Broccoli rabe is a green leafy cruciferous vegetable with a flavorful bitter taste that makes it delicious as a side or added to warming stews. But what if you are looking for some broccoli rabe substitutes if you're out?
Also known as rapini, we talk here about some alternatives for broccoli rabe to make your tasty meals!
Do check out my post on arugula substitutes for more ideas for leafy greens!
What is broccoli rabe?
Broccoli rabe is a dark green leafy cruciferous vegetable, with buds that are similar in appearance to broccoli or broccolini. Interestingly though, it is more closely related to the turnip.
Popular in European cooking, and in Italian cuisine in particular, broccoli rabe has a flavorful bitter taste. It's used as an easy side dish, added to soups or stews, or used to top pizza or make a healthy salad. To tame the bitter flavor, this leafy green is often blanched before use, and Bon Appetit has some easy ideas for cooking broccoli rabe to try out.
Why make you want a broccoli rabe substitute?
Broccoli rabe is a healthy green vegetable, but it can be more difficult to find in stores depending upon where you live. So we may want a broccoli rabe alternative if we can't get hold of it for a recipe.
We may also want a leafy green vegetable for our meals, but are looking for something with a less bitter taste that doesn't require blanching!
Broccoli rabe isn't rated on the SIGHI list, but is given as low histamine on others. However, if you are making low histamine recipes and aren't too sure, you may like to use another green for your meals.
Best broccoli rabe substitutes
Let's talk about some alternatives to broccoli rabe to make your tasty lunch and dinner recipes!
Arugula, also known as rocket in the UK, has a spicy bitter taste that can be considered to resemble broccoli rabe. It isn't quite as bitter though, and typically has a 'softer' taste.
We can use arugula as an alternative to broccoli rabe in salads, or to top pizza or pasta dishes.
There are a few different types of kale, with curly kale and lacinato kale (also known by other names such as dinosaur or Tuscan kale) being the most common.
Kale doesn't have the same bitter flavor as broccoli rabe, but is a healthy leafy green packed with antioxidants, vitamins C and K and beta-carotene, as Healthline's overview of the benefits of kale sets out.
We can use kale in place of broccoli rabe as a side dish, in salads, soups and stews. It's best to shred kale finely, after removing the tough stems. To use kale in salads, massaging it first in a little oil and salt softens the tough texture.
Mustard greens are a good alternative to broccoli rabe as they share the same bitter, peppery flavor. Also known as brown mustard, Chinese mustard and Indian mustard, mustard greens come from the mustard plant and are members of the Brassica genus of vegetables (Healthline).
As a broccoli rabe substitute, mustard greens can be added to soups, stews and salads, You can also mustard greens to enjoy as a flavorful side dish with meat, fish or plant-based main dishes.
Broccoli is a healthy and nutritious cruciferous vegetable that is quite a staple on many of our shopping lists I think! Raw broccoli is crunchy, while steamed or boiled broccoli has a soft texture and slightly sweet taste.
Although broccoli doesn't have the same peppery flavor, it can be used as an alternative to broccoli rabe as a healthy green vegetable in a stir-fry, salad or as a side dish.
Broccolini is very similar to broccoli, but has longer stems with smaller flowers. It is the closest in appearance to broccoli rabe but doesn't have the same peppery flavor.
You can still use broccolini as a broccoli rabe substitute as a healthy vegetable in pasta dishes, as a side dish or perhaps in my broccolini slaw!
Collard greens are a member of the cabbage family and can be used as a replacement for broccoli rabe as another leafy green. It's easy to saute or steam and enjoy as a side dish. Collard greens are very popular in the Southern United States.
Spinach is a dark green leafy vegetable characterised by their bitter flavor, which has some similarity to broccoli rabe. Easy to find in stores, spinach can be bought fresh or frozen. Baby spinach can be used as a broccoli rabe substitute in salads, smoothies or tossed into a stir-fry, soup or stew.
Just a note that spinach is a high histamine food per the SIGHI list, so not suitable for those on a low histamine diet.
Bok choy (also known as pak choi) looks quite different to broccoli rabe, with its white bulb and longer round leaves. It has a slight flavor of celery, and you can use both the stems and leaves in cooking.
Although bok choy doesn't taste too similar to broccoli rabe, it's a healthy vegetable to add to a stir-fry or as a side dish. You can enjoy steamed bok choy with ginger and garlic, or my air fried bok choy as a simple side!
Swiss chard or rainbow chard has long stems and large dark greens leaves. It's very easy to grow yourself, and fairly widely available in stores during the summer months.
If you're looking for broccoli rabe substitutes that comprise nutritious leafy greens, then Swiss chard is a good option for a stir-fry or simply steamed as a side dish.
Frequently asked questions
Broccoli rabe has a bitter, peppery flavor. To reduce this bitterness you can easily blanch it before use.
Yes, broccoli rabe, rapini and broccoli raab all refer to the same vegetable.
Mustard greens are the closest in flavor to broccoli rabe.
Arugula, spinach and kale are all good substitutes for broccoli rabe in salads.
More substitute resources
Looking for some healthy and easy alternatives for when the pantry is bare? Have a peek at my best hemp seed substitutes, Italian seasoning substitutes and herbes de Provence substitutes, as well as these recent posts:
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This is a broad informational post and refers to foods that are considered higher histamine. Always consult a dietician for you dietary needs. This post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical or dietary advice in any way.