When you think of leafy greens, kale and spinach likely come to mind, but that’s only scratching the surface. There are dozens of other good-for-you greens that can add a hearty touch to all sorts of dishes — and some are as close as your own backyard. One of our favorites? Dandelion greens! The leaves of the dandelion plant resemble arugula but pack a tangy punch that can be enjoyed in cooked or raw dishes. Plus, dandelion greens are bursting with nutrients that can help improve liver health and digestion. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of dandelion greens along with seven delicious ways to enjoy them — from hearty pesto to nourishing smoothies!
What exactly are dandelion greens?
Dandelion greens are the leaves of the common dandelion plant (Taraxacum officinale). While many consider dandelions to be nuisance weeds, the greens have been highly sought after for centuries both for their taste and the the health benefits they offer. While dandelion greens in particular are in-season around early spring through late fall, it’s not uncommon to find them sold at farmer’s markets or in the produce aisle year-round. If you have an area of your yard where they grow wild and don’t use pesticides, you can even harvest your own for free! (Click through to learn more about backyard foraging for health.)
The flavor of dandelion greens
Leafy greens range in bitterness, from mild to very intense, with dandelion greens falling somewhere in the middle. “In terms of flavor, dandelion greens have subtle bitterness, almost similar to radicchio but milder,” says Laura Kasavan, professional baker and recipe developer behind Tutti Dolci. “They have an earthy, herbaceous quality as well.”
What dandelion greens can do for your health
Dandelion greens have been used in folk medicine for centuries to help detoxify the liver, shed water weight and improve kidney health — and recent research supports the consumption of them for these purposes. (Click through for more on bitter greens and weight loss.)
“Dandelion greens are a rich source of various nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K as well as calcium, iron and potassium,” explains Mary Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, nutritionist and ACE-certified trainer at BodyDesignsbyMary.com. Getting your daily dose of these nutrients helps ward off age-related bone loss, chronic diseases and vision loss. Sabat also notes that these greens contain natural compounds known as phytonutrients, which current research links with supporting liver health and digestion. Other research from 2019 suggests that compounds in dandelion greens are protective of kidney function.
For each cup of raw dandelion greens, you’ll only consume 25 calories and 5 grams of total carbohydrates — another reason Sabat praises them as “an excellent addition to a balanced and nutritious diet.”
5 ways to enjoy dandelion greens
Before consuming dandelion greens, be sure to prepare each type correctly for the most flavorful dish. “The younger, smaller leaves tend to be less bitter and are good for eating raw. Mature dandelion greens are better for cooking,” Kasavan says.
With this in mind, you’re ready to use dandelion greens in your favorite meals. Below, Sabat shares her five favorite ways to enjoy dandelion greens all year long.
- Salads: Young dandelion greens work well in salads, especially when combined with sweeter ingredients like fruits (e.g., apples and berries), nuts and a tangy vinaigrette. This allows you to enjoy the greens’ fresh taste and nutritional benefits without overpowering bitterness. Try this Puntarelle and Dandelion Salad with Honey and Olive Vinaigrette as it’s sweet and tart with the right amount of crunch.
- Sautées: Sautéed dandelion greens are a popular preparation that helps mellow the bitterness while retaining their natural flavor. This recipe for Sautéed Dandelion Greens is one you’ll surely love since it goes from stove to plate in less than 20 minutes.
- Stir-fries and soups: To jazz up your weeknight stir-fry or homemade soup, use dandelion greens in place of broccoli or kale. It’ll provide the dish with a pleasant peppery bite.
- Smoothies: Incorporating a handful of young dandelion greens into your morning smoothie masks their bitterness while allowing you to still reap the health benefits.
- Tea: All parts of the dandelion plant can be used to make a mildly bitter and herbal tea that’s both soothing and detoxifying. (Click through to learn more about the potential weight loss benefits of sipping dandelion root tea and how to steep it.)
2 dandelion recipes to try
For more ideas on cooking with dandelion greens, we turned to Mariana Leung, recipe developer and co-owner of Wicked Finch Farm. “I had been on a big dandelion kick earlier this season after discovering that every part of the dandelion was edible and easily foraged,” she says.
Below, Leung shares two dandelion recipes: one for Dandelion Green Pesto that uses the leaves and another for Honey Lemon Dandelion Cake that turns the vibrant yellow flowers into a delicious add-in and decorative topping. That means you can delight in dandelions for dinner and dessert!
1. Dandelion Green Pesto
- 2 cups young dandelion leaves, thoroughly washed and cleaned
- 3 to 6 garlic cloves
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- ¼ to ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- Active: 10 mins
- Total time: 15 minutes
- Yield: about 1 cup
- Pulse all ingredients except olive oil in food processor until dry paste forms. While machine is still running, pour olive oil in thin stream; allowing peso to form.
- Toss pesto with cooked pasta like tortellini (see photo above) or fettuccine. Enjoy!
2. Honey Lemon Dandelion Cake
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup honey (preferably raw honey)
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup ricotta cheese
- ½ cup buttermilk, whole milk or heavy cream
- 1 ½ cups of fresh dandelion flower petals (remove any green parts)
- For decoration: edible flowers (dandelions, violets, pansies, rose petals, etc.)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 ½ Tbs. lemon juice
- Active: 15 mins
- Total time: 2 hrs, 10 mins
- Yield: 1 loaf cake (approximately 8 servings)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and line 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
- Dry mixture: In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- Wet mixture: In separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar, honey and lemon zest with wooden spoon until light and fluffy. Add 1 egg at a time, until combined. Stir in lemon juice, vanilla, ricotta and buttermilk.
- Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix until just combined. Add dandelion flower petals last and gently hand mix or fold them in with flexible spatula.
- Pour the batter into loaf pan. Gently tap pan on a countertop to remove air bubbles.
- Bake 45 minutes, or until center is just set and a toothpick inserted into center of the cake comes out mostly clean. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes before flipping loaf onto wire rack to cool completely; about 1 hour.
- For glaze: Whisk lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar. Add additional lemon juice or confectioners’ sugar if needed to achieve desired consistency.
- Spoon glaze on top of cake and decorate with edible flowers. Slice and serve.
How to store dandelion greens
If you have more dandelion greens than you need for a recipe, wrap the extra leaves in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag. Then, store the greens in your fridge’s crisper drawer, where they’ll remain fresh for up to 5 days.
For more on leafy greens, read the stories below:
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.