What Is Chicory And How Do You Use It?

As you stand in the produce aisle, yearning for inspiration and, frankly, something to get you out of your broccoli rut, take note of the chicories. Yes, as in the plural of chicory, because there are many options that can easily invigorate tonight's dinner. Chicories are closely related to lettuces, and the family of greens includes Belgian endive, curly endive (aka frisée), escarole, and radicchio (via MasterClass). 

The Spruce Eats declares that chicories deliver a variety of tastes and textures for your dining pleasure because curly endive is thick and bushy, Belgian endive is soft and delicate, escarole is tender and wavy-edged, and radicchio is hearty and ruby red. All varieties are available year-round, but their earthy, bitter undertones are a welcome addition to fall and winter soups, salads, sandwiches, sautés, and braised and roasted dishes (via Food & Wine).

SFGate notes that the sweet, rich, mildly bitter chicory leaves can also be grilled, steamed, and boiled, showcasing that there are plenty of ways to cook and enjoy these versatile greens.

Nutritionally, one cup of chopped chicory has 6.7 calories, 1.4 grams of carbohydrates, 0.5 grams of protein, and 1.2 grams of fiber, according to NutritionData, and chicory greens are a very good source of vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese. Those are bragging rights for sure.

Choose chicory over other greens for a dinnertime twist

For refreshingly unique chicory dishes, Food & Wine has a selection of recipes worth perusing, which include bitter green soup with cheese dumplings, Italian-style sautéed chicory with mustard greens, orecchiette with sausage and chicory, spaghetti with chicory and clams, and three unique salads — one with warm mushrooms, another with spiced pistachios, and one with pickled quince and pomegranate.

Olive Magazine shares some intensely creative dishes featuring the bitter greens, including chicory with lentils, beans, and breadcrumbs; chicory tart; pear, blue cheese, and chicory salad; roasted chicory slaw; creamy chicory risotto with walnuts; and spicy, orange-glazed chicory.

For something cheesy and comforting, BBC Food showcases an undeniably rich chicory gratin. If you cherish recipes with four ingredients or less, Epicurious offers a simple side dish of sautéed chicory with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Note that some people find chicory greens to be overly bitter, so if that's the case, try blanching the leaves first (even for salads), and add a generous pinch of sugar or sweet balsamic vinegar to your recipes (via StackExchange).