Broccolini vs. Broccoli vs. Broccoli Rabe: What's the Difference?
Meet broccoli's closest relatives. When it comes to vegetables, the U.S. can proudly dub itself Broccoli Nation. Each year, each of us eats almost six pounds of fresh and three pounds of frozen broccoli. We have Italy to thank — broccoli has been grown and enjoyed there since the days of the Roman Empire, and when immigrants from Italy hit U.S. shores, their favorite vegetable became one of ours as well.
Of course, we also devour some of broccoli's closest relatives. Here's everything you need to know about broccoli, broccolini, and broccoli rabe:
What Is Broccoli?
Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family. The vegetable consists of a dark green head (made up of small "flowers," or florets), a light green stalk, and large green leaves. Its tree-like structure resembles cauliflower. A rich source of vitamins C and K, broccoli has an earthy flavor that's ever-so-slightly bitter. It's commonly eaten raw or cooked.
Broccoli Recipes to Try
"I couldn't believe how unbelievably fantastic this recipe turned out to be," raves reviewer Nikki Filippone. "My mom and I devoured this in less than 10 minutes. It just had the perfect flavor, the perfect amount of sweet, plus the perfect amount of tang."
"This is a favorite at my house," says reviewer beefymac. "I made it one time for a family get-together and then received a special request to make it again at Thanksgiving."
What Is Broccolini?
With its small florets and long, slender stems, broccolini (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) can be easily confused with broccoli rabe. But its flavor is sweeter, more refined and delicate. And its stem looks (even tastes) more like asparagus. In fact, Broccolini's original name, Aspabroc (yikes!), was a combination of the vegetables it resembled. Often called baby broccoli, broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli (kai lan) that was developed and trademarked in 1993 by Japan's Sakata Seed Corporation. And you may have heard of Tenderstem broccoli — that is just a trademarked name for broccolini. Given its similar flavor profile, you can use broccolini in any dish that calls for traditional broccoli.
Broccolini Recipes to Try
"Broccolini is more tender than broccoli and has a milder flavor," explains JUMAHA. "I love the mix of textures; the crunchy stems and the softer florets that soak up sauce are a great combination. This quick broccolini dish is delicious, good for you, and full of garlicky, lemony flavor."
This impressive steak dinner grills up in no time. Spread seasoned broccolini and potato slices on a hot grill alongside the flat-iron steak, and serve with a zesty blue cheese sauce. Watch the video to see how it's done:
This flavorful pasta is a little spicy, a little sweet. "Delicious!" raves Michelle Hudak-Nardini. "Has a great flavor, really can taste the lemon had great pan juices that I poured over pasta."
What Is Broccoli Rabe?
While broccoli and broccolini are quite similar in flavor, one bite of broccoli rabe and you'll see that it is very different. Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is a cruciferous vegetable with a bitter flavor similar to mustard greens. A gift from the Italians, where it is called cime di rapa (which means "turnip tops"), it's also related to the turnip.
Broccoli rabe's florets are much smaller than those of its broccoli cousin, its stems are more slender, and its leaves more plentiful. Unlike with broccoli, however, all parts of broccoli rabe (Brassica rapa ruvo) are eaten — its stalks don't require peeling because they're not as thick and tough as broccoli's. Another big difference between broccoli and broccoli rabe is the flavor — rapini has a bitter edge that some say mellows when cooked past crisp-tender. Because of its bitterness, broccoli rabe shouldn't be used as a substitute for broccoli in recipes. Often sautéed in olive oil, it pairs especially well with other bold flavors like lemon and chile flakes.
Broccoli Rabe Recipes to Try
"This is the way broccoli rabe was meant to be cooked," says iMakeItRainInTheKitchen. "Goes great with a nice steak or fish. Serve with crusty Italian bread and some good vino. The best part is dipping the crusty bread in those juices."
"Rave reviews from my family," says Sandra Abbott Moore. "Take care NOT to overcook. We're trying it again tonight as a topping on my homemade pizza
"Here's an Italian classic that needs no adaptation to make it paleo," says Mangia Paleo. Lemon zest brightens it and adds a subtle, yet significant flavor."
Check out our collection of Broccoli Rabe Recipes
A portion of this article first appeared as "Broccoli vs Broccoli Rabe vs Broccolini" in Allrecipes magazine.