What Are Chicories? Here Are All the Types You Should Know

published May 1, 2024
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Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Debbie Wee

If there’s one highly nutritious vegetable that is wildly underrated, it would have to be chicories. The leaves of these woody perennial plants are usually made into a salad or stir-fried as a vegetable side dish. But have you tried them? Whether you had them or not, let’s find out more about this root vegetable and its varieties, preparation, and health benefits. 

Quick Overview

So, What Are Chicories?

All About Chicories

In summertime, you may have seen chicories along roads or in wilderness areas. They start their growth as basal rosettes, with a spiny stem with bright blue-colored flowers and leaves that look somewhat similar to those of a dandelion. When you take a closer look at the mid-vein at the back of the leaves, you’ll find a lot of hair on it.

As part of the genus Cichorium intybus, chicories are a family of hardy and bitter-flavored leafy vegetables. They are cultivated in Europe and Asia, but can also be found in Africa and North America. The plants grow up to 1.8 meters tall, according to The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, and are typically planted as cool-weather crops in late fall and harvested into early spring.

What Do Chicories Look and Taste Like? 

Chicories look more like flower petals than your average salad greens, as described by MasterClass instructors, and have crunchy greens with subtle bitter edges. Common varieties of chicories include wildly frizzy frisée, pale yellow endive petals, and magenta-speckled radicchio leaves. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Debbie Wee

Frisée (Curly Endive) 

Frisée is often used in salads or as a garnish. It holds up well in dressed salads and it goes with rich, creamy dressings, and ingredients that complement its delicately sweet flavor and texture. It also has the ability to hold up to heat, so adding in chopped bacon or pancetta and poached egg will get you a Lyonnaise salad. You can also sauté them and drizzle with sherry or balsamic vinegar, or make it into a Schnitzel and pear salad (with wheat beer vinaigrette).

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Debbie Wee

Belgian Endive

Belgian endive is a compact, lettuce-like plant that is as long as the hand. It is available in an attractive range of colors and shapes, from oblong and white to round and magenta (aka red Belgian endive). 

An interesting fact is that endive are grown in the dark, by putting a container over them, so the leaves don’t open up and stay pale yellow-white. It has a nutty, bitter taste, so it’s traditionally blanched to reduce the bitterness and make it more tender. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Debbie Wee

Endives are popularly used in salads, such as endive-avocado salad or endive salad with orange and walnuts. Its leaves can also be used as a serving vessel for hors d’oeuvre. It can also be braised or roasted to complement meat dishes, such as lamb, beef, and chicken.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Debbie Wee


Escarole can sometimes be confused with Boston lettuce, aka butter lettuce, as it has a broad white spine, and curly top leaves that are light green at the bottom and dark green at the top. It has a bitter flavor that’s good for soups and salads yet still tastes milder than Belgian endive and frisée. 

A key ingredient in Italian dishes, escarole can be eaten cooked or raw. It adds crunch to salads and it can also be grilled, braised, and sautéed. They go well with tangy dressings, dried fruits, nuts, cheese, and roasted or grilled meat.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Debbie Wee


Radicchio looks like a small cabbage with gorgeous, rich wine-red white-ribbed leaves. It has six varieties that come from Italy’s Veneto region, all named after the place or origin. Chioggia, the most common variety from the coastal town of Chiogga in northern Italy, resembles a red cabbage, with a head size that ranges from baseball to softball. 

Radicchio has a sharp, intense flavor that is pleasantly bitter. It has tender but firm leaves and is popularly used in salads, with green olives and Parmesan or with sweet potato, Manchego cheese, and sunflower seeds. While it’s a popular green in salad mixes, this vegetable really shines when slightly wilted with fat like nuts or cheese and a sweet accent like pears or figs. It’s great on the grill, too, like in this recipe for grilled radicchio with creamy cheese

Treviso Radicchio

The Treviso variety is by far the most elegant radicchio there is. It is a type of radicchio that grows in elongated, rather than round, heads. It is a bit sweeter than Chiogga radicchio and is the mildest and crunchiest of all the radicchio varieties. Chop them up and toss in a salad, or you can also grill them too. 

How to Cook with Chicories 

Chicories can be eaten raw and it’s how they taste best most of the time. You can also slow-braise or even roast them to tame a bit of their bitterness and bring out some of their sweetness.

What Are the Health Benefits of Chicories? 

Chicories are rich in a soluble fiber called inulin, which serves as a prebiotic to our gut bacteria. It also contains manganese and vitamin B6 that help lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of heart disease. Chicories have also been shown to promote good digestion, regulate appetite, and decrease the risk of gastrointestinal diseases, according to the National Library of Medicine.

How to Select and Store Chicories

Select crisp, unwilted greens that do not have any browning or discoloration, and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to 1 week. Each variety has its best way of preparation, but generally speaking, wash your chicories under cool running water and pat them dry before using. You can soak the leaves in ice water for 30 minutes to get rid of some of that bitterness. Store any leftover leaves rolled up in paper towels, and seal in a plastic bag for up to 1 week.