Broccoli Stem Stir Fry
March 3, 2016

An overhead shot of a simple broccoli stem and brown rice stir fry, garnished with crushed red pepper flakes.

This vegan broccoli stem stir fry is a perfect example of root to stalk cooking. Made with brown rice and broccoli stems, it ensures that you don’t have to discard part of your vegetable!

This broccoli stem stir fry is a perfect opportunity to use your entire head of broccoli, rather than discarding the stems! It’s one small, delicious way to avoid food waste at home.

Root to stalk cooking

A year or so ago, I got Tara Duggan’s lovely cookbook, Root-to-Stalk Cooking. Duggan instructs readers in the art of using up a whole vegetable for cooking. Her recipes are simple and plant-forward, with both waste reduction and frugality in mind.

That cookbook inspired this broccoli stem stir fry. When I first read Duggan’s book, her resourcefulness and ingenuity seemed a little out of reach. I try not to directly create food waste at home; for example, even if a recipe doesn’t turn out when I test for the blog, I’ll make a point of finishing it, even if that means smothering it in a sauce or something.

But I know I waste parts of vegetables when I prepare them for recipes. I’m not mindful enough of using scraps, and I’m just in the habit of tossing leaves and stems.

Yes, you can eat broccoli stems!

I eat steamed broccoli with tahini dressing more than any other side dish in my home. It probably appears in my dinner rotation four times a week or more. I also use broccoli in recipes all the time, from sheet pan suppers to casseroles to stuffed, baked potatoes.

With all of that broccoli use, you’d think I’d be great about finding ways to repurpose the stems. But I’m not, unfortunately. In fact, it wasn’t until I read Duggan’s book that I even thought more about using broccoli stems in cooking. The more I read about it, the more I realized that there’s no reason to throw them out.

Know better, do better. Being on the SNAP challenge this week has given me a new perspective on many things. Food waste in particular stands out as an issue that I’m seeing with fresh eyes. I’m already good about freezing and using up leftovers, but I have a long way to go in using whole vegetables.

Broccoli stem stir fry ingredients

The beauty of this recipe isn’t only the fact that it makes use of a whole ingredient. It’s also inexpensive and amazingly simple! You’ll only need a few ingredients to make it:

Broccoli

Choose a nice fresh head of broccoli if you can. If you can find it at a local farmers market, even better. One of the things that the SNAP challenge taught me was that there are opportunities to SNAP benefits in many farmers markets in New York City.

I eat broccoli year round, not always local or from a farmers market, very often frozen. But when I can get it fresh and locally, I always find that it is most sweet and flavorful.

Brown rice

I use short-grain brown rice in this recipe, simply because it’s my personal preference. You can cook it according to package instructions, or if you get it in the bulk bin, you can use the instructions here.

This Saveur trick of boiling rice like pasta was a game changer for me. I think the resulting rice is so much fluffier than attempting to measure water for a specific amount of grain. That’s now how I prepare rice for my creamy brown rice with shiitakes and peas and my vegan chick’n rice skillet supper, among other dishes

If you’d prefer to use long or medium grain brown rice, you can cook those the more traditional way. You can also use barley, farro, quinoa, or another whole grain in place of rice, if you’ve run out.

Seasonings

The seasonings in this dish are simple: roasted sesame oil, unsweetened rice vinegar, crushed red pepper flakes, tamari. Seasoned rice vinegar is fine, but you may want to reduce the tamari if you use it, as it’s salty. I definitely recommend roasted sesame oil, rather than plain. It has a much deeper flavor!

A close up, side angled shot of broccoli stem stir fry, ready to be served.

This broccoli stem stir fry is going to become a staple in my home. It’s a quick, easy, and satisfying way to put all of those stems to good use. I’ve always worried that the stems would be too tough to eat, but if you peel and slice them thinly, they’re actually wonderfully tender.

As it is, the recipe stands alone as a perfect dinner side. But if you add some seared tofu or tempeh, some beans, or a combination of the two—and maybe a drizzle of delightfully green tahini dressing—you’ve got a complete meal on your hands.

A ridiculously easy, economical, and adaptable meal at that.

A simple, vibrant plant based stir fry made with broccoli stems and brown rice.

An overhead shot of a simple broccoli stem and brown rice stir fry, garnished with crushed red pepper flakes.

Simple Broccoli Stem & Brown Rice Stir Fry

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice, rinsed (about 3 cups cooked)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 large or 3 small broccoli stalks, peeled and sliced crosswise thinly
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the rice, and boil for 40-45 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain, return the rice to the pot, cover, and allow the rice to steam for a few minutes while you prepare the broccoli stems.
  • Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Add the broccoli stems and a pinch of salt. Saute the stems for 4 minutes, or until they're becoming tender and bright green. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the rice to the pan, along with the vinegar and tamari. Heat the rice through. Add a dash of red pepper flakes. Taste the stir fry and add extra vinegar, tamari, and pepper to taste. Serve.

Notes

Leftover stir fry will keep for two days in the fridge.

A bowl of vegan stir fry with thinly sliced broccoli stems, brown rice, seasonings, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

As far as economics go, the recipe certainly fit into the SNAP challenge. It came to about $1.15 per serving in the end (it helped that I found broccoli on sale when I did my haul). I paired it with an easy tofu scramble for dinner last night, and I’ll be using the remaining two portions to pack up with lunch leftovers.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. When it comes to cooking, I think it’s definitely true that working with constraints of any kind–or alternately, having an ingredient that really needs to be used up–can lead to unexpectedly great things. Humble though it is, this stir fry is proof of that. I hope you’ll give it a shot, make it your own, and let me know what you think!

xo

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    35 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I made this in a pinch one night when I randomly got hungry and realized I didn’t have much in the fridge to work with. This recipe is so incredibly tasty and works GREAT in a pinch. When my fiance got home and commented on how good the kitchen smelled that I got up and made him some as well. Thank you for the awesome recipe!

    • So glad you like it, Cici! It’s becoming a “go to” for me, thanks to the simplicity, and I’m happy it came through for you in a pinch.

  2. When I was a kid, I would always see my mum throw out the stem, so I didn’t even think of eating it until I started watching my dad cook. He cuts the stem in half lengthways and then into thirds, steams it and it turns out well. I don’t find it nessecary to peel it, just chop off some of the browner bits and a bit of the bottom. Occasionally, I do get a stem that has tougher skin, but if I bite into it and find that is the case, I just chop it off and eat the inner flesh. Most of the time, the skin is perfectly edible steamed.

  3. I’ve never really thought about eating the stem – I don’t know anyone who eats it. But next time I have fresh broccoli (I usually have frozen) I will definitely be saving the stem to make this!

  4. 5 stars
    I always just peel and eat the stems with the crowns (apparently, they’re more nutritious), but now I will be saving them to make this delicious recipe again. Thank you, Gena!

  5. 5 stars
    I never thought much about food waste until my husband and I tried our first CSA. The carrots came with their gorgeous stems and beets with their greens. I didn’t want to waste them and we had fun stretching our normal cooking by utilizing every part of the vegetables! Also, I made this as a side dish last night and we loved it! A great change from plain roasted broccoli.

  6. that’s a great idea! i always try to use the stems, but usually they just end up in a pureed soup. i think i might have to get a little more creative with my stems 😉 some good inspiration in the comments, too – i definitely have to try roasted!

  7. My husband always looks at me funny when I cook broccoli stems (I like to roast them in the oven with cauliflower stems), but they have SOOO much flavor … He doesn’t know what he is missing out on! Love this recipe Gena. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Oh Yum!

    I actually love broccoli stems and love the idea of using the entire vegetable.

    I used to pickle my broccoli stems. I’m going to have to do this again – they were so good and crunchy!!

  9. The stems are my favourite part of broccoli, but I prefer to eat them raw. As long as you peel the tough skin, the inside is very tender. I actually get angry when I see people throw out broccoli stems, to the point where my family/roommates/boyfriend’s family started saving me the stems when they cooked broccoli so I could eat them raw later. I save the peeled skin to throw in a batch of stock with the rest of my veggie scraps.

  10. If you peel the stem it will taste much better. The stems are actually tender and sweet when you do that. It has become my family’s favorite part!

    • Slicing thinly was key for that — I used a mandolin! If I were to steam or chop ’em, though, I’d peel for sure.

  11. I love this SNAP challenge and the way its inspiring clever dishes like these, Gena! So brilliant. I usually set my stems aside to juice in my weekly green juice, but will have to try this next time. I’m a big lover of stir fries, but OD-ed on them early on in my vegan years too 😉 just now getting the cravings again. Have a gorgeous weekend girl! xo

  12. I LOVE everything about this recipe Gena!! Especially that you used a part of broccoli that is so often discarded. After reading this article I really started to think about all the parts of vegetables that I waste. I feel so horrible about it, but that’s where change starts! 🙂

  13. Looks awesome, Gena. Our go-to for our broccoli stems is a creamy broccoli dal but if salad is in order, a confetti salad works too. I actually had some dal tonight for dinner. 🙂 Now that I have my own composter and a garden, I don’t feel too bad about extra plant waste since it will just feed my plants. 😉

  14. The toughness factor (which I’ve found to vary from bunch to bunch – older bunches seem to have tougher stalks) can be obviated by peeling the stalk first with a carrot peeler. The inside is almost always tender and lovely. Just last night I was making a chickpea and veg curry, and I threw in a bunch of chopped and peeled broccoli stalk for added bulk and nutrition. No one even really noticed them among the carrots, potatoes, and chickpeas, and I was glad not to waste them.

  15. This looks so good! It’s been ages since I last had broccoli and I have been looking for a new and fun recipe to use it for. This recipe is just perfect. Thanks, Gena!

    • I’ve never NOT had the broccoli stems. My mom always stir-fried them into the dish….cook the stems first (not peeling away anything), add the florets after the stems are tender and continue with whatever dish you are making. The stems have always been a favourite- a bit of crunch when the florets cook soft.

  16. That’s a great way to use up the stems, looks really tasty. I often put broccoli stalks in stews, but my favourite way to eat them is raw, just peel them and cut them into sticks – i like them with hummus!

  17. Gena–I LOVE this!! I hate to throw out broccoli stalks, especially since they are sometimes a significant amount of the weight of organic broccoli bunches priced by the pound. I know they are tender, and sometimes I roast pieces of them with the florets or other veggies, and sometimes I peel them and cut into chunks to make my confetti salad in the food processor–along with red cabbage and carrots. This is yet another way to showcase them–and I think I still have one stalk left in the fridge. Thanks for the economical inspiration! I love my “use up what’s left” creations and this will be another option for those, along with helping me know I’m stretching my food dollars wisely. xoxo