Cooking Techniques for Escarole

Escarole is a leafy green belonging to the chicory family, characterized by its broad, curly leaves and slightly bitter flavor profile. This versatile green is not only a staple in Italian cuisine but is also widely used in various culinary traditions due to its robust texture, which holds up well to cooking.

As a nutrient-rich ingredient, it brings a unique taste and a boost of vitamins and minerals to your dishes.

Escarole being sautéed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes, then braised in broth until tender

Mastering cooking techniques for escarole can elevate your meals with a touch of sophistication.

The key to cooking escarole is to balance its naturally bitter taste with complementary flavors and to achieve the desired tenderness without compromising its hearty structure.

Whether you’re looking to add a green element to soups, stews, or salads, escarole offers the adaptability to blend seamlessly into your recipes.

To integrate escarole into your culinary repertoire, you will discover methods such as boiling, sautéing, and incorporating it into raw dishes.

Boiling softens the leaves and reduces its bitterness, creating a milder flavor suitable for a variety of pairings.

In contrast, sautéing with garlic and olive oil enhances the escarole’s taste, while preserving its texture and color.

Each technique brings out a different aspect of escarole, allowing you to use it creatively in your kitchen endeavors.

Selecting and Storing Escarole

When you’re looking to add escarole to your dishes, selecting the freshest leaves and storing them properly ensures that you retain the health benefits and crispness of this leafy green.

How to Choose the Best Escarole

When at the grocery store, search for escarole with bright green leaves. The outer leaves should be free from blemishes and the head should feel firm to the touch, indicating freshness.

Avoid any heads that have wilted or yellowing leaves, as these are signs that the escarole is past its prime.

Fresh escarole, often grouped with lettuces, should be vibrant, reflecting its full nutritional value and crisp texture.

Proper Storage Techniques

To maintain the crispness and freshness of your escarole:

  1. Washing: Clean your raw escarole thoroughly under cold running water to remove any dirt or debris.
  2. After an initial rinse, you can also plunge the leaves into a bowl of cold water, agitate gently, and rinse again.
  3. Drying: Shake off the excess water, and use paper towels to pat the leaves dry.
  4. Storing: Wrap the clean escarole in damp paper towels. This will keep the humidity around the leaves, keeping them fresh.
  5. Refrigerating: Place the wrapped escarole in an airtight container or a plastic bag. Store it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator to protect it from fluctuating temperatures and ethylene gases from other produce, which can accelerate spoilage.

Preparation Fundamentals

Properly preparing escarole is vital to ensure the best texture and flavor in your dishes.

Two key steps in this process are the initial cleaning and choosing the right cooking method for the intended result.

Washing and Trimming Escarole

  • Submerging: Submerge the leaves in cold water to release trapped dirt.
  • Swishing: Gently swish the leaves to further dislodge impurities.
  • Rinsing: Repeat the process until the water remains clear.
  • Trimming: Cut away the hard stem bases and any damaged leaves.
  • Drying: Thoroughly dry escarole with a paper towel to remove excess water.

Escarole should be washed to remove any dirt or debris before cooking. Ensure you trim off the base and any wilted leaves.

Basic Cooking Methods

  1. Boiling:
    • Boil water in a large pot, add salt.
    • Add escarole and cook until desired tenderness.
  2. Blanching:
    • Follow boiling steps but boil escarole for a shorter time (2-3 minutes).
    • Then plunge it into ice water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Simmering:
    • Place escarole into a pot with lightly salted water.
    • Cover and let simmer until it’s just tender.
  4. Braising:
    • Sauté escarole in a small amount of fat adding a small amount of liquid.
    • Cover and cook on low heat until tender.
  5. Roasting:
    • Toss escarole in oil and seasoning.
    • Spread on a baking sheet and roast until edges start to crisp up.

For a simple preparation, boil escarole to soften its texture or blanch to maintain a vibrant color and firm texture.

For deeper flavor, try simmering or braising with a touch of broth. If you prefer a little crispness, roasting might be your best option.

Remember, how long you cook your escarole will vary based on desired texture and cooking method.

Escarole Cooking Techniques

Escarole, a leafy green vegetable with a slightly bitter taste, lends itself well to various cooking methods. Here, you’ll learn to master sautéing, braising, and grilling techniques to enhance your dishes with rich flavors and desirable textures.

Sautéing Escarole

To sauté escarole effectively, begin with quality olive oil in a pan over medium heat.

Aromatics like garlic play a pivotal role; cook until just fragrant before adding the greens.

The goal is to achieve a tender texture while preserving a vibrant color.

Initiate the process by sautéing:

  • Ingredients: A combination of escarole, salt, and pepper.
  • Technique: Cook until the leaves wilt and become vibrant, usually within a few minutes.
  • Flavoring: Enhance with red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.

Braising for Depth of Flavor

Braising escarole allows for a deeper development of flavor.

This slow cook technique involves two steps:

  1. Sauté your escarole with garlic and olive oil as described above.
  2. Add a moderate amount of broth and let the escarole braise until it is completely tender.

While sautéing introduces the main flavors, braising in broth amplifies them and brings a comforting taste profile, suitable for incorporating escarole into rich dishes.

Grilling for a Smoky Touch

Grilling imparts a distinct smoky flavor to escarole, transforming its natural bitterness into a charred, pleasant taste.

Prepare your grill for medium-high heat and:

  • Brush the escarole with olive oil; season with salt and pepper.
  • Place on the grill, turning as needed, until charred at the edges and tender.

To avoid wilting, keep a close watch as the escarole can quickly go from perfectly smoky to overdone.

Consider pairing with a less bitter green, like chard, to balance the flavor and texture.

Incorporating Escarole into Dishes

Escarole, a versatile leafy green from the chicory family, can be transformative in a variety of recipes, whether you enjoy it raw in salads, cooked into comforting soups and stews, or as a complementary side with pasta dishes.

Salads with Fresh Escarole

Raw escarole adds a pleasant bitterness and crunch to salads.

To prepare, tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and rinse well. For a simple but flavorful salad:

  1. Toss escarole in a bowl with olive oil and lemon juice.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Enhance with additional ingredients such as shaved Parmesan cheese, nuts, or crisp vegetables.
  4. Serve with a robust dressing to balance the bitterness.

Soups and Stews

Escarole is a staple in Italian wedding soup and other comforting broths.

Here’s how to incorporate it into soups and stews:

  • Start by cleaning and chopping the escarole into ribbons.
  • Add the escarole to a simmering broth for the last few minutes of cooking.
  • For added richness, include beans like cannellini or meats as it wilts.
  • The leaves should be tender but not overcooked, preserving their color and slight bite.

Pasta and Side Dishes

Escarole can elevate side dishes and pair wonderfully with pasta. For sauteed escarole:

  • Heat olive oil and sauté minced garlic until fragrant.
  • Add escarole and cook until wilted, typically for a few minutes.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes for a spicy kick.
  • Mix with pasta, top with Parmesan, or serve as a side to a main dish.

When prepared correctly, escarole’s unique texture and flavor profile can enhance a wide array of dishes. It can go from a fresh and zesty salad to a hearty and warming soup, to a rich and satisfying pasta or side dish.

Accentuating Escarole

Escarole, a leafy green vegetable with a naturally bitter taste, can be transformed into a delightful dish by employing specific cooking techniques and complementary flavors.

Proper preparation and seasoning are key to maximizing its potential.

Balancing Bitterness

  • Blanch in Salted Water: Begin by blanching your escarole in a pot of salted water. This step is crucial for two reasons: it softens the texture of the leaves, and it reduces their inherent bitterness. Boil for approximately 5 minutes, and then drain.
  • Sauté with Minced Garlic: Transfer the blanched leaves to a hot skillet with olive oil. Add minced garlic, and sauté until the escarole becomes fragrant and wilts, indicating that the bitterness has mellowed.

Enhancing with Complementary Flavors

  • Incorporate Fats and Nuts:
    • Olive Oil: A drizzle of olive oil not only prevents sticking but also adds a velvety mouthfeel.
    • Pine Nuts: Add toasted pine nuts for a nutty crunch that contrasts the tender greens.
  • Add Sweet and Acidic Elements:
    • Raisins: Introduce raisins to infuse a hint of sweetness, offsetting the residual bitterness.
    • Lemon Juice: Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Its acidity will elevate the overall flavor profile and bring vibrant freshness.

By thoughtfully combining these elements, you enhance the natural qualities of escarole while creating a harmonious dish.

Nutritional Information

Escarole, a nutritious leafy green vegetable, is a good source of fiber which is essential for your digestive health.

Including escarole in your meals can contribute to your daily fiber intake, promoting a healthy gut and potentially reducing the incidence of constipation.

When it comes to vitamins, you’ll find that escarole is rich in vitamin A and vitamin K.

Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining good vision, immune function, and skin health, while vitamin K is important for bone health and proper blood clotting.

Here’s a snapshot of the nutritional benefits you can expect from escarole (per one cup, chopped):

FiberAids in digestion and promotes gut health
Vitamin ASupports vision and immune system
Vitamin KContributes to bone health and blood clotting

Incorporating escarole into your diet may also provide some minerals, although in smaller amounts. These contribute to various bodily functions, fortifying your overall health.

Escarole is low in calories, making it an ideal choice for those who are weight-conscious or looking to add bulk to their meals without a significant calorie increase.

Additionally, leafy greens like escarole are often associated with heart health benefits.

Their nutrients can play a role in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system, potentially reducing your risk of heart-related diseases.

Time-Saving Tips for Quick Dishes

When you’re aiming to put a wholesome meal on the table under time constraints, there are several techniques you can use to cook escarole quickly and efficiently.

Precook and Store: Blanch your escarole ahead of time. Boil it for 5 minutes, then cool and squeeze out excess water. Keep it refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Sautéing Smartly: Heat your skillet with extra virgin olive oil before you add the greens. This will help escarole cook evenly and quickly, adding a rich flavor.

Ingredients on Hand:

  • Escarole: Pre-washed and chopped
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: For cooking and flavor
  • White Beans: Canned, drained
  • Chili Flakes: Pre-measured
  • Garlic: Peeled and minced


  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high.
  2. Add minced garlic and chili flakes; sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Toss in the escarole, and stir for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Include white beans for protein, and sauté until heated through.

Shortcut Staples:

  • Keep minced garlic and chili flakes at the ready. They add a burst of flavor in seconds.
  • Opt for canned white beans to avoid the soaking and cooking time needed for dry beans.

Frequently Asked Questions

When cooking with escarole, you might encounter various questions about preparation techniques. This section aims to address common inquiries, ensuring your dishes highlight escarole’s unique flavor and texture.

What are the best ways to prepare escarole for a traditional Italian dish?

For traditional Italian dishes, escarole can be sautéed with garlic in olive oil until it becomes tender. Adding ingredients like raisins, pine nuts, or anchovies enhances its flavor.

How can escarole be incorporated into chicken recipes?

Escarole complements chicken well when added to stews or casseroles. You can also sauté it with chicken pieces in a pan for a one-skillet dish, seasoning with herbs and white wine.

Can you provide tips for making escarole soup?

To make escarole soup, sauté aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery before adding broth. Introduce the chopped escarole in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to avoid overcooking and to maintain its color and texture.

What are some effective methods to reduce bitterness in escarole?

Blanching escarole in boiling salted water for a few minutes can reduce its bitterness. Following this, shocking it in ice water preserves its bright color and stops the cooking process.

How long should escarole be boiled to achieve ideal tenderness?

Boil escarole for about 2-5 minutes, depending on the toughness of the leaves. The goal is to achieve a bright green color and a tender but slightly crisp texture.

Is it necessary to cook escarole before using it in recipes?

Although not always required, blanching or sautéing escarole before adding it to recipes can enhance its taste and texture.

It is especially beneficial for reducing bitterness in raw escarole.

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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.
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