The Best Simple Broccoli Substitutes

broccoli substitutes

Broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables but when I run out I use these broccoli substitutes.

What is Broccoli?

It’s a member of the brassica family of vegetables. It has a unique shape and looks like little trees.

The most common variety is called calabrese. But there are also tender stem varieties (also called baby broccoli or broccolini) which have long edible stems and smaller florettes on top.

Chinese broccoli looks like the long tender stem varieties.

Romanecso broccoli looks a little like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. I haven’t ever cooked it but have read that the flavour is similar to regular broccoli.

Because these different broccoli varieties taste similar I use them interchangeably.

The Best Broccoli Substitutes

1. Cauliflower

I think of cauliflower as a white version of broccoli. While the flavour of cauliflower is milder and less green, the shape and texture is really similar. Nutritionally they are very comparable.

If you’re feeding someone with an aversion to green vegetables, cauliflower can be an excellent broccoli substitute.

2. Brussels Sprouts

In places where you are roasting broccoli, brussels sprouts are a brilliant substitute. Same with raw broccoli dishes – just shave the sprouts as finely as you can.

I wouldn’t use brussels sprouts in soup or steamed dishes because I find cooking them in liquid enhances the strong sulfurous flavours that make them so unpopular.

3. Kale

If you are using broccoli as a green vegetable, kale can work really well in all applications except broccoli ‘rice’. You’ll just need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

4. Leafy Greens

As per kale, cooked leafy greens like spinach, collards and chard (silverbeet) can sub in beautifully when using broccoli as a side. Won’t work for roast broccoli or broccoli ‘rice’ though.

5. Green beans

Green beans aren’t as nutritious as broccoli but they can be used anywhere you’d reach for broccoli apart from broccoli ‘rice’. And thinking about it, I generally don’t enjoy raw beans but if you do, go for it!

6. Asparagus

Another excellent green veg alternative to broccoli. Will work in raw / steamed / boiled / roasted recipes. Don’t try to make asparagus ‘rice’ – I tried to grate asparagus with my food processor once and ended up with a slimy mess.

7. Baby spinach leaves

If you’re short on time, and want to include some extra veggies in your meal, a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves can work just as well as some broccoli without the need for any prep!

How to Prepare Broccoli

To use raw.
Just rinse, pat dry and finely slice the stems. Then chop the florettes into tiny chunks. The smaller you chop the easier they are to eat. I like to toss my raw broccoli in a salad dressing and let it stand for 30 minutes or so to soften slightly before eating.

Although I adore it, I find raw broccoli difficult to digest so tend to skip it unless I’m in the mood for a big bout of bloating.

Beautiful Broccoli
This is my go-to method for cooking broccoli. I have it at least once a week. I call it ‘steam-boiling’.

Just bring about 1cm (1/2in) salted water to the boil in a large saucepan.

The salt is essential for keeping the colour bright green.

Add your chopped / sliced broccoli and any broccoli leaves. Cover with the lid and simmer rapidly for 5 minutes. Drain well, discarding the cooking water (although if you want you can keep it to use as a stock or a drink).

I let it cool slightly for a few minutes for the steam to escape.

If I’m not using the broccoli for a particular recipe, then I dress it with 1-2 tablespoons each soy sauce and rice vinegar. #sogood

Roast Broccoli
If I have more time, roasting broccoli is incredibly delicious.

Just chop into bite sized pieces and toss in a roasting tray with a good drizzle of olive oil. Cover with foil and roast at 220C (420F) for 15 minutes. Remove the foil, stir and return to the uncovered for 10 minutes or until the broccoli is tender and starting to brown.

Broccoli ‘Rice’
Just grate the broccoli using a box grater or your food processor grater attachment (much easier!).

Either use raw or cook in a pan with a little oil until the broccoli is hot.

An excellent Low Carb substitute for steamed rice (although it does look a lot healthier – which may or may not be a good thing).

How to Store Broccoli

I keep mine wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. Will keep for about a week like this, depending on how fresh your broccoli is when you bought it.

I have had organic broccoli from the farmers market last for 2 weeks but this is rare!

When is Broccoli in Season?

I can buy broccoli from my farmers market year round. So it’s one of those vegetables which isn’t very seasonal. I eat it every week.

Although like all the brassicas, the flavour is slightly sweeter and less bitter in the Winter time.

Favourite Broccoli Recipes

Delicious Broccoli Substitutes Flavour Pairings

  • Beef & Broccoli
  • Bacon & Broccoli
  • Cheese & Broccoli
  • Garlic & Broccoli
  • Goats Cheese & Broccoli
  • Smoked Fish & Broccoli
  • Basil & Broccoli
  • Walnut & Broccoli

Bonus tip!

If you’re struggling to get your kids to try broccoli tell them that the florettes are dinosaur trees. And that they are big strong dinosaurs eating the tiny trees. It works with my 5-year-old (not so much with my 3-year-old)

Also see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.

More Ingredient Substitutes

Also see see the Simple Ingredients Substitutes Index.

Have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x


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