While broccolini may look similar to baby broccoli, it’s actually an entirely different plant! Invented in 1993, broccolini is actually a hybrid between standard broccoli and Chinese broccoli, otherwise known as Chinese kale. This being said, both vegetables are a part of the cruciferous family, which includes heavyweights like cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
Appearance and Texture
With their thick stalks, amble florets, and thick texture, traditional broccoli just may be one of the most iconic vegetables of all time. Be on the lookout for a bright green hue, as it is generally a good sign of a quality product. Broccolini (pictured above) has a similar look, but has recognizably thinner and longer stalks, along with particularly smaller florets. Due to it’s hybridized nature, broccolini is generally much more tender and delicate than traditional broccoli.
Despite their differences, both vegetables have stellar nutritional profiles and are decent sources of protein and fiber while still being low in carbohydrates and calories. That being said, broccoli is a better source of vitamins and minerals, containing higher amounts of folate and vitamin B12. Don’t think that makes broccolini a slouch however, as each cup is a great source of vitamin and C.
Culinary Versatility and Flavor
Once you get down to it, culinary versatility is the make it or break point for a lot of chefs. We’re happy to report that broccoli and broccolini are both excellent options in a variety of dishes, but they’re both better suited to different dishes. In general, traditional broccoli is the king of steaming and sautéing, as their thick stalks hold up well in the cooking process. Additionally, broccoli is legendary for it’s bitterness and adaptable flavor profile and pairs well with citrus or nutty cheeses like parmesan. Broccolini, on the other hand, particularly excels in stir-frying, making it a fantastic option in Asian cooking. Due to its Chinese broccoli roots, broccoli is often found in the Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese cuisine and works best when cooked. In terms of flavor, broccolini is sweeter and less earthy than traditional broccoli and doesn’t contain the common bitterness associated with broccoli.