Broccoli leaves are edible. They are rich in a wide range of nutrients and fiber. They can be cooked in various ways and incorporated into various dishes to cut down on food waste.
For example, fresh broccoli can be consumed raw in salads and juices, or cooked broccoli can be eaten as a side dish or added to soups and stews. You can harvest broccoli leaves to be used as a wrap, e.g., to make dolma or burritos.
Broccoli Leaves and Calories
According to the USDA, a cup of raw broccoli leaves weighs 100g and contains 28 calories. Broccoli leaves do not contain any fat but are rich in carbohydrates (5g) and proteins (3g) per serving. As such, they are suitable for weight management or keeping your calorie intake low.
That said, the preparation method can significantly increase the number of calories in broccoli leaves. For instance, stir-frying adds oil to the veggies. On average, one tablespoon of oil contains about 120 calories.
Therefore, the more oil you use when cooking broccoli leaves, the more calorie-dense they become. Additionally, the calorie content will increase if you add high-calorie ingredients like cheese or cream to a broccoli leaf soup or pesto.
Broccoli Leaves Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Broccoli leaves contain exceptionally high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A – 155% and 90% of the daily recommended intake, respectively. They also contain a variety of other nutrients as follows:
- Iron — 4% RDV
- Vitamin B6 ¬– 10% RDV
- Magnesium– 6% RDV
- Calcium – 4% RDV
- Folate – 5% RDV
They also contain other minerals and vitamins in small amounts, including calcium, copper, zinc, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamin. In addition, broccoli leaves contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, which help to boost immunity and prevent and repair cell damage.
The health benefits of the various nutrients are as follows:
- Vitamin K promotes bone health and blood clotting
- Vitamin C boosts immunity and skin health
- Vitamin A is crucial for eye health and optimal immunity
- Manganese helps with the metabolism of amino acids and manganese
- Iron aids in the production of red blood cells
- Fiber promotes a healthy digestive system
Note that the exact nutrients and mineral profile of broccoli leaves depend on the growing conditions, storage method, and cooking method, among other factors.
Also, it is important to note that broccoli leaves may contain oxalates, increasing the risk of kidney stones in some people. Therefore, if you have a high risk of kidney stones or a pre-existing kidney condition, avoid or limit your intake of broccoli leaves.
Best Methods of Cooking Broccoli Leaves
There are various suitable ways of coking broccoli leaves, including:
- Sautéing: Chop the broccoli leaves, then cook them in a hot pot with oil and seasoning for 5-10 minutes
- Steaming: It is an excellent cooking method to tenderize vegetables. Heat water in a cooking pot. Cut the broccoli leaves and place them in a steamer basket over the boiling water until they are tender
- Blanching: Blanching is best suited when preparing broccoli leaves for use in salads, sandwiches, juices, and smoothies. It helps to tenderize the leaves. Put the leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Remove them and immediately shock them with cold water
- Grilling: Like kale and spinach, you can grill broccoli leaves to achieve a charred, smoky flavor and tender texture. Wash the broccoli leaves. Do not cut them. Pat them dry with a paper towel. Brush them with oil on each side. Place on a preheated grill at medium heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes and each side. Keep a close eye on them to prevent them from burning
- Baking: Wash the leaves and pat them with a paper towel to dry. Drizzle some oil on the leaves and lay them on a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at medium setting for 3-5 minutes until crispy. Keep a close eye on them to avoid burning
- Boiling: Put the whole leaves in hot, salted water. Leave them to boil Until tender
- Microwaving: You can also cook broccoli leaves in a microwave. Cut them into preferred sizes. Put in a microwave-safe dish with a bit of water. Cover the dish and set the microwave to medium to high heat for 2-5 minutes. Cook until the leaves are tender
Broccoli Leaf Stir Fry
- 2 cups of broccoli leaves, cleaned and cut into thin strips
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1/2 cup diced bell pepper
- 1/2 cup diced mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. sesame oil (optional)
- 2 tbsp. chopped green onions or cilantro for garnish
- Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat
- Add oil
- Add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds until golden brown
- Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until they are slightly soft
- Add the broccoli leaves and continue to stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until they are slightly wilted but still crisp
- Add the soy sauce and oyster sauce, and stir to coat the vegetables
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- If you like, add sesame oil for added flavor
- Remove from the heat and garnish with chopped green onions or cilantro
- Serve the stir-fry broccoli leaves over rice, noodles, chicken, beef, or tofu for a complete meal
Broccoli Leaf Sandwich Recipe
- 4 large broccoli leaves, washed and dried
- 4 slices of your favorite bread
- 8 slices of deli meat (such as turkey or ham)
- 4 slices of cheese (such as cheddar or Swiss)
- Lettuce or spinach leaves (optional)
- Mayonnaise or mustard (optional)
- Harvest broccoli leaves and lay them out on a clean surface
- Place 2 slices of deli meat and 1 slice of cheese on each leaf
- If desired, add a few lettuce or spinach leaves on top of the meat and cheese
- Spread a small amount of mayonnaise or mustard on one side of each bread slice
- Place the bread, mayonnaise or mustard side down on top of the meat and cheese
- Carefully roll up the sandwich, tucking in the sides as you roll to keep the filling inside
- Cut each sandwich in half and serve immediately
- You can use large leaves as a wrap instead of bread and add your favorite ingredients
Broccoli Leaves Pesto
- 2 cups packed broccoli leaves (broccoli stem removed)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup toasted almonds or pine nuts
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a food processor, pulse the broccoli leaves, Parmesan cheese, almonds or pine nuts, and garlic until finely chopped
- Slowly stream in the olive oil while the food processor is running, until a smooth paste is formed
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- You can use this pesto to spread onto sandwiches or crackers or as a pasta sauce. The pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months
- Alternatively, you can change up the ingredients to include different nuts, cheese or seasoning to your preference
Broccoli leaves can be eaten either raw or cooked. They are rich in a wide range of nutrients and vitamins. They are rich in fiber and low in calories, making them suitable for a low-calorie diet. They can be consumed in various ways, including in salads, juices, smoothies, sandwiches, soups, stews, or stir fry. They can be cooked in various ways, including sautéing, baking, grilling, stir-frying, etc.
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