Chicory and dandelions both belong to the same family and have a lot in common in terms of appearance and taste. You can divide both chicory and dandelions into the two parts of each plant that are most commonly used: the leaves or greens and the roots. To learn how much they differ and what they have in common, take a look at the SPICEography Showdown below.
How does chicory differ from dandelion?
Chicory greens and dandelion greens are nutritionally similar with the exception of a few nutrients like vitamins A and K. Dandelion greens contain much more of these vitamins than chicory greens. Another nutritional difference has to do with the inulin content. Inulin is a soluble fiber that you will find in both chicory roots and dandelion roots. Chicory roots have more inulin than dandelion roots.
Chicory greens and roots are typically cultivated while dandelion greens and roots mostly grow in the wild and are usually foraged.
Can you use chicory in place of dandelion and vice versa?
The similarities between chicory and dandelion greens make them excellent substitutes for each other but many cooks find chicory to be a superior option to dandelion leaves in raw applications.
Chicory is a salad green that belongs to a larger family of vegetables that also includes dandelions. Both chicory greens and dandelion greens have flavor profiles dominated by bitterness and can be used in many of the same applications as a result. You can use chicory greens in place of dandelion leaves in salads and you can saute or stir-fry both. Similarly, dandelion greens can be eaten raw in salads despite being more bitter.
Note that chicory is the same plant as Belgian endive, except for differences in how the two plants are cultivated. Belgian endive is cultivated in a dark environment, which ensures pale leaves that are not as bitter as those of dandelion. Note also that in many cases, the dandelion that you might see sold in grocery stores is actually chicory. Radicchio is a common relative of chicory that is similar to it in many ways
Both chicory and dandelion have similar taproots that you can use in similar ways. Neither chicory roots nor dandelions roots taste exactly like coffee; however, they are similar to each other in terms of flavor and appearance. Both will provide bitterness with nutty notes and the dark appearance of coffee. Both are caffeine-free so they make great coffee alternatives if you want to avoid the anxiety and sleep issues that can come from consuming caffeine. They are also not as bitter coffee and are sometimes added to it to reduce its bitterness.
The combination of the two may work better than either of them alone if what you are seeking is a coffee alternative.
When should you use chicory and when should you use dandelion?
Use chicory greens for salads. Chicory greens are arguably the superior option for raw preparations as they tend to be more tender and less bitter.
You can use dandelion greens in salads as well, but you may want to opt for a sweeter or more acidic dressing to help tone down their bitterness.
Use chicory root in your coffee, especially you want the benefits from its high inulin content. You can use dandelion root in the same way but while it does contain some inulin, it does not contain as much of it.
Both chicory and dandelion are believed to be beneficial for liver detoxification so you can use them interchangeably for that purpose.