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Why Is Broccoli Rabe Bitter? And How To Remove The Bitterness

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Broccoli rabe(Rapini) is not as common as regular broccoli, but many people that tried it said that it tastes bitter, so in this article, we will talk about why broccoli rabe is bitter.

It is always annoying when you want to eat vegetables that are not supposed to be bitter, and you find out that they are bitter because it is hard to know if it’s ok or if they have gone bad and you should get rid of them.

The bitter taste can destroy an entire recipe, so we will explore in this article how to get rid of the bitter taste from broccoli rabe and also if it is supposed to be bitter when cooked.

broccoli rabe bitter

Why is broccoli rabe bitter?

Broccoli rabe tastes bitter when cut or chewed because of the plant’s chemical composition. The bitter taste is actually a release of an enzyme called myrosinase. Many other vegetables like kalecabbagearugula, and so on release a bitter taste when cut or chewed from as a natural defense mechanism against pests.

The bitter broccoli rabe is safe to eat for humans since the enzyme that is released is not enough to harm us. It is enough to deter small insects from eating the plant but not more than that.

What parts of broccoli rabe are edible?

Broccoli rabe(Known as Rapini) is a cruciferous vegetable part of the Brassica rapa species, which includes turnip, napa cabbage, bok choy, and so on.

Edible parts are the leaves, buds, and stems, which makes it very convenient as a vegetable. You don’t have too much to throw away when cooking it.

All of them can be eaten raw or cooked, and all of them have a bitter taste.

How to remove the bitterness from broccoli rabe

There are a few ways of removing the bitterness of broccoli rabe that I will list here. But, before using any of them, you should make sure you washed the broccoli rabe very well because it can taste bitter due to pesticides or other chemicals that were used or dust and dirt that is stuck to it.

-Add salt. Place the broccoli rabe in a bowl, add salt to it, toss it a bit to make sure the salt gets everywhere, and let it stay in the fridge for an hour before using it.

-Add sugar or honey. If you go for a recipe that can use a bit of sweet taste, you can add sugar or honey the same way you would add salt to it.

-Marinate it. You can marinate it with any sauce or just olive oil and salt and pepper to get rid of the bitter taste.

-Blanching. Blanching the broccoli rabe in boiled water for one minute can remove the bitter taste from it. If it’s way too bitter, this method might not be enough, but this is the method that will not change the taste of your broccoli rabe.

-Mixing it into a salad. Mixing it with other vegetables will cover the bitter taste, especially if you add a sauce to it.

Does cooked broccoli rabe taste bitter?

Leaving the buds and leaves intact while cooking will prevent the bitter taste in the broccoli rabe, and cooking it will kill the enzyme responsible for the bitterness, so you can cut it or chew it safely after.

So, most of the time, cooked broccoli rabe should not taste bitter except when it has gone bad.

cooked broccoli rabe

How to check if broccoli rabe has gone bad?

Broccoli rabe can sometimes taste bitter because it has gone bad. For this reason, we will discuss a few things to check when buying broccoli rabe or before cooking with it to ensure it is still fresh and ready to use.

-Color. Good broccoli rabe will have a dark green color without any brown or yellow spots. The color should be dark green for leaves and florets as well.

-Texture. The texture is the most important thing to make sure the broccoli rabe will last for long. The texture should be firm, with tightly closed florets. Wilted leaves and soft/mushy stalks are a red flag when buying broccoli rabe.

-Smell. Like cabbage, broccoli, and many similar vegetables, you should avoid buying them if there is an off-putting smell. The smell should be grassy and fresh.

Read Also: Why Is Basil Bitter?


Even if you choose the best broccoli rabe by checking all the things I said above, you can end up with a bitter-tasting one when cutting or chewing through it. But, in that situation, you know for sure that it is still edible. You just have to remove the bitter taste.

I hope this article helped you know how to choose a good broccoli rabe and what to do with the ones that taste bitter. 

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