Garlicky Sautéed Escarole

published Sep 25, 2022
Escarole Recipe

Here are the simple steps you take to cook sautéed escarole.


Prep8 minutes

Cook9 minutes to 11 minutes

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Credit: Kelli Foster

A simple pile of sautéed greens, accented with lots of garlic and a touch of red pepper flakes, is one of my favorite any-night-of-the-week sides. Whether it’s spinach, kale, Swiss chard, or escarole, the preparation is quick to pull off and goes with just about any main dish. The latter — escarole — is perhaps the most misunderstood, but is a leafy green that I think deserves way more attention than it gets. When cooked, it’s meltingly tender and almost juicy, with a pleasant bitterness that counters the garlicky oil it’s sautéed in.

How Do You Take the Bitterness Out of Escarole?

While escarole isn’t as inherently bitter as broccoli rabe or radicchio, it does have a mild bitterness to it. It’s easy to tame, however, by cooking it in garlicky olive oil and offsetting the bitter with a splash of tangy lemon juice at the end.

Credit: Kelli Foster

How Do You Clean Escarole?

Escarole heads have a tendency to collect sand and dirt within their leaves. That’s why the best way to clean escarole is to tear the leaves into pieces and rinse them well in a colander, shaking and aggravating the leaves in the process to make sure all the sand and dirt is removed. Drain the leaves in the colander, but don’t worry about patting them dry. Any water that clings to the escarole will actually help steam it in the sauté pan!

What Does Escarole Go With?

This is a versatile side dish that pairs with meat, fish, casseroles, and more. Here are some of my favorite mains to serve with sautéed escarole.

Escarole Recipe

Here are the simple steps you take to cook sautéed escarole.

Prep time 8 minutes

Cook time 9 minutes to 11 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • About 1 1/2 pounds

    escarole (2 medium or 1 large head)

  • 4 cloves


  • 1/2

    small lemon

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed


  1. Remove and discard any very tough outer dark green or browned leaves from about 1 1/2 pounds escarole. Tear the remaining leaves into rough 2-inch pieces. Rinse the leaves well in a colander. Drain well, but do not dry. Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Juice 1/2 small lemon until you have 1 tablespoon.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, high-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes if desired, and sauté until the garlic is softened and fragrant (do not let the garlic brown), about 30 seconds.

  3. Add the escarole a few handfuls at a time, stirring after each addition so that they start to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and toss to combine. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the escarole is just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.