Broccoli vs. Broccolini

Broccolini in a green ceramic plate over a rustic wooden table.

Broccoli and broccolini are highly nutritious vegetables that both belong to the cruciferous family. Even though they belong to the same family, share almost the same name, and almost look the same, we still can’t call them twins!

There are some important differences between these two veggies that give them a unique place in the cruciferous family and your diet. 

Broccolini is a hybrid vegetable created by cross-breeding broccoli with Chinese broccoli. Broccolini has smaller florets and longer stalks and a noticeable sweeter taste than broccoli. Broccoli contains higher amounts of folate, vitamin B, and vitamin C than broccolini, but broccolini is still very nutritious and high in iron and calcium. 

It’s essential to know the difference between broccoli and broccolini so that you can learn the best way to use each of them in different recipes and the right way to cook them. Broccolini is often called “baby broccoli.” It may look that way, but it definitely deserves more credit as a unique vegetable with its own amazing benefits.

Let’s take a look at what makes them each different and how to choose between the two. 

Brief History Of Broccoli And Broccolini

Bunches of broccoli florets on gray plate and table.

Broccoli belongs to the Brassicaceae family (also Cruciferae) and is a cultivar of the Brassica oleracea species. Broccoli isn’t actually a naturally occurring vegetable and was cultivated via selective breeding out of a flower-like wild cabbage plant.

It originated during the 1500s in Italy, along the Mediterranean coast, and is one of six cultivars bred out of the wild cabbage plant by ancient Italian civilizations over a couple of years. It was later introduced to England in the 1700s, where it became known as “Italian asparagus.”

Broccoli became popular in America during the 1920s, with the first plantation having being cultivated in San Jose, and reached Europe sometime during the late 1900s. 

Broccolini is quite a recent invention and comes all the way from Yokohama in Japan. One of the world’s top suppliers of broccoli seed, Sakata Seed Inc., came up with the idea to create a hybrid between broccoli and Chinese kale (Gai-lan) in 1993.

It was introduced in America in 1996 under the name Aspiration but was later marketed as broccolini to avoid confusion between broccolini and asparagus in the market.  

How Is Broccolini Different From Broccoli?

Fresh broccolini on jute cloth and wooden chopping board.

Although broccoli and broccolini may look almost identical, there are differences in structure and taste. 

Differences In Structure And Texture

Broccoli has thick, shorter stalks and large, rounded green florets with a tough, meaty texture. Broccolini tends to be smaller and more delicate than broccoli, having a long, thinner stalk, smaller florets, and a tender texture. 

Differences In Taste 

Some people may not notice a significant difference in taste. Still, broccolini usually has a sweeter taste that more closely resembles asparagus, while broccoli tends to have a slightly bitter, earthy flavor. Both of them, however, can taste great when cooked the right way! 

Broccoli vs. Broccolini: Better Raw or Cooked?

Close-up of fresh broccoli Florets in a ceramic plate.

You can safely eat broccoli and broccolini, either raw or cooked. Raw broccoli and broccolini both have a very high nutrient content and are very high fiber, but this may make them somewhat difficult to digest.

Although raw broccoli and broccolini are technically safe to eat, individuals with digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may experience discomfort and should avoid it. Cruciferous veggies are known to cause bloating and excessive gas when eaten raw, and this should be kept in mind. 

Both generally taste and digest better when cooked.

There are a few cooking methods you can use, and which one you use depends on what you are looking for in terms of taste and texture.

Some cooking methods that can be used include:

  • Steaming
  • Boiling
  • Microwave
  • Stir-frying
  • Roasting

Best Way To Prepare Broccoli

A bowl of broccoli sitting next to the wooden chopping board.

It’s important to preserve the nutrients when cooking vegetables. It has been shown that boiling, stir-frying and microwaving broccoli can drastically reduce vitamin and mineral content. Roasting will cause some nutrient loss, but the broccoli won’t completely lose its antioxidant capacity.

One of the best ways to cook broccoli is to steam it, as this will help retain the vitamins and minerals that make it so nutritious. 

Best Way To Prepare Broccolini

Fresh broccolini in a wooden bowl over a wood plank table.

Another key element that distinguishes broccolini from broccoli is that the entire broccolini plant is edible and tasty. You can eat everything from the florets to the stems and even the tiny yellow flowers and the leaves on the broccolini plant. Broccolini cooks much quicker than broccoli and will have some extra crunch if you leave the stems intact.

Due to its tender and delicate texture, the best way to cook broccolini is to lightly steam it or give it a quick sautée in a pan with a little bit of oil or butter. Overcooking broccolini gives you a limp, flavorless vegetable that won’t look appetizing. 

Are Broccoli And Broccolini Interchangeable In Recipes?

You can absolutely substitute broccoli with broccolini in a recipe that calls for dark greens or broccoli. Broccolini will add a slightly sweet taste and is less bulky and textured than broccoli. If your recipe requires larger florets for more texture, then broccoli would be the way to go.

Just keep in mind that you will need to reduce the cooking time if you’re cooking broccolini instead of broccoli. 

Health Benefits Of Broccoli

Fresh broccoli soup with a wooden spoon on the side.

Broccoli contains vitamin K that can assist with wound healing and blood clotting, and vitamin C, which acts as a powerful antioxidant that prevents free radical damage in the body. Due to high amounts of fiber, broccoli is excellent for maintaining a healthy gut, enhances digestive processes, and even helps lower cholesterol levels.

Broccoli also contains protein that promotes healthy muscles, tissues, and organs and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. Sulforaphane is a powerful antioxidant in broccoli that can play a role in cancer prevention. 

Health Benefits Of Broccolini

Fresh broccolini being cooked in a frying pan.

Broccolini contains a high amount of Vitamin A that boosts your immune system and contributes to healthy eyes and healthy skin. It also has vitamin D that is important for healthy bones and teeth. Furthermore, it is high in calcium and magnesium that help regulate blood pressure.

Just like broccoli, it contains plenty of fiber that aids your digestive system and prevents constipation. Sulforaphane, which is also found in broccoli, helps neutralize toxins and free radicals, reduces inflammation, and helps prevent cancer cells from forming.

Broccolini also causes the release of an enzyme called myrosinase, which improves brain function and helps maintain a healthy nervous system. 

Is Broccoli Better For You Than Broccolini?

Both vegetables are highly nutritious, but broccoli has a few extra vitamins and minerals that broccolini lacks. The nutrient content of each is listed below: 

Nutrients in broccoli (1 cup, raw)

Nutrition facts of a broccoli flower head.
  • Protein (2.6 g)
  • Dietary fiber (2.4 g)
  • Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids (34.6 mg)
  • Folate (57.3 mg)
  • Choline (17 mg)
  • Calcium (42.8 mg)
  • Iron (0.7 mg)
  • Magnesium (19.1 mg)
  • Phosphorous (60.1 mg)
  • Potassium (288 mg)
  • Sodium (30 mg)
  • Selenium (2.3 mcg)
  • Vitamins A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B6 & B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Sulfurophane

Nutrients in broccolini (1 cup, raw)

Broccolini lightly cooked with zucchini, onions, cranberries, and greens.
  • Protein (2.4 g)
  • Carbohydrates (5.8 g)
  • Fiber (3.7 g)
  • Sodium (35 mg)
  • Potassium (343 mg)
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Sulfurophane

Conclusion

Despite being the same in many ways, there are a few aspects that set broccoli and broccolini apart. Both of these vegetables work well as side dishes and taste great when prepared the right way. Additionally, they both are packed with vitamins and minerals and fit well into any plant-based diet.

Whether you choose to use broccoli or its “new and improved” version, broccolini is entirely up to you! You can rest assured that you will get the nutrition you need with both of them.  

References:

WebMD: Health Benefits of Broccoli

WebMD: Health Benefits of Broccolini

One Green Planet: What’s the Difference Between Broccoli and Broccolini?

Kingston Cove: DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BROCCOLI, BROCCOLINI, BROCCOLI RABE, AND CHINESE BROCCOLI?

Healthline: Can You Eat Raw Broccoli? Benefits and Downsides

Jessica Gavin: How to Cook Broccoli (5 Easy Methods)

Sweet Peas and Saffron: How To Cook Broccolini- 3 Ways

The Kitchn: What’s the Difference Between Broccoli, Broccolini, Broccoli Rabe, and Chinese Broccoli?

La Cucina Italiana: The History Of Broccoli: From The Etruscan Period To Now

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