What is a Broccoli Spear? Definition, Benefits, Recipes Explained

Broccoli spears are a popular food that is consumed all around the world and used as an ingredient in many dishes. However, not everyone knows what a broccoli spear actually is and what separates it from other cuts of broccoli.

Broccoli spears are broccoli that has been cut into small pieces that start at the base of the stalk and go all the way to the floret. They are frequently eaten plain and used as an ingredient in other dishes.

Read on to learn more about what broccoli spears are, why they are preferred, and how to cut your own broccoli spears.

Broccoli spears are a cut of broccoli that includes part of the stalk and part of the head of the broccoli which is called a floret. They are usually anywhere from two to five inches in length and are used in various dishes or eaten raw.

Broccoli is usually grown in a head that resembles a small tree. It has a thick stalk that branches out into smaller florets of broccoli.

To create a broccoli spear you cut from the base of the stalk all the way through the head of the broccoli. This will create a cut of broccoli that contains the entire length of the stem as well as the delicate green buds at the top of the crown.  

What is the Difference Between Broccoli Stalks and Broccoli Spears?

The difference between broccoli stalks and broccoli spears is the parts of the vegetables that the cut contains. Broccoli spears contain both the hard stalk of the broccoli and the delicate crown of the broccoli which is called the floret. In cooking, the head of the broccoli is typically considered the most delicious and is the most prized in cooking. 

Broccoli spears are often consumed raw as well as cooked since the floret part is soft enough to be eaten raw. The broccoli stalk is often too tough to be eaten without cooking.

In contrast, broccoli stalks only contain the stalk of the broccoli and do not contain any of the leaves or the crown of the broccoli. The stalk of broccoli is tougher and requires more preparation to be eaten. It also has a more bitter flavor.

Broccoli stalk is considered a cheaper cut of broccoli and is often used in soups where the flavor and texture can be somewhat concealed by the other ingredients. Broccoli stalks are very rarely eaten plain.

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Why Cut Broccoli Into Spears?

Cutting broccoli into spears makes it easier to wash, cook, and consume. In its natural form, broccoli grows into a large head that can weigh up to a pound and be over six inches wide. The stalk can also be several inches wide making it difficult to consume. The broccoli also appears nicer and more palatable once it has been processed.

Easier to Clean

If you do not cut the broccoli into spears, it can be more difficult to thoroughly clean the broccoli. Cutting the broccoli spears allows you to thoroughly clean the broccoli and inspect the vegetable for insects or mold. 

If you leave the broccoli as a head of broccoli, it is more difficult to make sure that the vegetable has been properly cleaned.

Better Cooking

The second reason that it is best to cut the broccoli into spears is that it lets you cook the broccoli more easily.

When the broccoli is in one giant piece the stem is extremely thick and will take a long time to cook. However, the cooking time for the leaves and floret of the broccoli does not decrease. This can lead to accidentally burning the floret of the broccoli rendering it inedible. 

Chopping up the broccoli will decrease cooking time and allow you to cook the broccoli evenly. This is especially important if you are pan frying or cooking the broccoli in the oven where it is prone to burn.

Seasoning broccoli that has been chopped up is also much easier. You can get the seasoning on more surfaces which will flavor the vegetable much better. If you leave the broccoli in the head you will only be able to season the outer portion.

Remove Excess Stalk

Another reason that it is better to cut your broccoli into spears is that it allows you to remove the excess stalk from the broccoli. Although broccoli stalk has many nutritional benefits, it is not the most flavorful part of the broccoli and can be difficult to cook.

By removing excess stalks from the broccoli you can improve the flavor of the broccoli and make it easier to eat. This will also make it easier to cook since you won’t have to worry about cooking the thickest sections of the broccoli all the way through. 

Easier to Eat

The next reason that it is better to cut broccoli is that it makes it easier to eat. When broccoli is not cut, it is hard to bite all the way through the thick stalk. Chopping the broccoli into smaller pieces allows you to more easily consume the broccoli.

When you cut the broccoli into smaller pieces you are able to eat the broccoli more easily. There is also less risk of choking since you are cutting the stalks into thinner pieces.

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It Looks Better

The last reason is unimportant when it comes to flavor, but matters with presentation. Broccoli that has been cut into even broccoli spears looks better than broccoli that has been left on the head. 

When you cut broccoli up you can cut away any small imperfections that the broccoli may have. You are also able to create uniformity in shape that does not occur naturally. 

How Do You Cut Broccoli Into Spears?

If you want to cut your broccoli into spears, there is a set process that you should follow. Following these steps will give you the best chance of having good, even broccoli spears that will taste delicious.

  1. Wash Your Broccoli Head

The first step in the process is to wash your broccoli head as thoroughly as possible. This will allow you to wash away any dirt and inspect your broccoli for rot or mold that may need to be cut away.

Once the broccoli is clean and has been dried you are ready for the next step. 

  1. Trim The Stem

Once your broccoli has been dried it is time to trim the step. Oftentimes the bottom part of the broccoli stem will be woody or have damage on it from the harvesting process. This part of the stem is also difficult to cook and is best removed.

You will want to remove the bottom 1-2 inches of the broccoli stalk, possibly more depending on how much of the stalk is thick or damaged. 

Once you have cut away the bottom section of the stem you are ready for step 3.

  1. Cut Lengthwise

Now you will want to lay your broccoli on its side and cut your broccoli lengthwise from the base of the stem to the crown. You will want to cut your broccoli in half and then into quarters. 

  1. Cut Into Spears

After you have your quartered head it is time to cut the broccoli into individual spears. The size of the spears is up to you but you should aim to make the size of the spears as even as possible. Keeping the spears at a similar size will help them to cook evenly and appear nicer when served.

You will cut your spears from the base of the broccoli stem all the way to the crown of the broccoli. As you cut you may need to adjust the angle of your knife to keep the stems of the broccoli spears at an even thickness. 

What are the Best Broccoli Spears Recipes?

Two of the best broccoli spears recipes are roasted broccoli and garlic butter steamed broccoli.

Roasted Broccoli

To prepare roasted broccoli you will first preheat your oven to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is preheating you will toss your broccoli in a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

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You should line a baking sheet with parchment paper then pour your seasoned broccoli onto the baking sheet. Make sure to spread the broccoli out so it is not stacked on top of each other. This will help to make sure all the pieces of broccoli cook evenly.

You will want to cook your broccoli for around 10-20 minutes depending on how thick your broccoli spears are. After 10 minutes you should keep checking your broccoli to make sure that it does not burn. If the floret of the broccoli begins to darken you should stop cooking it as this means it is beginning to burn.

Allow the broccoli to cool slightly then serve warm.

Garlic Butter Steamed Broccoli

A super simple way of preparing broccoli spears is steaming them and then adding garlic butter. 

To prepare this dish you will need a steamer and you will steam your broccoli until it reaches your desired level of tenderness. 

While the broccoli is steaming you will prepare your garlic butter mixture. Take softened, salted butter and mix in a small amount of garlic. This can be in the form of garlic powder, oil, or minced garlic, whichever you prefer. 

Once the broccoli is done cooking you will toss the broccoli in the butter mixture while it is still hot. Make sure to taste your broccoli to decide if it needs more salt or other seasonings added to it.

Related Questions

Here you will find some of the most commonly asked questions regarding broccoli. 

Which part of broccoli is healthiest?

There is no single part of broccoli that is the healthiest. Each part has different nutritional benefits and different uses.

Broccoli stems have high amounts of fiber whereas the floret and leaves of the broccoli have more vitamins. Overall, the nutritional composition is similar no matter which part of the plant you are eating.

What part of broccoli is not edible?

There is no part of broccoli that is technically inedible. However, many people prefer to remove the lower section of the stem as it can be tough and difficult to eat.

What happens if I eat broccoli every day?

For the most part, if you eat broccoli every day nothing will happen. However, some people may experience stomach upset when eating large amounts of broccoli and should exercise caution.


Broccoli is a popular vegetable that is eaten in many dishes or plain. One of the most popular ways to eat broccoli is by cutting it into small pieces known as broccoli spears and then cooking them. A broccoli spear is a cut of broccoli that contains both the floret and the stem of the broccoli.

Some of the most popular ways of eating broccoli spears are roasting them, eating them raw, or steaming them and topping them with butter and other seasonings.