Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity of late, thanks to low-carb, ketogenic diets. It turns out a few veggies can act as binders and mixers in many popular recipes that once required wheat-based products; so finding creative new ways to prepare traditional dishes has become an obsession for many cooking enthusiasts.
But like any recipe, there’s times when you can fudge the rules a bit, and there are times you want to make sure you follow it closely. That means you need to know the differences between ingredients, even if they look pretty similar.
The debate between cauliflower vs. broccoli starts with nutrition
Cauliflower and broccoli are strikingly similar, which makes sense since they both belong to the Brassica family. Similar shape, similar texture; different color obviously, but for the most part, they’re quite interchangeable.
Broccoli beats out cauliflower when it comes to vitamins C and K, while cauliflower boasts slightly higher amounts of vitamin B-6, folate, and pantothenic acid — and fewer carbs. But really, they’re both nutrient-dense and seriously good for the body (filling, tasty, and bioavailable).
Broccoli and cauliflower are both rich in antioxidants, which are compounds that prevent cell damage. They both reduce inflammation, protect against chronic disease, and can even prevent cancer cells from mutating. Two cool research studies (like this 2010 study published in Clinical Cancer Research and this 2004 study published in Carcinogenesis) showed that one antioxidant in particular, sulforaphane, shrunk the size of malignant breast tumors and killed off prostate cancer cells.
Which one makes the most sense in keto recipes?
As for flavor and cooking, the only reason cauliflower has been adopted by keto lovers is because the veg has a much-less pronounced taste than broccoli. But if you particularly like the earthy, herbaceous flavor of broccoli, you can pulverize it into a binder the same as cauliflower (which tastes a bit nutty and mildly sweet — like bread or pizza crust).
Of course, what makes cauliflower such a popular choice right now in the veggie aisle is its rice-like texture when blended. Broccoli florets are a bit finer than the dense flowers of cauliflower. You’ll want to choose the latter if you’re looking for a super low-carb rice substitute; but again, broccoli mash from a food processor can easily help bind any food that needs thickening, like mayo-based salads or meatballs that call for breadcrumbs.
Bottom line? You can’t really go wrong with either broccoli or cauliflower, but it’s worth learning the subtle differences between them. The key to truly transforming your diet is learning to substitute better ingredients for unhealthy ones — and then just cooking the foods you’ve always loved. Cruciferous veggies can lend texture and versatility to a recipe that typically calls for more fattening ingredients.