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Is Arugula Bitter?

Norah Clark
Bowl of arugula

Arugula can have a bitter taste because of the presence of a chemical within the plant believed to shield plants from pests and bugs. The bitterness depends on the type of arugula.

Arugula is a well-loved green that is often used in pizza, pasta, salads, and many other dishes due to its high nutrient content as well as its distinctive taste! However, while some enjoy arugula’s flavor, others are put off by its bitterness. 

If this isn’t something that bothers you, continuing reading to learn more about the reason why arugula is bitter and the way you can eliminate some bitterness.

What Is Arugula?

Arugula is a popular ingredient in salads, and also as a topping for pizza and pasta. It belongs to the cabbage family.

Arugula is well-known for its pepper flavor. Some other names for arugula are “rocket” and “rucola,” depending on where you are in the world.

Arugula is served raw and can be cooked as well. It’s a great complement to many dishes. 

What Does Arugula Taste Like?

Arugula, a member of the mustard green family and has a spicy, peppery taste with a hint of bitterness.

In addition to its spicy taste, it has an underlying freshness that makes it an excellent addition to salads and is popular on pasta and pizza.

If cooked, it will have the same flavor as cooked spinach but with a little more bite, however, it isn’t bitter.

Older arugula leaves have a more intense and spicy flavor than younger leaves.

Factors that contribute to the bitterness of Arugula.


Arugula gets more bitter the longer it grows, which is why harvesting arugula leaves when young will reduce its bitterness. 


Arugula thrives best when temperatures are mild during the day and nights are cool. Higher temperatures will result in more bitter arugula.


Certain arugula varieties are more bitter than others.

Is Baby Arugula Less Bitter?

As we mentioned earlier Arugula gets more delicious (and more bitter) as it gets older.

Baby arugula is less bitter. The tiny, tender leaves will have the same excellent flavor, but are mild.

A young arugula leaf is likely to be just under 3 inches If you’re browsing through a store or picking your own, be sure to search for leaves that are smaller.

How To Make Arugula Less Bitter

If you are a fan of the taste of arugula as well as the nutritional value it provides, but would like to avoid the bitter taste, then follow the following tips.  


Blanching is among the most effective methods to eliminate some bitterness from arugula. 

Here’s how to blanch the arugula:

  1. Fill a pot with water bring to a boil.
  2. Make an ice bath in a bowl with chilled water and ice cubes. 
  3. When your pot of water boiling, place the arugula into it for 20 seconds.
  4. Remove the arugula leaves from the boiling water using the help of a small spoon and put it straight into the cold bath.
  5. The arugula can be left in the ice bath for at least 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the arugula and gently dry it using a paper towel.

The process of blanching removes most of the bitterness and you’ll still be able to incorporate it in salads and other dishes.

Marinate The Arugula

If you don’t want to blanche the arugula, you can marinate it using several ingredients that will assist in reducing the bitterness.

The most effective marinade is a simple mixture made of olive oil and lemon juice. It blends all of the flavors, and prevents the bitterness overpowering the dish.

The arugula can appear slightly wilted when it is left to marinate, however it will keep its wonderful flavor and will be great for pestos, sauces and pasta.

Sauté Arugula

Cooking and sautéing arugula may help reduce bitterness. It can also be a great method to impart flavor to the arugula.

Add onion and garlic to the arugula and fry gently to bring wonderful aromas and flavors together. 

Cook It In A Meal

If you don’t wish to cook or sauté the arugula all on its own or you want to make one-pot meals You can add it to sauces and soups, and then simmer it with other ingredients.

It is likely that you won’t taste any bitterness once you’ve cooked the arugula with other ingredients.

Make Pesto

It can also be utilized to create pesto – it’s the perfect way to experience the taste and the strength of arugula

Take care to remove the stems prior to making a pesto made of arugula, to reduce the bitterness.

What Is The Best Way To Store Arugula?

If you’ve harvested arugula from your vegetable garden or bought some fresh from the grocery store, knowing how to properly store it will allow you to make the most of it.

Wrap the leaves in paper towel and then put them in a wide plastic bags before putting it inside the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.

If the arugula comes in a sealed plastic bag put it in the crisper drawer unopened. It should remain fresh two days after opening, or up to five days if the bag is sealed.

Do not wash arugula till it is ready for cooking as it’s quality will decrease very quickly when washed and put back in the refrigerator. Freezing arugula is generally not recommended.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you want to consume raw arugula?

Arugula can be eaten raw – it’s extremely delicious when eaten fresh and uncooked. It’s a delicious raw topping for pizzas pasta, wraps and pasta sandwiches, and much more.

Is arugula a green?

Arugula is widely used as a salad green however, it’s not really lettuce. It is more closely associated with mustard greens and cabbage.


Profile Image Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, Editor of Boyd Hampers! Norah is a food writer with over a decade of experience in hospitality as a pastry chef, sous chef, and barista; former chef at the Savoy Hotel, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Plaza Hotel.

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