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Here’s how to cook broccoli rabe (rapini)…the fast way! This notoriously bitter vegetable can be mellowed with a few quick tricks.

Broccoli rabe
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Do you like bitter foods? Some people are particularly sensitive to bitter. If that’s you: well, stop right here! You probably won’t like broccoli rabe. But: if you take your coffee black and like eating kale, then you’ll probably like this notoriously bitter veggie! Alex and I love bitter flavors, so we enjoyed this recipe for broccoli rabe, also known as rapini. Keep in mind it’s best to get a bunch that is young and tender as possible, to make for a mellow flavor. Spritzed with lemon and broiled with a little garlic: it’s pretty darn tasty! Here’s how to cook it.

A more user-friendly leafy green to cook? Go to Amazing Sauteed Kale. (You’ll love it: we promise!)

How to cook broccoli rabe (rapini)

A little about broccoli rabe (rapini)

Here are a few fun facts about broccoli rabe, to get us started!

  • Broccoli rabe is actually not broccoli. It’s more closely related to a turnip than broccoli (or broccolini). However, they’re all part of the same larger family called cruciferous vegetables. That family includes kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli, among others.
  • Rabe is pronounced “Rob”. Yep, just like a guy’s name!
  • It’s popular in Italian cuisine: the Italian name is rapini. You might find it in cuisine like pasta, sauteed with sausage, on a pizza or sandwich, or in soups and stews.
  • The flavor is pretty bitter. As we noted up front: if you don’t like bitter flavors, stay away from broccoli rabe! If you’re ok with bitter, you’ll like this recipe. Broccoli rabe is also nice offset with some sweeter, savory or tangy flavors.
Broccoli rabe (rapini)
Keep the florets and leaves attached to reduce bitterness.

How to make it less bitter: before you even start cooking.

Now, we learned a few tips about reducing bitterness in broccoli rabe before you even start to cook it.

  • Find plants that are young and tender, not too mature. When you’re shopping, you might not have a lot of options. But steer toward broccoli rabe that is younger and tender. Very mature plants can be even more bitter. And there’s no way to know…until you eat it!
  • Don’t chop too much: simply remove the bottom stem! Chopping the broccoli rabe can cause the plant to become event more bitter. So remove just the very tough bottom stem only. Don’t chop the leaves or florets!
How to cook broccoli rabe

How to cook broccoli rabe…the quick way!

Alex and I did lots of research on the best way to cook broccoli rabe. Most sources blanch it in boiling water to remove the bitterness, then saute it for a long time. As we often do, we wondered…is there a simpler way to do this? We came across the Cooks Illustrated “A New Way to Cook Broccoli Rabe,” which suggested broiling this veggie for a few minutes would do the trick. We tried it, and it worked! Here’s what to do:

  • Chop off the tough stems of the broccoli rabe (but leave the florets and leaves — see above!).
  • Mix with olive oil and salt, and a little garlic powder.
  • Broil for about 4 minutes total! 2 minutes, then stir and another 2 minutes until wilted and cooked through.
  • Stir in lemon (which also counteracts bitterness)! Serve immediately.

Want to learn to cook more vegetables? Go to How to Cook Vegetables.

White Beans on Toast
Try broccoli rabe in this White Beans on Toast recipe

Another great broccoli rabe recipe

If you’re worried about eating this bitter veggie straight up, try it in the context of a recipe! Might we suggest this White Beans on Toast recipe? It pairs garlicky, savory white beans and aged Parmesan cheese with broccoli rabe, which play off the bitterness perfectly.

This broccoli rabe (rapini) recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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How to cook broccoli rabe (rapini)

How to Cook Broccoli Rabe…The Fast Way!

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


Here’s how to cook broccoli rabe (rapini)…the fast way! This notoriously bitter vegetable can be mellowed with a few quick tricks.


  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe (1 to 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  1. Brush the baking sheet with olive oil. Preheat a broiler.
  2. Wash the broccoli rabe in cold water then pat it dry with a clean dish towel. Cut the floret off the stems, keeping the leaves and florets intact. (You can discard the stems.)
  3. Place the broccoli rabe in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic powder, and kosher salt and mix until well combined. Place it on the baking sheet.
  4. Broil 2 minutes, then remove the sheet and stir. Broil 2 minutes more until fully wilted.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice & zest. Taste and add salt or fresh ground black pepper to taste.
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Broiled
  • Cuisine: Italian

Other best side dish recipes!

Broccoli rabe is one of a huge host of the best vegetables you can eat. Here are some of our favorite ways to eat them vegetable side dishes:

  • Best Ever Sauteed Kale The best way to eat this healthy leafy green! Scented with garlic and cooked in olive oil until tender, you’ll want to eat it every day.
  • Roasted Broccoli Tastes SO GOOD you can’t stop sneaking bites! It’s charred until tender, then spritzed with lemon juice.
  • Best Ever Sauteed Mushrooms Here’s THE perfect sauteed mushrooms recipe! It brings out the best savory flavor with lemon and fresh herbs.
  • Peas with Lemon 5 minutes! Cooking frozen peas with garlic and lemon makes them taste incredible.
  • Sauteed Spinach (That Tastes Amazing) Wow, this sauteed spinach really does taste amazing! It’s scented with garlic and lemon.

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. Val Albrecht says:

    Well, if someone chopped you up into small pieces, you would probably get more bitter too.