Rapini is a type of vegetable that many have seen at the grocery store, but didn’t pay much attention to it. It is related to broccoli, but is known for its leafy greens that are reminiscent of kale leaves. It has tiny buds at the top that look like broccoli.
The taste of broccoli rabe is strong and nutty. It is said to somewhat resemble the flavor of almonds. Rapini is very popular in Italian cooking, to season over meats and pastas.
14 Best Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) Substitutes
If you’ve hopped on the rapini train and love it for its versatility and benefits, you surely aren’t alone. But, if you can’t find any rapini and don’t have any on hand, this might bring up some stress. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives with similar benefits.
When you don’t have any rapini available to you, you aren’t out of options. Some of the best substitutes for broccoli rabe include: mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, Chinese broccoli, endives, dandelion greens, kale, and chicory, to name a few.
Broccoli Rabe Overview
Its name suggests that it’s like broccoli, but is closer to turnips. If you aren’t a big fan of broccoli, that doesn’t necessarily mean you would dislike broccoli rabe. The taste of broccoli rabe is somewhat similar to that of raw kale.
The taste of rapini is stronger than broccoli, and more bitter. When purchasing broccoli rabe, look for light green stems and deep green leaves. You’ll also want to pick out firm stems with the flowers tightly packed together.
Broccoli rabe is easy to add into a plethora of dishes to help you get in some essential nutrients. It makes for an easy addition to smoothies, sandwiches, pastas, and stir fries. Its bitter taste can help balance out other flavors in your recipes.
Is Rapini Healthier than Regular Broccoli?
Although broccoli rabe and regular broccoli have similar nutritional profiles, rapini is considered a superfood. It is packed with nutrients and one serving of rapini offers over half of the recommended daily amount of vitamins A, C, and K.
Rapini has built a name for itself as the number one superfood for losing weight. It has slightly less protein than broccoli does, but makes up for this with its anti-inflammatory properties and essential vitamins and minerals.
Broccoli rabe contains more than the recommended amount of vitamin K. This isn’t a bad thing, as many Americans are deficient in essential vitamins. Because of the abundance of vitamin K, rapini helps with bone strength. It is also packed with fiber and folate, which can keep your heart and digestive system healthy.
What Can I Substitute for Broccoli Rabe?
You aren’t out of options if you can’t find any broccoli rabe. Below are some of the most coveted alternatives for rapini.
1. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are an ideal candidate for a broccoli rabe replacement when you’re cooking or sauteeing it. Despite its name, broccoli rabe is genetically much more similar to mustard greens or turnip greens than it is to regular broccoli.
Mustard greens can be eaten either cooked or raw. They are most similar to rapini in their flavor; nutty, bitter, and earthy. In addition, they have many of the same health benefits that rapini does.
2. Turnip Greens
Turnip greens are another considerable substitute for broccoli rabe. Their taste is a little different, and is more peppery. This can be a plus for recipes that need that extra edge. They can be used in virtually any recipe.
3. Collard Greens
Collard greens are the oldest vegetable in the cabbage family. Upon purchasing, you’ll notice a thick stem. This is usually removed before using collard greens to cook, but the greens have a very similar taste to rapini, as well as health benefits.
When cooked, the bitterness of collard greens is turned down a bit, so their flavor won’t be as intense. But, they can also be eaten raw and are a perfect addition to salads and sandwiches. Collard greens can help lower cholesterol and contain plenty of magnesium, which can ease symptoms of depression.
4. Chinese Broccoli
Like rapini, Chinese broccoli is very versatile. It has large stalks and leaves, which are different in shape from broccoli rabe, but it still has that signature bitter taste. Chinese broccoli, also called gai lan, can be used in place of rapini in any recipe that calls for it.
When eaten raw, endives have a bitter taste that is similar to the taste of rapini. When cooked, their flavor becomes more mellow and takes on nutty and somewhat sweet elements. Endives can safely be eaten both raw and cooked, but many prefer them for cooking as it brings out more of a unique taste.
6. Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens taste similarly to broccoli rabe, but are easier to use for cooking as they have shorter stems and larger leaves. They also have the bitter taste that broccoli rabe is known for. Using the youngest dandelion greens you can find is ideal.
The younger dandelion greens are, the shorter their stem will be. They can be eaten either raw or cooked.
Kale is a part of the cabbage family and has a similar taste to broccoli rabe, as well as many of the same health benefits. Its texture is also a near replica to that of rapini, so they can be used for any of the same purposes.
The taste of kale is pretty bitter, like broccoli rabe, so you won’t have to worry about this replacement altering any of your recipes. Kale can also be reheated easily.
The leaves of chicory are much bigger than broccoli rabe, but they have a similar bitter taste which makes them a considerable replacement. Chicory does have other notes in its flavor, like spiciness.
The pungent spice of chicory calms down when it’s cooked. So, if you’re cooking chicory as a broccoli rabe substitute in a recipe, you’ll hardly be able to tell that there was a difference in ingredients.
Broccolini is a hybrid vegetable of Chinese broccoli and broccoli. Its appearance and taste are both comparable to that of asparagus, though they are not closely related to each other. The taste of broccolini is milder than the taste of rapini.
Broccolini also takes longer to cook, so keep this in mind. But, it can be used for any recipe that you would use rabe for. The most significant alteration to the recipe would be its cooking time.
The taste of spinach is more sweet than the taste of broccoli rabe. It can be eaten either raw or cooked, and sauteed with meats or cheeses. Spinach is a convenient broccoli rabe substitute because it can be bought frozen, so you can keep some on hand.
It can be bought fresh or canned as well, but when using it as a replacement for broccoli rabe, fresh spinach is the way to go. This is because its taste will be more pungent than if it were sitting in your freezer for weeks beforehand.
The appearance of escarole is similar to salad leaves, but its taste is more similar to the taste of rapini. Typically, escarole is used for cooking, but it can be eaten both cooked and raw. The outer leaves of escarole are usually used for cooking, while the interior is used as a part of a salad.
Arugula checks all of the boxes for a broccoli rabe substitute; it has a similar bitter, yet sweet, taste, and leaves that can be easily manipulated, as well as health benefits. The best food for arugula is in salads, and it can help keep your body hydrated.
13. Chard Greens
Chard greens have a similar taste and feel to turnip greens, but are slightly more mild. The leaves of chard greens can easily be cooked, and chard greens should be available at the grocery store. You might be able to find fresh ones at farmers markets, too.
When cooking chard greens, you can preserve their original taste and color by using a shorter cooking time or lower temperature. Just make sure that they are tender before you cook them.
It only makes sense that broccoli would be on the list of broccoli rabe substitutes. It is not the first choice, because the florets on broccoli are much larger. The difference in shape can make broccoli not so suitable for the same recipes that broccoli rabe is.
The taste of broccoli is more earthy and mild, which can be a good thing as it complements many types of foods. Broccoli is the best substitute for rapini in things like salads.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get the bitterness out of mustard greens?
Getting the bitterness out of mustard greens might be more simple than you’d expect. One easy way to balance a bitter taste is with salt. Lemon juice would do the job too, add a tablespoon or so and see if its flavor is more to your liking. Repeat the process if necessary.
Does kale raise blood pressure?
Kale is a food with many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure. Pretty much any sort of leafy greens is good for someone with high blood pressure to incorporate into their diet.
Is broccolini the same as gai lan?
Broccolini is a combination of two vegetables–broccoli and gai lan (or Chinese broccoli). This can be confusing, but in short, broccolini is not the same thing as gai lan. They are similar though.
Broccoli rabe is an incredible superfood with many health benefits as well as kitchen purposes. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and will liven up any recipe with an added bonus of helping you get your vitamins in. If you don’t have any broccoli rabe, there are plenty of sufficient replacements that have similar properties.