Top 5 Healthy and Unique Substitutes For Watercress That Make A Great Side Dish

Watercress is a healthy and flavorful leafy green often used in salads, soups, and even smoothies. You may have not tried cooking with it, but it is full of vitamins and minerals and has become very popular lately.

There are times though when getting fresh produce can be very hard, and if you can’t find watercress it is good to know what other options can work instead. 

Because it has a strong flavor, watercress can be the star of the show. You can find it in salads, but it can also be used as the main ingredient in a soup or pureed in a dip.

Some people enjoy the taste so much that they eat it alone or make a juice out of it. If your recipe calls for watercress, it must be replaced by a similar ingredient to match the quality. 

What Is Watercress?

This leafy vegetable belongs to the Brassicaceae family and it is closely related to radish, garden cress, and kale. As its name suggests, this plant grows in or near water and can grow up to 4 feet if not harvested. Watercress grows white and green flowers which give the plant a bitter flavor.

Watercress also contains calcium, iron, iodine, vitamin K, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin B6. Aside from being nutritious, this vegetable is considered a good antioxidant and often used to detox the body. It has a pepper-like taste, which makes it a great ingredient for savory dishes that also need some texture, like sandwiches.

What Can I Replace Watercress With?

Time to get cooking! These are the best watercress alternatives you can find:

#1. Arugula

Since we have just mentioned that watercress has a peppery flavor, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see arugula as a first choice in this list.

Also known as rocket, or roquette, this vegetable is pungent, bitter, and some say, spicy like mustard. The seeds and flowers are also edible, but the leaves are more popular in Italian dishes, such as carpaccio, pasta, and pizza. 

You can find arugula in the produce section of the grocery store, but if not there, you can try the organic supermarket or farmer’s market. You can change watercress for the same amount of arugula.

#2. Spinach

This is one of the most popular green vegetables because it is versatile and high in vitamins and minerals. If you have cooked spinach before, you know that it shrinks quite a lot with heat, but it is tasty and easy to use. Spinach is a staple as a side dish, but it can also be found in soups, salads, and now as part of healthy juices or smoothies. 

Spinach can be bought in any grocery store, but you can try organic stores or farmer’s markets too. Since it shrinks considerably, if you are sauteing it, we recommend you use twice as much spinach as the recipe calls for. Otherwise, you can use the same amount of spinach in place of watercress.

#3. Radish Sprouts

This isn’t the best choice on this list, but in certain situations, it can work well. This vegetable belongs to the same family as watercress and arugula, so the flavor profile is somewhat on the same line. Radish sprouts are considered green vegetables, so they are often used in salads and sometimes soups.

Radish sprouts are not as common, but you can try the produce section of your grocery store, and if not, the farmer’s market may have them. We recommend you use the same amount, though you may need more to reach a similar texture and taste. 

#4. Kale

This Brassicaceae family member has become incredibly popular in the last few years because it is high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and has antioxidant properties. While some like to use it as part of a green juice, or in a salad, some consider kale too tough to use, which is why you could saute it or use it as part of a dip or soup. 

Kale can be bought in grocery stores, organic supermarkets, and farmer’s markets. It is very affordable, so you can buy a large amount at a time, but we recommend using around the same quantity as the recipe calls for watercress. 

#5. Dandelion Leaves

While not many know about this vegetable, these leaves are very high in nutrients and are tasty too. Dandelion leaves don’t have the same peppery flavor as watercress or arugula, but they do have a great taste when cooked or raw. Usually, you will find these leaves as part of salads, stews, and some sauces.

You can buy dandelion leaves in most grocery stores, but sometimes they may be hard to find, and if that is the case, you can try an organic store or a farmer’s market. The same amount of dandelion leaves may be enough, but you may need more due to the milder flavor.


What substitute tastes similar to watercress?

All these alternatives are somewhat close to watercress, but for a very similar flavor, we say go with arugula. It is a member of the same family and it has a pepper-like spice to it. If not, we recommend kale or even Nasturtium leaves.

Can you use watercress instead of spinach?

Yes, just like the opposite is true, watercress can also be used in place for spinach. Keep in mind though that watercress has a bolder and spicier flavor, so you may want to adjust your ingredient list around that. If you want a milder flavor, try mixing watercress with another green, such as kale.

Can you grow watercress at home?

While it is found next to the water in the wild, you can grow watercress at home if you plant it in a container with soil that is damp and wet enough all the time. Watercress needs constant water, so make sure you keep an eye on this. Also, this plant doesn’t like direct light, but it still needs it.


You can add watercress to your list of healthy foods if you haven’t yet, but if you don’t like it or can’t seem to find one, make sure you choose one of these substitutes instead.

All of these vegetables are tasty and have a flavor of their own, so try them first, and make sure you like it. Time to make a tasty salad or side dish!

watercress substitute

*Photo by neillangan/depositphotos

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