If you’re looking to switch up which leafy green vegetables you cook with, broccoli rabe, sometimes called rapini, is a great choice. However, sometimes you don’t have any on hand and might need a good broccoli rabe substitute. In this article, we’re looking at what you can use instead.
What Is Broccoli Rabe?
Broccoli rabe is part of the Brassica family. It is not closely related to broccoli and has a much smaller crown. It has long stems and big, green leaves. Broccoli rabe’s rich, nutty, slightly bitter taste is popular in many Mediterranean cuisines.
Also known as Rapini, this vegetable is native to Europe and is closely related to both turnips, collard greens, and bok choy.
This versatile vegetable can be braised, sautéed, blanched, or boiled in soups. The vegetable only needs a little cooking time to preserve its bright green color and vibrant flavors.
Broccoli Rabe Substitute: Best Choices
1. Mustard Greens
Mustard greens are leafy green vegetables that are members of the Brassica family, just like broccoli rabe. There are many subspecies of the mustard plant, although they all have the same vibrant, slightly peppery flavor, which is similar to that of broccoli rabe. Mustard greens also look similar to broccoli rabe with their long stems and big leaves.
Mustard greens function well as a substitute for broccoli rabe because they have a similar texture, appearance, flavor profile, and nutritional value. However, mustard greens are a bit more peppery, so be prepared for an extra kick in your dish.
2. Collard Greens
Collard greens are another leafy green member of the Brassica family. They are bigger than broccoli rabe and have a tougher stem and wider leaves. Collard greens are a popular staple of Southern cuisine and are a frequent side at barbecues and cookouts.
Collard greens have a similar bitter flavor to broccoli rabe, which makes them work well as a substitute. However, the bitterness may be too much for some people, particularly if you are making a salad. While you can eat the soft stems of broccoli rabe, you should remove them from collard greens as the stems are too tough and bitter.
3. Chinese Broccoli
Chinese broccoli is another leafy member of the Brassica family that shares a name with broccoli. This vegetable has a long, tender stem and wide green leaves like broccoli rabe.
The firm texture and similar, bitter taste of Chinese broccoli means that it can work as a substitute in many recipes. Add it to stir-fries or sauté it as a side dish.
In terms of appearance, Chinese broccoli is closer to broccoli than broccoli rabe thanks to its larger leaves and crown, but that shouldn’t be a big problem.
If you’re struggling to find broccoli rabe in the supermarket, you can’t go wrong with spinach. Its relatively mild taste and tender leaves are adaptable for many recipes and culinary preparations.
Spinach works as a substitute because it has similar health benefits to broccoli rabe but is not as bitter, making it more adaptable for picky eaters. However, its much softer texture means that it cannot work as a substitute in certain recipes, such as stir-fries.
Endive is a type of chicory. You can recognize endive in the store by its tight, bud-like structure and distinctive coloring. Unlike many other leafy plants, endive is yellow and white with only hints of green at its tip.
Endive has a similar bitter flavor profile to broccoli rabe and crunchy texture, making it a good substitute for salads and roasted dishes. However, endive doesn’t hold up to heat as well as broccoli rabe, so you cannot use it as a substitute in cooked dishes.
6. Dandelion Greens
Dandelion greens come from the dandelion plant. You can recognize them by their spiky leaves. They have a similar bitter flavor to mustard greens and broccoli rabe.
Some people find dandelion greens too bitter, but their flavor mellows down to something approaching broccoli rabe as they cook down.
Use them as a substitute in recipes that require plenty of cooking time and choose smaller leaves because they have a milder flavor.
Whether you are looking for a more common vegetable or one with a bitterness that is more manageable, these are a few broccoli rabe substitutes.
Despite the name, the best substitute option for broccoli rabe isn’t regular broccoli. Instead, the best options are some of the substitution ideas above. Each is a good option for different reasons, whether it’s a similar taste, texture, or something else!