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Radicchio is a very beneficial vegetable that can improve several areas of your health. As such, it’s commonly preferred among vegans and vegetarians alike. But even if you’re non-vegan, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the benefits that radicchio has to offer.
To give you a better understanding of this unique plant, let’s examine where radicchio comes from, how it’s used, and what kind of substitutes you can use in its place.
What Is Radicchio?
Radicchio is a leafy vegetable with a mild taste and is also known as Italian chicory. A few popular varieties include radicchio di Verona, which resembles a small red head of lettuce, and radicchio di Treviso, which resembles a red Belgian endive.
Quite popular throughout Italy, radicchio is quickly becoming popular in the United States, as well. It can be eaten raw and with just a little salt and olive oil. Radicchio can also be mixed into various salads. You’re likely to see this vegetable offered roasted or grilled on some menus. It’s frequently combined with dishes like risotto.
Radicchio is rich in anthocyanins, which studies suggest have effects that fight inflammation, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. What’s more, radicchio may help promote brain health and prevent heart disease.
With so many potential benefits, it’s no wonder why so many people prefer to add this purple veggie to their diets. But what if you run into a recipe that you really want to try that includes radicchio, but you don’t have any on hand?
What kinds of alternatives are available to you? Like other ingredients, there’s always another option that you can use in place of radicchio. So let’s explore the best substitute for this heart-healthy plant and see what you can use in its place.
Radicchio is a member of the chicory family, which is a group of leafy vegetables similar to cabbage. It is known for its spicy and bitter taste, making it a versatile ingredient that is sure to liven up a wide variety of dishes.
When enjoyed raw, radicchio’s leaves present a pleasantly bitter taste. It’s not uncommon to see this veggie cooked, whether it is boiled, grilled, sautéed, or roasted. Cooking helps to bring some of the natural sweetness out of the plant while providing its signature bitterness.
How to Cook Radicchio
A wonderful way to enjoy radicchio is to eat it raw, such as in a salad. Please note that radicchio’s bitterness is quite powerful. Because of this, you might want to try pairing it with something acidic, such as citrus fruit juice or balsamic vinegar.
Salty ingredients help lessen radicchio’s bitterness, so you might consider using capers or olives. Alternatively, fatty ingredients like bacon or olive oil work well, too. Cooking with radicchio is very rewarding, as you can barbecue or roast it with ease, as it’s a delicious and meaty vegetable dish.
All you need to do is rub the veggie with some olive oil and apply some pepper and salt. Then, just grill or roast it for about 20 minutes at a temperature of around 400°F. Drizzle your dish with a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to top it off.
Sautéing radicchio using caramelized onions is another excellent way to enjoy the veggie. You might also try it on turkey burgers to give your meals a nice boost in flavor. But no matter how you decide to cook radicchio, you’re sure to enjoy its taste and the benefits it provides.
Now that you have a good grasp on radicchio and how it’s used, let’s talk about the best substitute to use in its place.
This tiny cylinder-shaped head of lettuce measures about 6 inches long and features pale, yellow-colored leaves that are closely spaced and slightly curled at the edges. It has moderate bitterness and grows under the soil in a dark space, similar to a mushroom. This process helps it keep its color light while maintaining its unique flavor.
A fairly elegant green, Belgian endive is a bit pricey due to its challenging harvesting methods and current import status. If you have some on hand, however, it will serve you well as a viable radicchio alternative.
You might need to develop a taste for Belgian endive, but you can always contrast its bitterness with a sweet ingredient if you need a helping hand in this department.
Belgian endive has a refreshing texture and a delicate, almost peculiar appearance. Its mildly bitter taste ensures versatile cooking, though, so you’ll have no trouble incorporating it into your recipes.
Cooking with Belgian Endive
Belgian endive is a cinch to clean and ready for cooking. Just remove the outer leaves, cut the stem, and follow your recipe preparation instructions. After being chopped, Belgian endive can be used in salads, braised whole, or eaten as a side dish.
You can separate the leaves and use them as small appetizers. They make great dippers, too. The compact Belgian endive head can be washed and grilled with vinaigrette, and it complements grilled fish really well.
If you have a recipe that calls for radicchio, Belgian endive serves as an excellent substitute. Slaw, in particular, tastes great with either radicchio or Belgian endive. The two are easy to interchange in a wide variety of recipes, so it’s unlikely that you will have any trouble transitioning from one to the other in a pinch.
And that brings up another point. If you have a recipe that calls for Belgian endive, but you don’t have any readily available, radicchio will work just as well. Plus, radicchio is generally much easier to find in the supermarket.
Ready for More Substitutes?
We hope this guide helps you the next time you find yourself needing to replace radicchio. If you are interested in discovering even more wonderful alternatives, we invite you to explore our food substitutes page.
We feature a variety of unique ingredients and show you how to best replace them. And if you’d like to learn some new recipes, make sure you click here for some truly exciting dishes.