What's the difference between broccoli and romanesco?

Come February, it’s easy to grow tired of winter vegetables. There are mounds of carrots, potatoes, and turnips, after all, and it becomes commonplace to start dreaming of summer’s fresh bounty of zucchini, asparagus, and crisp peas. But despite the cold, these winter months happen to bring a bounty of romanesco—a cauliflower-like flower that’s bright green and more resemblant of an underwater creature than a vegetable. Romanesco is often compared in ideology to broccoli, mostly because both are distinctly green flower-like vegetables and both belong to the Brassica oleracea family.

Yet romanesco shouldn’t be cropped into just being another boring broccoli. What really sets romanesco apart from broccoli is its unique texture. Spiky with convex florets where each bud bursts into numerous other buds, it certainly stands out in the grocery store or farmers market. If its striking appearance doesn’t pique your interest, its delicately nutty flavor certainly will, making it perfect for anything from simply roasting it in a pan with olive oil to eating it raw, dipped in aioli or even ranch dressing.

romanesco plant


Broccoli, unlike romanesco, is a member of the cabbage family, which gives it a more sharp and vibrant flavor. A tall stalk blossoms into a leafy, tree-like floret, making broccoli a much less dense and somewhat smoother vegetable than romanesco. Broccoli is best steamed, with an added pat of butter or sprinkling of cheese for flavor.

What to do with each in the kitchen? Look to these recipes for inspiration.

Garlic Parmesan Broccoli

garlic parmesan roasted broccoli

Homemade Hooplah

Dress up oven-baked broccoli with some minced garlic and Parmesan cheese. The key here is to raise the heat in the oven to super high (at least 425 degrees Fahrenheit) to make sure that broccoli gets crisp. Get the recipe.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

broccoli cheese soup

Gimme Some Oven

This soup is a classic and undeniably easy to make at home. All you need to do is cook down some vegetables, then add milk, broccoli, mustard, and cheese, which thickens the soup. Get the recipe.

Broccoli Apple Salad

broccoli apple salad

Cooking Classy

Some people find broccoli too tough to eat raw, but others love adding them straight into a salad. This recipe is a testament to that. Raw broccoli gets mixed with sliced apples, walnut hunks, carrots, raisins, and red onions. Get the recipe.

Crispy Broccoli Parmesan Fritters

crispy Parmesan broccoli fritters

Cafe Delites

Try out this healthier take on fritters; instead of frying them in oil, bake them in the oven. Just pulse chop broccoli with eggs, onion, garlic, flour, and Parmesan, then form into puck-sized mounds and bake. Get the recipe.

Pan-Roasted Romanesco with Golden Raisins, Tahini, and Sumac

pan-roasted romanesco with tahini, sumac, and golden raisins

House and Home

Bring out romanesco’s inherent nuttiness by cooking it over a high flame until crisp and browned, then top with a lemony, tahini sauce. Get the recipe.

Romanesco Green Curry

romanesco green curry with rice

Local Haven

This hearty, spice-infused green curry will make you forget there’s no meat in it. It’s solely roasted florets of romanesco mixed with a host of herbs and spices, coconut milk, and sugar. Get the recipe.

Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower Pesto Spaghetti

Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower Pesto Spaghetti


Pasta deserves a green upgrade, too. Roasted romanesco is added to a traditional pesto, giving it a smoky and even nuttier flavor. Toss with warm pasta and finish it off with more cheese. Get the recipe.

Romanesco Soup with Za’atar Granola

Romanesco Soup with Za’atar Granola

Le Petit Eats

This soup is simple to make (it’s just romanesco, onion, and potato, cooked down and then blended), but it’s the za’atar-spiced granola that adds an intensely addicted crunch. Get the recipe.

Header image by Chowhound, using photos from Pixabay.

Amy Schulman is a New York City based food writer who is quite fervently pro-chocolate. Follow her on Instagram.
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