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Broccoli Rabe vs Broccolini: A Detailed Comparison

Today, we’re diving into the world of green veggies, specifically broccoli rabe vs broccolini. 

Broccoli rabe and broccolini really are quite different while still holding some similarities. Frankly, it can be a bit confusing at first, but don’t worry, we got your back and will explain it all to you. 

Let’s explore!

This is a closeup of broccoli rabe and broccolini.

Broccoli Rabe vs Broccolini

The first thing that you will notice is that broccoli rabe and broccolini look quite a bit different. One of them is leafy, and the other looks a bit like tiny broccoli. Also, broccoli rabe has a much stronger flavor profile than broccolini.

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is a leafy green vegetable with small, broccoli-like stems and a strong, bitter flavor. It’s commonly used in Italian cuisine, particularly in pasta dishes and sautés.

On the other hand, broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It has long, slender stalks and small florets, with a flavor that’s sweeter and milder than broccoli rabe. It’s very versatile and can be used in a variety of many dishes, from stir-fries to salads.


Broccoli rabe has dark green leaves with long, thin stalks. Broccoli rabe looks like a mix between broccoli and spinach. 

Broccolini has a more broccoli-like appearance with long, thin stalks and small soft florets. Broccolini almost looks like tiny floppy broccoli. 

Taste and Texture

Broccoli rabe is known for its bitter flavor and hearty texture. It has a bold flavor that some people love, and some find off-putting. The flavor of broccoli rabe is sometimes compared to that of mustard greens or even kale.

Broccolini, however, has a sweeter, milder flavor and a tender, crisp texture. The stalks are more tender than those of broccoli rabe and can be eaten raw or cooked. Broccolini has an earthy flavor to it that becomes sweeter and milder after it is cooked. 

How They Are Used

Broccoli rabe is often blanched to reduce its bitterness before being sautéed. It’s a staple in Italian cuisine and pairs well with robust flavors like sausage and anchovies.

Broccolini is more versatile and can be steamed, roasted, grilled, or stir-fried. Its mild flavor makes it a great side dish for a variety of meals, from steak to fish. 

Broccolini is one of our favorite side dishes to order at a restaurant. We haven’t been able to perfect cooking it like chefs at restaurants have, but that doesn’t keep us from attempting to do so. 

This is various dishes of broccoli rabe and broccolini.

Substituting One for the Other: Can it Be Done?

While you can technically substitute one for the other, keep in mind that the flavor profiles are quite different. Substituting broccoli rabe for broccolini could introduce a bitter flavor to your dish while using broccolini instead of broccoli rabe could result in a milder, sweeter flavor.

Which One is Right for You?

If you’re a fan of strong, bitter flavors, then broccoli rabe might be your green of choice. If you prefer something milder and sweeter, then broccolini is the way to go. 

In my opinion, broccoli rabe is best mixed with other ingredients, such as in a skillet meal or casserole. On the other hand, sauteed broccolini is a perfect side dish for a nice meal. 

The bottom line

Whether you choose broccoli rabe or broccolini, you’re in for a treat. Both offer unique flavors and textures that can elevate your dishes. So why not experiment with both? 

You might just find a new favorite green. Happy cooking!

Before you go…

If you want to keep your veggies fresh and lasting longer, you will want to check out our article about how to store broccolini and how to store butter lettuce.

This is a closeup of broccoli rabe and broccolini.