Chicory is considered a winter lettuce. It is a member of the dandelion family and is sometimes foraged. It comes in many forms, some of which are loose-leafed; others are brightly colored and range from white to yellow, and green. It has a texture and flavor that complements other salad greens. Chicory leaves work well with other ingredients as well; you can serve chicory with cheeses, ham or even smoked salmon.
Many people consider chicory leaves bitter. Young chicory leaves may be eaten in salads while the more mature ones are often served cooked. Cooking can mute the bitterness.
The root of the chicory plant can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute or additive. It can also be cooked and eaten.
Chicory is best when it is harvested in the fall and winter, which means that you may have to use a substitute if you plan to use it at other times of year. The good news is that there are many alternatives to chicory, both for the leaves and root.
Your best chicory root alternative: Kola nut
A decent second choice: Chocolate
Chocolate is an excellent and quite popular additive for coffee. The chocolate and coffee flavors complement each other well and there is evidence that the combination offers multiple health benefits.
In a pinch: Yerba mate
If you are looking for a coffee alternative but have no chicory root at hand, yerba mate can be substituted. Yerba mate has some of the earthiness many associate with coffee and chicory root. It also contains caffeine, unlike chicory root.
Your best chicory leaves alternative: Escarole
Escarole is a good chicory replacement since you can use it in a wide variety of applications. It can be cooked or eaten raw in salads and is a member of the chicory family. If you need a chicory substitute because you do not like its flavor, escarole may be a good option as it lacks much of chicory’s distinctive bitterness.
A decent second choice: Frisee
As a salad additive, frisee provides many of the same benefits as chicory. It pairs well with most other common salad ingredients while adding crispness. Its flavor is less assertive than that of chicory, which makes it perfect if you are looking for an alternative that is not as bitter.
In a pinch: Arugula
Like young chicory leaves, arugula is slightly bitter with a mild peppery taste. Its flavors make it perfect for use in salads since it effectively complements to other common salad ingredients. Like chicory, arugula is widely used in the Mediterranean.
Other alternatives for chicory leaves
Other good substitutes for chicory greens include kale, which can add a milder bitterness. Kale can be cooked as well, which makes it equally versatile. Watercress is another effective chicory substitute since it has a peppery taste similar to that of chicory.