Difference Between Broccoli, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe, and Chinese Broccoli?

I was reading a new recipe that called for Broccoli Rabe and I wasn’t sure if I had ever used it in a recipe, so went online (of course) to see what I could find out about it.  It was interesting to me the differences and similarities between them.

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 rabeBroccoli Rabe

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

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!

Used Interchangeably?

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.

Roasted Pork Loin Stuffed with Prosciutto and Broccoli Rabe

Prep Time
30 Mins
Total Time
1 Hour 50 Mins
Serves 8 (serving size: about 3 oz. pork and 2 Tbsp. jus)

How to Make It

Step 1

Cook rabe in boiling water 3 minutes; plunge into an ice bath for 1 minute. Drain well. Wrap rabe in paper towels; squeeze dry. Chop rabe into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place in bowl with 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; stir well.

Step 2

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Step 3

Cut into pork loin lengthwise from right to left, 3/4 inch from bottom, keeping knife parallel with cutting board; do not cut through the other side. Continue slicing lengthwise from right to left, unrolling loin as you slice, to form a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Season with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt.

Step 4

Arrange prosciutto in layers to cover inside of loin. Spread rabe mixture on top, leaving a 1-inch border. Roll pork up left to right. Tie with twine in surgeon’s knots at 2-inch intervals.

Step 5

Combine stock, wine, and Marmite in a roasting pan. Place pan over medium heat; cook until Marmite dissolves, stirring. Set a roasting rack in pan.

Step 6

Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Place loin in pan; cook 12 minutes or until browned. Place loin on rack; cover loosely with foil. Roast at 325°F for 50 minutes or until meat registers 150°F. Remove pork from pan; let pork stand 20 minutes. Swirl butter into pan juices until butter melts. Cut pork into 3/4-inch slices; serve with jus.

 Served with this Water Chestnut and Pea Salad
Pork loin

  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup prepared ranch salad dressing
  • 5 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  • 1. Cook carrots in a small amount of water until crisp-tender; drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a serving bowl; add the peas, water chestnuts, onions and cheese. In a small bowl, combine the salad dressing, bacon and pepper; mix well. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Chill until serving. Yield: 6 servings.


 Difference Between Broccoli, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe, and Chinese Broccoli?