Swiss chard is famous for its vibrant color and mild flavor, making it a versatile ingredient. But if you don't have it handy, don't worry. Here are the 16 best substitutes for Swiss chard in every recipe!
What Is Swiss Chard?
Swiss chard, is also known as spinach beet, silverbeet, perpetual spinach, seakale beet and leaf beet. Swiss chard is part of the Amaranthaceae family which also includes beets, lamb's quarters, spinach, amaranth and quinoa.
Chard is enjoyed for its dark green leaves, earthy flavor, and mildly bitter undertones. With its white stalks bringing a crispy texture to the soft and tender leaves, Swiss chard adds dietary fibre and add nutritional value to any dish that becomes part of it. The red, yellow, pink rainbow chard varieties add beautiful bright color too.
Used around the world, Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse. Used in many types of dishes from a simple stir fry with olive oil and garlic to the leafy green base of a raw salad. Chard can be the star of main courses too. Curry, quiche, soup, and lasagna are just some of the ways it becomes a hearty main dish.
16 Best Swiss Chard Substitutes
If Swiss chard is not available, there are plenty of substitutes to choose from. Here are the 16 best Swiss chard substitutes to use in every recipe based on the most similar taste, texture and appearance of Swiss chard.
- Beet Greens: Beet greens are the closest substitute because they are closely related to Swiss chard. In fact, beet greens could be mistaken for red chard easily. Often discarded and overlooked, these are the best alternative with a strikingly similar taste and texture to Swiss chard. You can use these greens equally in any recipe calling for chard.
- Mature Spinach + Baby Spinach: In the absence of beet leaves, mature spinach is your next best option. With similar textures and subtly sweet flavors, it's perfect for replacing chard in many recipes, such as pasta, soups, and stir-fries. Spinach is a great substitute for raw or cooked dishes. With its milder, earthy taste and equally tender leaves, baby spinach is a good choice. Like Swiss chard, baby spinach is versatile-perfect for either raw or cooked recipes. Baby spinach is also packed with essential nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K.
- Mustard Greens: If you don't mind a slightly stronger flavor, mustard greens are great options. Their bold, mildly spicy flavor can add a lovely depth to hearty dishes like stews and braises. These are best in cooked recipes instead of raw, as the cooking tempers the spicier flavor. These dark leafy greens come from the same Brassica family as Swiss chard.
- Amaranth Leaves: In the same family as chard, amaranth leaves can be used interchangeably with chard. Amaranth makes a fantastic sub with a similar look and almost identical flavor, but it can be harder to find. Use it sautéed, stewed, or raw.
- Kale: There are many types of kale and all of them work as great Swiss chard substitutes in cooked dishes. Tuscan Kale (aka Cavolo Nero, black kale or Dinosaur Kale), redbor, red Russian, lacinato and curly kale and just some of the varieties. These large varieties can be an excellent substitute for Swiss Chard for any cooked chard recipes. It holds up well in cooking, retaining its crisp texture, even with a longer cooking time. The slightly bitter taste is akin to Swiss chard's, making it a good match. For recipes using raw Swiss chard leaves, use baby kale instead of large mature kale that can be tough and fibrous.
- Bok Choy: This Chinese cabbage is a staple in Asian cuisine. It's white stalks and dark green leaves are reminiscent of Swiss chard leaves, and its mild taste and crunchy stems makes it a great substitute in stir-fries and Asian recipes. Baby bok choy has particularly tender green leaves that aren't too stringy. Bok choy tends to be a better replacement in cooked dishes, rather than raw recipes.
- Collard Greens: With even larger greens than chard, collard greens are much heartier and more sturdy making them a great choice for recipes that use the greens as wraps or stews that are cooked for a long time. Like mature Swiss Chard stems, their slightly bitter taste and tough texture stand up to longer cooking times. Collard greens are not great in raw dishes.
- Arugula - With mild to medium peppery flavor, this great green can be used raw or cooked. Great in Italian recipes like pasta, soup or stew, it works great as a salad green too.
- Cabbage: Cabbage, a member of the cruciferous family, can be a suitable replacement for Swiss chard in certain recipes. While the flavor and texture are a not quite the same, it works well in slaws and wraps with it's crunchy texture. The strong leaves are great for recipes that use the leaves as a wrap. Red cabbage can add color while Napa cabbage has a softer texture and milder flavor than red and green cabbage.
- Dandelion Greens - A member of the chicory family, dandelion leaves have a more peppery taste and smaller leaves. Dandelion works well in salads, pasta dishes and stir fries. Cooking it helps tame the peppery flavor.
- Watercress - The pepperiest flavored green of all, this small green leafed vegetable still makes a great stand in for Swiss chard with a very similar texture. This one works great for salad and in soup.
- Lambs Quarters - Also known as wild spinach, this wild green veggie is in the same family (Amaranthaceae) as Swiss chard. Lambs quarters have smaller leaves than chard but a similar, if milder flavor closer to spinach. This is a great wild green to harvest in spring and summer and is tasty both cooked or uncooked.
- Sorrel - A seasonal favorite in my garden, sorrel is not as common but makes a great choice in place of chard. Delicious served raw, it has a mild lemon flavor but once cooked, it is very similar to chard. Once cooked, it can get a bit mushy so it is best in pureed soups or added near the end of cooking in braises and stew.
- Romaine Lettuce - Romaine lettuce is the mildest flavor of all and is great if you need a salad green. Romaine lettuce offers the mid-crunch level of chard with a mild flavor that won't overwhelm the other ingredients in your recipe. This is better for uncooked chard recipes and not recommended for cooked recipes.
- Kohlrabi Greens - Another closely related vegetable, the leaves above the bulb make a good substitute for chard. A little tougher, these leaves are best used in cooked preparations and need a little longer to cook than chard.
- Turnip and Radish Greens - These smaller greens are wonderful to cook with or use raw. With a more peppery flavor, these will add lots of flavor and nutrition to your recipe. A great way to use a less common green veggie that is often discarded.
Tips For Successful Substitution
Choose the best Swiss chard substitute based on your recipe's needs and cooking method. Swiss chard's stems are much firmer than the leaves, so find an alternative that can match the taste and texture, especially if the recipe calls for Swiss chard's crispy texture.
If you're using more tender greens like baby spinach, add them towards the end of your cooking process to prevent them from becoming overcooked or wilting too much.
Hearty greens like kale and collard greens need a bit longer to cook, so adjust your cooking times accordingly to ensure a great result.
Health Benefits of Swiss Chard
This leafy vegetable is packed with essential vitamins that play a significant role in maintaining your well-being. Chard is a nutrient-dense food, often grouped with kale and spinach, it's among the healthiest dark leafy greens.
Swiss chard is high in vitamin C, ideal for boosting your immune system. It's also high in other minerals and vitamins, particularly magnesium, which is beneficial for nerve function and blood pressure regulation.
Adding a dash of lemon juice or vinegar while cooking Swiss chard can help cut down its slightly bitter taste and amplify its flavor.
While mature spinach and Swiss chard flavors aren't identical, they share similarities that make spinach a great substitute. Spinach tends to be a little sweeter and has a tannic mouth feel.
Along with beet greens, spinach, particularly baby spinach, is great in raw salads. These 2 greens are the perfect choice if the recipe has a hot vinaigrette or salad dressing. If you don't mind a lighter flavor, romaine lettuce is a good option too.
Kale, spinach, beet leaves and collard greens have comparable nutritional values. These are all healthy alternatives, offering vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Swiss chard is a delicious and nutritious green vegetable adding earthy flavor, vibrant colors, and lots of nutritional value to recipes. All the ideas for substitutions can be used when needed or as a way to change up your favorite chard recipe and you might discover a new favorite green among these best Swiss chard substitutes.
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Cheers and happy cooking, Friends! Sabrina