Chicory: Why add it to your plate

15 Mar 2024

The crisp tangy leaves of chicory come in a diversity of shapes and colours – from vibrant radicchio to pale Belgian chicory. We love pairing their strong flavour with contrasting ingredients like milder salad leaves, fruits or a bit of salty cheese. They also add many beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients to your plate.

Plant Tales

Not only for coffee! Roasted and ground chicory root has long been used as a coffee substitute, especially during times when coffee was scarce or expensive. But this blue-flowered plant from the daisy family also produces beautiful salad greens – from white to dark green and deep red. They’re typically a cool-weather crop, providing fresh salad leaves from autumn to early spring

Endive vs chicory? The different names can get confusing – it’s said there is a different name in every European country! They’re both from the daisy botanical family but they’re slightly different from a botanical point of view. Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a perennial blue-flowered plant that includes red chicory or radicchio, green ‘Sugar Loaf’ chicory and white-yellow Belgian chicory – also called Belgian endive. Endive (Cichorium endivia) is an annual leafy plant that includes escarole and frisée or curly endive. When it comes to cooking, they’re often grouped all together as delicious bitter greens, so get your hand on any type you can find!

Grown in complete darkness. Belgian chicory is a forced crop, which accounts for its blanched pale yellow-tipped leaves. The roots are grown in the field during the summer and taken up to be replanted in complete darkness during the winter – just like forced rhubarb. A real labour of love!

Medicinal uses: Bitter herbs like chicory are valued in herbal medicine, particularly for rheumatic complaints, poor liver function and digestive issues like constipation. Historically, it was grown by the ancient Egyptians as a medicinal plant and has a long history of therapeutic use. Learn more from the experts at Herbal Reality.


Health Benefits

Chicory leaves are one of your leafy greens: A large number of studies find that eating more leafy greens may improve several health outcomes, including:

  • Reduced all-cause mortality

  • Lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers

  • Slower age-related cognitive decline, according to a small prospective study.

To your plate, they add:

  • Dietary fibres – which support overall health, digestive health and a healthy gut microbiome.

  • Polyphenols, especially gallic acid and flavonoids like quercetin. At least 59 flavonoids have been identified from different parts of the plant!

  • Vitamins A, C and B9 (folate)

  • Potassium, calcium and phosphorus

Chicory root and gut health: Most research we found looked at dried chicory root or isolated chicory fibre. One small trial found that dried chicory root improved bowel function, gut microbiota composition and glucose levels.

Mix up your greens! Chicory is another leafy vegetable to add to your meals – mix it up with all the leafy greens you can find like spinach, kale, collards and mustard greens.

Tasty Tips

Around the world

  • In northern Europe, chicory is traditionally wrapped in ham, smothered in a creamy béchamel sauce, sprinkled with cheese and baked until golden and bubbly, like Dutch Witlof met Ham en Kaas.
  • In France and Belgium, you can find it in an Endive Salad with Roquefort, combined with blue cheese, toasted walnuts and a vinaigrette.
  • In Italy, it’s mixed with beans, garlic and olive oil in Cicoria e fagioli.

5 ways to enjoy

  1. Raw in a salad to add a bitter note. Mix them with milder greens like spinach or lettuce and complementary ingredients like nuts, cheese, fruits and a sweet dressing.
  2. Sautéed or grilled with olive oil, garlic, and a salty ingredient like capers or anchovies.
  3. Added to soups, stews, risotto or pasta to give an extra pinch!
  4. As a snack with a dip: The sturdy, bitter leaves of Belgian endive make them great as a veggie stick with hummus or a blue cheese dip.
  5. In your favourite sandwich or wrap.

Our go-to salads with chicory


Composition & biological activities: Aisa et al. Chin Herb Med. 2020 | Bayazid et al. Food and Agricultural Immunology. 2020

Human studies: Puhlmann et al. Gut Microbiome. 2022 | Li N et al. Food chemistry. 2021 | Morris et al. Neurology. 2018



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