What’s The Difference: Broccoli vs. Cauliflower

Learn how these two kinds of giant stems loaded with tiny flowers differ.

The movement towards adding more vegetables to one’s diet can sometimes mean adding broccoli or cauliflower (or both!) into dishes. There are ways of adding these two vegetables to dishes that otherwise would not be added to. You can prepare the florets and trim the stems to reveal the tender centers and add to chop suey, hot salads, and make into a faux rice

What’s wonderful about these two vegetables is that they’re interchangeable in most recipes. Where color is not a factor in the dish, you can substitute broccoli for cauliflower and vice versa. Beyond the color, the flavor too will be a little different. 

These two heads are actually both members of the same family of plants, the Brassica. These are a kind of cabbage made of many tiny flowers growing from separate branches from the main stem.  When allowed to flower, both the broccoli and the cauliflower produce tiny yellow flowers. Think of these as tiny trees, with flowers instead of leaves that are edible but without the tough bark.  

Here are the other differences between these two vegetables: 

1 Broccoli has green buds. Cauliflower has white buds. 

The broccoli is commonly seen as a giant green bouquet of tiny flower buds. The cauliflower is similar but is usually a creamy or off white flower buds. However, did you know that cauliflower can also be green as well? In fact, cauliflower can also be purple or brown as well as green and white

2 Broccoli grows small. Cauliflower has large leaves. 

Take a look at the heads and you won’t notice that there’s a big difference between the heads other than one is green and the other is white. When grown, however, broccoli is a smaller plant, with smaller leaves than cauliflower. The cauliflower will commonly have larger leaves that actually shade the head or are made to cover the head. This shading from the sun contributes to the color of the white cauliflower. 


3 Broccoli tastes like leaves. Cauliflower tastes nutty. 

Broccoli, because it’s been exposed to the sun to develop chlorophyll, is the green pigment found in plants. This is why broccoli tastes more leafy, more grassy than shaded cauliflower. Cauliflower, on the other hand, has been shaded from the sun so without the green pigment, it will taste different. It tastes milder, with a sweetness and a nuttiness that’s unlike the freshness of the broccoli.  



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