Pan Fried Tenderstem Broccoli with crispy red onions, garlic, and tangy balsamic vinegar is the ultimate broccoli recipe! It’s the perfect, easy-to-make side dish that’s bursting with fresh flavor—a definite must-try!
Monday through Friday this week, I’m bringing you FIVE great ways to try tenderstem broccoli. Each showcases a different cooking method for this incredible veg and new ways to add extra flavor with sauces or toppings.
Today, I’m starting with an incredibly easy and tasty Pan-Fried Tenderstem Broccoli recipe. And we’re amping up the flavor with crispy onions, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. It’s seriously good!
You can grab all the broccolini side dishes here:
But first, what is tenderstem broccoli?
Tenderstem broccoli is also known as broccolini, a hybrid vegetable that’s a cross between regular broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) and Chinese kale (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra).
The term ‘Tenderstem’ is actually a trademarked brand name for this type of broccoli, while ‘broccolini’ is the generic name for this variety.
Tenderstem broccoli is known for its slender stems and dainty florets. Compared with regular broccoli, it’s sweeter and nuttier and more tender with every bite.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Delicious Flavor Combination: The sweet and crispy red onions, punchy garlic, and tangy balsamic vinegar combine with charred tenderstem broccoli to create a mouthwatering contrast of flavors that are deliciously irresistible.
- Quick and Easy: It’s the easiest recipe to prepare, making it the perfect side dish for busy weeknight dinners but tasty enough for special occasion meals.
- Versatile and Adaptable: Pan-fried broccolini can be served as a side dish, paired with various proteins, or even enjoyed on its own.
Health Benefits: Broccoli is a delicious way to add fiber and a wealth of vitamins and minerals to your diet. It is a fantastic source of vitamins A, C, and K, and the minerals, calcium, potassium, and iron. It also contains bioactive compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. All of which promote overall health. [Source]
Here are the ingredients you will need to make Pan-Fried Tenderstem Broccoli.
- Tenderstem Broccoli (or Broccolini): A slender and tender broccoli variety with lots of flavor. Perfect for quick cooking and getting lots of nutrients into your diet.
- Garlic Cloves: Fresh garlic adds plenty of aromatic flavor and depth to the dish.
- Red Onion: Provides a sweet and crispy contrast to the broccoli.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Used for sautéing and adding flavor.
- Balsamic Vinegar: Adds a sweet and tangy richness to the dish.
- Red Pepper Flakes: For a little heat.
- Sea Salt Flakes and Black Pepper: Makes the flavors pop!
- Parmesan (optional): A creamy, salty indulgence.
This tasty vegetable dish can be ready in 15 minutes or less with minimal prep and simple ingredients. Check it out in six easy steps.
These visual step-by-step instructions provide a quick overview of the recipe. You can find the recipe card with the complete list of ingredients and detailed recipe instructions at the bottom of this page. ⇩
1: In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until they turn translucent and start to caramelize.
2: Add the garlic, and sauté for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
3: Add the broccoli and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes, or until it turns bright green and develops a slight char.
4: Season with red pepper flakes, salt, and plenty of pepper.
5: Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the broccoli and onions. Stir to coat, and cook for a further minute, allowing the flavors to meld.
6: If you’d like, sprinkle with parmesan (optional). Then, serve and enjoy!
Remove Ends: The ends of tenderstem broccoli stems can be tough, so it’s important to remove them before cooking.
Prep the Broccoli: Cut the broccoli into uniform pieces for even cooking.
Use a Wide Skillet: A wide skillet or frying pan allows the broccoli to cook evenly without overcrowding.
Don’t Overcook: Be careful not to overcook the broccoli; it should remain vibrant green and crisp-tender.
Serve Hot: This dish is best enjoyed straight off the skillet while it’s still hot.
- Types of Onions: Instead of red onions, you could use brown onions, sweet onions, or shallots.
- Tenderstem Broccoli: If you can’t find tenderstem broccoli for this recipe, your supermarket may stock it as ‘broccolini.’ Alternatively, you could try long-stem broccoli, broccoli rabe, or even asparagus.
- Parmesan: You could sprinkle crumbled feta or blue cheese instead of parmesan. Shredded cheddar is also fab!
- Asian Inspired Twist: Replace the balsamic vinegar with two teaspoons of soy sauce, a little bit of sesame oil (about half a teaspoon), and top with sesame seeds.
- Lemon Broccolini: If you love lemon’s bright and zesty flavor, you can replace the balsamic vinegar with lemon juice. And if you’d like, finish with some finely shredded lemon zest.
- Vegetarian and Vegan Options: Swap out the parmesan with your preferred vegan cheese or remove it altogether. It’s still going to taste incredibly delicious.
Here are some serving suggestions for your Pan-Fried Tenderstem Broccoli:
- As a Side Dish: Serve this easy vegetable side dish alongside grilled chicken, steak, fish, roasted vegetables, or hearty salads for a balanced and flavorful meal. It’s a particularly delicious side dish alongside a roast dinner!
- Over Pasta Dishes: Toss the pan-fried broccoli and onions with cooked pasta and a drizzle of olive oil for a simple and satisfying pasta dish. It also tastes amazing with my Creamy Chorizo Pasta.
- On a Bed of Quinoa or Rice: Spoon the broccoli and onions over a bed of quinoa or rice, adding protein like grilled tofu or shrimp for a complete meal.
- In a Wrap or Sandwich: Use as a filling for wraps or sandwiches, adding some creamy avocado or hummus for extra flavor.
- As a Salad: Combine it with fresh greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and a light vinaigrette for a simple and refreshing salad.
- With Eggs: Serve it at breakfast or brunch with scrambled eggs or an omelet (omelette).
- Fridge: Allow your leftover vegetables to cool to room temperature, then pop them into an airtight container before storing them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Freezing: While it’s possible to freeze this dish, keep in mind that the texture of the broccoli may change slightly upon thawing. Once cooled to room temperature, transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container, ensuring there’s minimal air inside. Label with the date to keep track of freshness, and freeze for 2-3 months.
- Reheating: To reheat your side dish, you can use the microwave or stovetop.
- Microwave: Place a portion in a microwave-safe dish, cover it loosely with a microwave-safe lid, and heat on medium power, stirring occasionally until it’s piping hot.
- Stovetop: Heat a skillet or pan over medium heat, add a little olive oil, and sauté the refrigerated or thawed broccoli until it’s heated through. You can also add a splash of water or broth to help steam and rehydrate the broccoli if needed.
Yes, you can use standard broccoli as a substitute, but keep in mind that broccolini is sweeter, has a milder flavor, and more tender stems, so the texture and taste may differ slightly.
This dish is best served fresh. But yes, you can prepare the dish in advance if needs be. Follow the storage and reheating instructions provided earlier.
No, broccolini is different from broccoli rabe (rapini). Broccolini is a hybrid of regular broccoli and Chinese kale. Whereas broccoli rabe is a distinct vegetable that is more bitter in taste.
While red onions add sweetness and color, you can substitute white onions if that’s what you have on hand. Keep in mind that white onions have a milder flavor.
This dish can be made vegetarian or vegan by omitting the parmesan cheese or using a vegan alternative.
Certainly! You can customize this dish by adding your favorite vegetables. Asparagus, red peppers, and mushrooms work particularly well.
This dish is naturally gluten-free. Just ensure that any optional ingredients or seasonings you add are also gluten-free if needed for dietary restrictions.
Yes! The whole vegetable is meant to be enjoyed. The broccoli stems, along with the florets. Just trim off the very end of the stem, as it can be a little tough.
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Pan Fried Tenderstem Broccoli with Crispy Red Onions
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- Cutting Board
- Large Frying Pan (or Large Skillet), preferably a non-stick frying pan!
- Kitchen Spatula
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 9 onuces (250 grams) Tenderstem broccoli (or broccolini)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt flakes
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (red chilli flakes), adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese (optional), finely shredded
- Prep: Gather and prepare your ingredients. Rinse the Tenderstem broccoli under cold water and trim off the very ends (about 5mm) as they will be tough. Dry with kitchen paper so the oil doesn't splatter when you add the broccoli to the pan. Chop each broccoli spear into bite-sized pieces.
- Sauté: Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the thinly sliced red onions to the pan. Sauté for about 3-4 minutes until the onions become translucent and start to caramelize.
- Add Garlic: Add the garlic to the pan and sauté for 30 seconds. Keep the garlic moving so it doesn't burn.
- Add Broccoli: Add the broccoli pieces to the pan. Stir-fry for 4-5 minutes or until the broccoli turns bright green, develops a slight char, and has a nice crispy texture.
- Season: Season with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
- Add Balsamic Vinegar: Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the broccoli and onions. Stir well to coat, and continue to cook for an additional minute, allowing the flavors to meld.
- Serve: If you'd like, sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese (optional), and the residual heat will cause it to melt into the broccolini. Serve and enjoy!
Nutrition Information (Per Serving)
Nutrition Disclaimer: Nutritional information is estimated using an online nutrition calculator. For accuracy, we recommend you calculate using the exact ingredients and brands you used.