10 Broccoli Rabe Substitutes for Main and Side Dishes

Broccoli rabe is a green leafy vegetable that looks like broccoli but is practically closer to turnip. The entire vegetable is edible and full of vitamins. It is popular especially in Italian dishes but you can find it in California markets too. 

It tastes nutty and has some bitterness. You can use this green in salads, sautéed dishes, pastas, and serve with pork tenderloin. 

If you look for it in local markets but can’t find it, then try the substitutes below instead. The best broccoli rabe substitutes are mustard greens, dandelion greens, Chinese broccoli, collard greens, kale, spinach, escarole, arugula, chicory and broccolini. 

10 Broccoli Rabe Substitutes To Try

1. Mustard Greens

If you are looking for a substitute that looks and tastes similar to broccoli rabe, then the best choice is mustard greens. Those long green leaves go well with pasta as well as with other vegetables creating a mild peppery and pungent flavor with a bitter hint.  

You can use mustard greens both in cold and hot dishes (like broccoli rabe) including salads, sandwiches, soups, stews and sauteed dishes. 

2. Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens are cheap and easy alternatives to broccoli rabe when they are in season. These greens come with a strong bitter and peppery taste and have many health benefits. 

Few people know that they are used in salads, soups and stews, and they can be used instead of broccoli rabe too. 

Dandelion greens grow almost everywhere and maybe you have them somewhere in your garden. They come into season in spring. 

3. Chinese Broccoli

If you want to make your choice between something related to the broccoli family, then choose the Chinese broccoli. It is a leaf vegetable similar to broccoli rabe and makes a good match with the ingredients of broccoli rabe recipes. 

Chinese broccoli has an earthy and slightly bitter taste. You can eat it both raw and cooked, which means that you can use it in the same salads and hot dishes as broccoli rabe. 

4. Collard Greens

Another leaf vegetable that looks like broccoli rabe is collard greens. It also tastes similar as it offers a mild bitter and earthy flavor. These greens come from the cabbage family and they are perfect in salads. 

You may remove the stem before cooking as it is tough but the leaves are subtle enough to eat raw. You can serve collard greens with pasta and meat dishes as a side dish. 

5. Kale

Kale is a good substitute for those who avoid the bitter taste of broccoli rabe and look for something milder and subtler. 

This green closely stands to cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, collard greens and bok choy. It has many health benefits like the rest of the leafy greens. 

You can choose it to use instead of broccoli rabe in pastas, with meat dishes as a side dish and a topping on pizzas. 

6. Endive

Endive is a leaf vegetable with light green to white leaves. It  has a similar bitter taste as broccoli rabe and comes with almost the same crunchy texture. It is another good substitute for broccoli rabe and can be used in salads and roasted dishes. 

Compared to broccoli rabe, endive doesn’t undergo heating and cooking as desired. That’s why it’s not a good match for cooked dishes. 

7. Turnip Greens

Many cooks think that turnip greens are the most developed type of broccoli rabe and they have many similarities. 

Between the best alternatives to broccoli rabe, turnip greens are one of the bests. You can find them from markets and supermarkets sold in bunches which consist of spreaded leaves and stalks, both of which are edible.

They taste a lot like a root and has some peppery notes. This green is often used in cooked and sauteed dishes. You can use it raw in salads, sandwiches and wraps as well as in soups and casseroles. 

8. Arugula

Arugula is a peppery green that looks like dandelion greens and has a spicy kick. It’s a suitable substitute for broccoli rabe in many recipes if you don’t mind a mild spiciness. Baby arugula comes with a milder spiciness and bitter flavor. 

It is better to eat arugula raw as it has many vitamins and is good for your health, but you can use it in cooked dishes too. 

9. Swiss Chard

Coming from the same family as beet, swiss chard is a leafy vegetable used in cooked dishes and salads. When raw, it has an earthy, sweet and slightly bitter flavor which disappears once you cook it. 

You can consider it as another healthy and useful alternative to broccoli rabe. 

Swiss chard has deep green leaves and purple stalks which make it quite pleasant to add to salads. It is usually cooked separately and then added to the rest of the ingredients, because it spreads the deep purple color of beet when cooked. 

10. Broccolini

Although broccolini looks like broccoli rabe, it doesn’t have exactly the same taste. It is much sweeter and milder and if it’s the flavor you want for your recipes, then go ahead with this substitute. It will keep the appearance of the dish. 

When it comes to cooking, you should know that broccolini takes longer to cook than broccoli rabe and it’s better to serve it cooked than raw. 

It’s important to note that broccolini is a hybrid vegetable and it may not be a good alternative if you are after a healthy lifestyle and organic food. 

FAQs on Broccoli Rabe

Is broccoli rabe as healthy as broccoli?

Although broccoli rabe and broccoli are different vegetables, they both come with almost the same nutrients. They share the same health benefits such as improving heart health, weight and blood sugar as well as anti-cancer properties. 

How to balance the bitterness of broccoli rabe in a dish?

In spite of the fact that the main quality of broccolini rabe is its bitterness and many like it, you can still find a way to balance it if you don’t want to have its strong flavor in the dish.

The first and easiest way is to cook broccoli rabe beforehand. Just make sure not to overcook it. Second, you can add lemon or cream depending on what you make. 

What part of broccoli rabe can I cook?

As said above, entire broccoli rabe is edible but if you want to choose the best part for cooking then go ahead with green floretes. They are milder in taste and texture compared to the stem. 

Summary

Compared to the taste and flavor of broccoli rabe, these substitutes come with more or less bitterness or peppery notes. Some hold sweetness, others offer little pungency, but the usage and cooking techniques are almost the same for all of them.

And the final result is similar to what we get with broccoli rabe. So, whichever you choose, pay attention to the strongest feature of each green. 

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