasta so it slightly wilts, like Spaghetti with Arugula & Clam Sauce. Arugula can also be used in a sandwich or as part of a filling for stuffed steak.

Whether it's enjoyed raw or wilted, arugula adds a peppery note to any dish. For more on arugula, learn how to store arugula to make the most of the leafy green.

By Lisa Kingsley and Alex Loh