Watercress is a green vegetable that originates from Asia and Europe. This vegetable has a very unique flavor that fits in salads and savory dishes perfectly.
When I say unique, I mean that watercress gives your dishes a peppery flavor and, yet, slightly sweet note, and it’s great to combine with other ingredients that are aromatic and fresh.
Watercress isn’t an easy vegetable to find on the market but luckily, we have found some substitutes to help you out.
Watercress substitutes are
- Radish Sprouts
- Nasturtium Leaves/Indian Cress
- Chinese Cabbage
- Water Spinach
- Upland Cress/American Cress
If you want to read more about these excellent substitutes for watercress, keep on reading the entire article.
Watercress: What Is It Good For And What Are Its Health Benefits?
Watercress is an amazing, ancient green vegetable that’s a member of the cruciferous family along with broccoli, arugula, kale, and brussels sprouts.
The leafy, green vegetable made its comeback to our kitchens because of its high nutritional content and many health benefits.
Thousands of years ago, watercress was mainly used as a staple food to give Roman soldiers energy, and nutrition during the war and their hard tasks.
So, what are the health benefits of watercress, and are they as big as everyone makes them out to be? Let’s explain a little bit more about it so you can judge for yourself.
Watercress is often overlooked when it comes to its nutritional content and health benefits. That’s because when you take a look at it, it simply looks like a bunch of green leaves that you put in a salad.
This is in fact, not true at all. According to Healthline, watercress contains a high amount of vitamin K which is essential for bone health and blood clotting. Also, raw watercress is very low in calories so you can easily incorporate it if you’re on a diet.
Except for vitamin K, Watercress is full of other vitamins that are very much needed for a healthy life. Vitamin A, also known as Retinol is also present in this miracle leafy green.
I’m sure you’ve heard and seen retinol serums for your skin in your local drugstores, and pharmacies. Retinol is a type of retinoid that’s derived from vitamin A and it improves your health in many ways.
Benefits Of Retinol
- Betters eyesight and protects your eyes from night blindness.
- Neutralizes free radicals and therefore boosts the production of elastin and collagen.
- Natural Vitamin A intakes(from plants, not supplements), can reduce the risk of some forms of cancer.
- Strengthens your white blood cells that help protect your body from any type of infection.
- Retinol has major anti-inflammatory properties. Retinol helps your skin get rid of inflammation, acne, and any type of discoloration. It also fills in wrinkles and enlarged pores.
Watercress Is Also Full Of Dietary Nitrates
For those of you who don’t know, dietary nitrates can be found and derived from vegetable consumption such as radishes, and watercress. Nitrates are here to help you relax your blood vessels and automatically improve your health as well as your athletic performance, and overall exercise performance.
Let’s Not Forget About The All-Mighty Vitamin C!
Yes, watercress is rich in vitamin C that can help you heal faster if you have any injuries or if your immunity is simply low.
Healthy skin is also a very important thing that also needs care; that is a thing most people forget. Healthy skin indicates that you’re eating well, getting enough rest, and drinking enough water.
Vitamin C plays a big part in the production of collagen, the most important protein found in the human body (bones, tissues, muscles, etc)that holds the whole body and gives it structure, and is responsible for healthy joints and bones. Collagen provides your skin with elasticity and fills in your pores, preventing any premature wrinkles.
Watercress Can Lower The Risk Of Cancer
Just when you thought that this green plant couldn’t be anymore healthier, we bring you the power of beta-carotene. Beta carotene is essentially a pigment that gives plants with red-orange color their vibrant colors.
Beta carotene is also a very powerful antioxidant that can lower the risk of chronic illnesses including cancer, arthritis, and cell damage.
Arugula(eruca vesicaria sativa) or also known as, rucola, rocket, and roquette is also a part of the cruciferous family, just like watercress. This leafy green packs a strong palette of flavors and it’s very versatile.
You can incorporate it in your favorite dishes like pizzas and pasta, or eat it raw like a salad. Arugula has a spicy, pungent, peppery taste, that tastes similar to watercress in many ways except for its bitter flavor.
The best thing about arugula is that not only you can use the leaves, but also the flowers and seeds can be used in different ways in the kitchen.
This easy-to-find vegetable has a perfect taste but wait, there’s more; arugula is incredibly nutritious and it’s full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Some of those vitamins are Vitamin A, B, C, and Vitamin K.
Spinach is an easy-to-find watercress substitute that’s available all year round. Even though spinach has a totally different flavor palette, it can actually be a pretty decent substitute for watercress.
There is a reason that spinach is called a superfood and the reason is not that our beloved cartoon character Popeye eats it to become strong and fast. You can either use baby spinach leaves or mature leaves as your substitute.
Spinach leaves contain high amounts of Calcium which protects and keeps your bones strong and healthy, Magnesium which is essential for maintaining blood pressure and increasing your metabolism, and finally, Iron, a mineral that is crucial for your body’s development, and growth.
Radish sprouts are basically daikon radish seeds that have just begun to sprout and form little leaves on top aka the flowering plant. They are used in many Asian dishes as well as other dishes like sandwiches, salads, and pasta.
This is a great watercress substitute because just like watercress, radish sprouts have a peppery flavor(although it’s mild) like radishes. Radish sprouts are rich in Vitamin A, B, C, E, and K but also they are rich in iron, calcium, and zinc.
I get that many people are not big fans of radishes and radish sprouts because the peppery flavor is a bit confusing to them but I have found a way to diminish the flavor a little bit.
I find radishes much more enjoyable when they are very salty and sour so, for your next salad or dish, try adding white vinegar and salt.
As for the radish sprouts, you can either eat them raw or add them to a salad or cook them for a minute or two. Radish sprouts are an excellent addition to stir-frys and fried rice.
Nasturtium Leaves/Indian Cress
Nasturtium plant or Indian cress is a type of flower, not a herb but, it does taste very similar to watercress. The chances are that if you can’t find watercress in your country, you won’t find this edible plant either but it is worth the try since these two have very similar tastes to one another.
The flavor of these leaves is peppery and bitter but not bitter enough to ruin your whole dish. You can also use the flowers of this plant; not only they will give a bit of a spicy flavor but they will make any dish much more colorful and aesthetically pleasing.
Chinese cabbage is a famous ingredient that’s included in stir-frys. It has a crisp texture just like regular cabbage but it’s slightly sweeter.
This watercress substitute is a great addition to salads, sandwiches, and flavorful cabbage soups and stews. It is also packed with many vitamins and minerals.
Water spinach is a long, leafy, green vegetable that grows in water or very damp soil. Even though it carries the name, it is actually not a type of spinach(it has a tougher texture and a more bitter taste), it is only merely related to it.
It is native to Southeast Asia where it’s most used for all types of stir-frys. Water spinach is a suitable alternative for watercress; you can even cook the green stems, not just the leaves.
If you can find this cylindrical type of lettuce, then this would be the ideal choice to use as a watercress substitute. Endives come from Belgium and are a type of lettuce that has pale yellow leaves and a bitter but delicate flavor. Endives belong to the chicory family along with radicchio.
If you want to make some bold decisions for your next meal, then this is a perfect ingredient for it. You can serve endives alongside roasted fish or chicken, add it to a salad, or just simply separate the leaves and pour some vinegar on them, and add salt and black pepper.
There isn’t much I can say about lettuce that you don’t already know. If you’re really in a hurry to find a watercress substitute and lettuce is all you got, feel free to use it.
Lettuce is a suitable substitute for watercress in salads but, don’t expect the bitter flavor. Lettuce has a slightly sweet, and watery note that tastes nothing like watercress.
Kale is a part of the cabbage family and it has become a very popular vegetable these past few years, especially in the dietary world.
Even though kale has little fat, it is actually a healthy type of fat aka omega-3-fatty acid. Kale is very low in calories but very rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Kale is a suitable replacement for watercress in savory dishes, salads, and even sandwiches.
Radicchio is a member of the chicory plant family and it has an Italian origin. This cabbage-like, purple-white leafy vegetable has a very distinct flavor; bitter but kind of sweet with a hint of peppery.
This purple-colored vegetable contains anthocyanins that give vegetables their vibrant purple-blue coloring but also these anthocyanins are known to have anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties.
American cress is a perfect substitute for watercress because, well, they are basically the same thing except for some small differences in appearance.
American cress is a cruciferous vegetable that has a peppery and strong taste and it’s mostly used for salads, casseroles, and even some curry recipes.
Related Questions And Other FAQs
Can I Substitute Watercress For Spinach
Absolutely! Spinach is an excellent substitute for watercress and plus, it’s affordable and very easy to find in your local grocery stores or marketplaces.
Watercress Substitute In Soup
Spinach, radish sprouts, and Indian cress work best as a substitute for watercress in soups. Arugula also makes a decent substitute even though not everyone will enjoy the taste of it.
Watercress is an amazing addition to your salad recipes. You can add some avocadoes, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and just to make it more fun and fancier, try adding orange slices to your salad to cover up the bitter taste of the watercress. Use a balsamic reduction or a mustard vinaigrette.
Are Arugula And Watercress The Same Thing
No. Arugula and watercress are not the same things even though they share the same flavor palette. They both have a bitter taste and taste great in salads but watercress isn’t actually performing well on heat(it turns mushy real quick).
Can I Use Rocket Instead Of Watercress
Yes, you can. Rocket, more famously known as arugula is actually one of the best substitutes for watercress out there. It is also a very common vegetable that you can buy in almost any marketplace or grocery store.
Rocket has a strong taste that might not be a favorite to everyone but it really adds a little oomph to your salads and pizzas.
When eaten in moderate doses, watercress is safe for consumption and shouldn’t have any dangerous side effects. If eaten in large doses, watercress can cause some stomach pain or constipation. Remember to always wash your vegetables before eating them so you remove all the bacteria and filth from the plants.