What to Do with Broccoli Stalks

It's time for the stalks to take crowning glory.

May 12, 2020

Related To:

Food Network Kitchen's Stem-to-Stalk Recipe for One-Off Recipes, as seen on Food Network.

Food Network Kitchen's Stem-to-Stalk Recipe for One-Off Recipes, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Broccoli florets get all the glory — they're even called the crown — but don't toss those stems! They are the unsung hero of the broccoli stalk, bringing an earthy sweetness to soups, casseroles and grain bowls, not to mention fantastic crunch to salads, slaws and stir fries. Since it's more economical to buy a whole head of broccoli than it is to shell out for pricier crowns, you’ll get more bang for your broccoli buck and cut down on food waste, too.

Broccoli stalks can be tough and fibrous but with some simple prep you can turn stems into a versatile and delicious ingredient. Just trim the ends and use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to peel the tough outer later, which can have a woody texture. Slice or shred the peeled stems to use in your favorite recipes.

Bake 'em

Baking or roasting stems helps concentrate their subtly sweet and earthy flavor. Jeff Mauro transforms humble stems into an irresistible snack with his Parmesan Crusted Broccoli Stem Fries. Simply slice, toss with olive oil and a flurry of Parmesan and bake until golden.

When paired with potatoes and cheese, broccoli earns its place in this luxurious Creamy Broccoli Stem Gratin (pictured). Stems are boiled until just tender, then baked alongside potatoes and nutty Gruyere until brown and bubbly.

You can also sneak broccoli stalks into baked dishes like Trisha Yearwood’s Broccoli Cheddar Mac ‘n’ Cheese or her Chicken Broccoli Casserole. Since the florets and stalks cook at different rates, quickly blanch the peeled and sliced stems before folding them into the mixture for baking.

Saute 'em

Broccoli is a favorite stir fry ingredient, but Ree Drummond gives the stems top billing in her Stir-Fried Broccoli Stems recipe. By slicing thinly on the diagonal, the coins cook up in just a few minutes and are primed for absorbing aromatics like ginger and garlic before getting sluiced with soy sauce.

Quickly cooking broccoli stems (plus florets) in rendered bacon yields a crisp and savory vegetable topping in these hearty BLT Quinoa Bowls. But you could easily skip the bacon to keep it vegetarian.

Damaris Phillips uses diced broccoli, plus asparagus, peas and green onions, to add texture and color to her creamy Southern Risotto. Thanks to their sturdy structure, the stems hold their shape without turning mushy.

Blend 'em

In this aptly named Simple Cream of Broccoli Soup, florets and stems are simmered in stock with onions and potatoes, then blended and finished with cream to yield a satisfying soup that belies its meager beginnings.

Broccoli and cheese are a classic pairing, and stems are no exception. Try adding cheese to your pureed floret-and-stem mixture to create this kid-friendly Broccoli-Cheddar Soup. The crumbled bacon garnish doesn’t hurt either.

Pulse 'em

Break out your food processor to transport stems to previously uncharted territory. Broccoli stems are pulsed in a food processor and then steamed to create a low-carb base for this Whole30-approved Sesame Chicken dish. Move over, cauliflower rice.

Pulsing tender broccoli stems and raw florets with basil, walnuts, garlic and olive oil bolsters this Broccoli-Walnut Pesto with extra nutrition. The recipe suggests pairing the pesto with pasta, but we bet it would be excellent slathered on crostini, pizza or veggie sandwiches.

Shred 'em

Broccoli stems provide a neutral canvas for riffing on salads and slaws. For a sweet-salty match try this Broccoli Stalk Salad with Goji Berries and Bacon, or opt for a trio of dried cranberries, toasted almonds and fresh herbs as in Molly Yeh's tangy take on Broccoli Slaw.

Proving that broccoli stems are the cream of the crop are these takes on creamy slaws. Ellie Krieger shreds tender stalks to give her lightened-up Creamy Broccoli Slaw a nutritional boost, playing their sweetness off of shredded carrots and binding it all together with a Greek yogurt-based dressing. Anne Burrell’s Broccoli Stem and Carrot Slaw expressly calls for broccoli stems (she suggests reserving the florets for another use, for a change). She pairs them with carrots and sweet-tart Granny Smith apples, then pulls it all together with a Dijon dressing. Guy Fieri’s Creamy Broccoli Fennel Slaw combines julienned stems with fennel, carrot and cabbage in a bright slaw that’s destined to be in heavy rotation all summer.

Looking for more ways to clean out the crisper drawer and cut down on waste? Rescue those languishing celery stalks, rogue carrots and broccoli stems. Paired with apples and raisins, these humble veggie cast-offs are transformed into a sweet-savory scene-stealing side, aptly named Scrap Salad.

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