Sorrel is a popular herb in Europe and can be found in certain parts of North America. Its tart flavor makes it a good complement for fatty fish like salmon and for eggs. Sorrel can even be used in soup; sorrel soup was a popular dish during the colonial era. Depending on where you live, you may have a hard time finding this green. If you need sorrel and cannot find it in your local grocery store, consider one of the effective sorrel substitutes listed below.
Your best bet: Arugula
One of the factors that separates sorrel from other greens is its flavor punch. Sorrel brings flavor to a dish with an intensity that most leafy vegetables are unable to match. Arugula is one of the few other greens that is up to the task. The flavor of arugula is strong and herbaceous with a peppery note. Some people find it bitter and it is well-known that the longer an arugula plant is left to mature, the more bitter it will become. Arugula belongs to the same family as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Like sorrel, it can be eaten raw in a salad or wilted and served as a side dish.
While arugula does have its own dramatic flavor, it does not offer the tartness that you would get from sorrel. If you do miss the tartness, you can supplement the acidity in your dish by adding a little lemon juice. Vinegar or another acidic ingredient can work as well.
A decent second choice: Rhubarb
For many people, the first thing that springs to mind at the mention of rhubarb is rhubarb pie. Despite the fact that it is a vegetable, rhubarb is usually treated more like a fruit. It is versatile enough to be used in smoothies, sauces and chutneys but is best known for being an excellent pie filling. What many people do not know is that rhubarb makes an excellent stand-in for sorrel in that both are known for their tartness. The tartness comes from a compound that both plants have in common: oxalic acid.
Like sorrel, rhubarb can be eaten raw. Note that only the stalks of the rhubarb plant are used, not the leaves. Rhubarb leaves have high levels of oxalic acid and anthraquinone glycosides that make them toxic.
To use rhubarb as a sorrel substitute in soup, slice the stalks thinly and add them along with the salad greens. You can also use rhubarb as a replacement for sorrel in sorrel soup. You will need to blend the rhubarb to get the right texture.
In a pinch: Mustard greens
Like sorrel, you can eat mustard greens raw or cooked. In a salad, they provide an assertive flavor with a peppery note similar to arugula’s. The flavor of raw mustard greens stands out from that of other greens in much the same way that sorrel’s flavor does. Note that mustard greens can be fibrous when mature; therefore, you may need to use a blender or food processor if you want to use them in a smooth-textured soup.
Spinach is an especially effective sorrel substitute if what you need is a green for salad. Spinach can have a rich earthiness and subtle bitterness that can stand in for sorrel’s flavor. While it does not have sorrel’s characteristic acidity, the addition of lemon juice or vinegar can help in that respect.
Sumac is a spice, not a herb. If you want something that looks exactly like sorrel, this spice may not be the ideal substitute; however, it can provide sorrel’s tartness. It is used in spice mixes and salad dressings as a replacement for acidic ingredients like vinegar and lemon juice. Its tart quality can make it an excellent alternative to sorrel.