What Is Radicchio? Health Benefits + How To Cook With The Leafy Green
If you're looking to add more vegetables to your diet, look no further. Radicchio is one of those add-to-anything types of leafy green that, when prepared correctly, can be delicious and add a ton of nutrition to any meal. The problem is, most of us have no idea what to do with radicchio or how to prepare it. That's why we chatted with registered dietitians to get the scoop on this bitter green and how to incorporate it into your diet.
What is radicchio?
According to registered dietitian May Zhu, R.D., radicchio is technically classified under the chicory vegetable category. Even if you've never consumed radicchio before, chances are you've definitely seen it at your local grocery store or farmers market. In fact, this leafy green is often mistaken for red cabbage, thanks to its purplish-red exterior. "Depending on the variation, the color can vary from deep purple to maroon or red," Zhu says.
Plus, you'll see white-ish, green ribbed lines throughout the leaves—that's one of the major ways to differentiate cabbage from radicchio. It's similar to a mild lettuce, kind of like a bibb or gem variety.
As for taste, well, it can be quite bitter. "It's much heartier in texture than lettuce or romaine, and the taste can be bitter and earthy," Zhu notes. That's where the proper cooking methods come into play: When radicchio is cooked or marinated, it can help mellow out that bitter taste.
What are the nutritional benefits of radicchio?
Since radicchio is a vegetable, you can guarantee it's full of vitamins and minerals. "It's naturally low in calories and high in vitamin K, fiber, and zinc," Zhu says. Fiber helps to keep you fuller for longer and is an essential part of a healthy diet. While vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a key role in supporting bone health, Zhu says.
And zinc helps support a healthy immune system and boasts anti-inflammatory properties. "Zinc is necessary for maintenance and development of immune cells," Kylie Ivanir, M.S., R.D., previously told mbg. Not to mention, radicchio is full of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which help support your body at a cellular level.
How to cook radicchio.
If the bitter flavor doesn't bother you, certainly try eating this veggie raw. As functional nutritionist Desiree Nielsen, R.D., shared on the mindbodygreen podcast: "It's a taste that's missing in our diet in favor of hyper-salty, hyper-sweet foods, and it's really balancing for the digestion."
If you prefer to cook it, there are a variety of methods you can try. "You can sauté, grill, or roast it," Zhu says. The most popular way to prepare radicchio is thinly sliced. You can also marinate this green and cook low and slow or quickly sauté it on high heat.
Other ways to use radicchio.
While there are no rules for consuming any food, radicchio included, there are a few ways to enjoy this veggie if you're new to it. "The easiest way to eat radicchio is to chop it up and add it to your favorite salad," Zhu suggests (like this radicchio citrus salad recipe). Finely chop each of the greens in the base of your salad, and the radicchio adds a pop of color and a hearty crunch. You can also add it to a stir fry, soup, or pasta recipe or serve it alone as a side dish to a lunch or dinner.
Radicchio may not be the most popular green, but it's certainly versatile. If its raw flavor doesn't appeal to your palate, marinate and sauté it to bulk up on veggies for dinner. And remember, finely chopping this bitter green will help it blend into your favorite dishes without significantly altering the flavor.
Andrea Jordan is a beauty and lifestyle freelance writer covering topics from hair and skincare to family and home. She received her bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from Temple University and you can find her work at top publications like InStyle, PopSugar, StyleCaster, Business Insider, PureWow and OprahMag. When she's not writing, you can find Andrea tackling new recipes in the kitchen or babysitting one of her many nieces and nephews. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and cat, Silas.