Arugula and spinach are two healthy and versatile greens that you can use raw or cooked. While they have similarities, it is best not to swap them out in a recipe without learning more about their characteristics. Learn more about how arugula compares to spinach in the SPICEography Showdown below.
How is arugula different from spinach?
One of the critical differences relates to flavor. The flavor of arugula is considerably more intense when compared to that of spinach. Arugula has the peppery flavor profile associated with members of the cabbage family along with a little bitterness. The older the leaves, the more bitter and spicy the flavor is likely to be. Baby arugula leaves offer a milder flavor. Spinach does not have a strong taste though the older leaves may sometimes be bitter.
Another key difference has to do with the appearance of the leaves. The two are clearly from very different plants. Arugula leaves are longer, narrower and have curly edges making them look similar to dandelion leaves. Arugula leaves are thinner than Spinach leaves. Spinach leaves are wider and have an almond shape.
Arugula and spinach also differ in their nutritional value. While the two greens are not too far apart when it comes to the vitamins and minerals they provide, spinach does have a clear lead over arugula regarding how much of the essential nutrients it provides. It contains vastly more vitamin K along with more vitamin C and folate.
While arugula has increased in popularity in recent years, it is still not a traditional favorite like spinach. Spinach is the more popular of the two options outside of Italian and Italian-influenced cuisine. As a result, you will probably have an easier time finding it. It is also likely to be less expensive in many grocery stores.
Can you use arugula in place of spinach and vice versa?
Both are versatile salad greens with great nutritional profiles. As a result, you can swap them out in many dishes. Baby arugula is an excellent alternative to spinach in a salad due to its mild flavor. You can use mature arugula leaves but note that you can expect the additional bitterness and spicy kick.
You can use spinach in place of arugula as long as you remember that it is not the best possible alternative. Use spinach leaves in place of arugula leaves only if you want to tone the flavor intensity down a notch or want a better nutritional profile.
If you want cooked greens, you can use arugula and spinach interchangeably. You are better off cooking both as quickly as possible to avoid them getting mushy and slimy.
When should you use arugula and when should you use spinach?
Use arugula in Italian and Italian-style salads; alternatively, it is great for pesto. It can also be a great addition to soups, and you can even use it as a topping on pizza. Add it to dishes where you want its sharp flavor profile.
Because spinach is the milder of the two, it has a broader range of applications. Use it in everything from omelets to casseroles and soups. It is also great in most salads whether from Italy or elsewhere. The best option for both leafy greens is to use them in the same dish as many salads, and some recipes for lasagna do.