They’re both peppery greens that are delicious in a salad, but arugula and watercress aren’t quite interchangeable—arugula stands up to heat better (watercress can quickly turn to mush) and packs a spicier punch.
Often used as a garnish, watercress is actually a nutrient-packed superfood that is cultivated in water. On the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) that evaluates the nutrients in foods relative to the amount of calories, watercress is the only food to score a perfect 100 (arugula comes in at 37.65). The flavor intensifies as the plant ages, so young watercress has a milder flavor that is preferred if you’re eating it raw.
Arugula (also known as rocket) is a cruciferous vegetable that has a spicy kick (similar to the peppery taste of watercress but more intense). Similarly filled with vitamins and minerals, arugula contains many antioxidants and is served raw in salads, as well as cooked. Arugula is a frequent pizza topping (it’s a versatile green that wilts well, maintaining its flavor and shape) and is especially popular in Europe.
Want to find out the differences between arugula and watercress for yourself? Check out these nine recipes and pick your favorite spicy green.
Get crazy and use both watercress and arugula in this refreshing recipe that combines blue cheese, crunchy almonds, and a honey-Dijon dressing that brings out the best in these beloved greens. Get our Watercress and Arugula Salad recipe.
Arugula’s peppery kick makes it pair beautifully with summer fruit. These nectarines are paired with toasted hazelnuts, but you can substitute any stone fruit or change it up for winter and fall picks of whatever is in season. Get our Baby Arugula Salad with Nectarines recipe.
Move over, basil. Arugula’s new in town and you’re going to love this new pesto. Use walnuts instead of pine nuts, and this pesto will make a great sandwich spread that begs to be included at your next picnic. Get our Arugula Walnut Pesto recipe.
Pair arugula with several other bitter greens, including endive and radicchio, and add in capers with a vinegar-based dressing. You can wash the greens ahead of time and prep this as a last-minute salad that goes well with any grilled meats. Get our Bitter Greens Salad recipe.
This recipe is a wonderful way to use that leftover bunch of watercress. Create a batch of fresh pesto in minutes by adding fresh lemon juice, vinegar, parmesan, walnuts, garlic, salt, and a half cup of olive oil. Get our Watercress-Walnut Pesto recipe.
Make a quick vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, and shallots to toss on this healthy but delicious combination of watercress, halved grapes, blue cheese, and toasted pecans. Get the recipe.
This Spanish-inspired simple salad is a great way to round out a heavy meal—serve as an appetizer and make sure to toast the almonds before tossing in along with the Manchego cheese. If you can’t find membrillo (quince paste), you can substitute with the fruit of your choice. Get our Watercress Salad with Manchego, Membrillo, and Almonds recipe.
Smoked mozzarella, potatoes, garlic, and thyme are a unique pizza topping that make a fantastic base for a handful of watercress leaves (dressed with a tablespoon of lemon-garlic vinaigrette). The ultimate summer pizza with a hint of green. Get our Potato and Cheese Pizza recipe.
Be sure to char the asparagus lightly and then serve this flavorful salad with a crusty baguette. Cook the eggs to your liking (you can do hard-boiled or let the yolks remain somewhat runny) and make enough to save some for lunch the next day. Get the recipe.
Related Video: How to Make a Low-Fat Salad Dressing
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