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Are Broccoli Leaves Edible?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

Are Broccoli Leaves Safe to Eat?

Are broccoli leaves edible—and are they safe to eat? The short answer is yes!

We all know that broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse and one of the healthiest vegetables in the veggie crisper. This cruciferous vegetable is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants—all of which nourish your body.

Most people fill their plates with tree-shaped florets, but did you know that there other parts of the broccoli plant that are edible? You might have heard that broccoli stems are edible. That's true! But the leaves are too.

If you toss the stems and leaves when you prepare broccoli, you miss out on a wealth of nutrients and phytonutrients (compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits).

Most people know that broccoli is a “good for you” vegetable but are surprised to learn the leaves can be a nutrient-dense addition to their lunch or dinner plate too.

The Nutritional Benefits of Broccoli Leaves

Broccoli leaves are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, iron, and calcium. Like the florets and stems, the leaves contain compounds such as glucosinolates, which researchers are exploring for their anti-cancer properties.

The benefits of broccoli go beyond simply providing nutrition.

Here’s a fact that might surprise you. Broccoli leaves contain more beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor and antioxidant, than broccoli stems or florets.

Otherwise, the health benefits of broccoli leaves are similar to those of broccoli florets, meaning they can be a healthy addition to any meal.

Broccoli florets and the broccoli plant as a whole are known for being nutrient-dense. Why not take advantage of all parts of the veggie?

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How to Enjoy Broccoli Leaves

You might be confused as to how to enjoy broccoli leaves. You can use them the same way you would use leafy greens, either raw or cooked.

However, broccoli leaves are more acidic, and therefore bitterer, than the stems and florets, so it’s best to cook them to reduce their bitterness.

Here’s a simple way to prepare and enjoy broccoli leaves:

  • Wash broccoli leaves under cold running water and then dry them with paper towels or a clean dish towel.
  • Chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors.
  • Steam the chopped leaves until tender (about 10 minutes). You can also sauté them in olive oil over medium heat until they turn bright green and are tender (about 5 minutes).

After steaming, toss broccoli leaves with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. You could also add shredded parmesan cheese for extra flavor and protein. Then, combine steamed or sautéed chopped broccoli leaves with cooked pasta, rice, or quinoa for an easy side dish that adds color and nutrients to your meal!

Broccoli Leaves Are Versatile

You can get even more creative. Broccoli leaves are a great addition to your stir-fry, sauteed in a pan or roasted in the oven. The flavor is similar to kale or collards and the texture is like cabbage. Here are some ideas:

  • Wrap broccoli leaves in foil with olive oil and salt. Roast at 375°F for 15 minutes, then remove foil and roast another 5 minutes until crispy.
  • Add the fresh leaves to stir-fries with garlic, ginger, and sesame oil.
  • Sautee broccoli leaves in olive oil with garlic and onion until tender. Add lemon juice and zest, cook another minute then add cooked pasta, chicken or shrimp, and Parmesan cheese for an easy side dish.
  • Add the leaves to stir-fries with meat or tofu along with other vegetables like bell peppers or carrots for a quick meal that's healthy and delicious!
  • Use broccoli leaves in place of spinach for your next quiche recipe—they’ll add bulk without changing the flavor too
  • Toss broccoli leaves in soups and stews
  • Add lightly sauteed broccoli leaves to sandwiches and wraps for extra nutrition.
  • Wash broccoli leaves and tear off any larger stems before using them in your salad mix.

Once you start snipping off those leaves, you'll find lots of uses for them.

Are Broccoli Leaves Edible?

Broccoli leaves are not only edible but nutritious. Although they’re a bit more bitter than the florets and steams, you can cover the bitterness by roasting or sauteing as well as by adding seasonings or sauces.

The good news is you’re not missing out on any of the nutritional benefits of broccoli when you eat the entire vegetable—leaves and stems, too.

Why waste food, especially nutrient-dense foods, like broccoli leaves? When you chop up the stems and florets, save the leaves too and add them to your recipes.

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