The Difference Between Broccoli, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe, and Chinese Broccoli
What sets these winter veggies apart is the plant family from which they come. While broccoli, Broccolini, and Chinese broccoli are closely related to cabbage, the closest kin to broccoli rabe is the turnip. Taking a closer look at the size of their stalks, along with their leaves and florets, shows the differences.
Broccoli, a member of the cabbage family has thick, crisp stalks topped by rounded green florets. It is mildly bitter has a grassy, earthy flavor. Most people only eat florets, but the whole plant is edible. I peel the stalk and slice in to 1/2 inch slices and cook all together. Being an artist I like the look it gives, adding variety to the little trees.
You can steam, sauté, roast, stir-fry, or even purée into a sauce. It is just too simple, so try them all and decide how you prefer to eat it. It makes a good side dish when cooked, but it can easily be incorporated raw in salads and crudités.
While it might look like it, Broccolini is not baby broccoli. This lanky vegetable is a hybrid; first created in 1993, it’s a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It has small florets, long stalks, and a few small leaves which are edible.
Compared to the bitter flavor of regular broccoli, Broccolini is more mild, with a sweet, earthy taste. It can be eaten raw, but Broccolini is best when cooked. Sauté, steam, roast, or grill it. I always thought they were related and did not know why I liked Broccoli so much better than Broccolini.
Broccoli rabe isn’t really related to broccoli. It’s closely related to the turnip. Approach it is just as you would with bitter leafy greens, like mustard greens or turnip greens.
This long, slender vegetable, often referred to as broccoli raab and is similar to rapini, has thin stalks with deep-green leaves and small buds that resemble broccoli florets. Broccoli rabe is sold fresh in grocery stores and farmers markets at its peak in the cold of winter.
The flavor mellows to some extent as it cooks, but broccoli rabe still has a bitter taste that’s a bit earthy and nutty as well as the others. It’s particularly popular in Italian cuisine, and when sautéed or blanched to soften the stalks and leaves it is at its best.
Chinese broccoli, known as kai-lan, gai-lan, and Chinese kale is a leafy green vegetable closely related to thick-stemmed broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts with leaves, thick stems, and tiny florets.
Widely eaten in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisine, Chinese broccoli has a slightly bitter and earthy taste, and tastes best after a quick steam or sauté, or in a stir-fry. It might prove tough to find Chinese broccoli in large grocery stores. Asian markets are more likely to carry it. Our wonderful Central Market in Poulsbo has all four kinds. But of course they have the best produce always!
Yes, but there are a few caveats.
Because they vary in size and shape, certain swaps work better than others. If you’re focused on florets, broccoli and Broccolini can easily be used interchangeably. If you’re cooking with the broccoli stalk, Chinese broccoli also has a thick stem and makes a good substitute. And if the leafy greens are what you’re after, broccoli rabe and Chinese broccoli can be used for one another. Do keep in mind that you may have to adjust the cook time to account for the swap. Happy Cooking!
Here is the recipe from Cooking Light Magazine that captured my attention and I am going to try tomorrow.