This recipe includes simple instructions and a timing chart that will teach you how to boil broccoli perfectly. Plus, learn about the difference between blanching and boiling.
Boiling broccoli is a quick and easy cooking method. I also love it because it's a cooking method that doesn't release as much pungent broccoli odor into the air.
The process for boiling broccoli is so simple that it barely needs a recipe, but it can be hard to know how long to boil the broccoli. Which is why I've done all the testing for you!
You can simply consult the chart in this blog post and read the recipe card at the end, then set your timer for perfectly cooked broccoli.
Another easy cooking method is Instant Pot steamed broccoli. You can steam either fresh or frozen broccoli in a pressure cooker.
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The instructions for boiling fresh broccoli are pretty self explanatory.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil (adding salt is optional)
- Cut a head of broccoli into bite-sized florets (here's a video to show you how)
- Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and boil until broccoli is tender (see cooking time below)
- Drain in a colander
Even though the cooking process is very simple and straightforward, it's really easy to overcook boiled broccoli.
So the most important information you need isn't how to boil broccoli, but how long to boil broccoli.
How Long to Boil Broccoli
How long you should boil fresh, raw broccoli depends on the texture you want. It also depends on the size of the florets. Larger pieces of broccoli will cook slower than smaller pieces. So when you cut broccoli, try to make all of the florets about the same size.
The chart below is based on bite-sized broccoli florets. If you'd like broccoli that is tender but not mushy, then you should boil broccoli for between 2 to 3 minutes.
|Just slightly tender, still crunchy
|Crisp tender, can be pierced with a fork with some resistance
|Easily pierced with a fork, but not mushy
|Very soft, no firmness remains
|Very soft/mushy, florets fall apart when pierced with a fork
Blanching vs Boiling
There is a slight difference between blanching and simply boiling a vegetable.
Boiling is usually done to fully cook a vegetable.
Blanching means briefly boiling a vegetable, just long enough to preserve the texture, flavor and color. Blanching is also usually followed by immediately plunging the vegetable into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Blanching can take less than a minute (like for spinach and other greens) or several minutes.
How to Blanch Broccoli
- To blanch broccoli, first bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Next to the stove, fill a large bowl with ice-cubes and water.
- Put the broccoli florets into boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Blanched broccoli should be tender-crisp, not overly tender.
- Drain the broccoli and immediately transfer it to the bowl of ice water. When the broccoli is cool, drain and pat dry.
Blanched broccoli can be served on a crudité platter, served with salad dressing or a squeeze of lemon. It can also be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, making it easy to quickly heat up the broccoli in a stir-fry or pasta dish.
Blanched broccoli can also be frozen for up to 6 months. To prevent the florets from sticking together, freeze them separately on a sheet-pan then transfer to a freezer bag.
Lightly salting the cooking water and then topping the boiled broccoli with butter adds simple but delicious flavor. Other simple ways to season boiled broccoli include:
- Soy sauce or coconut aminos
- A squeeze of lemon
- Lemon pepper
- Grated parmesan
- Nutritional yeast
FAQ About Broccoli
If you're a gardener, check out The 10 Best Broccoli Varieties For Your Garden. They include purple broccoli and heirloom Romanesco.
At the grocery store, you'll find two vegetables that are similar to broccoli: Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. It's also called baby broccoli or Chinese kale. The British call it tenderstem broccoli. It has long, slim stalks with a tiny head of broccoli at the top. If you like broccolini, try broccolini slaw with honey mustard yogurt dressing.
Broccoli Rabe (also called rapini) is an entirely different vegetable than broccoli, and more closely related to turnips and cabbage. It also has thin stalks with leaves and tiny clusters that look like broccoli at the top.
Broccoli is in the same Brassicaceae (cruciferous) family as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Because broccoli looks very similar to cauliflower, some people call cauliflower "white broccoli". However, broccoli and cauliflower are two different vegetables.
There is also a hybrid vegetable called broccoflower that is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Broccoflower originated in Holland. It looks like light-green cauliflower and has a mild flavor.
Broccoli is a vegetable that is in the Brassicaceae family. The word "broccoli” is derived from Italian and means "cabbage sprout" or “flowering crest of a cabbage.”
However, the broccoli head/florets are sometimes referred to as the flower of the broccoli plant. Also, when planted broccoli matures and bolts, it produces small yellow flowers. These flowers are edible, but are likely to have a bitter flavor that doesn't taste good. Younger planted broccoli might bolt and produce flowers if the plant has been under stress.
Use a vegetable peeler to peel a layer off the stems, to make them less chewy and more tender.
Broccoli is a healthy vegetable, so I don't think you should worry too much about the "healthiest" cooking method. The best method is whatever your family enjoys and will eat!
But if you are curious, NPR has a good article about Cooking (or Not Cooking) Broccoli to Protect it's Nutritional Riches.
Boiling is a better cooking method for fresh, raw broccoli. Frozen broccoli tends to taste bland and waterlogged when it's boiled and the texture is often mushy. I prefer to steam frozen broccoli in my Instant Pot, or cook it in the microwave.
More Easy Vegetable Recipes
How to Boil Broccoli
Boiling broccoli is a quick and easy cooking method. This recipe tells you exactly how long to boil broccoli to get the texture you want.
If you'd like to blanch broccoli, see the blog post above for more details.
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 2
- Total Time: 12 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Side Dishes
- Method: Boiling
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
1 large bunch of broccoli (about 1 pound) cut into bite-sized florets OR one 12 to 16 ounce bag of pre-cut broccoli florets
- Cut a head of broccoli into bite-sized florets. Try to make the florets about the same size so they cook evenly.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil (about 6 cups)
- Adding salt is optional. Add about ½ teaspoon for every 6 cups of water.
- Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, until broccoli is tender (see timing notes below)
- Drain in a colander.
When you bite into broccoli that has been boiled for 2 minutes, it should have a crisp, slightly tender texture. In my mind, this is when broccoli is perfectly cooked. But if you want a different texture, follow the timing recommendations below (keep in mind that the size of the broccoli pieces will affect the cooking time slightly)
1 minute: Very crisp
2 minutes: Crisp-tender
3 minutes: Soft and easily pierced with a fork but not mushy
4 minutes: Very soft
5 minutes: Very soft/mushy
Keep in mind that the broccoli will continue to cook a little bit and get softer after the water has been drained off. So it's best to undercook the florets just slightly to get the best texture.
Keywords: boiled broccoli, how long to boil broccoli, blanching broccoli