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Vegetables: Broccolini vs. Broccoli Rabe vs. Rapini

If you’re trying to get more green vegetables in your diet, broccolini, broccoli rabe, and rapini are great alternatives to the standby choices of broccoli and spinach. Since they look similar, it’s easy to get these vegetables confused. But have you ever wondered if there’s a difference between the three?

  • Broccolini is NOT the same as baby broccoli, though it may look like it. It’s actually a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli with long stems, larger florets, and less leaves. It has a sweeter taste that’s more similar to regular broccoli.

  • Broccoli Rabe is in the same family as turnips, which explains why the leaves look so similar to turnip or mustard greens. It has long stems, smaller florets than broccolini, and larger leaves (all of which are edible). The flavor is pleasantly bitter.

  • Rapini and broccoli rabe are not the same vegetable but are very close cousins. In most grocery stores, the names are used interchangeably because the flavor is nearly the same.

Regardless of which one you choose, each of these green vegetables is a delicious choice. Incorporate them into your favorite recipe or use our preferred method – simply sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and a big squeeze of lemon.

  • Caitlin Dwyer

    Where does Rappi fall into the Broccolini vs Broccoli Rabe vs Rapini family?

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      @caitlin_dwyer:disqus Great question! I’m pretty sure that Rappi is more of a colloquial term used for Broccoli Rabe or Rapini (but not Broccolini).

  • Lynnette

    So if you can’t find the rabe for a diet plan, should you substitute broccoli or turnip greens?

    • Vijay – Editor @ NoshOn.It

      Lynette – we’re not doctors so if rabe is recommended by a professional, you should ask them what an alternative might be! If you’re putting this together yourself and are looking for another green vegetable to substitute in a recipe, broccoli would be a great choice! Also, kale is great for sauteeing.

    • Okc Dave

      Realistically speaking a professional will not recommend a diet plan that includes regionally unobtainable foods and if they do you are dealing with a quack.

      As far as nutrition is concerned, many of the dark leafy greens can be eaten interchangeably in a balanced diet but broccoli itself is less like the others unless you eat the bulk of the leaves as well as the buds which people seldom do since the grocers don’t present them with all the leaves.

  • Okc Dave

    While this article is interesting, it doesn’t really help people distinguish between the three unless they have all 3 in front of them for comparison. Good representative pictures of each would help. Online I see too many people using the terms interchangeably so I have no confidence which pictures are correct.

    However after years of gardening I suspect that even within the same name for a vegetable there have now evolved, or actually I mean bred whether intentional or not, dozens of variants.