7 Creative Ways to Eat Broccoli

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Crunchy and versatile, broccoli is delicious when served raw or cooked. In addition to the bright green florets, you can also enjoy the stem, leaves, and baby broccoli sprouts. The nutritious vegetable is in the brassica family, which also includes Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage.

From soup to salad to stir-fries, broccoli can be enjoyed in many diverse ways. It adds a host of beneficial nutrients to your meals and snacks. Broccoli is a source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate, as well as minerals including potassium, iron, and manganese. Additionally, broccoli contains the antioxidants beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

Broccoli also contains protective phytochemicals such as glucosinolates and sulforaphane, which may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including prostate, breast, colon, and oral cancers. Glucosinolates may also decrease the risk of a heart attack.

Broccoli has an earthy flavor that can be enhanced with oil, butter, salt, herbs, spices, citrus, and flavored vinegar. When served raw, broccoli stems and florets have a terrific crunchy texture. Broccoli will soften when cooked, and the longer it cooks, the less crunch it retains.

Interestingly, cooking methods can also affect nutrient levels. To preserve more glucosinolates and sulforaphane, it's better to lightly and quickly steam or microwave broccoli, rather than boiling it for a long time.

Woman picking out broccoli

Getty Images / Maria Korneeva

Health Benefits of Broccoli

  • Source of fiber.
  • Contains vitamins C, K, and folate.
  • Source of minerals (including iron).
  • Rich in antioxidants such as beta carotene and lutein.
  • Contains cancer-protective compounds such as sulforaphane.

For more information on the benefits of broccoli, please refer to Broccoli Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits.

How to Use Broccoli

While your first broccoli-forward idea might be steamed and served with chicken and rice, the veggie has more range than traditional meal prep routines might lead you to believe.

Broccoli Stir-Fry

Broccoli is rich in phytonutrients that are preserved when it's cooked quickly, rather than boiled for a long time. Stir-frying broccoli is a quick cooking method that helps retain nutrients and crunch.

Broccoli and Snap Pea Stir-Fry

Add 2 tsp of olive oil to a pan set over medium heat Add minced garlic, and sauté for one minute. Add 4 cups broccoli and stir-fry until desired tenderness. Add 2 cups of snap peas in for the last minute of cooking. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of your preferred soy sauce and a teaspoon or two of toasted sesame oil. Serve warm. (Serves 4)

Nutrition per serving (1.5 cups): 104 calories, 5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 12 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 5 g protein.

Broccoli Soup

Broccoli works well in chunky vegetable soups such as minestrone but is also perfect for creamy pureed soups. Try adding shredded cheddar cheese and crunchy croutons to this creamy broccoli soup.

Broccoli Soup

Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pot set over medium heat. Add minced garlic and one diced onion—sauté for 1 minute. Add 6 cups of broccoli, then cover with 3 cups of soup stock or water. Cook 15 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Blend in a blender or in the pot with an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold. (Serves 4)

Nutrition per serving (1 cup): 96 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 14 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 4 g protein.

Chopped Salad

Since broccoli is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, it's a great addition to salads. You can even use it in place of lettuce! Serving broccoli raw helps maintain its crunch, and you can enjoy both the florets and stems in chopped salads.

Chopped Broccoli Salad

Add 4 cups of chopped broccoli to a serving bowl. Add 1/2 cup sliced, roasted almonds, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, and 2 tbsp chopped red onion. Stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing: 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, and 1 tsp honey. Pour dressing over salad. Salt to taste and enjoy. (Serves 4)

Nutrition per serving (1/4 of recipe): 208 calories, 16 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 14 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 6 g protein.

Roasted Broccoli

Something magical happens to the taste of broccoli florets when they are roasted or barbequed. The tops get slightly charred, which provides an amazing smoky flavor that pairs well with an acidic dressing.

Oven-Roasted Broccoli

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, toss 4 cups broccoli florets with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper, and some red pepper flakes if you enjoy spice. Roast 20 minutes or until florets begin to char. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve warm. (Serves 4)

Nutrition per serving (about 1 cup): 61 Calories, 4 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 6 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber. 2.5 g protein.

Broccoli Crudité

Crudité is a fancy word for assorted raw vegetables served with dip—a perfect snack or appetizer. In addition to broccoli, you can use any assortment of colorful vegetables for this dish, such as carrots, grape tomatoes, cucumber, and cauliflower. Pair your crudité with dips such as hummus, tzatziki, or guacamole.

Crudité with Hummus

Add 1 cup of hummus to a small bowl and place it in the middle of a serving platter. Arrange 1 cup each of carrot sticks, bell pepper sticks, grape tomatoes, cucumber rounds, broccoli florets, and cauliflower florets around the hummus. Dip and enjoy. (Serves 4)

Nutrition per serving (around 1.5 cups vegetables + 1/4 cup hummus): 151 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 19 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 7 g protein.

Broccoli Sprouts

Broccoli is known to contain cancer-fighting sulforaphane, but broccoli seeds and sprouts are the most robust sources of this phytochemical. You can buy broccoli seeds to sprout your own at home or can buy broccoli sprouts in the lettuce section of many grocery stores.

Broccoli Sprout & Turkey Sandwich

Spread a teaspoon of Dijon mustard on a piece of whole grain bread. Top with 3 oz, shaved roasted turkey, sliced tomato, 1/2 cup broccoli sprouts, and romaine lettuce. Spread the second slice of bread with 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise. Top sandwich and enjoy. (Serves 1)

Nutrition per serving (1 sandwich): 457 calories, 17 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 53 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 27 g protein.

Steamed Broccoli

It's optimal to cook broccoli quickly to retain nutrients, so steaming is better than boiling. Using the microwave is a smart way to retain nutrients.

Steamed Broccoli

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine 2 cups of broccoli, 1 tbsp of water, and a pinch of salt. Cover with a microwave-safe lid and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. Check for doneness and microwave for 15-second intervals if it needs more cooking time. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Nutrition per serving (1 cup): 52 calories, 2.5 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 6 g carbohydrates, 2.5 g fiber, 2.5 g protein.

A Word From Verywell

Broccoli is a delicious and versatile vegetable that works well in soups and salads, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. In addition to being delicious, it's loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that have cancer-fighting properties. Add broccoli to your meals and snacks in a variety of ways to reap the health benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is broccoli better raw or cooked?

    Broccoli can be enjoyed raw or cooked. There are more glucosinolates if you blanch broccoli before eating it, but they can disappear if broccoli is overcooked. Raw broccoli is also a good option because it retains more vitamin C than cooked broccoli.

  • What is the best way to cook broccoli without losing nutrients?

    Use quick-cooking methods such as steaming or stir-frying to retain nutritional value. Steam for 3-4 minutes or microwave for one minute. Boiling leaches some of the vitamins, so is not the best method unless you plan to consume the water too (as in soup).

  • How do you know when broccoli is done cooking?

    To retain the most nutrients, cook broccoli so it is still tender-crisp, not mushy. Steam for 3-4 minutes or microwave for one minute. Of course, if you enjoy softer broccoli, it's still very nutritious. Some of the nutrients may degrade in the cooking process, but the fiber and other minerals still remain.

8 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wu X, Huang H, Childs H, Wu Y, Yu L, Pehrsson PR. Glucosinolates in Brassica Vegetables: Characterization and Factors That Influence Distribution, Content, and IntakeAnnu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2021;12:485-511. doi:10.1146/annurev-food-070620-025744

  2. USDA FoodData Central. Broccoli raw.

  3. Akram M et al. Health benefits of glucosinolate isolated from cruciferous and other vegetables. Preparation of Phytopharmaceuticals for the Management of Disorders. Published online January 1, 2021:361-371. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-820284-5.00006-X

  4. Nandini DB, Rao RS, Deepak BS, Reddy PB. Sulforaphane in broccoli: The green chemoprevention!! Role in cancer prevention and therapyJ Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2020;24(2):405. doi:10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_126_19

  5. Bongoni R, Verkerk R, Steenbekkers B, Dekker M, Stieger M. Evaluation of different cooking conditions on broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) to improve the nutritional value and consumer acceptancePlant Foods Hum Nutr. 2014;69(3):228-234. doi:10.1007/s11130-014-0420-2

  6. Lu Y, Pang X, Yang T. Microwave cooking increases sulforaphane level in broccoliFood Sci Nutr. 2020;8(4):2052-2058. Published 2020 Mar 5. doi:10.1002/fsn3.1493

  7. Yagishita Y, Fahey JW, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Kensler TW. Broccoli or Sulforaphane: Is It the Source or Dose That Matters?. Molecules. 2019;24(19):3593. Published 2019 Oct 6. doi:10.3390/molecules24193593

  8. American Institute for Cancer Research. Is broccoli more nutritious raw than when cooked?

By Cara Rosenbloom, RD
 Cara Rosenbloom RD is a dietitian, journalist, book author, and the founder of Words to Eat By, a nutrition communications company in Toronto, ON.