This pickled broccoli recipe is quick, easy and it's loaded with sweet and spicy flavors. With just a handful of ingredients, this dish makes for a fantastic vegan side, appetizer "salad" or snack.
I love pickled vegetables, and I've been making this pickled broccoli for years. I've experimented a lot with various ingredients and measurements, and this version, which is reminiscent of my super tasty pickled cucumbers, is always my favorite.
It tastes exactly like the sweet and spicy pickled broccoli that my grandmother served at dinner parties when I was a kid. It's a very simple and easy recipe, and it's delicious to serve as an extra small plate dish to brighten a meal.
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- broccoli - Choose broccoli with firm stems and tightly closed dark green buds. Bunches that are yellow are no longer fresh. While you can use a portion of the stems, the florets are best in this recipe because they hold the marinade (or brine) well.
- rice vinegar - Made from fermented rice, this adds a crisp, very subtly sweet and tart flavor to the marinade. Be sure to use unseasoned rice vinegar.
- sesame oil - Toasted sesame oil adds a deeper flavor than regular sesame oil.
- chili paste - I use Sambal Oelek. The touch of heat is excellent with the fresh broccoli and the sweetness in the recipe.
- garlic - I grate the garlic with a microplane zester for the marinade. It's almost a purée so the flavor spreads evenly and without clumps. Look for firm heads of garlic without any soft spots or green shoots.
- salt - I use Kosher salt. If you use table salt, just use a pinch.
(See recipe card below for quantities.)
Substitutions and Variations
- Rice vinegar can be substituted with white vinegar and lemon juice. Use the ½ cup of the vinegar and ¼ cup of lemon juice.
- The chili paste can be substituted with an equal amount of seeded, minced, red Serranos, Habeneros or Thai chiles.
- Though more mild, minced shallots can be used instead of the garlic.
- This marinade is also fantastic with thinly sliced cucumbers, onions, carrots and cauliflower florets -- or any combination thereof.
- Don't skip the ice bath after steaming the broccoli. This will stop the cooking process, keeping it crisp, and helping to keep its bright green color. This is called shocking the vegetables.
- The broccoli is delicious after just 1 hour or so, and the longer it marinates, the tangier and more deeply flavored it will be.
- When I use the tender portion of the broccoli stems, I use a vegetable peeler to peel the outer skin that's a bit tougher.
- If you have leftover marinade after serving the broccoli, you can use it to either add more broccoli to, or carrots, cauliflower, etc.
How to Make it
- In a small saucepan, whisk the vinegar with the sesame oil, chili paste, garlic, sugar and salt. Place it over medium heat for just a minute to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set aside to cool.
- Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
- Over high heat, place a steamer rack into a pot with the water level just below it and bring to a boil.
- Cut the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces, rinse and add them to the rack in the pot. Sprinkle lightly with salt, lower the heat, and steam just until the broccoli is tender, about 6 minutes.
- Drain and immediately add the steamed broccoli to the bowl of ice water.
- Leave it for about 5 minutes, drain again, pat it dry with a kitchen towel, and add it to a bowl .
- Pour the cooled marinade over the broccoli, mix, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
- Pickled vegetables are great in small portions, so I like to put a few small plates of them on the table, and people can help themselves.
- It's excellent mixed into, or served over Coconut Cilantro Rice.
- Spicy pickled broccoli can also enhance and brighten the flavor of other dishes. Chop the florets into smaller pieces and add them to salads or stir-fries.
- Since the ingredients in the marinade are mostly Asian, it's really delicious alongside dishes with an Asian vibe. Listed below are my favorite main courses to serve it with.
Main Courses to Serve with Pickled Broccoli
Other Popular Pickled Recipes
More Must-Try Broccoli Recipes
How long will spicy pickled broccoli last?
While the spicy pickled broccoli is ready to eat after just an hour, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it will last about 2 weeks.
I hope you love this recipe!
Quick Pickled Broccoli Recipe
- 1 pound fresh broccoli
- ¾ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1½ teaspoons chili paste
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon Kosher salt
Make the Marinade
- In a small saucepan, whisk the vinegar with the sesame oil, chili paste, garlic, sugar and salt. Place this over medium heat for just a minute to dissolve the sugar and salt. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the Broccoli
- Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Place a steamer rack into a pot with the water level just below it. Over high heat, bring the water to a boil.
- Cut the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces. Use only the most tender portion of the stems and slice them very thinly. (Discard the tough part of the stems towards the bottom.)
- Rinse the broccoli and add it to the pot on the rack. Sprinkle it lightly with salt and cover. Turn the heat to low and steam just until the broccoli is tender, about 6 minutes.
- Drain the broccoli and immediately add it to the bowl of ice water. Leave it for about 5 minutes, drain again, pat it dry with a kitchen towel, and add it to a bowl .
- Pour the cooled marinade over the broccoli, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
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