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What Is Rocket Lettuce (aka Arugula) & How To Use It?

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Explore the world of rocket lettuce, also known as arugula. Discover its distinct flavor along with creative ways to use this leafy green.


Rocket lettuce, known as arugula in some parts of the world, is a beautiful leafy green and is one of my favorites. Its unique peppery flavor adds a distinctive and flavorful touch to a variety of dishes.

The term “rocket lettuce” often confuses those unfamiliar with this alternative name for arugula, which is the common name for rocket lettuce in North America.

Some people may find themselves puzzled when encountering the rocket lettuce label on restaurant menus, unaware that it simply refers to the same vibrant and peppery leafy green commonly known as arugula.

I aim to demystify this vibrant green and offer you practical insights into its taste, along with simple, creative suggestions for incorporating rocket lettuce into your everyday meals.

Whether you are putting it into a salad or a sandwich, rocket lettuce provides a healthy and nutritious option and it also offers you a wide array of possibilities for your culinary enjoyment.

What Is Rocket Lettuce?

Rocket lettuce, Eruca vesicaria, is an edible plant that is also known as roquette, rucola, arugula colewort, and in the United States, arugula (1).

This leafy green is native to southern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. In Roman times, the Italians grew this popular herb, with poets and songwriters calling it an aphrodisiac (1).

Today, rocket lettuce is used in many culinary dishes including mixed salads, pizza, and pasta dishes, and as a condiment to sandwiches, soups, and stews. It should be noted that arugula is also a common food allergen (1).

Rocket lettuce is not really a lettuce but actually a part of the Brassicaceae family, so it is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.

Rocket leaves are normally a dark green with rounded or pointed tips, and notches on each side of the leaf (2).


Is Rocket Lettuce Healthy?

The short answer is, yes! Rocket lettuce provides us with many nutrients and fiber, and it is particularly plentiful in vitamin K.

Vitamin K helps our body better absorb and retain calcium in the body, so rocket lettuce makes for a wonderful addition to our diet to help maintain the strength of our bones as we age.

Rocket lettuce also contains many other vitamins and nutrients such as folate, vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, and more. Plus there are very few calories in a one-cup serving – only five calories (2)!

One important note. Because of its high vitamin K content, rocket lettuce can interact with blood-thinning medications, reversing the effects of anticoagulants,

Therefore, be mindful of eating big portions of arugula, or any dark leafy green, without first talking to your doctor. Your blood thinning medication may need to be monitored and adjusted.

3 Ways To Use Rocket Lettuce

Everyone has their preference for how to use rocket lettuce in culinary dishes. Here are three of my favorite ways to use arugula.

1. Mixed Arugula Salad

Salads are the most common way to use arugula because it is so simple and delicious. Although you can eat a 100% arugula leaf salad if you are new to eating rocket lettuce, may I suggest you do a mix of leafy greens?

Consider adding leafy greens like chopped romaine, red or green leaf lettuce, or even butter lettuce to your arugula mix. This gives your salad a delicious nutty, peppery flavor that is not overpowering.

One of the simplest healthy green salads you can make is to toss a handful of rocket lettuce and another leafy green into a bowl. Add sliced cherry tomatoes, a handful of walnuts, and some dried cranberries or cherries if you wish. Add this delicious 1 Minute No Oil Dijon Lemon Dressing, and you have a quick and refreshing salad.

2. Healthy Green Smoothie

Green smoothies, when made properly, are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and so much more! These truly are a staple in my diet, and provide a convenient way to ensure I get all of the essential nutrients while navigating the demands of a busy caregiver life.

This Energy Boosting Green Smoothie recipe shows you how I make my own green smoothies. In the recipe, I use baby kale but these days, I have been swapping out the kale for arugula, which gives this green smoothie a delicious and distinct flavor.


3. Rocket Pesto Pasta Sauce (No Oil) Recipe

As a devoted pesto enthusiast, I find myself favoring it even more than a traditional red sauce in pasta dishes. This pesto sauce recipe stands out for its exceptional taste and healthfulness, omitting oil to minimize saturated fat content while maintaining superb flavor.

Often, pesto is laden with oil, which contributes to significant calories along with an excessive amount of saturated fat. Just one tablespoon of olive oil, which is considered a “healthy” oil contains 119 calories and 13.5 grams of fat (3).

Rocket pesto sauce ingredients

  • 1-2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 large handful of fresh basil
  • 1 large handful of fresh rocket lettuce (aka arugula)
  • 1Tb raw pinenuts (optional)
  • 1-2 sundried tomatoes
  • 1Tb yellow miso paste
  • 1Tb raw tahini
  • 2tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1tsp lemon juice (keep the remaining to add later if needed)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

rocket pesto sauce instructions

  1. In a food processor add the pinenuts, and pulse to break down. Approximately 3-5 pulses.
  2. Add the basil and arugula, and pulse again to break the leafy greens down and blend with the pinenuts.
  3. Next, add the minced garlic and sundried tomatoes, and blend until everything is broken down evenly and combined.
  4. Add the miso, tahini, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes, and mix until well combined, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  5. Finally, add additional water or more lemon juice, 1Tb at a time, until you reach the desired consistency, texture, and taste.
  6. Continue to mix until very creamy and thoroughly combined.
  7. Transfer pesto to a tightly sealed glass container and store it in the fridge if you are not using it immediately.
  8. ENJOY!

Experiment With Rocket Lettuce

Rocket lettuce, is a versatile and nutritious leafy green, offering a multitude of creative possibilities in the kitchen. Its distinct peppery flavor in salads, sandwiches, pasta, and even smoothies, makes rocket lettuce a delightful ingredient, and a valuable addition, to your kitchen.

So let your creative juices flow as you experiment using rocket lettuce in recipes. The next time you see rocket lettuce on a menu, or in a grocery store, try using it to add a lively and unique flavor to your meal, and a hint of sophistication to your everyday cooking.

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Let’s Connect

I hope you enjoyed this article, learning about rocket lettuce and how to use it in your kitchen. Please consider sharing this post with friends and family.

Also, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to know if you like rocket lettuce (arugula), and how you use it in your culinary dishes. I’d love to hear from you.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eruca_vesicaria
  2. https://lettuceinfo.org/arugula-faq/
  3. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171413/nutrients

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