Broccoli and cauliflower are both related to cabbage and mustard, and some varieties of each are actually sold as the other. Despite claims that the two are so similar they’re nearly interchangeable, there are some notable differences between these vegetables. They look different, they don’t taste exactly the same, and they offer distinctive nutrients.
In appearance, most cauliflower has closely bunched tight masses that appear together on stems. Broccoli's flower masses are more loosely distributed so that it's possible to see space in between each stalk. Sometimes, broccoli is compared to tiny trees, while cauliflower looks more like masses of cumulus clouds. Cauliflower is also typically white in color with light green leaves surrounding the head, while the other vegetable can be dark green or sometimes have purple streaks through it. Several varieties of both are sometimes sold under incorrect names: for instance, Romanesco broccoli is actually a type of cauliflower, and purple cauliflower is technically a type of broccoli.
The two vegetables have some similarities when they are cooked, in both taste and smell. Cauliflower is more likely to have an overall delicate taste, and broccoli tends to taste “greener” with stronger flavor. Both absorb flavor well, but cauliflower may be better suited to dishes where added flavor isn't desired.
Nutritionally, both vegetables have lots to offer. Half a cup (92 g) of cooked broccoli contains 26 calories, and 3 grams of dietary fiber. It is rich in vitamin C, accounting for 60% of the US recommended daily allowance of this vitamin. This vegetable also has high levels of vitamin A and it completely lacks fats.
In comparison, cauliflower has slightly fewer calories in the same serving size. Both vegetables have about the same vitamin C levels, although cauliflower has a slightly lower dietary fiber content, about 2 grams in a 0.5 cup (92 g) serving. It does not have any vitamin A, however, and so may not be the best choice for those looking for the vitamin.
One alternative choice to these vegetables is broccoflower®. This is a hybrid between the two vegetables that combines the taste of both. The color is a light, bright green, and the clustered heads have an unusual shape that some say looks almost alien, which can make it appealing to picky eaters.