Arugula vs Watercress

When exploring the world of leafy greens, you may find yourself comparing arugula and watercress. Both of these vitamin-packed greens offer unique flavors and health benefits, making them popular additions to salads, sandwiches, and more. Understanding the differences between these two plants can help you make informed decisions when incorporating them into your meals.

Arugula, also known as rocket, is a peppery green with a distinctive taste that adds a punch to any dish. Its jagged-edged leaves are packed with essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C, and K, as well as antioxidants, which promote overall health. Watercress, on the other hand, is a semi-aquatic plant with small, rounded leaves, known for its slightly spicy and tangy flavor. This nutrient-dense green contains potent antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium, making it a great choice for those looking to improve their diet.

When considering arugula and watercress, it’s important to remember that both greens have their unique properties and can be enjoyed in various ways. By understanding their distinct flavors and nutritional profiles, you can confidently experiment with incorporating these versatile greens into your culinary creations.

Botanical Overview

Family and Origins

Arugula and Watercress are popular leafy green vegetables that belong to the Brassicaceae family. Commonly known as cruciferous vegetables, they share a family with other well-known greens such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli.

Arugula, scientifically known as Eruca sativa, is native to the Mediterranean region. Watercress, on the other hand, is known as Nasturtium officinale and is native to Europe and Asia.

Physical Characteristics

Let’s now explore the key physical traits that distinguish these two leafy greens from one another.


  • Leaves: elongated, lobed, and dark green in color.
  • Taste: peppery and slightly bitter.
  • Stems: thin and tender, often consumed along with the leaves.
  • Growth: suitable for both cool and warm climates.


  • Leaves: small, round, and light green.
  • Taste: mild peppery flavor with a slightly sweet undertone.
  • Stems: hollow and succulent, often used in salads and soups.
  • Growth: requires an aquatic or semi-aquatic environment, such as streams or rivers.

Arugula and watercress are both packed with essential nutrients, making them a healthy addition to your diet. While they have distinct flavors and textures, incorporating both of these leafy greens into your meals can be a delicious and nutritious choice.

Nutritional Profiles

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Macronutrients and Calories

When comparing arugula and watercress, their macronutrient profiles are quite similar. Both vegetables are low in calories, with arugula containing 25 calories per 100g and watercress containing 11 calories per 100g. They are also low in fats and carbohydrates, making them great options for anyone watching their caloric intake.

Regarding protein content, both arugula and watercress are lean sources of plant-based protein. Arugula provides 2.6g of protein per 100g, while watercress offers a slightly higher amount with 2.9g of protein per 100g. Both vegetables are good sources of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Arugula contains 1.6g of fiber per 100g, and watercress contains 1.5g of fiber per 100g, making them almost equal in this regard.

Vitamin Content

Arugula and watercress are both nutrient-dense greens, providing an abundance of vitamins. They are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.

  • Vitamin A: Promotes healthy vision and immune function. Watercress contains 318% of the USDA recommended daily value (DV) per 100g, while arugula contains 95% DV per 100g.
  • Vitamin C: Essential for maintaining healthy skin and a strong immune system. Watercress offers an impressive 72% DV per 100g, while arugula contains a slightly lesser amount with 25% DV per 100g.
  • Vitamin K: Supports healthy blood clotting and bone health. Arugula is an excellent source, providing 298% DV per 100g. Watercress also has a notable amount, with 240% DV per 100g.
  • Folate: Critical for DNA synthesis and cell division. Watercress contains 23% DV per 100g, while arugula offers a slightly lower value with 17% DV per 100g.

Mineral Content

Both arugula and watercress contain essential minerals, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Here’s a comparison of their mineral content per 100g:

Calcium16% DV12% DV
Potassium11% DV9% DV
Magnesium5% DV6% DV
Iron8% DV1% DV
Manganese15% DV7% DV

Overall, both greens provide a substantial amount of these essential minerals, with arugula being relatively higher in calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese, while watercress has a slight advantage in magnesium content.

Health Benefits

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Disease Prevention

Both arugula and watercress are packed with health benefits that may aid in disease prevention. They contain substantial amounts of antioxidants like lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. These help your body combat free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, which can lower the risk of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.

  • Arugula is known for its cancer-fighting properties, as it’s a rich source of compounds called glucosinolates.
  • Watercress contains high levels of antioxidants, potentially reducing the risk of various types of cancer.

Bone and Blood Health

In addition to disease prevention, arugula and watercress support bone and blood health, primarily thanks to their Vitamin K content.

Arugula (per 100g)Watercress (per 100g)
Vitamin K90.2 mcg (113% DV)203 mcg (225% DV)

As you can see, both greens are excellent sources of Vitamin K, which is essential for maintaining strong bones and healthy blood clotting. Not only that, but they may also help regulate blood pressure:

  1. Arugula contains nitrates that may support healthy blood pressure levels by improving blood flow.
  2. Watercress is a good source of potassium, which can help balance the effects of sodium and contribute to maintaining a healthy blood pressure.

Incorporating these nutritious leafy greens into your diet can contribute to your overall health and well-being. So, explore different ways to add arugula and watercress to your meals and enjoy their numerous benefits.

Culinary Uses

Raw Consumption

When it comes to arugula and watercress, these versatile vegetables can be enjoyed in various delicious ways. One popular method is raw consumption, where you can incorporate them into your daily meals for an added boost in flavor and nutrition.

For a simple yet flavorful dish, try mixing arugula or watercress into your usual salad. Both leafy greens provide a peppery taste that pairs well with an array of ingredients such as spinach, kale, or lettuce. You can also use them as a topping in a sandwich or wrap for extra texture and a refreshing bite.

Don’t hesitate to get creative with your salads as well. Combining these greens with ingredients like fresh fruit, goat cheese, or toasted nuts can elevate the flavors. Additionally, incorporating them into your morning smoothie adds a pleasant, peppery twist and extra nutrients.

Cooking Applications

Both arugula and watercress can be used in various cooked dishes, and they often adapt well to different culinary styles and recipes.

Pasta and pizza lovers can benefit from adding these greens to their favorite dishes. Simply toss a handful of fresh arugula or watercress onto your pasta or pizza right after cooking for a burst of color and flavor.

Soups are another excellent application for watercress, an aquatic vegetable that naturally lends itself to liquid-based dishes. You can add fresh watercress to soups like butternut squash or potato leek to complement their creaminess.

For a quick and healthy side dish, try sautéing arugula or watercress with garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. These sautéed greens make an excellent accompaniment to your protein of choice, such as grilled chicken, fish, or tofu.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of a perfectly cooked egg dish. Arugula and watercress can easily be incorporated into omelets, frittatas, or even a classic eggs Benedict for a nutritious and tasty meal.

In conclusion, both arugula and watercress offer a range of culinary possibilities for you to explore. Whether enjoyed raw in salads and sandwiches or cooked in pasta, pizza, soups, or egg dishes, these versatile vegetables can enhance your recipes and contribute to a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Taste and Texture

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Flavor Profiles

When comparing arugula and watercress, their flavors are quite distinctive. Arugula has a peppery and slightly tangy taste, while watercress offers a more bitter flavor with a hint of mustard. Both greens are stronger in flavor than standard lettuces like iceberg or romaine.

Here’s a breakdown of the flavor profiles:

WatercressBitterHint of mustard
RomaineMildSlightly more texture

Mouthfeel and Structure

As for the mouthfeel and structure, arugula and watercress provide a different eating experience. Arugula is generally softer, while watercress delivers a satisfying crunch.

Here’s a comparison of their textures:

  • Arugula: Soft and tender texture
  • Watercress: Crunchy and sturdy texture

In summary, there are evident differences between arugula and watercress in both taste and texture. Whether you prefer the peppery tang of arugula or the bitter, mustardy bite of watercress, each provides its unique appeal to elevate your dishes. Choose the one that best suits your taste buds and enjoy the rich flavors these greens have to offer.

Diet and Lifestyle

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Dietary Considerations

When comparing arugula and watercress, both greens are low in calories and high in nutrient content, making them excellent choices for men, women, and anyone looking to maintain a healthy diet. Additionally, these leafy greens can support weight loss goals, as they are low-calorie options without compromising on nutrition.

Arugula and watercress are also helpful for those managing diabetes, as they have a low impact on blood sugar levels. Furthermore, their high nutrient content can boost your immune system, promoting overall health and well-being.

Calories25 kcal/100g11 kcal/100g
MacronutrientsHigh inHigh in
MicronutrientsHigh inHigh in

Incorporation Into Diets

Incorporating arugula and watercress into your diet is simple and versatile. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Salads: Mix arugula and watercress for a nutrient-dense, low-calorie base, then add your favorite protein, vegetables, and dressing.
  • Sandwiches: Instead of traditional lettuce, use arugula or watercress to enhance the flavor and nutrient content.
  • Pastas: Add arugula or watercress into your pasta dishes, either as a fresh topping or by incorporating it into the sauce.

Tip: To enjoy maximum freshness and nutrient content, consume arugula and watercress as soon as possible after purchase.

By incorporating these versatile, nutrient-rich greens into your diet, you can better support your overall health, manage diabetes, strengthen your immune system, and promote healthy weight loss.


The Benefits of Watercress

Nutritional Showdown

When comparing the nutrient content of arugula and watercress, both leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals that provide essential nutrients to your body. Let’s take a closer look at their nutritional profiles.

Vitamin AGoodExcellent
Vitamin CModerateExcellent
Vitamin KExcellentExcellent

As shown in the table above, watercress contains higher levels of vitamins A and C, whereas both greens are equally rich in vitamin K. Therefore, incorporating either of these greens in your diet can bring you substantial health benefits.

Usage in Recipes

In terms of flavor, the peppery taste of arugula makes it a versatile ingredient for various dishes. Some popular uses of arugula include:

  • Salads: The strong flavor can be balanced with milder greens or sweet dressings.
  • Sandwiches: Add an ounce of zest to your sandwiches by incorporating arugula.
  • Pizzas: Arugula can be used as a topping on pizzas for an added kick.

On the other hand, watercress stands out with its slightly bitter taste and crisp texture. This unique flavor profile allows it to serve as a versatile ingredient in several dishes, such as:

  • Salads: Combine watercress with other greens or fruits for a refreshing mix of flavors.
  • Soups: Watercress can be incorporated into soups as a nutritious and flavorful addition.
  • Sandwiches: Accentuate your sandwiches with watercress for a touch of bitterness and crunch.

In conclusion, both arugula and watercress can be used interchangeably in many recipes, with slight adjustments in flavor profiles and textures. Enjoy experimenting with these nutrient-dense leafy greens and reap their health benefits.

Buying and Storage

Selecting Quality Greens

When looking for arugula and watercress, choose those with vibrant green leaves and a fresh aroma. Avoid any with wilted or yellowing leaves. Here’s a quick reference table to help you out:

Green Leafy VegetableQuality Indicators
ArugulaVibrant green, crisp leaves
WatercressBright green, firm stems

For both, inspect the stems as well. Arugula should have crisp stems, while watercress stems should be bright green and firm.

Preservation Tips

To keep your leafy greens fresh, follow these easy storage tips:

  1. Wash and dry: Gently wash your greens thoroughly in cold water. Spin or pat dry to remove excess moisture.
  2. Wrap in paper towels: Place a layer of dry paper towels on top of the greens to absorb any remaining moisture.
  3. Use an airtight container or plastic bag: Place the wrapped greens in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag with small air vents poked in the bag for air circulation.
  4. Store in the refrigerator: Place the container or bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, which maintains the ideal humidity level for leafy vegetables.
  5. Monitor: Check your greens every few days to ensure they remain fresh. Arugula generally lasts 5-7 days, while watercress may stay fresh for up to 10 days.

By following these buying and storage tips, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious arugula and watercress longer.

Economic and Environmental Aspects

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When comparing arugula and watercress, it’s essential to examine their economic and environmental aspects. This will help you make informed decisions for your consumption and personal preferences.

In terms of production, arugula is relatively easier and more affordable to cultivate. It seamlessly thrives in a variety of environments, making it a popular choice for farmers and small-scale producers. As a robust and quick-growing crop, arugula generally requires less space, water, and maintenance.

On the other hand, watercress production tends to be more labor-intensive and costly due to its specific requirements. For optimal growth, watercress needs clean, flowing water and higher humidity levels. This makes it challenging to cultivate, often leading to increased prices in the market.

To provide a comparative perspective, here’s a simplified cost breakdown of arugula and watercress production:

Seed CostLowModerate
Water RequirementsModerateHigh
Space RequirementsLowModerate
Labor IntensityLowHigh

Europe has long been a significant producer and consumer of both arugula and watercress, but their production differs in environmental impact. Arugula is more commonly cultivated in agricultural fields, while watercress often requires the construction of specialized water systems or exploitation of natural water sources.

These differences in cultivation highlight the importance of considering the environmental implications of your choices. By being mindful of water usage, land requirements, and energy inputs, you can contribute to more sustainable food systems.

Finally, when analyzing economic and environmental aspects, it’s beneficial to look at transportation costs and carbon footprint. Locally sourced arugula and watercress reduce transportation emissions and support regional economies. If possible, purchase your greens from local farmers’ markets or consider growing them in your own garden to minimize environmental impact and support local economies.

Arugula vs Watercress + Recipe

Arugula Salad Recipe:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 144 kcal


  • 4 cups of fresh arugula
  • 1/4 cup of cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/4 cup of shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Wash and dry the arugula thoroughly.
  • In a large bowl, combine the arugula, cherry tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese.
  • Drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently to coat.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve the arugula salad immediately as a refreshing and simple side dish. Enjoy!


Calories: 144kcal
Keyword arugula vs watercress
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the nutritional differences between arugula and watercress?

Both arugula and watercress are nutrient-dense greens, but they do differ slightly in nutritional content. In general, watercress is higher in vitamins A and C, while arugula tends to have more vitamin K. That said, both greens offer an array of essential vitamins and minerals, making them a healthy addition to your meals.

How do the flavors of arugula and watercress compare?

Arugula and watercress each have their own unique flavors. Arugula is known for its peppery, slightly bitter taste. Watercress, on the other hand, offers a milder flavor with a hint of spice. The intensity of flavor can also vary depending on the age of the leaves. Younger leaves are less intense and more tender, while older leaves often have a more robust flavor and texture.

What are the best growing conditions for watercress and how do they differ from arugula?

Watercress is a semi-aquatic plant, thriving in cool, wet environments with some access to running water. It requires a consistently moist soil. Arugula, on the other hand, is more versatile and can be grown in a wider range of conditions. While arugula benefits from evenly moist soil, it is more tolerant of drier conditions than watercress and can be grown in a standard garden bed or container.

Can arugula be used as a substitute for watercress in recipes, and if so, in what types of dishes?

Arugula can be used as a substitute for watercress in many recipes, especially those that highlight their shared peppery and slightly bitter notes. Salads, soups, sandwiches, and pesto are all examples of dishes where arugula can be swapped for watercress. However, keep in mind that their textures differ, so the result may not be identical to the original recipe. If you’re looking for a milder flavor, also consider adding less arugula than the amount of watercress called for.

What are the health benefits associated with consuming watercress and how do they compare to those of arugula?

Both watercress and arugula provide a range of health benefits, mainly due to their high antioxidant content and numerous essential nutrients. Watercress is particularly known for its cancer-fighting properties, while arugula is recognized for its potential protective effects on blood vessels and heart health. With their rich nutrient profiles, however, both greens promote a healthy immune system, good vision, and overall wellness when incorporated into a balanced diet.

In what types of cuisine is watercress predominantly used, and does this differ from arugula?

Watercress is often featured in British and European cuisine, as well as some Asian dishes. Its tender leaves work well in sandwiches, salads, and soups. Arugula, originally from the Mediterranean region, is popular in Italian dishes like salads and pasta. While these greens have similar flavors and can often be interchanged in recipes, their respective cultural histories result in slightly different applications in various cuisines.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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