What’s the Difference between Broccoli, Broccolini, and Broccoli Rabe?

You know what broccoli is, but what about broccolini or broccoli rabe? Is broccolini a mini version of broccoli? Is broccoli rabe another name for broccolini? We’re here to set it all straight for you. They are, in fact, three different vegetables — and they aren’t even all related.

Origin of Broccoli

The plant that created both broccoli and cabbage is Brassica Oleracea. It existed several thousand years ago in the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. We now call it wild cabbage or the wild mustard plant.

Over those thousands of years, humans cultivated Brassica Oleracea. They selectively bred it, creating vegetables we eat today like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts. All the veggies that do a body good!

The Ancient Romans in Italy were the first to grow and use broccoli. It was later introduced to the American colonies in the eighteenth century.

How Broccoli Grows and What It Looks Like

A head of broccoli

Broccoli seeds grow well in cool and moderate climates. Depending on weather and type, a seed can grow into a plant 24–35 inches tall in about 60–150 days. It has thick leaves and branches and clusters of green flower buds.

When broccoli is ready to be picked and eaten, it should look dark green and its stalks should be firm. If a broccoli plant isn’t harvested in time, the buds produce yellow flowers with petals. At the grocery store, you might sometimes see broccoli starting to produce yellow flowers. Don’t worry, you can still eat it.

What Broccoli Tastes Like

The entire plant is edible. While some people only eat the florets, you can eat the stalks, too, so don’t let those go to waste. They’re just as tasty as the florets, especially if you slice and roast them.

Broccoli’s Nutritional Value

This veggie may also be anti-inflammatory, which can help protect your body against cancer. A study focused on smokers who ate broccoli for ten days showed signs of reduced inflammation.

How to Cook Broccoli

Roasted Broccoli from Love and Lemons

Garlicky Broccoli Stir Fry from The Woks of Life

Vegan Creamy Broccoli Soup from Simply Vegan

Origin of Broccolini

Broccolini is a hybrid vegetable that was invented in 1993. Yes, only thirty years ago. It’s a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli (gai lan).

How Broccolini Grows and What It Looks Like

A woman grinding pepper over a bowl of broccolini

Broccolini prefers to grow in cooler temperatures. Because it’s a newer plant, farmers are still trying to figure out the best time to grow it. Some say it should be planted the first day of spring, but others wait so that frost doesn’t destroy the plant. It takes 60–90 days for it to fully grow.

Broccolini has long slender stems and some small leaves. It also has florets that look similar to broccoli, although they’re much smaller (giving it the “baby broccoli” name).

What Broccolini Tastes Like

Broccolini’s Nutritional Value

How to Cook Broccolini

How to Cook Broccolini 3 Ways from Sweet Peas and Saffron

Easy 10-Minute Broccolini from The Kitchn

15-Minute Garlic Chili Tofu with Sesame Broccolini from Feasting at Home

Origin of Broccoli Rabe

Other names for broccoli rabe are rapini and turnip broccoli. It’s thought to have first appeared in China and the Mediterranean region centuries ago. In 1927, Italian immigrants the D’Arrigo brothers brought the seeds from Sicily and began breeding broccoli rabe in the United States.

How Broccoli Rabe Grows and What It Looks Like

A bunch of broccoli rabe on a cutting board with a chef’s knife
Broccoli rabe

Broccoli rabe loves cooler climates, and it’s best harvested in the fall. If it’s grown and harvested in warm weather, it has a more bitter taste. It grows quickly, in 30–60 days, and can be planted in a home garden.

Its leaves are big and spiky and its stalks are thin. It does have tiny florets that look a bit like broccoli, and they can bloom small yellow flowers.

What Broccoli Rabe Tastes Like

Broccoli rabe is used a lot in southern Italian cooking and also in recipes from northwestern Spain.

Broccoli Rabe’s Nutritional Value

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe

Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chili Flakes from Serious Eats

Vegan Sausage Calzones with Ricotta and Broccoli Rabe from The First Mess

Hot Garlicky Broccoli Rabe Sandwich with Smoky Tahini Cheese Sauce from Connoisseurus Veg



Nicole is a copywriter, content writer, and editor. She is focused on helping plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian brands. Visit www.nicolebixlercreative.com.

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Nicole Bixler

Nicole is a copywriter, content writer, and editor. She is focused on helping plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian brands. Visit www.nicolebixlercreative.com.