Arugula vs Romaine: A Side by Side Comparison Guide

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Salad greens are essential for a balanced and delicious plate, but navigating the vast world of leafy greens can be daunting. Explore the differences between two of the most popular greens with this guide to arugula vs romaine

Arugula vs romaine Pinterest pin.

Whether you’re building a beautiful fresh salad or adding some vibrant color to your sandwich, you need greens. Leafy green vegetables are a great way to bring life to your favorite meals but not all fresh greens are the same. Each vegetable brings something different to the table, like arugula and romaine. 

Grab a fork and let’s dig into this closer look at the differences and similarities between arugula vs romaine lettuce!

What is Arugula?

Arugula is a cruciferous vegetable and is one of the most popular leafy greens thanks to its versatile and unique taste. From salad bowls to sandwiches to rolls and more, arugula adds an exciting leafy crunch!

Arugula, sometimes called rocket, is a delicious green part of the brassica family. This plant family also contains mustard greens, which might explain the bitter, bright taste naturally found in arugula. 

In appearance, arugula leaves look similar to garden weeds. It has light, pointy leaves and is often dark green in color. The leaves grow on single stems but many stems will grow close together. 

Arugula against a white background.

Nutritional Value of Arugula

Arugula is a wonderful inclusion in any healthy diet not just thanks to its fresh and bitter bite. Arugula’s nutritional content has lots of potential health perks to offer. 

According to the USDA, Arugula has nutrients like magnesium and dietary fiber. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins including vitamin A and vitamin C. In addition to these nutritional benefits, this zesty green vegetable is also low-calorie and cholesterol-free. 

All of these delicious vitamins and minerals can help keep you in good health in so many ways. Eating arugula can help with healthy weight loss, healthy digestion, heart disease prevention, and prevention of chronic diseases. 

How to Shop for Arugula

Arugula is available from springtime to early fall. It’s so popular that arugula lovers will drop everything to pick it wherever it sprouts. It’s safe to forage this leafy green; just be sure to only pick arugula from trusted, chemical-free areas. 

Don’t worry if much arugula doesn’t rocket into fields around you. You can find fresh arugula at grocery stores and farmer’s markets throughout its season. 

Fresh arugula should have bright, crisp leaves. Choose leaves that feel firm and do not have bruises or soft spots. 

Store fresh arugula in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Always wash before using.

How to Use Arugula

Arugula can be used in so many ways. It’s known for its bitter and tangy taste when raw, but it can also be cooked. Cooking brings out a softer side of this interesting bitter veggie. 

One of my family’s favorite things to make during the spring is an arugula salad with goat cheese, sliced strawberries and a few grinds of salt and pepper! Add a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and you’ve got yourself the perfect spring time salad. The sweet and salty flavors add a balance to arugula’s natural bitterness.

The fresh crunch of arugula is perfect on handheld foods like tacos, wraps, and sourdough bread breakfast sandwiches. It also pairs well with saucy foods like barbecue chicken or bang-bang shrimp. 

To enjoy this bright leafy flavor cooked, first sauté some onions or shallots in the pan, then add the arugula. Cook it quickly and garnish with parmesan for a simple but beautiful warm salad. 

Avocado slices over fried egg with cheese on sourdough bread slice.

What is Romaine?

Romaine and arugula are often thought of together because they are both green leafy vegetables, but they are actually quite different, starting from the roots up. 

Romaine is a lush, leafy member of the asteraceae family. This is a plant family that includes many different types of lettuce heads. 

Romaine is known for its tall shape and sturdy, ribbed, green lettuce leaves. Romaine, like other lettuces, grows in a head formation. That means the leaves form a clump or ball as they grow, unlike arugula whose pads pop off the stem as single leaves.

Compared to arugula, romaine has a much milder taste. It is watery, grassy, and fresh flavor with a delightful crisp texture. It has a light leafiness, but overall, it is very mellow in flavor compared to arugula. 

Romaine lettuce on a neutral towel.

Nutritional Value of Romaine

Similar to eating arugula, people who enjoy romaine lettuce stand to gain lots of tasty benefits. This green veggie is loaded with vitamins and minerals that can help promote everything from healthy digestion to healthy cell function to bone health. 

The USDA cites romaine as a green with almost 1 gram per serving, which might not sound like much, but for a leafy vegetable that is fairly high. It is also loaded with essential nutrients like fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamins C and K. 

Possibly, the best thing this green veggie has going for it is that it’s a good source of folate. Folate is known for its important role in healthy cell growth. That makes romaine a popular choice for boosting brain health and amongst pregnant moms looking to increase their intake of dark leafy greens!

How to Shop for Romaine

Unlike arugula, which pops up everywhere when it’s in season, romaine is not a forageable veggie. Most people pick up this salad staple from their local grocery store or farmer’s market; however, it can be grown in gardens and pots for immediate access to fresh leafy goodness!

When you are picking out romaine, choose fresh, intact heads. Keeping the leaves on their stem helps them maintain their garden-fresh flavor for a longer period. Always look for leaves that are crisp and brightly colored. Avoid crushed, mushy, or brown-looking heads of romaine.

Store romaine lettuce in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Always be sure to wash the lettuce thoroughly. Romaine is a common culprit on the foodborne illness watch list, so always be sure to wash it very well. 

How to Use Romaine

Romaine is a go-to for anyone looking for the familiar fresh crunch of lettuce. It’s one of the most commonly used lettuce varieties because it can add a fresh element to any plate. 

Romaine can be used fresh in whole leaves or chopped. It is wonderful when used on its own as the base for a cold salad but it also mixes well with other bolder leafy greens, like arugula.

Some people might not realize, but this type of lettuce can even be enjoyed warm. It can be blanched or sauteed, but the best way to enjoy warm romaine is grilled. 

Grilling romaine is so easy and it only takes minutes. Here’s how:

  1. Slice a head of romaine in half and generously drizzle each half with extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Quickly heat the cut side of each half on a hot grill to give it grill marks. Remove the romaine from the grill. 
  3. Serve romaine seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice for a salad experience like no other!
Man holding romaine lettuce that's cut in half.

Arugula vs Romaine: Key Differences

These vegetables have so much in common that it can be hard to pinpoint their differences. They can both make a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and more. They are both leafy and vegetative in flavor and bring a satisfying crunch. So what’s the big difference?

The key difference between these two comes down to their family roots. Arugula is more of a loose, leafy herb, whereas romaine is a tight head of lettuce. 

This difference not only shines in their unique shapes, but also in their taste. Arugula has a stronger, more bitter, peppery flavor than the mild, grassy taste of romaine. 

Romaine has high water content when compared to arugula.

This variance of flavors is what really decides which of these two leafy favorites you’ll love. If you like a little bitterness in your food, that’s a good reason to use arugula. If you value fresh, mild flavor then you need romaine. 

Arugula vs Romaine: Which is Better?

Whether you’re eating greens for better health or better flavor, each of these vegetables has a lot to offer. In terms of freshness, color, crunch, and flavor they both bring a lot to the table but it’s impossible to call one the winner. Each one of these vegetables has different attributes to love and each one is worth including in your regular routine.

When it comes to arugula vs romaine, it’s not about determining which is superior, but rather understanding when to use each. By grasping the unique flavors and textures they offer, you can confidently choose the perfect green for your favorite dish.

When to Use Arugula vs Romaine

The key to cooking is following your heart and palate. That’s why it’s fun to experiment in the kitchen and be open to trying both of these great greens.

Consider the following factors when choosing which of these options is right for you:

  • Temperature: Deciding whether your dish is hot or cold can help determine which green to use. The arugula holds up a little better to heating when sautéing.
  • Texture: Both the texture of the foods you are pairing with the greens and the texture of the greens themselves matter. Consider the crunchiness and moisture level of everything when making a decision.
  • Flavor: Flavor is everything! Arugula, although slightly bitter, has more all-around flavor than romaine. You may not want to eat a huge bowl of just arugula like you can romaine.
  • Color: Arugula has slightly darker leaves with a deeper shade of green than the yellow to light-green color of romaine. 

Don’t hesitate to combine arugula and romaine for a homemade spring mix bursting with flavor. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the delightful taste and textures of these versatile greens!

DISCLAIMER: The content on this website is not endorsed by the Food and Drug Administration. It’s not meant for diagnosis, treatment, cure, or disease prevention. You’re responsible for interpreting and using this information. Prior to any dietary or lifestyle adjustments, consult with a healthcare professional. 

Sources

Fooddata Central Search Results: Arugula. FoodData Central. (2019, April 1). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169387/nutrients 

Fooddata Central Search Results: Romaine. FoodData Central. (2022, October 28). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/2346389/nutrients 

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2023, August 10). Folate (folic acid). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-folate/art-20364625#:~:text=Folate%20(vitamin%20B%2D9),of%20the%20brain%20and%20spine

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