If you love broccoli but you wish it was more floret and less stalk, or if you’re looking for something with a milder flavour to encourage your kids to eat more veggies, we think you’ll love broccolini, the newest member of the brassica family.
What is broccolini?
Broccolini, sometimes known as tenderstem broccoli or baby broccoli, is actually a cross-breed of broccoli and gai lan, or Chinese broccoli. It has long, tender stems ending in florets that sometimes open out into tiny yellow flowers, and a mellow, nutty, slightly sweet flavour.
While its parent veggies have been on the menu for thousands of years, broccolini is a much more recent addition to the brassica family, first finding its way into stores in the mid 1990s. It was developed by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan and was created using hybridisation rather than gene-splicing, so broccolini is not a genetically modified (GM) food.
Like all cruciferous vegetables, broccolini is packed with nutrients and may have several health benefits when eaten as part of a balanced diet.
It is high in vitamins A and D, both of which can help to maintain immune function and promote healthy skin. Vitamin A is also important for healthy vision, and can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness.
Broccolini is a good source of calcium and magnesium, both of which can help regulate blood pressure, while calcium is also important for healthy bones. It is high in antioxidants, including sulforaphane, which protects against oxidative cell damage that can lead to chronic diseases like cancer.
Broccolini is also a good source of plant-based protein, with the same protein content as rice, gram for gram, and around half the calories. It is high in fibre, too, which can help to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Broccolini vs broccoli
Broccolini shares many attributes with broccoli. They have a similar flavour, and both are highly nutritious. But there are also several key differences. Broccolini has a slightly sweeter flavour, with none of the bitterness of broccoli, and small, edible leaves courtesy of its other parent, gai lan. It has a slimmer, more tender stem, which means that the florets and stalk cook at roughly the same rate.
How to prep broccolini
Because broccolini is so tender, there’s very little you need to trim. Simply take a sharp knife and cut away the bottom third of the stem, then cut the larger bunches lengthways into smaller pieces so that everything cooks evenly. You can leave the leaves attached, as these are also edible. Wash your broccolini pieces well, and pat dry with a clean towel.
How to cook broccolini
Broccolini can be cooked in a variety of different ways. Sautéing and steaming are great for accentuating it’s tender, succulent texture, while roasting and grilling add a delicious char to the ends.
Sauté broccolini with oil or butter for 10 minutes over a medium-high heat.
Steam broccoli over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Roast broccolini in olive oil at 425°F for 10-12 minutes.
Grill broccolini on a medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes. Use a grill plate to avoid losing broccolini between the bars.
Tender broccolini sautéed in garlic oil makes a simple but delicious side dish.
Extra-virgin olive oil,
1 tsp, crushed
Fill a large pot with water, add a little salt, and bring to the boil.
Add the broccolini and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the broccolini has an al dente texture. Drain, and reserve ½ cup of the cooking water.
Take an extra large skillet and add the oil, garlic and red pepper. Cook on a medium heat for 1 minute until fragrant, then turn up the heat and add the broccolini. Toss well, so the broccolini is well coated by the oil, then add the cooking water, and cook for a further 2 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Sprinkle with a little salt, and serve.
Try roasting your broccolini for an irresistible crispy-but-tender texture.
Extra-virgin olive oil,
Red pepper flakes,
Preheat your oven to 425°F.
Arrange the broccolini on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add a good pinch of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and toss to coat.
Roast for 30 minutes, until the stems are tender, and the ends slightly crispy.
A healthy and delicious weeknight meal that’s ready to eat in just 15 minutes.
500g, roughly chopped
1, juice and zest
3 tbsp, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil,
1 tbsp, unsalted
Fill a large pot with water, add a little salt, and bring to the boil. Add the pasta, and cook according to the instructions on the packaging.
While the pasta is cooking, take a large skillet and heat the olive oil and butter over a medium heat. Add the broccolini and cook for around 5 minutes, until just tender.
Add the garlic, lemon juice and zest and cook for a further 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in the cream and reduce to a medium-low simmer, then add the Parmesan.
Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, stirring well to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the pine nuts and basil over the top.
What to serve with broccolini
Broccolini is a versatile veggie that tastes great with a wide variety of different foods. Here are a few of our favourite serving ideas:
Stir fried - stir-frying is a great way to preserve the tender texture of broccolini, and its sweet, nutty flavour blends well with aromatic Asian flavours like sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger.
With cheese - like its close relatives broccoli and cauliflower, broccolini pairs particularly well with cheese. Serve with sharp, tangy feta or shavings of Parmesan for a simple but elegant side.
With citrus - a bit of acidity can really help to bring all those tasty flavours out of your broccolini. Just a squeeze of lemon or lime can make all the difference.
With steak - broccolini is the perfect accompaniment for steak if you don’t want to load up on carbs. It has just the right amount of bite and won’t overpower the meat like many popular sides can.
With pine nuts - pine nuts are great for bringing out the nuttiness in broccolini. You can use them together in pastas, salads and stir fries.
With lamb - the slightly gamey flavour of lamb works well with fresh tender greens. Try broccolini with a traditional family roast, or a spicy Moroccan lamb dish.
Salmon - healthy salmon is another food that loves fresh greens. Serve with broccolini and new potatoes for a light but satisfying supper.
If you’re looking for new veggies to add interest to your meals, or different ways to serve old favourites, visit our vegetables section for inspiration, tips and more.