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Difference Between Broccolini and Broccoli Rabe

Broccolini and Broccoli Rabe look similar and could easily be mistaken for being the same vegetable group and called broccoli.  However, they actually belong to two different vegetable groups and are classified differently.  Broccolini is part of the cabbage family while broccoli rabe is a member of the turnip group of vegetables.  These vegetables are easily mistaken for one another because they have similar leaves, florets and thick stalks.  They are both completely edible, although Broccoli rabe is a bitter vegetable and should be treated more like a turnip.  Broccolini is a milder tasting vegetable and treated like broccoli in preparation and cooking.  Broccolini is often seen as the kiddies version of broccoli and easier to manage as a new taste experience than its broccoli counterpart.  It is easy to assume these vegetables are the same, but in cooking and tasting, there are some subtle differences. 

What is Broccolini?

Broccolini is a hybrid vegetable, a cousin of normal broccoli and Chinese kale.  Broccolini is also known as asparation, aspabroc and tender stem broccoli.  The stalks do not need peeling and the slender vegetable cooks more quickly than broccoli.  It was developed in California by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan.  The plant has small broccoli florets, long tender stalks and green leaves.  Broccolini is a versatile vegetable and can be steamed, fried, roasted and eaten raw.  Broccolini looks like ‘baby broccoli’ and it has a milder sweeter taste than the other broccoli vegetables.  

What are the Culinary Benefits of  Broccolini?

  • Broccolini is versatile and can be steamed, fried, roasted, grilled  or eaten raw.
  • Broccolini is easy to prepare and the whole plant can be eaten.  The stalks, leaves and florets all provide nutritious food.
  • This vegetable is cost effective because the whole plant above the ground is used.
  • It can be used in other dishes especially  the Italian and French style of cuisine.


What is Broccoli Rabe?

Broccoli Rabe is also a vegetable but, because it is part of the turnip family, it has a slightly different flavor.  It is more bitter and best served with pasta or polenta.  The stalks are bright green and so are the leaves before fading to a yellow color.  Broccoli Rabe is best eaten before the leaves turn yellow. The green vegetable keeps in the fridge for several days if wrapped in plastic.  Broccoli Rabe is also known as rapini, raab, turnip rapa and is a cultivar of the ruvo group of vegetables.  Broccolini rabe is a popular Italian vegetable and it tastes good in lasagne and other pasta dishes.  It is spicy, slightly peppery and the leaves have a mustard like flavor.  The Italian name for broccoli rabe is cime di rape which translates into turnip top. Cooking them gives them a more nutty palatable taste.  Broccoli Rabe has a peak season as a summer vegetable and the green stalks are a good substitute for asparagus.

What are the Culinary Benefits of Broccoli Rabe?

  • Broccoli Rabe has the same culinary benefits as broccolini however, because it has a more bitter taste is is not as popular.
  • Broccoli Rabe is used in Italian dishes but especially in lasagne where it’s earthy taste complements the pasta and tomato combination
  • This vegetable offers leaf, stalk and florets for ingredients so there is no waste.


Broccolini Vs. Broccoli Rabe 

  1. Enhancing Recipes: 

Both of these vegetables have the ability to add flavor to recipes and because the whole vegetable can be used they are very cost effective.  They lend themselves to Italian and French cuisine and broccolini has been used as a substitute for asparagus.  It has a distinctive flavor so does not require lots of seasoning and at the same time can fit into several styles of cuisine.  Broccoli Rabe can be boiled in salted water to take some of the bitterness out of the overall flavor.  Broccolini translates well into simple dishes using some garlic, lemon and  olive oil to saute and produce a delicious flavor.  Both these vegetables can substitute for broccoli and combine well with spinach another leafy green.

  1. Nutritional Value:

broccolini and broccoli rabe are very nutritious.  They have plenty of vitamins including vitamin C and A and vitamin K.  These vegetables are said to be full of phyto nutrients and have proven to have disease prevention properties.  They are low calorie vegetables and it is estimated that there are 22 calories per 100g of their leaves.  The natural foliates and vitamin K   give added bone strength to the consumer of this vegetable.  Broccoli Rabe is reported to play a part in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and helps to limit neuro-damage.  Fresh broccoli rabe has more folic acid than any turnip greens and it is an excellent source of the vitamins C and A that are known protectors of cardio vascular disease , colon and prostate cancer.  These vegetables are fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free.  The anti – oxidants and phyto chemicals fight lung, breast, bladder, prostate and stomach cancers.  Added to all this the dietary  fiber in these vegetables protects against obesity, heart disease, hypertension, high blood cholesterol and ulcers.  Broccolini and broccoli rabe really show their true colors through the enormous range of diseases and ailments they can fight against. 

  1. Preparation:

Preparation largely depends on the part of the vegetable you plan to use.  These vegetables can be steamed, fried, sauteed, roasted or eaten raw.  They are very versatile and adapt to different recipes. The stalks of the Broccolini don’t need peeling and cook quickly with a sweeter taste than broccoli.  Preparation is fairly easy as the vegetable is soft and only needs chopping if you so desire or they can just  be left whole to be steamed or used raw.  

Broccolini versus Broccoli Rabe: Comparison Table


Summary of Broccolini and Broccoli Rabe 

  • Although broccolini and broccoli rabe look similar and sound as if they should be the same as they both start with broccoli, they are different because they belong to different vegetable groups.  Broccolini is part of the cabbage family and broccoli rabe is part of the turnip family.
  • There are differences too in their taste as broccolini is sweeter to taste and broccoli rabe more bitter with a stronger flavor.
  • Both these vegetables are versatile and used in different culinary circles.  They are especially suited to Italian cookery.
  • They can be prepared in several different ways and even stand alone as a salad vegetable.
  • Broccolini and broccoli rabe are rich in vitamins and minerals and a good source of all kinds of phyto nutrients that fight disease and are reputed to prevent certain cancers.
  • They are easy to prepare and this makes them an asset to any kitchen.  
  • Both vegetables can be used in their entirety and this makes them a cost effective vegetable for any home kitchen or restaurant.
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References :

[0]Monoco Emily. Discovering broccolini. March 6th 2014. www.organicauthority.compub.Tempest reviewed 9/11/2018

[1]Foster Kelli Difference between broccolini, broccoli rabe and chinese broccoli. Jan 7th 2016. www.andyboy.com/news/difference-between-broccoli-rabe-and- Chinese– broccoli-.Pub Kitchn 1994 – 2018 apartmenttherapy. Reviewed 9/11/2018

[2]Broderick Laura. The difference between your greens. Jan 12th July 2017. www.spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/everything you need-to-know-about-broccoli-rabe-and-chinese-broccoli/pub Spoon Media Inc. reviewed 9/11/2018

[3]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/53/Broccoli_DSC00862.png/554px-Broccoli_DSC00862.png

[4]Image credit: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:USDA_Broccolini.jpg

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