What Is Romanesco Broccoli?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

what is romanesco
The Spruce Eats / Lindsay Kreighbaum

With its pale green spikes and perfect spiral, romanesco broccoli is almost too pretty to eat. The alien-looking vegetable is from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale, and dates back to 16th-century Italy. It's grown in temperate climates like Europe and California and is harvested during cool weather months. Romanesco is can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways, very similar to broccoli or cauliflower.

What Is Romanesco Broccoli?

Romanesco, also known as broccoflower or Roman cauliflower, is a chartreuse, unique-looking vegetable prized for its appearance and mild flavor. It is sometimes assumed to be a hybrid between broccoli and cauliflower but is botanically different (although related). The compact flowering head surrounded by leaves resembles its cruciferous cousins, but instead of resembling a small tree, the stalks form spirals. These near-perfect fractals, which together form the overall spiral of a head of romanesco, make it an attractive choice at the market. The attractive veggie is more expensive than broccoli and cauliflower and is prepared similarly with little prep required beyond a rinse and chop.

How to Cook With Romanesco Broccoli

Rinse and dry romanesco just before cooking. The stem, leaves, and stalks are all edible but may need to be trimmed. Removed any brown, broken, or extra-tough pieces.

Serve it raw or blanched as part of a crudités platter or in a salad. Steam or give it a quick boil and serve as a simple side dish or include in casseroles or vegetable medleys. Romanesco is especially good roasted and can be baked whole (leaves and all) or chopped into florets. To remove the florets, turn the head upside down on a cutting board with the points facing down. Use a sharp knife and run it along the main stalk, slicing at the base of each floret. If needed, chop into smaller florets. Roasted or sautéed, they can be added to pasta, risotto, pizza, or served as a side.

Close-Up Of Romanesco Broccoli Growing In Field
Irina Vaganova / EyeEm / Getty Images 
Romanesco broccoli, close up
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Fresh vegetable platter with dip
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Lamp chop with romanesco cauliflower and potato cakes
Philippe Desnerck / Getty Images
Baked patato with curd, sausage, vegetables, coen and herbs
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What Does Romanesco Broccoli Taste Like?

Romanesco broccoli has a similar but milder, sweeter, and nuttier flavor than both broccoli and cauliflower. This pleasing, mild flavor lends itself to a wide range of dishes and flavor combinations. The florets are dense, like cauliflower, but slightly more tender. To maintain its flavor and texture, don't overcook romanesco.

Romanesco Broccoli Recipes

Depending on how you plan to use your romanesco, it can be prepared in a number of ways, including roasting, steaming, grilling, pickling, and frying. It can also be used in recipes in place of broccoli or cauliflower. And while the cooked flavor is a little closer to cauliflower, it cooks more like broccoli. When swapping romanesco for broccoli, keep the cook times relatively the same. When swapping for cauliflower, check for doneness before the specified cook time to avoid overcooking. Keep in mind that romanesco will add a green hue to cauliflower dishes.

Swap romanesco for broccoli and/or cauliflower in these recipes.

Where to Buy Romanesco Broccoli

Romanesco is easier to find in late fall, winter, and early spring. It sometimes pops up at major supermarkets while in season, nestled in next to the cauliflower. They can be priced per pound or per head, much like broccoli. Health food and specialty stores are more likely to carry the vegetable and may even have it year-round. It's a favorite at farmers' markets.

Look for tight, compact heads that feel heavy for their size. If the heads still have their leaves attached, those leaves should look fresh, not wilted. Avoid dark spots, holes, or mold.

Romanesco can be grown at home similarly to broccoli and thrives in cool weather climates. Transplant after the last frost for a spring harvest or late summer for a fall harvest.

How to Store Romanesco Broccoli

Store a head of unwashed romanesco broccoli in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. It will last for up to five days but should be used as soon as possible, especially if you plan to eat it raw or lightly cooked. Raw florets can be frozen for up to six months but will lose some of their crisp texture. Cooked romanesco will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

Nutrition and Benefits

Romanesco is low in calories, fat, carbs, and sugar , making it a healthy choice for any meal. A 100-gram serving provides 11.4 percent of the recommended daily value of heart-healthy fiber. The green vegetable is high in vitamin C, providing almost 100% of DV, as well as vitamin K, which plays a key role in blood clotting.

what is romanesco
The Spruce Eats / Julie Bang

Romanesco Broccoli vs. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is romanesco's closest relative in terms of taste and texture, but they aren't one and the same. Romanesco is colorful, usually a bright shade of yellow-green, and made up of pointy stalks rather than rounded ones. Romanesco also has a slightly nuttier, milder flavor and more tender texture when cooking, making it easier to overcook than cauliflower. The two can often be substituted for each other in recipes; just watch the cook times so that your romanesco doesn't turn into mush and lose its flavor.

Article Sources
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  1. US Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. Broccoflower, raw entry. Updated April 1, 2020.

  2. McRae MP. Dietary Fiber Is Beneficial for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. J Chiropr Med. 2017;16(4):289-299.  doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2017.05.005

  3. US National Institutes of Medicine. Vitamin K. Updated June 3, 2020.