17 Substitutes for Watercress

Substitutes for Watercress

Watercress is a plant that you can use in salads or sandwiches to add freshness and crunch. Suppose you’re looking to spice up your next dish but don’t want to pick watercress.

Check out this list of nine great Substitutes for watercress that will give your salads and sandwiches a pleasant taste.

1. Arugula

Arugula Substitutes for Watercress
Photo by VictoryRock

Watercress and arugula are similar in flavor, but arugula is less bitter. If you substitute one for another, use slightly less arugula because it has a more robust flavor.

Arugula adds more color to a salad than watercress. Green flecks can be pleasing to a customer’s eye on a plate. 

Arugula is also easier to grow and maintain than watercress since its growing period is shorter. Watercress is cold-weather tolerant, while arugula isn’t—meaning it’s a better substitute for watercress suited to warmer climates.

2. Radish Greens

You can use radish greens to add a peppery, slightly sweet taste to salads. The best part of these substitutes for watercress is you don’t even have to cook them.

Just cut off and discard the stem end, give them a quick rinse, then chop and toss in. Radish greens also contain surprisingly high amounts of iron.

They might be just what you need if you want to increase your iron intake without taking an extra supplement. Be sure to pair with foods rich in vitamin C, as cooking depletes some of their iron content.

3. Spinach

Popeye may have had it right when he proclaimed his love of spinach. But you don’t need to be a sailor to enjoy one of nature’s most iron-rich veggies. High in protein and fiber, spinach is a versatile source of vitamins and minerals.

Even Popeye couldn’t take down a jar of veggie sticks, which means if you want to get rid of watercress after reading our post on substitutes for watercress. 

However, when cooking with fresh spinach, add it early in the cooking process. It has extremely high water content and cooks quickly.

4. Mizuna

This Asian green is an excellent substitute for watercress. It looks like it but has a milder flavor, making it perfect for those who aren’t fans of peppery greens. 

Mizuna contains antioxidants and is high in vitamins A and C. Pair mizuna with other leafy greens such as spinach or arugula. Try it raw in a salad or steamed with garlic and olive oil as a side dish.

You can also use mizuna to top omelets or chicken dishes to add some nutrients to your meal. Make sure you buy mizuna fresh and not frozen, which doesn’t provide as much taste.

5. Salad Burnet

Watercress may get all of the credit, but its lesser-known relative has a lot to offer. Salad burnet (known as salad peppergrass) adds a peppery taste to dishes & it’s used in place of other herbs & spices. 

It’s available year-round in most produce sections and, like watercress, can be grown at home with little difficulty.

If you want to add some extra oomph to your next salad, try one of these substitutes for watercress.

6. Cilantro

Photo by ka_re

This particular one among substitutes for watercress isn’t an ordinary salad green, but cilantro is. Both are related to parsley, and both offer a nice lemony flavor without being overpowering. 

Cilantro tends to be easier to find in farmers’ markets and stores than watercress. And while they might look similar, their tastes are very different. 

Cilantro can have a bit of a bite to it (when raw). Its flavor doesn’t last long in food/drinks. Use one tablespoon of chopped cilantro instead of one fresh or frozen watercress cup.

However, you can use two tablespoons if you’re not adding it to something cooked. Wash them both carefully before chopping—you don’t want any grit ending up in your recipes.

7. Basil

Watercress is bitter, and pairing it with a strong flavoring can help balance out its taste. Use chopped basil as part of the substitutes for watercress in place of cress in any salad. Using herbs you already have growing in your garden will make it even more, cost-effective. 

If you want to splurge on a new flavor, lavender has floral notes that pair well with other ingredients tools. You might even consider trying different herbs if you’re feeling adventurous! Hot pepper. 

Cilantro and jalapeno are very similar, but if you don’t want to go out and buy new products. Then try using what you already have at home instead of purchasing something else.

8. Mint

The pungent scent of fresh mint instantly transports you to a refreshing Mediterranean coast. The plant is low in calories, so it can be added to any salad without sabotaging healthy eating habits. 

Mint is one of many herbs and spices that can help you feel full faster. And don’t worry about becoming addicted; at around 100 calories per cup, mint is harmless. 

Several substitutes for watercress are available, including peppermint, orange mint, and chocolate mint (which has a sweet scent). One tablespoon of chopped fresh leafy mint contains just one calorie.

This can be used in fruit salads or as a garnish on soups or vegetables like cucumbers or potatoes. You could even try cooking with it by adding some to your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe.

9. Chives

A snip of these delicate, onion-like greens gives a salad extra zip. Finely slice them or throw them whole into a salad or omelet. They’re also delicious in mashed potatoes, tacos, and soups. 

Also, look for chive blossoms (the purple ones) at farmers’ markets. Chives are part of substitutes for watercress, easy to grow in containers, and offer small amounts of calcium and iron. 

Moreso, with high levels of antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol. A new study found eating chives helped prevent weight gain over time because they may help reduce inflammation. 

Low levels of inflammation are associated with less-stressed bodies. When exposed to stressors such as high-calorie foods, it tends to gain less weight.

10. Scallion Tops

When there are no other substitutes for watercress in sight, grab a bunch of scallion tops. They may be more intense than other lettuces (when used raw), but they add a tremendous oniony kick to the salad. 
Combine baby spinach and chicken or tuna to form a satisfying lunchtime salad.

Furthermore, it can be served alongside eggs as part of an English breakfast. You can also mix some little chopped scallion greens into hummus or guacamole to liven up those dips.  

11. Garlic Scapes

Fresh or pickled scapes have a similar peppery bite to watercress and are delicious on sandwiches. You can add some (to beat the substitutes for watercress) raw to green juices/ eat them dipped in hummus like crudites. 

12. Fennel Fronds

As a member of the exact substitutes for watercress, fennel is full of beneficial flavonoids and resveratrol. The strong taste complements fish or chicken, but you can also use it to replace watercress in a salad.

It’s surprisingly healthy, bunch up fennel fronds and use them instead of watercress in your next spring mix. You’ll be blown away by how delicious and nutritious it is.

One serving provides over 100% RDA of vitamin C (10 mg) (96) and contains significant amounts of vitamin A, fiber, thiamin, calcium & potassium. Add to sandwiches or try sauteing some with scrambled eggs at breakfast time.

13. Frise 

This one of the substitutes for watercress isn’t in season year-round, but you can use frise lettuce as an alternative. It’s not quite as bitter, but it has a similarly rich flavor and is still peppery.

So, if you can’t find either of these ingredients locally, radicchio or even arugula would work. While they may be slightly less spicy than watercress, they’re flavorful options and add a nice bite to any salad.

14. Chicory

Chicory is a low-growing green vegetable with a tangy, bittersweet flavor. It’s less known than kale and arugula, but it can be found at farmer’s markets and in many grocery stores. Add it to sandwiches or use it as greens in salads or sautéed dishes. 

Roasted chicory root has been consumed as a coffee substitute. In 1668, Louis XIV of France ordered beans from Brazil to start an import business. 

The chicory market didn’t take off until after World War II, when French soldiers returned home, asking for German coffee. In fact, during World War I, German prisoners in Belgium were offered food laced with chicory as part of a substitute for watercress.

15. Dandelion Greens

The taste is similar to that of watercress and their brightness. Peppery bite lends itself to various uses in both raw and cooked dishes. 

It’s often used as an alternative to cabbage in coleslaw. Among the substitutes for watercress, it works well as an alternative in sandwiches or on top of burgers.

16. Nasturtium Leaves

Often considered a weed, nasturtiums are often available at farmers’ markets. They’re also easy to grow in a pot or flower box. 

Although you won’t be using these leaves in place of watercress greens, their flowers can add a peppery flavor to salads. Try mixing the substitutes for watercress with cucumbers and other veggies for a fun summertime salad!

17. Kale

Photo by pompi

One day, kale may take over as the king of leafy greens, but right now, it’s got a ways to go. Sure, it’s considered hip and even called the new spinach, but its texture is not-so-appealing to some. 

Although you can use it as a substitute for watercress in many recipes, such as green smoothies or juice cleanses, kale doesn’t offer many flavors on its own.

Try tossing curly kale with olive oil and sea salt for crunchy snack/ using baby kale raw in a salad.


If you can’t find these substitutes for watercress at your local store, try looking elsewhere. Turnip greens, dandelion greens, and purslane are all edible greens with a similar peppery taste. 

Although these alternatives aren’t nearly as healthy as fresh watercress, they still contain some vitamins and minerals. It would help if you ate them only occasionally since they aren’t nutrient-dense like most fruits and vegetables.

For example, one cup of cooked turnip greens contains roughly 2 grams of protein and just over 50 calories. 

That same amount of watercress has 1 gram of protein and 25 calories. It’s also important to note that many food safety experts advise against eating raw turnip greens. 

However, they might be contaminated with E. coli bacteria or other dangerous pathogens. If you decide to use turnip greens in watercress in a salad, cook it first to kill pathogens.

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