If you’re looking to add something green to your family’s meals, broccoli is one of the most versatile veggies out there. But let’s be honest: adding these nutritious greens to your diet is way easier to do when you prepare them in a way that’s actually, well, tasty. Not sure where to start? We’re here to break down the broccoli basics. From cooking methods like blanching and roasting to choosing the type of broccoli you’ll like best, plus easy recipes that star broccoli likes soups and casseroles, here’s everything you need to know about broccoli.
What is Broccoli?
Broccoli is a dark green vegetable rich in antioxidants, fiber and vitamins A and C and can be eaten raw or cooked. Broccoli was bred from cabbages by selecting only those with large flower buds for reproducing, and is therefore a cousin of cabbage, kale and cauliflower. It’s known for its thick stalks and abundant buds called florets, both of which can be eaten.
Broccoli is widely available year-round, but peak season is October through April. When choosing a head of broccoli, look for vibrant green colors and florets that are tightly packed together. Yellow-brown, soft broccoli is a sign that it’s getting old (and nobody wants that!).
Types of Broccoli
The most common type of broccoli you’re probably used to seeing at the grocery store is Calabrese broccoli, which is distinguished by the typical large green heads and thick stalks. Some other varieties you may have heard of include:
Chinese broccoli: Known for its much larger leaves and smaller florets than traditional broccoli. As its name suggests, it’s often found in Chinese cuisine and has a slightly bitter taste. It’s perfect for stir-fry, but steaming and sautéing also work well with this type of broccoli.
Broccolini: Has thinner, longer stalks and smaller florets than traditional broccoli. It’s a cross between regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli and has a milder flavor that tastes best when sautéed, grilled or roasted.
Broccoli rabe: Is actually a closer relative to turnips than broccoli and has thin stalks and thick green leaves that taste best when blanched or sautéed to soften them up.
How to Cook Broccoli
Aside from adding it to the main course, broccoli also makes a great side dish or snack when cooked on its own. There are several methods for cooking, and we’ve broken some of them down for you right here.
How to Blanch Broccoli
Blanching broccoli is a super-fast cooking method that does wonders for softening up those tough stalks and toning down the earthy flavor.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 large bowl of ice water
- 1 large pot
- 6 cups of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
Place a bowl of ice water next to the stove. Bring pot of water to a rapid boil and add a heaping tablespoon of salt.
Add chopped broccoli to boiling water and cook until just tender, about two minutes.
Remove broccoli with a slotted spoon and immediately place in the ice bath to stop cooking.
Roasted broccoli makes a delicious side dish that can complement any main, and our 5-Ingredient Roasted Broccoli recipe makes it easier than ever.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 6 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 15x10x1-inch pan
Heat oven to 400° F. Place broccoli in a single layer in 15x10x1-inch pan. Stir garlic into broccoli to combine.
Drizzle evenly with olive oil. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Roast uncovered 18 to 22 minutes or until crisp-tender and some florets are browned.
A quick sauté is an easy way to liven up those florets! Our Parmesan Broccoli recipe uses butter, Parmesan cheese and onion to add a delicious flavor boost.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- ½ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 4 cups fresh broccoli florets
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon peppered seasoned salt
- ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 12-inch nonstick skillet
Melt butter over medium heat in 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cook onion in butter 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add broccoli and water. Cover; cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is crisp-tender and water has evaporated.
Sprinkle with peppered seasoned salt and Italian seasoning; toss to mix. Sprinkle with cheese.
How to Steam Broccoli
Steaming broccoli is a great way to get soft, tender florets. If you don’t have a steamer, you can simply add about two inches of water to a pot and bring it to a boil, then add your broccoli and steam about 12 minutes or until tender.
What to Make with Broccoli
So you’ve done your due diligence and added more veggies to your grocery cart—now what are you going to do with all of that broccoli? From creamy soups and cozy casseroles to stir-fry, broccoli can easily become a nutritious addition to any dinner dish.
Soup is my go-to meal when the thermometer starts to dip below 40 degrees. It’s cozy, delicious and makes great leftovers, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s also really easy to sneak in some extra veggies when they’re smothered in a creamy, cheesy soup, which is why this Broccoli Cheese Soup is one of my dinner staples.
Stir-fry is the ultimate easy dinner—when you’re running low on time, just add your favorite veggies and seasonings to a skillet and you’re good to go! This easy beef stir-fry recipe is on the table in less than 30 minutes.
When you mix broccoli into a casserole full of your favorite things—like chicken, pasta and a chive and onion cream cheese—you can’t go wrong. And this chicken tetrazzini recipe proves it.
What to Do with Leftover Broccoli
Fresh broccoli can be stored in the refrigerator for up to ten days. If you don’t use it up by then, freezing broccoli is the best way to ensure it stays fresh until you’re ready to use it. To freeze, first blanch your broccoli, then dry it as best as you can. (You don’t want to freeze raw broccoli, or you’ll end up with a dry, bitter veggie when you’re ready to eat it.) Then, either place the florets in freezer bags right away, or freeze individual florets on a parchment-lined baking sheet before transferring to bags if you want each individual piece to be separated from the rest.
To cook frozen broccoli, simply steam or boil for a couple of minutes and serve. It’s that easy! Cooked broccoli should last for about a week in the refrigerator, so you can also use those leftovers for another easy weeknight meal. Try it in any of these family favorites:
It’s easy to eat all of your veggies when you serve them up in one of our simple, delicious veggie recipes.