40 Ways You'll Love Using Bitter Greens

From arugula to escarole, these pungent leafy vegetables make for epic salads, soups, pastas—and a whole lot more

Any green deemed “bitter” has some things working against it—the word itself doesn’t have the best connotations. But for those of us who live in a food bubble, the phrase “bitter greens” conjures up visions of satisfying salads, sharply flavored sautées, and vivid stews.

When you're bored with kale or spinach just won't cut it, an array of bitter leafy vegetables are waiting at your farmers' market or supermarket shelves to sweep you off your feet. There's watercress, which—no big deal—the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has deemed the world's most nutrient-rich vegetable. And other powerhouse bitter greens like chicory, arugula, turnip greens, endive, mustard green, and dandelions fall close behind it in terms of healthiness. Bitter greens have also been reported to purify the blood, aid in weight reduction, cleanse skin, prevent anemia, and improve digestion, among other miraculous feats.

But the quality we love most is their ability to transform dishes and pack in flavor. Be it collards, escarole, puntarelle or frisee, their bold flavor can boost any salad from a pile of greens to a sophisticated dish—and a whole lot more. Use them to make ace frittatas, fill ravioli and stromboli too, top soup, garnish crostini, or perk up a pureed soup, smoothie, or dip for crudité.

The trick is knowing how to temper their sometimes spicy heat, or pair them with other ingredients to keep a dish balanced. Adding fat—in the form of good olive oil, bacon or prosciutto, or meaty drippings from a roast or sautée—can help tame their flavor, or rich foods like runny egg yolks, buttery doughs, or mild cheeses also work well. Salt and acids (like vinaigrettes, vinegars, or citrus juices) are two other important keys: Both can mellow the flavor of the greens and also brighten a dish, helping the brain register deliciousness and not just bitterness.

The proof is at the table. These 40 tried-and-true recipes and techniques for cooking with bitter greens will set you on a path to obsession:

Watercress with Spicy Chile and Sesame Vinaigrette
Watercress with Spicy Chile and Sesame Vinaigrette
Peppery watercress, nutty sesame seeds, and earthy Korean chile flakes are brought together with an easy lemon vinaigrette in this wonderful cold-weather salad. Get the recipe for Watercress with Spicy Chile and Sesame Vinaigrette »Justin Walker
"Creamed"Collard Greens with Peanut Butter and Chile
Senegalese Thanksgiving, Collard Greens
Greens laced with freshly ground peanut butter and fermented seafood for a funky umami kick is a common one-pot dish in West Africa. Get the recipe for "Creamed"Collard Greens with Peanut Butter and Chile »Ryan Liebe
Broccoli Rabe with Pine Nuts & Golden Raisins
Broccoli Rabe with Pine Nuts & Golden Raisins
Sweet golden raisins, red pepper flakes, and toasted pine nuts balance the bitterness of broccoli rabe in a side dish adapted from Anna Watson Carl's cookbook The Yellow Table. It makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled salmon, pork tenderloin, or meatballs with tomato sauce. Get the recipe for Broccoli Rabe with Pine Nuts & Golden Raisins »Signe Birck
Endive Salad with Bee Pollen Vinaigrette
Endive Salad with Bee Pollen Vinaigrette
A thick honey vinaigrette pairs with pleasingly bitter endives that are steamed, grilled, and marinated in this recipe from Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island. Get the recipe for Endive Salad with Bee Pollen Vinaigrette »Ingalls Photography
Chicken and Broccoli Rabe Stromboli
Chicken and Broccoli Rabe Stromboli
Most stromboli recipes call for pizza dough, but the secret to the crispy crust on this baked roll is Italian bread dough. Our version is adapted from one served at Philadelphia's Romano's Pizzeria. Get the recipe for Chicken and Broccoli Rabe Stromboli »Ingalls Photography
Puntarelle and Dandelion Green Salad with Honey and Olive Vinaigrette
Puntarelle and Dandelion Green Salad
Dandelion greens and sturdy, slightly bitter puntarelle (an Italian chicory) stand up to honey-mustard vinaigrette in this assertive spring salad. Get the recipe for Puntarelle and Dandelion Green Salad with Honey and Olive Vinaigrette »Romulo Yanes
Biscuits with Pancetta, Collard Greens, Marbleized Eggs, and Espresso Aïoli
Biscuits with Pancetta, Collard Greens, Marbleized Eggs, and Espresso Aïoli
Alvin Cailan of Los Angeles' cultish Eggslut goes pancetta-crazy in this sandwich, using eight slices on top of his gorgeously marbleized egg and cooking the collard greens in pancetta fat. Get the recipe for Biscuits with Pancetta, Collard Greens, Marbleized Eggs, and Espresso Aïoli »Joseph De Leo
Brazilian Beans with Smoked Pork, Rice and Collards (Feijoada)
Brazilian Beans with Smoked Pork, Rice and Collards (Feijoada)
This hearty dish of beans and pork is the quintessential Brazilian comfort food. It is traditionally served with garlic rice, sautéed collard greens, a tangy vinaigrette, and farofa, toasted cassava flour. Get the recipe for Brazilian Beans with Smoked Pork, Rice and Collards (Feijoada) »SAVEUR
Braised Turnip Greens
Turnip Greens
There's no shortage of greens you can cook, but the Memphis BBQ Company goes for turnips. The vegetables grow wild in the Mississippi Delta, and the greens can be cooked just like collards. Cube up the turnip roots for a full side dish. Get the recipe for Braised Turnip Greens »Matt Taylor-Gross
Braised Collard Greens with Pickled Trotters
Braised Collard Greens with Pickled Trotters
While you can use store-bought trotters in this dish, we pickled our own, which add a similar kick of acidity and deep hammy flavor. Get the recipe for Braised Collard Greens with Pickled Trotters »Matt Taylor-Gross
Chicory and Herb Salad with Apple, Pomegranate, and Creamy MIso Dressing
Chicory and Herb Salad with Apple, Pomegranate, and Creamy MIso Dressing
Shiso, mint, and cilantro puer up lightly bitter chicory in this invigorating Asian-infected winter salad. Get the recipe for Chicory and Herb Salad with Apple, Pomegranate, and Creamy MIso Dressing »Ryan Liebe
Watercress Ricotta Torte
Watercress Ricotta Torte | Frederic Morin
Packed with grassy, spicy watercress and plenty of cheese, this frittata-like tart works wonders at brunch. Get the recipe for Watercress Ricotta Torte »Paul Sirisalee | Food Styling: Eugene Jho
Arugula and Cashew Pesto Salad
Arugula cashew pesto salad
A chunky cashew pesto made with sharp, pungent Västerbotten cheese is tossed with chopped arugula to yield an unctuous salad with a robust umami flavor. Get the recipe for Arugula and Cashew Pesto Salad »Farideh Sadeghin
Seared Radicchio with Raisins and Shaved Parmigiano
Seared Radicchio with Raisins and Shaved Parmigiano
This warm salad is made with a naturally sweet, high-quality balsamic vinegar to balance the bitterness of the leaves. If top-shelf balsamic vinegar di Modena is unavailable or out of your price range, cooking the grocery store version down by about one-third of its volume over a medium-low flame—and further sweetening it to taste with a drizzle of honey as needed—helps produce a similar level of sweetness. Get the recipe for Seared Radicchio with Raisins and Shaved Parmigiano »Matt Taylor-Gross
Escarole Soup
Escarole Soup
Escarole lends sweet depth to this comforting soup from former Saveur executive editor Dana Bowen. Get the recipe for Escarole Soup »Todd Coleman
Parmesan-Crusted Halibut with Broccoli Rabe and Mashed Potatoes
Parmesan-Crusted Halibut with Broccoli Rabe and Mashed Potatoes
At Pacific Way Bakery and Cafe in Astoria, Oregon, flaky cheese-crusted halibut fillets are topped with a bright parsley sauce and paired with pan-seared broccoli rabe and garlicky mashed potatoes. Get the recipe for Parmesan-Crusted Halibut with Broccoli Rabe and Mashed Potatoes »Ingalls Photography
Endive and Walnut Salad
Endive and Walnut Salad
With winter looming, this salad with endive, comte and walnuts is a great choice for cold weather. The recipe, adapted from Susan Herrmann Loomis's The French Farmhouse Cookbook, is from a cook in the town of Vinay, where walnuts are produced. The crisp and bright salad is made heartier by the addition of nuts and cheese. Get the recipe for Endive and Walnut Salad »Tim Mazurek
Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad
Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad
Pasta salads are essential summer food: they travel well; they're easy to adapt to whatever produce you have on-hand; and they're simple to make in large portions, making them perfect dishes to carry to parties, picnics, and barbecues. Get the recipe for Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad »Farideh Sadeghin
Charred Escarole Salad
Lummi Island, Charred Escarole Salad
Tossing bitter charred escarole with sweet-tart grilled apples gives new dimension to backyard cookout side dishes. Get the recipe for Charred Escarole Salad »Charity Burggraaf
Creamy Watercress Dip
watercress dip, easy dips, party appetizers
Creamy cottage cheese combines with watercress, lemon, chive, and parsley to make a bright dip for raw vegetables or chips. Get the recipe for Creamy Watercress Dip »Helen Rosner
Tricolore Salad with Grapefruit Saba Vinaigrette
Tricolore Salad with Grapefruit Saba Vinaigrette
Grapefruit supremes (segments of pulp separated from the membrane) and aged balsamic vinegar brighten this classic Italian salad from author Dana Bowen. Get the recipe for Tricolore Salad with Grapefruit Saba Vinaigrette »André Baranowski
Salade Lyonnaise
Salade Lyonnaise
Hailing from Lyon, this French bistro standard gathers a delectable trio of bitter frisée, runny poached egg, and crisp lardons. Get the recipe for Salade Lyonnaise »Andre Baranowski
Kohlrabi and Watercress Salad
Kohlrabi and Watercress Salad
For a twist on the classic Waldorf salad, try tossing sweet apples with crisp watercress and nutty kohlrabi in a sumac-infused yogurt dressing. Get the recipe for Kohlrabi and Watercress Salad »Helen Rosner
Softshell Crab Sandwich with Collard Slaw
Softshell Crab Sandwich with Collard Slaw
A crisp collard slaw and tangy tartar and cocktail sauces top pan-fried softshell crabs in this classic sandwich. Get the recipe for Softshell Crab Sandwich with Collard Slaw »Matt Taylor-Gross
Arugula, Radicchio, and Fennel Salad
Arugula, Radicchio, and Fennel Salad
Walnuts and parmesan add richness to this crunchy salad from The Yellow Table's Anna Watson Carl. Get the recipe for Arugula, Radicchio, and Fennel Salad »Matt Taylor-Gross
Escarole with Confit Duck Gizzards, Comté, and Walnuts
Escarole with Confit Duck Gizzards, Comté, and Walnuts
Winemakers Alice and Olivier de Moor use confit duck gizzards in this simple winter salad, but confit duck legs make a fine substitute. Get the recipe for Escarole with Confit Duck Gizzards, Comté, and Walnuts »William Hereford
Dandelion Salad with Lardons
Dandelion Salad with Lardons
The salty richness of the lardons cuts through the crisp bitterness of the dandelion greens in this perfect spring salad. Get the recipe for Dandelion Salad with Lardons »James Baigrie
Thai Pomelo Salad (Dtam Som Oo)
Thai Pomelo Salad (Dtam Som Oo)
Sweet pomelo pairs beautifully with chiles, peanuts, and mint in this recipe for a classic Thai salad from Talde in Brooklyn, New York. Get the recipe for Thai Pomelo Salad (Dtam Som Oo) »Ingalls Photography
Gulai Sayur (Indonesian-Style Collard Greens Curry)
Collard greens, collard greens recipes
Coconut milk balances the spicy notes of chile in this Indonesian-style curry with collard greens. Get the recipe for Gulai Sayur (Indonesian-Style Collard Greens Curry) »Todd Coleman
Spaghettini with Carrots, Olives, and Red Endive
Spaghettini with Carrots, Olives, and Red Endive
Carrot ribbons cooked al dente and lightly braised red endive add color to this simple vegetable-packed pasta dish, brightened with lots of lemon zest. Josita Hartanto of Berlin's Lucky Leek uses multicolored carrots for a beautiful presentation. Get the recipe for Spaghettini with Carrots, Olives, and Red Endive »Matt Taylor-Gross
Pepper Pot
Pepper Pot
Colonial Philadelphia, with its busy waterfront, was well influenced by trade from points south. Among the most famous Caribbean culinary imports was pepper pot. The rich, spicy stew of beef, pork, root vegetables, and greens became a staple in Philly, where West Indian hawkers advertised it with cries of "pepper pot, smoking hot!" Today, at City Tavern, a colonial-style saloon, this version is served. Get the recipe for Pepper Pot »Todd Coleman
Shaved Cauliflower and Radicchio Salad
Shaved Cauliflower and Radicchio Salad
Aleppo pepper (a tangy Middle Eastern spice), raisins, and raw cauliflower marry in this simple yet unusual salad. Get the recipe for Shaved Cauliflower and Radicchio Salad »Joseph De Leo
Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage Fried Ravioli
Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage Fried Ravioli
These giant fried ravioli are filled with a cheesy mixture of broccoli rabe, sausage, and cherry peppers. Get the recipe for Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage Fried Ravioli »Ingalls Photography
Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese
Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese
Slightly bitter rapini (also known as broccoli rabe) marries well with tangy goat cheese in a pasta recipe that's ideal for summer picnics and potlucks. Get the recipe for Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese »André Baranowski
Ramp and Wild Greens Pesto
Ramp and Wild Greens Pesto
Fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz makes this punchy pesto to capture the essence of spring. Chickweed, a spicy herb, is his green of choice to pair with ramps, to which he adds mild herbs and sunflower seeds, but you can replace chickweed with watercress, arugula, or any other peppery green. The same goes for the ramps—this pesto works just as well with spring onions or garlic. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, and Katz uses it throughout the day: on grits or eggs for breakfast, slathered on sandwiches for lunch, and tossed with potatoes or pasta for dinner. Get the recipe for Ramp and Wild Greens Pesto »Matt Taylor-Gross
Garlicky Skillet Greens with Ham
Garlicky Skillet Greens with Ham
Garlic confit, a silky, spreadable condiment, relies on a French technique for gently poaching peeled whole cloves in oil or fat. The process caramelizes the cloves and draws out their sweetness, yielding a sumptuous spread. We love to use it in dishes like these skillet-cooked greens from Linton Hopkins, chef and owner of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, which feature garlic confit and a piquant sorghum gastrique. Get the recipe for Garlicky Skillet Greens with Ham »Romulo Yanes
Sautéed Crab with Avocado, Grapefruit and Herb Salad
Sautéed Crab with Avocado, Grapefruit and Herb Salad
Crabmeat is rubbed with a smoky chile paste, then sautéed and tossed in a refreshing salad of creamy avocado, tart grapefruit, and herbs. Get the recipe for Sautéed Crab with Avocado, Grapefruit and Herb Salad »Penny De Los Santos
Cooked and Raw Winter Salad
Cooked and Raw Winter Salad
Bacon, parmesan, and pine nuts combine with a medley of cooked and raw vegetables to make a satisfying salad from The Canal House's Christopher Hirsheimer. Get the recipe for Cooked and Raw Winter Salad »Ingalls Photography
Chicory in Anchovy Sauce
Chicory in Anchovy Sauce
Tossed with a garlicky anchovy dressing, this vegetable dish is a great foil for rich pastas and roasted meats. Get the recipe for Chicory in Anchovy Sauce »Todd Coleman
Escarole with Prosciutto
Escarole with Prosciutto
Fried slices of prosciutto provide a crisp contrast to sautéed escarole. Get the recipe for Escarole with Prosciutto »André Baranowski