Taming the Bitter

Roasting makes endive downright sweet.

I love radicchio and Belgian endive for their color and crunch.

But I know quite a few folks who are turned off by their bitterness.

In a world of candy, sodas and high-fructose corn syrup lurking in most everything processed, the flavor of bitter does become a difficult pill to swallow for some palates.

But here’s a way to have your sweet and eat your endive, too.

The secret is high-heat roasting, which caramelizes this variety of chicory until it’s tender and mellows the bitterness until it’s barely there, leaving a natural sweetness behind.

The recipe is from the new “All About Roasting” (W.W. Norton & Company) by one of my favorite cookbook authors, Molly Stevens. Her “All About Braising” book (W.W. Norton & Company) is one I reach for all the time in fall and winter.

Her newest cookbook, of which I received a review copy, includes more than 150 recipes showcasing high-, low- and moderate-heat roasting techniques on everything from veggies, fruit, shellfish and meat.

After getting a surprise package of endive from the folks at California Vegetable Specialties, the only producer of endive in the country, I decided to give the high-heat method a try.

The recipe couldn’t be easier. Just trim and cut the endive, toss with olive oil, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, then roast at 400 degrees until tender. Drizzle a little sherry vinegar all over, then serve either hot or at room temperature. It makes for a great side dish or buffet offering.

The only drawback is the pretty yellow and burgundy colors of the tips of the raw endive all but disappear once they are cooked, leaving a rather pallid appearance instead.

But just as with anything in life, looks aren’t everything, are they?

Roasted Endive with Sherry Vinegar

(Serves 4 to 6)

6 to 8 heads Belgian endive (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 to 3 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400 degrees (375 degrees convection). If desired, line a large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Inspect endive for any bruised or discolored spots. Remove any outer leaves that look less than pristine. Trim the thinnest sliver off the base of any that appear browned or dried out. (Endive is grown in a controlled environment and not in dirt and therefore doesn’t need careful washing. However, if the heads seem at all dirty, give them a quick rinse.) Cut each head in half lengthwise from core to tip.

Place endive in a large bowl. Drizzle on the olive oil and season with sugar, salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 teaspoon salt and several generous grindings of black pepper). Toss gently to coat and arrange the endive cut side up on the baking sheet. It’s fine if the pieces are touching, but they should not be squeezed together. If any leaves have fallen off, tuck these under the heads.

Transfer baking sheet to the oven and roast, turning the heads with tongs after 15 minutes so they are cut side down. If the endive near the edges of the pan is browning more than the endive near the center, you may want to remove the pan from the oven and take a moment to rearrange the pieces. Continue roasting until tender and lightly caramelized, about 25 to 30 minutes total.

Transfer endive to a serving platter or individual plates, and immediately sprinkle with sherry vinegar to taste. Roasted endive may be served hot from the oven or at room temperature.

From “All About Roasting” by Molly Stevens

More: Learn Whether It’s En-Dive or On-Deev

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  • Endives are so versatile and delicious! This is a refined dish. Perfect!



  • Roasting is my favorite way to prepare vegetables, and I roast some a couple times a week. I like endive a lot but have never roasted it. It’s going on my list of veggies to roast!

  • I really love radicchio and Belgian endive, I even find the bitterness intriguing. This recipe sounds wonderful – a new way for me to eat my favorites – and the book sounds great!

  • I love endive and raddichio in the first place but you’re right – it’s even better when roasted. 🙂

  • Bitter is the one taste sensation that I can’t handle. Love the smell of endives and frisee, but when I get it in my mouth it is like “nope, not good!”. I don’t citrus bitterness like lemon or grapefruit, but I can’ stand endive and things like that.

  • I once had roasted endives and love it…so thank you for this simple and yet flavorful recipe.
    Hope you are having a fantastic week Carolyn 🙂

  • Initially I thought the photo was some kind of fish. Hehe. I bet you could actually roast sardines with the endives and that’ll make a nice meal.

  • I’m actually a fan of roasted endive. I love how the flavor changes so dramatically. The hit of sherry vinegar before serving sounds great too.

  • Yum, I love roasted endives. It makes a nice side dish to steak. My dad used to make a gratin of endive when I was a kid. Delicious too.

  • This looks like a very interesting recipe! I have only known about bittergourd, but now I am learning about endives too:)
    No one in the world loves anything bitter; and like you said, especially with sweet juices, cokes and tid bits ruling the world these days, even sour is the new bitter to them!:p

  • I always make an endive salad with fresh endives and have tried roasted or caramelized endives in restaurants, loved it, have yet to do it at home!

  • Well said! Bitterness isn’t usually a favourite amongst most people. Roasting would be a great way to tone it down! Don’t know how I would live without my oven!

  • Over the years I have become all about the bitter. Can’t wait to try this. And jealous of your getting to review her new book. How fun!

  • Oh I am so glad to know this! Thanks so much because I don’t like bitter!

  • Carolyn – Thank you for the shout-out. I received a similar shipment from California Specialty Vegetables and have been enjoying the gorgeous red and yellow endive both roasted and braised, of course. So good.

  • I am still fixated on the picture of the meat on the front cover. It certainly looks like something to obsess over.

  • the simple act of roasting improves a lot of things, in my opinion–garlic, LOTS of veggies (most, in fact), and marshmallows, to name a few. i guess i’ll add endive to that list. 🙂

  • I love roasted veggies and these sound delicious, but then the bitterness doesn’t really bother me.

  • I just got Molly Steven’s book about roasting – it’s terrific, as is her braising book. Endives are great – thanks for this.

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  • OMGdns, so glad I found this post! We’ve got a garden full of red chicory, it’s the only fresh thing left at this time of year, and I really struggle eating it, even though I know it’s good for us – I hate the bitterness and this tip has made such a difference to the flavour, thank you xx

  • Hi Kate: You are so welcome! I’m glad you stumbled upon the post. I hope it does the trick to help tame that winter bitterness. Enjoy!

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