Broccoli Rabe is widely used in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. In the United States, rapini(broccoli rabe) is a popular ingredient in American-Italian kitchens, usually included in sub sandwiches, hoagies, and pasta dishes.
But then, of course, the vegetable may not be something you have on stock in the pantry. If you are craving a taste for it, you might think of substituting the rabe with other vegetables.
Here are some of the 15 vegetables that you can consider to substitute broccoli rabe
- Mustard Greens
- Collard Greens
- Swiss Chard
- Chinese Broccoli
Just to prevent any confusion.
Broccoli and Broccolini are relatives of Broccoli Rabe but they are not the same
Broccoli is a green veggie from the family of cabbages. The head of broccoli is made of dark green florets in large green stalks wrapped in green leaves. Broccoli has a slightly bitter taste and earthy flavor.
Broccolini is a product of cross-pollination between Chinese cabbage and broccoli. This vegetable has long, slender, and smaller florets compared to broccoli. Its taste is similar to asparagus – mild, refined, delicate, and sweet.
Broccoli rabe is similar to broccolini in flavor, but broccoli rabe tastes bitter, mixed with the leaves’ nutty, earthy taste. Its appearance also differs. The rabe has plenty of leaves, much smaller florets, and a more slender stem than broccolini.
So, we have compiled a list of the best substitute for broccoli rabe. We have listed 15 different vegetables, including cauliflower leaves and broccoli leaves.
If you want to find out which vegetable is available in your kitchen, read on. You just might get a surprise.
What is Broccoli Rabe?
Broccoli rabe (pronounced as rob) is an edible, leafy green cruciferous vegetable with stems and floret buds.
This vegetable is native to Europe and comes from the mustard species of the genus brassica. Its other names are rapini, broccoli raab, broccoletti, spring raab, and Ruvo kale.
What’s the Best Overall Substitute for Broccoli Rabe?
This part lists down 15 of the best broccoli rabe substitutes for various dishes and recipes. The vegetable may be used in many varieties of food, dishes, snacks, side dishes, and even sauces.
Mustard greens are the best substitute for broccoli rabe overall. They come from the same genus and species, and provide nearly identical tastes and textures.
They are both leafy in appearance, the one difference being the floret buds on the broccoli rabe.
They share the same earthy, bitter, nutty, and peppery flavor, although mustard greens taste milder. . Both also give the same benefits in terms of healthy nutrients.
Mustard greens go well with any dish. You can mix them with pasta to make healthy vegan pasta, blend well with soup, make a great salad ingredient, or add to any sandwich.
What Are the Best Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe as Side Dish?
You can serve broccoli rabe roasted or grilled like a kebab or crispy chips. If the veggie is not available, this is your best substitute.
Collard greens come from the cabbage family. The same family as broccoli.
It has a bitter, earthy taste similar to broccoli rabe that tones down once cooked. Collard green is a rich source of magnesium and shares the same health benefits as rabe.
Just like rabe, it is leafy but with a sturdy stem. The stem is usually discarded, but if you want to include them, cut the stem off, then blanch them to soften.
It is best served as a sautéed side dish for meat or mixed with other salad greens.
Chicory is leafy like broccoli rabe, but with sizable leaves. It has a slightly bitter taste similar to rabe. The flavor has unique tones and some spiciness that are reduced after cooking.
Chicory is best served grilled or as kebab. Although you can also use it as a salad ingredient. Whichever is your preference, chicory is an excellent side dish.
What Are the Best Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe in Salads?
When serving lunch or dinner, salad is always a part of the meal. It’s a starter course and a full meal for those people dieting. Regardless of your reason, salad is always a great starter. Look at these broccoli rabe substitutes for your salad.
Endives have a similar appearance to chicory. A leafy vegetable is a rich source of fiber. It gives the same health benefits as rabe.
Endive has a crisp, bitter taste similar to rabe, so it’s a perfect substitute in a salad. Once cooked, the bitterness is reduced and the flavor turns nutty and sweet.
Although arugula differs much in appearance from broccoli rabe, its tart, bitter flavor makes it a good alternative.
This is your leafy green to replace rabe in any salad dish.
Swiss chard comes from the family of beets. The chard has green leaves that are highly nutritious. It is low in calories and contains Vitamins A and K.
It tastes mild, earthy, sweet, and slightly bitter. The bitter taste is reduced once cooked. The frim stem is usually segregated and prepared separately.
It is best served raw as a salad if you want to retain its similar taste with rabe. Its green, crinkly leaves have a crisp texture, making it an excellent salad ingredient.
What Are the Best Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe in Main Dishes?
Your main course is the highlight of your meal. It is usually meat, chicken, or fish. Vegetables are often added to balance the dish. What to do if the rabe is not available? Try any of the following:
Broccolini looks almost identical to rabe, but it has a sweeter and milder taste. The floret buds of broccolini are also bigger and less leafy than rabe.
Broccolini takes longer to cook than rabe, so you need to adjust the cooking time. It is best served cooked or sautéed. Do take note that broccolini is a hybrid vegetable, so if you are into organic and natural food, this may not be a suitable substitute.
Another vegetable closely similar to rabe is Chinese broccoli. This is not surprising because both come from the same genes. They have similar leaves, floret buds, stalks, and bitter flavor and taste. \
The difference is that Chinese broccoli has a chunkier and thicker stem. Chinese broccoli is rich in fiber and beta-carotene. It is best served steamed or sautéed.
Broccoli leaves are probably one of the most underrated vegetables. They are not as famous as the broccoli florets, but they have the same nutrients, if not more.
Broccoli leaves contain more antioxidants; are rich in fiber, calcium, and Vitamins E and K.
They taste faintly similar to broccoli but mildly bitter and earthy. The leaves are similar to kale and collards.
It is best served cooked with other vegetables, steamed, or sautéed.
[Related Article: 9 Best Substitute for Celery For Soup Or Cooking]
What Are the Best Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe Pesto / Sauce?
You can use broccoli rabe as pesto or sauce just like basil but if it is not an option as an ingredient, then use these vegetables:
Kale has the same bitter taste as broccoli rabe, so you can easily substitute it for any rabe recipe dish you are making.
Kale is your best bet as a replacement when preparing broccoli rabe pasta or salad. But, this leafy green is an excellent substitute if you are making pesto.
Spinach is one of the substitutes for basil to make pesto and an excellent replacement if you want your pesto to taste like broccoli rabe.
Spinach has a bitter, nutty taste that is similar to broccoli rabe.
What Are the Best Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe in Pasta/Pizza/Panini?
Broccoli rabe is widely used in Italian cuisine, so it is not surprising that the veggie would find its way in pasta dishes, pizza, and Panini.
Turnip greens have an earthy root taste similar to rabe, and a peppery flavor similar to mustard green.
And why not?
Turnip greens come from the same genus as rabe and mustard greens. Turnip greens may look slightly different from broccoli rabe, but are just as healthy and readily available.
You can chop turnip greens to serve as a topping for your pizza, an ingredient to your pasta dish, or a filling for your Panini.
Like rabe, dandelion greens are leafy, but you might want to get the younger greens. The larger leaves and shorter stems are closely similar to rabe.
Dandelion greens are slightly more bitter and drier than broccoli rabe.
Although dandelion greens can be used in salads, they are best served cooked through and wilted.
What Are the Best Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe in Sandwiches?
Broccoli rabe goes well with a burger and other sandwiches.
The green, curly leaves of escarole have a bitter taste, but you can eat them cooked or raw.
The inner leaves of escarole are best used in sandwiches or salads because of their milder taste and tenderness.
The outer leaves are often used for soups, stews, and pasta.
Another underrated vegetable is cauliflower greens. The leafy greens that serve as a bed for cauliflower florets are often ignored and discarded.
The leaves have a more bitter taste that can be likened to kale, but the bitterness is reduced once seasoned and cook. The leaves are suited to be eaten raw or cooked.
Pairs well with pork, chicken, beef, and dill to make a good sandwich.
Why Do You Need a Substitute for Broccoli Rabe?
Broccoli rabe is a not common vegetable. Rabe is not a vegetable that you often find in any pantry. So, when your recipe calls for it, the best thing to do is find a substitute vegetable.
Broccoli rabe is not available all year round. It is at its best in cool weather, during early spring, in fall, and early winter.
You can buy them in clear plastic at the crisper of some supermarkets because only a few supermarkets carry them. Otherwise, you need to go to farmers’ markets, specialty stores, and farm co-ops to find them.
Broccoli rabe is an expensive vegetable. Unless you have the budget, it is not the kind of vegetable you can use daily.
Taste and Texture
Not everyone appreciates the bitter taste and spiky texture of broccoli rabe. Some people prefer something milder in taste and flavor.
Broccoli rabe is an excellent ingredient for any cuisine, but constant use of the vegetable would eventually become boring. If you are an adventurous eater, try out this list of substitutes.