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Greens Galore: 5 Top Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe

If you’re sauntering down the fresh produce aisle and your recipe calls for the bitter piquancy of broccoli rabe – but none is in sight – don’t batten down the hatches just yet.

For those culinarily unprepared moments, there are brighter, leafier greens ready to stand in and wow in your favorite dishes.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through five of the most delectable and nutritious swaps for this peppery cruciferous green.

Whether you’re a vegetarian foodie, health enthusiast, or simply a home cook looking to diversify your meals, you’re about to unlock a garden of flavors in your kitchen.

A Brief on Broccoli Rabe’s Versatility

Broccoli rabe, also known as rapini, is an amped-up cousin of traditional broccoli with spiked leaves and tender stems. It often takes the lead in pasta, pizza, and side dish recipes, offering a bit of bite and a whole lot of depth to the plate.

If you’re after a cruciferous vegetable that delivers a gently bitter, slightly nutty flavor with a peppery punch, you’re on the right track with broccoli rabe. But when you’re in a pinch, these alternatives are your culinary saviors.

Key Takeaways:

  • Broccoli rabe is a versatile and nutrient-dense vegetable that can be substituted in many recipes.
  • Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, spinach, and arugula are all excellent substitutes for broccoli rabe.
  • Each substitute brings its unique flavor profile and texture to dishes and can be used at a 1:1 or adjusted ratio depending on personal preference.

5 Best Substitutes for Broccoli Rabe

1 – Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that has become a popular substitute for spinach due to its similar taste and texture. It is also known as silverbeet or rainbow chard, referring to the colorful stems that can come in shades of red, yellow, orange, and white.

It has a distinctive earthy flavor with a subtle bitterness, which might remind you of beets given their relationship. When cooked, the leaves maintain a delicate tenderness while offering a satisfying substance, making them ideal for sautéing or braising.

Swiss chard is the colorful chameleon of the green leafy world, offering broccoli rabe’s texture and a similar earthy bitterness. In recipes, substitute swiss chard directly at a 1:1 ratio by removing the stems and chopping the leaves into bite-sized pieces. It’s a standout in pasta dishes, frittatas, and as a bed for grilled or roasted meats.

2 – Kale

Kale has long been hailed as a superfood due to its exceptional nutritional content. This leafy green vegetable, a member of the Brassica family, shares its lineage with other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

The curly or lacinato (also known as Tuscan) leaves of kale boast a rich, deep green color that signifies its abundance of vitamins and minerals. Its distinctive flavor profile is characterized by a slightly bitter undertone, complemented by a hearty essence and a subtle touch of sweetness.

Known for its robust texture, even after cooking, kale maintains a satisfyingly firm structure that adds substance to any dish.

Kale is broccoli rabe’s sturdy counterpart, ready for a sauté or a quick stint in the oven. It can be swapped at a 1:1 ratio in most recipes, though you may want to adjust your cooking time slightly shorter due to its heartiness. Whether as a standalone side or massaged in a salad, kale brings nutrition and taste in spades.

3 – Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are a staple in southern cuisine, known for their bold and spicy flavor. Like kale, they belong to the Brassica family and share similar nutritional qualities.

However, mustard greens have a distinct taste that sets them apart from other leafy greens. Their slight bitterness is balanced out by a strong peppery kick that adds depth to any dish.

In addition to its unique flavor profile, mustard greens are also known for their versatility in the kitchen. They can be cooked in a variety of ways, including sautéing, boiling, or even pickling. When cooked, they have a tender yet slightly crunchy texture that adds interest to any dish.

Mustard greens are as vibrant in personality as they are in color, with a spirited flavor sure to wake up any dish. Here, a 1:1 swap with broccoli rabe will yield a more complex taste, especially in grain dishes or soups. They also work beautifully in a Southern- or Asian-inspired cuisine, alongside hearty braises and as a side with a hint of spice.

4 – Spinach

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable with a mild taste and a tender texture. It has been enjoyed for centuries in various cuisines around the world, from Italian dishes like pasta and pizza to Indian curries and Greek spanakopita. This versatile vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked, making it an excellent substitute for broccoli rabe.

Whether sautéed in garlic and olive oil or blended into a smoothie, spinach adds a subtle yet satisfying flavor to any dish. When used as a substitute for broccoli rabe, it can be used at a 1:1 ratio and cooked for the same amount of time. Its mild taste makes it an excellent option for those who prefer a milder flavor profile in their dishes.

Spinach is the broccoli rabe alternative for those looking for a milder experience. Use it in dishes that can tolerate a softer, silky texture and a more neutral flavor.

A 1.5 to 2:1 ratio of spinach to what your recipe calls for with broccoli rabe should suffice. Think creamy pastas, layered egg bakes, or as a bed for subtly spiced lentils.

5 – Arugula

Last but not least, we come to the king of leafy greens, arugula. This spicy and slightly bitter green is versatile and full of flavor.

Its tender leaves wilt quickly, so it’s best used in salads, added at the last minute to soups, or incorporated into a finished dish. It’s a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, but has gained popularity all over the world in recent years.

One of the great things about arugula is its versatility in the kitchen. It can be used raw in salads, sandwiches, and wraps, or cooked in a variety of dishes. Its peppery flavor pairs well with grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and pasta dishes. It can even be blended into pesto for a unique twist on the classic sauce.

Arugula may not seem the obvious choice, but with its healthy bite and peppery zing, it can liven up dishes that beg for broccoli rabe. In salads, pizzas, or even stirred into pastas right before serving, use a 1.5:1 ratio of arugula to ensure the right balance of flavor and texture.

Kale Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette recipe

Kale Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

A hearty and nutritious salad featuring kale, a popular substitute for broccoli rabe. Tossed in a tangy mustard vinaigrette and topped with roasted almonds and cranberries.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 151 kcal

Equipment

  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • whisk

Ingredients
  

  • 1 large bunch kale approximately 8 cups, stems removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Whisk until fully combined.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add chopped kale and pour the mustard vinaigrette over it. Use your hands to massage the vinaigrette into the kale leaves, making sure each leaf is coated.
  • On a baking sheet, spread out sliced almonds in a single layer. Toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
  • In the same mixing bowl used for the vinaigrette, toss in the toasted almonds and dried cranberries with the kale.
  • Serve immediately or let it sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.

Notes

  • You can add more or less Dijon mustard depending on your preference for tanginess.
  • This salad is also delicious with added protein such as grilled chicken or tofu. Simply add it on top of the dressed kale before adding in the almonds and cranberries.
  • Leftover salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, though it is best served fresh.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 151kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 3gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gSodium: 101mgPotassium: 176mgFiber: 3gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 3252IUVitamin C: 30mgCalcium: 104mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Kale Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette
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5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating