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What is the Difference Between Cauliflower and Broccoli?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By healthy4life — On Feb 22, 2013

My mother got me to eat sprouts of broccoli when I was little by pretending like they were little trees. I think this is how many parents get their kids to try broccoli.

I wouldn't eat cauliflower then, though. No matter how much my mother tried pretending that it was a cloud, it looked too much like a brain to me, and I wasn't about to put that in my mouth!

By Oceana — On Feb 22, 2013

Sometimes, when I see broccoli listed in recipe ingredient lists, I will substitute cauliflower. It usually works out fine, since the two are similar.

One advantage that cauliflower has over broccoli is its color. Both can get stuck in your teeth, but if you have cauliflower in between your front teeth, it might not even be noticeable. People are quick to point out when you have green broccoli stuck there, though.

I like steaming cauliflower with yellow squash. These two flavors work well together, and they taste good with whatever seasoning I decide to use. One of my favorites is paprika.

By feasting — On Feb 21, 2013

I have heated up frozen bags of mixed vegetables that contained both broccoli and cauliflower before, and I can tell a big difference. To me, the cauliflower tastes more like cabbage than broccoli.

Also, the cauliflower is much mushier than the broccoli. After it has been boiled or steamed for awhile, it kind of resembles mashed potatoes! I don't like this texture with this taste.

By seag47 — On Feb 21, 2013

I think that broccoli in salads tastes way better than cauliflower in salads. Cauliflower just kind of sits there and does nothing to enhance the flavor, but broccoli lends a potent flavor to the greens, especially when covered in Italian dressing.

By fify — On Feb 20, 2013

@ysmina-- They're both low in calories but cauliflower has less calories than broccoli. One cup of raw cauliflower has 25 calories whereas one cup of raw broccoli has 30 calories.

One cup of boiled cauliflower has 28 calories and one cup of boiled broccoli has about 54 calories.

Of course, there is a difference in how much volume they maintain after being boiled/cooked. But in general, cauliflower is less in calories.

Calorie content is not everything however. Nutrient content, like fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are more important and both cauliflower and broccoli are rich in those.

By burcidi — On Feb 19, 2013
Although there are important differences between the two, since they are from the same family of plants, a dietary restriction for one usually applies to the other as well.

For example, I had to take thyroxine, a medication for hypothyroidism for a while and I was not allowed to eat anything in the cabbage family. This included, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. Apparently these vegetables interact with this medication.

By ysmina — On Feb 19, 2013

I don't think cauliflower and broccoli are alike at all, except that they both cause flatulence.

How does the calories in broccoli compare with calories in cauliflower?

By ddljohn — On May 18, 2011

We call cauliflower and broccoli cole crops on our farm because they are from the same family. But you are right, they are not the same.

There is also a difference in the way they are planted and cultivated. Like cauliflower is planted mid season because it doesn't have any tolerance for cold. Cauliflower also does better when transplants are used. Broccoli on the other hand, can be planted early or late and they grow more easily from seeds.

By candyquilt — On May 17, 2011

I've seen broccoflower in the store and had no idea what it was at first. It looked very much like cauliflower but it was light green in color and the leaves looked just like broccoli leaves. It's really a combination of the two!

I like cauliflower but don't really enjoy broccoli, so I think this is the perfect vegetable for me. I cook it just like I cook cauliflower.

I heard that it is originally from Italy and it is called "green cauliflower" there.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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