How to Sauté Broccoli Rabe

updated Jan 9, 2024

Bored with plain ol' broccoli? Serve garlicky broccoli rabe instead.


Prep5 minutes

Cook8 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.

If you’re bored of roasted broccoli, why not give its cousin, broccoli rabe, a try? Broccoli rabe is common in Italian cuisine where it’s often paired with sausage and pasta. It is a member of the brassica family — you may also know it as rapini— so it has those same nutty and slightly bitter flavors that Brussels sprouts and kale share.

When cooked the right way, broccoli rabe is tender, flavorful, and worth adding to your dinner plate. The trick to tempering broccoli rabe’s signature bitterness is to blanch it before sautéing with garlic and red pepper flakes. It’s a delicious and versatile side dish that pairs well with your favorite meats and seafood. Here’s how to do it.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

What’s the Difference Between Broccoli Rabe and Broccolini?

Broccoli rabe and Broccolini are similar in name and appearance, but the come from different branches of the Brassica family tree.

  • Broccoli rabe: More closely related to turnips and bok choy, broccoli rabe has thinner stalks and lots of leaves.
  • Broccolini: A hybrid cross between regular broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It’s green with long stalks, small florets, and a few leaves attached, and tends to be fairly sweet in flavor.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Ingredients in Sautéed Broccoli Rabe

  • Broccoli rabe: Pick up one large bunch. Make sure that the leaves are sturdy and green, not limp and yellowed.
  • Garlic: Three cloves of garlic may sound like a lot, but the flavors harmonize when sautéed with broccoli rabe.
  • Lemon: If your broccoli rabe is missing something, it’s probably acid. Include a wedge of lemon with every serving.
  • Red pepper flakes: This ingredient is optional for the spice averse, but adds a welcome amount of flavor and heat to this simple side dish.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

How Do You Reduce the Bitter Taste of Broccoli Rabe?

The easiest way to rid broccoli rabe of some of its bitter flavor is by blanching it first. Just a quick dip in boiling water extracts enough of the bitterness and jumpstarts the cooking. Blanching is an extra step, but it makes the broccoli rabe much more palatable and ready for salads, pastas, or, my favorite — a quick sauté.

A spider strainer is a useful tool remove broccoli rabe from boiling water, though tongs work too.

How to Sauté Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe loves strong flavorings like garlic and red pepper flakes. For a bunch of broccoli rabe, three cloves of garlic may seem like a lot, but this is one vegetable that can handle it. Cook the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil, then toss in the blanched broccoli rabe and some kosher salt and sauté until fragrant.

Don’t assume that lemon wedges are optional. The brightness of the juice balances out some of the earthiness in the broccoli rabe.

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe Recipe

Bored with plain ol' broccoli? Serve garlicky broccoli rabe instead.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 8 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    large bunch broccoli rabe (about 12 ounces)

  • 3 cloves


  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt


  • Large pot

  • Paper towels or clean kitchen towel

  • Baking sheet

  • Large frying pan

  • Measuring spoons

  • Tongs


Show Images
  1. Prepare the blanching water and ingredients. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, trim the ends from 1 large bunch broccoli rabe, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Thinly slice 3 garlic cloves. Cut 1 medium lemon into wedges. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

  2. Blanch the broccoli rabe. Add the broccoli rabe to the boiling water and blanch until bright green and crisp-tender, about 1 minute.

  3. Dry the broccoli rabe. Transfer the broccoli rabe with tongs or a spider to the prepared baking sheet and arrange into an even layer.

  4. Sauté the aromatics. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes if using, and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is very fragrant and light golden brown, about 1 minute.

  5. Sauté the broccoli rabe. Add the broccoli rabe, season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and sauté until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with the lemon wedges for squeezing.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.