If you're confused about the difference between broccoli rabe and broccolini, you're not alone. We'll clear things up.

Rachel Roszmann
July 23, 2020
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If you get broccolini and broccoli rabe mixed up, you are not alone. While they look similar, they are not the same vegetable. But people get the two mixed up all the time—for good reason. While broccolini sounds Italian, it's actually rooted in Chinese cuisine. And while broccoli rabe is common on Italian dinner tables, it's often confused with Chinese broccoli—which is more closely related to broccolini. Is your head spinning yet? Don't worry, we'll set you straight on broccoli rabe versus broccolini.

Broccoli Rabe

Considered a cruciferous vegetable like Brussels sprouts, kale and (of course) broccoli, broccoli rabe is a dark green vegetable in the turnip family. It's sometimes spelled raab and also goes by a few different names: rapini, rapa, rappi, rappone and turnip broccoli. Despite the name (or names), it tastes nothing like broccoli. Broccoli rabe's uses and flavors are closer to turnip and mustard greens.

As far as appearance goes, broccoli rabe is leafy with thin stems and smaller florets that aren't as big and plentiful as those of broccoli. In the grocery store, broccoli rabe stalks are bundled together much like you find fresh herbs.

All parts of broccoli rabe—stems, florets and leaves—are edible. It is known for its bitter taste and it can be quite strong, which can take some getting used to, especially if you were expecting something similar to broccoli. It's celebrated in Italian cuisine, but people everywhere can have (or grow) an appreciation for it.

Cooking with Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe is very versatile. It can be roasted, sautéed, broiled, boiled and grilled. It can be enjoyed as a salad, in risotto or on top of pizza. To tenderize broccoli rabe and cut back on its bitter edge, you can blanch it (cook it briefly in boiling water, then transfer it to an ice bath) before you cook it further. Because of its bitterness, broccoli rabe stands up well to strong flavors like soy sauce, anchovies, garlic and hard cheeses.

Broccolini

Just like broccoli rabe and broccoli, broccolini is also a cruciferous vegetable. Sometimes referred to as "baby broccoli," it's actually a hybrid vegetable. Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli (also called gai lan or Chinese kale). It looks a lot like Chinese broccoli—the stalks are long and lean—but instead of big leaves, it has florets more like common broccoli. The flavor and texture are somewhere between the two vegetables; broccolini is sweet and mild with a tender-crisp texture if it's not overcooked.

Cooking with Broccolini

Not surprisingly, broccolini works well in stir-fries but it's also great sautéed, grilled and roasted. You can use it to make a pesto and throw it into a bowl of spaghetti or in your spaghetti squash for a spaghetti squash lasagna.

If you plan to sauté your broccolini, blanching it first will help tenderize it. That makes it a bit quicker to cook.

Broccoli Rabe vs. Broccolini Nutrition Facts

Both being cruciferous vegetables, both broccoli rabe and broccolini have plenty of nutrients to support overall good health, including vitamins C, E and K. Cruciferous vegetables contain carotenoids and glucosinolates, which may help protect our bodies from different types of cancers. Either one you pick, you're winning with loads of nutrients.