What the Heck Is Arugula?

You may know it as arugula or rocket, but his peppery salad green is taking off. Learn more!

Arugula is a dark green leafy vegetable closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and other members of the Brassicaceae, or cruciferous, family. It is slightly bitter and spicy, with a flavor often described as “peppery” or “mustardy.” Baby arugula, which is picked when still young, is milder more tender than mature greens.

Also known as rocket, roquette, and eruca, arugula resembles dandelion greens, with an oak-like shape. It is native to the Mediterranean region, and has long been a staple of Italian and French cuisine. Arugula has increased in popularity in North America over the last few decades, and is now a commonly used salad green. Its tangy, spicy flavor makes it a desirable addition to standard mesclun mixes, bringing a little kick to the mix.

Like other dark, leafy cruciferous greens, arugula is incredibly nutritious. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, K, folic acid, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and potassium. It is also filled with helpful phytochemicals, which researchers have linked to a decreased risk of cancer.

Arugula is most commonly eaten raw, as a salad green or sandwich topping, but also works well sautéed, or added to soups, stews, pasta, or pizza.

Try one of these recipes to enjoy this popular and peppy green today!

Eruca vesicaria - Leaf vegetable

Arugula Potato Salad

Course Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean


  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch arugula, shredded


  • Directions:
    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. Drain, and cool. Transfer to a large bowl. Meanwhile, mix vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Drizzle in olive oil, whisking until the mixture thickens. Toss potatoes with vinegar and oil mixture and arugula. Serve at room temperature.
Keyword chicken goat cheese arugula, goat cheese arugula pasta

Goat Cheese Penne with Arugula

Course Breakfast
Cuisine Mediterranean


  • 5 1/2-oz. goat cheese
  • 2 cups arugula, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8-oz. penne pasta


  • Directions:
    Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Crumble goat cheese into a large serving bowl. Add arugula, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Drain pasta, and toss with goat cheese mixture.
Keyword goat cheese arugula pasta, lemon goat cheese pasta

Arugula, Pear, and Asiago Salad

Course Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean


  • 3 tablespoons walnuts or pecans, coarsely-chopped
  • 12 cups arugula
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 4 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 6-oz. Asiago cheese, grated


  • Directions:
    Preheat oven to 500° F. Spread the walnuts or pecans on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown. Remove from oven, transfer onto a plate and allow to cool. In a large bowl, add arugula leaves and drizzle with olive oil to lightly coat. On individual salad plates, place the tossed arugula; season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange pear slices along the side of each serving plate and top with Asiago cheese and toasted walnuts or pecans. Top lightly with your favorite dressing and serve.
Keyword ciao italia chicken parmesan, ciao italia recipes
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Jaime McLeod

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

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George Ellenburg

I have a question about the different varieties of Arugula: Does anyone know the variety that may be commonly grown in South America? The local farmers markets where I live in NC only offer arugula during the the fall it seems and when asked about it during the summer, I am always told it doesn’t grow well in hot weather but when I travel to Brazil it’s always available, even in the northern areas where it is always hot. The leaves tend to be more round and the spicy flavor is quite pronounced. Is it a special variety or just mature plants? Paired with a slightly sweet, garlicky dressing is perfect, I can’t get enough of it. I want to plant some in our garden and searching online there seems to be over 9 varieties to choose seeds for. Maybe I should try one of each! Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.

Susan Higgins

Hi George, we aren’t familiar with a specific variety grown in South America but we’ll poke around to see what we can find.

George Ellenburg

Thanks, Susan!

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