Broccoli Raab, Rapini, Broccolini: What’s The Difference?

Brooke Newberry
(Photo: )

While broccoli is kindly nutritious, some of us need a lot of help from cheddar cheese to handle the gritty texture of the tree shaped florets.  We were convinced that Rapini, Broccoli Raab, and Broccolini were names secretly conceived by a cult group of mothers trying to clear broccoli’s name as the gross green.  However, none of these hearty greens mentioned are synonymous with broccoli – they’ve each got their own green thing going on. Here’s a short breakdown of the three:


Broccoli Raab AKA Rapini

These two terms are actually interchangeable – rapini is just the Italian word for the leafy vegetable.  This green is in fact part of the turnip family and is completely unrelated to broccoli – it’s leafiness makes it look very similar to mustard greens (also in the turnip family).  Broccoli Raab has what we call a pleasant bitterness and is pungen and slightly nutty.  The stalks, leaves, and flowers are all up for consumption.  Leave no foilage behind.  You’ll find Raab in many Chinese dishes as well, often paired with ginger, miso, and garlic. 

Try it:  Since we enjoy the distinctive bite of Broccoli Raab, we adore it cooked simply:  Braise in olive oil, add lots of garlic and some red chili flakes.  For a more substantial dish, substitute the chili flakes with spicy pork sausage.  Squeeze a little lemon over top.




Broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and a Chinese kale called kai-lan.  Allthough the two look very similar, it is not the same as baby broccoli.  It’s sweeter, more tender, and much better looking than broccoli but can be cooked and consumed in the same way.  Again, you can eat the entire bunch here. 

Try it:  Lightly steam and then saute with toasted sesame seeds, a little soy sauce, dark sesame oil, garlic, and minced fresh ginger.  Careful to not easily overcook the broccolini – you want it tender, but not mushy.

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