Broccolini is sometimes called baby broccoli. The hybrid vegetable has thinner, less fibrous stems that are as delicious as the florets. While Broccolini was developed in Japan, much of it is grown in California and Arizona, and it's seeing increased popularity in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. It can be used in any broccoli dishes, has a sweeter flavor, cooks quicker than regular broccoli, and is packed with nutrition.
What Is Broccolini?
Broccolini (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) is a member of the Brassica genus, alongside broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. It was developed in 1993 in Yokohama, Japan, as the result of plant breeding—broccoli and Chinese kale (kai lan) were combined to create a more flavorsome brassica. Looking similar to broccoli, this hybrid vegetable goes by many names, including asparation, Aspabroc, broccolette, broccoletti, Italian sprouting broccoli, and sweet baby broccoli. Bimi, Broccolini, and Tenderstem are trademarked names for the hybrid. It's primarily grown in Mexico, California, and Arizona.
Broccolini is similar in appearance to broccoli in that it is made up of a green stem topped with florets. Where the broccoli stem can be very thick and tough, the stem of Broccolini is thin and tender. Additionally, instead of densely packed florets, Broccolini has looser crowns that appear to be more leaf-like. While it does cost more than broccoli, it is easier to prepare—whether steamed, grilled, roasted, or raw—and you get more vegetable for the price since the entire stem is edible.
How to Cook With Broccolini
Broccolini is a very versatile vegetable as it is delicious when cooked in a variety of ways. It can be sautéed, steamed, grilled, stir-fried, boiled, roasted, and even eaten raw. Taking just 10 minutes or so to cook, it needs very little except a sprinkle of salt. It's also easily incorporated into pasta dishes, casseroles, risottos, salads, and can be served with a dip as an appetizer—essentially anywhere you'd use broccoli.
Rinse Broccolini well immediately before eating or cooking. Unlike ordinary broccoli, which tends to have a woody stem, it is tender from floret to stem so you can eat the whole vegetable. Trim any dry tips and leave the rest. There's no need to peel the stems, either. They will become nice and tender when cooked and are not only tasty but packed with nutrition.
What Does It Taste Like?
Broccolini has a mild, somewhat sweet flavor. Eaten raw, you'll find a hint of mustard spice, but this dissipates, and it gets even sweeter when cooked. Its texture is also more like asparagus than traditional broccoli.
You might not find many recipes that specifically call for Broccolini or baby broccoli. However, it will work perfectly in any broccoli recipe.
Where to Buy Broccolini
While not as common as broccoli, it is getting easier to find Broccolini in well-stocked and higher-end grocery stores and markets. It's typically sold in bunches that weigh about 1 pound, though you'll also find it cut and packaged, sometimes in the frozen foods section. The price tends to be slightly higher than regular broccoli because it's viewed as specialty produce. You can also find seeds to grow at home, but you will want to ensure you're getting this particular variety. Since it is a new vegetable, results have been mixed about whether it's best as a spring or fall vegetable in particular regions.
Look for fresh-looking florets with tightly closed buds on top. The stems should also be bright green, crispy, and fresh. Avoid any that are discolored—including yellowing buds—or bunches with soft or dark spots on the stem.
Don't wash Broccolini until you're ready to use it. It can be refrigerated in loose or perforated plastic in the crisper for up to 10 days.
For long-term storage, cut it into bite-size pieces, then blanch for one minute in boiling water. The Broccolini should turn a brighter green, and you'll want to halt the cooking process by dunking it immediately in an ice bath. Flash freeze it in a single layer on a baking sheet for a couple of hours, then transfer to freezer bags. Eat it within 6 to 8 months.
Nutrition and Benefits
Broccolini is considered a superfood since it is rich in vitamin C, providing 100 percent of the daily requirement. It also contains calcium, vitamins A and E, potassium, folate, and iron. Pair this with only 35 calories per serving, and you have one healthy vegetable.
Broccolini vs. Broccoli Rabe
While broccoli rabe has similar-looking florets (the small buds) and is green in color, it's actually a member of the turnip family and not very similar to Broccolini. In cooking, the primary difference is that broccoli rabe has a sharp, bitter taste. It's rarely eaten raw and is used more like a leafy cooking green.