3 Earthy Broccoli Rabe Substitutes

Broccoli rabe may have become popular only recently. But people’s love for it has an ancient history. The Romans prized broccoli rabe— so much was its popularity that even now, two millennia later, it is still a staple in Italy. But not all of us are Italian or can find it at our local grocery store. Therefore it is good to have a broccoli rabe substitute at home.

An Overview on Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe, also known by its Italian name rapini, is a leafy green that belongs to the vegetables’ cruciferous family. Its bud is just like that of normal broccoli. Although, it does not have the characteristic large heads of normal broccoli.

Broccoli rabe may be especially popular in Italian cuisine. However, it is much loved globally too. Broccoli rabe has a bitter flavor, due to which it works amazingly well with ingredients like garlic and sausage, i.e., ones with a strong flavor. Another thing that makes broccoli rabe so great is that it is completely edible. So you don’t have to toss anything away.

Broccoli Rabe Substitutes

Broccoli Rabe Nutrition:

Nutrition Per serving (1 cup chopped or 40 g)
Calories 8.8
Fat 0.2 g
Sugar 0.2 g
Carbs 1.1 g
Protein 1.3 g
Fiber 1.1 g
Other characteristics:
It has low sodium.
It has low fat.
It is cholesterol-free.

How should I cook broccoli rabe?

Broccoli rabe is easy to cook. Experts recommend blanching it before eating. However, there are numerous other cooking methods.

Is broccoli rabe healthy?

Broccoli rabe has a plethora of health benefits. It is extremely hydrating because of its high water content. Moreover, broccoli rabe also contains a lot of fiber, which is extremely beneficial for our digestive system. Last but not least, broccoli rabe is rich in antioxidants which are very good for our immune system.

Broccoli Rabe vs. Broccoli

Broccolini Broccoli Rabe
A green vegetable from the cabbage family. A green vegetable from the turnip family.
It has a sweet flavor and soft green stalks. It has a bitter flavor and a strong taste.
Extremely nutritious: contains vitamins, phytonutrients, and disease preventive properties. Contains dietary fibers that protect against hypertension, cardiovascular disorders, and obesity.
The end product is soft and sweet and perfect for children. The end product is bitter.

Broccoli Rabe Recipes

  • Broccoli rabe and sausage pasta
  • Broccoli rabe pasta with garlic
  • Orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage

Why substitute broccoli rabe?

Broccoli rabe is very healthy, so why do people use its alternatives? There are a number of reasons why people use broccoli rabe alternatives. Some of them are given below:

  1. It is unavailable: broccoli rabe is rarely found at stores despite its popularity.
  2. It is pricey: broccoli rabe is quite expensive. Therefore, if you are cooking on a budget or just can’t afford it, a good substitute would be much needed.
  3. If you are an experimental cook: do you experiment with recipes as I do? If you are a curious chef like me, it is always nice to know some quick and reasonable substitutes.


What can I use instead of broccoli rabe?

3 Earthy Broccoli Rabe Substitutes

Broccoli rabe is very tasty and healthful. However, it is not always possible to use it in every dish. Therefore, if you find yourself in an analogous situation, these excellent broccoli rabe replacements are here to save the day.

1. The Best Substitute Overall: Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are one perfect substitute for broccoli rabe. Both mustard greens and broccoli rabe are similar in looks and taste. Contrary to what its name suggests, broccoli rabe is more similar to mustard greens than it is to broccoli. Both the ingredients have a similar earthy taste, with an undertone of bitterness that we love so much in our meals. 

Broccoli Rabe Substitutes -Mustard Greens

However, unlike broccoli rabe, mustard greens also carry notes of pepper. This quality makes them especially great for sautéing vegetables or making pasta. Mustard greens are great, no matter which way you eat them, raw or cooked.

Moreover, mustard greens are also healthy. It contains bile acid, which contributes to lowering cholesterol. Thus, its versatility, similar flavor profile, appearance, and health benefits make mustard greens a great substitute to try.

Mustard greens nutrition:

Nutrient Nutrition Per serving (1 cup raw, chopped)
Calories 15
Carbs 1.8 g
Fat 0.2 g
Protein 1.6 g
Fiber 2.6 g
Other characteristics:
It contains low Sodium
It contains low Fat
It contains less calories.
It is cholesterol-free


2. The Best Substitute for Salads: Collard Greens

Do you want to make a healthy and yummy salad for yourself but can’t find any broccoli rabe? Try collard greens. Because when it comes to salads, nothing matches the potential of this ingredient. 

Broccoli Rabe Substitutes - Collard Greens

Collard greens come from the cabbage family. They are the oldest greens known to man in that family. Moreover, they provide both taste and health benefits to the eater – the exact reason why we love broccoli rabe so much. 

However, unlike broccoli rabe, collard greens are not entirely edible. They have a tough green stem which most people prefer removing prior to cooking. I found them ideal for pasta, salads, and a few more recipes that involve sauteeing them. You may also use them as a side dish for recipes like meat, et cetera.

Since collard greens are bitter like broccoli rabe, you can use them to balance the taste of your dishes. However, they are not too bitter as cooking further decreases the bitterness making them taste more earthy. 

The fact that collard greens have earned the reputation of being a superfood says enough about their healthfulness. Collard greens contain vitamins A and C, necessary for our immune system.

Besides that, Vitamin C also keeps our body’s blood cells healthy, whereas vitamin A is crucial for healthy T-cells. Moreover, it aids in maintaining optimum cholesterol levels, and the magnesium in it even relieves symptoms of depression.

Collard greens nutrition:

Nutrients Per Serving (one cup raw, chopped)
Calories  11,5
Carbs  2 g
Fats  0.22 g
Proteins  1 g
Fiber  1.4 g
Other characteristics:
It has low fat content.
It is cholesterol-free.
It is very rich in fiber.


3. The Most Versatile Substitute: Chinese Broccoli

Chinese broccoli, also called Chinese kale, is a glossy vegetable with bluish-green leaves. Chinese broccoli is a brassica vegetable with a boatload of nutrition and health benefits. 

If you can’t find broccoli rabe or the two substitutes mentioned above, you should be able to replace it with Chinese broccoli. You can either steam or saute it before using it. Both the options work fine. I love how Chinese broccoli’s bitter taste fits so well in place of broccoli rabe.

Broccoli Rabe Substitutes - Chinese Broccoli

Chinese broccoli has considerably larger leaves than rapini. However, cutting them small will solve the problem. It is pretty versatile, so you can use it in any meal. 

Moreover, this verdant vegetable is known to be a powerhouse of nutrients. It benefits the digestive system, cardiovascular system, and even our immune system. Some recent studies have also discovered its anti-inflammatory and even cancer-retarding properties.

Chinese Broccoli nutrition:

Nutrition Per Serving (per cup, raw)
Calories  7.2
Carbs 0.9 g
Fibers 0.8 g
Proteins 0.6 g
Fats 0.3 g
Other characteristics:
It is cholesterol-free.
It is free of fat.
It is a good source of fiber.
It is sodium-free.


Frequently Asked Question

Is broccoli rabe seasonal?
Broccoli rabe is a cool-season vegetable. Therefore, the best time to buy it is during early spring and autumn or around September. However, you can also store it in the freezer for up to one year!
Which vegetables are non-cruciferous?
There are numerous non-cruciferous vegetables’ such as tomatoes, spinach, bell peppers, chard, garlic, cucumbers, and onions.
Why does broccoli rabe taste bitter?
Broccoli rabe contains an enzyme called Myrosinase, responsible for its bitter taste. This enzyme is especially concentrated in the florets. The soundest way to get rid of it is to cook broccoli rabe on high heat. You can do so by balancing, broiling, or sauteing it. The high temperature denatures the enzyme, thus effectively deactivating it. Which also puts an end to its bitter taste.
What is the difference between broccoli rabe and regular broccoli?
Broccoli rabe is not from the same family as broccoli. Instead, it’s closely related to the turnips. Regular broccoli has thick, crisp stalks that end in round green florets. Moreover, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. It is mildly bitter with a grassy, and earthy taste. On the other hand, broccoli rabe is more leafy with smaller florets. It is because of these florets that it’s mistaken to be related to broccoli. However, that is not the truth.

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