Your New Favorite Broccoli Is Charred, Crispy & Buttermilk-Brined

May 15, 2018

Want to know how to make the best, most addictively delicious broccoli? Take a cue from roasted meat, or fried chicken: Brine it.

But not in plain salt water. Soak it in buttermilk mixed with the brine from a jar of preserved lemons. (Or if you’re short on brine, blitz a peeled preserved lemon with buttermilk in a blender.) A tangy, lemony, intensely flavored brine is exactly what broccoli wants to dive into.

A buttermilk and preserved lemon brine takes roasted broccoli to the next level. Photo by Rocky Luten

The method is simple: Brine the broccoli for about an hour. Drain it, then spread it out on a parchment-lined sheet pan like you normally would. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a slick of olive oil. Never skimp on the olive oil. Add thin slices of red onion to the sheet pan while you’re at it. Roast at high heat until tender and a little charred. You can stop there, but I like to go one step further and toss the roasted broccoli and red onion with crispy breadcrumbs flavored with sumac, minced preserved lemon peel, and fresh dill.

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Voila! Roasted broccoli like you’ve never had it before.


So why brine broccoli (or any vegetable for that matter) this way?

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Top Comment:
“For all us newbies or non-adventurous cooks - how do you make brined lemons for this??”
— Sue

The acidic buttermilk tenderizes the broccoli (speeding up its roasting time a bit), and the salinity of the preserved lemon seasons it. Together, the buttermilk and preserved lemon pack such a big flavor punch that their characteristic rich, tangy notes come through in the roasted vegetable—not overwhelmingly so, but in a way that enhances broccoli’s own flavor. Think of it as: broccoli as its best self.

I experimented with brining vegetables last summer and came up with this Feta-Brined Grilled Eggplant. My premise was: If we feta-brine chicken (just as Melissa Clark’s Genius recipe taught us), why not eggplant? The short answer is...we absolutely should! More recently, I took a page from fried chicken’s book and came up with this Buttermilk Roast Chicken that’s brined in buttermilk and pickle juice. And then my mind connected the dots—why not brine broccoli in buttermilk and preserved lemon?

Since coming up with this dish, I’ve tried the same buttermilk–preserved lemon brine on cauliflower with good results. Next up: eggplant. And maybe zucchini too. After that, roast chicken—because, I suspect, roasted meat can learn a thing or two from roasted vegetables.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Nancy
  • Sue
  • EmilyC
  • witloof

Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.


Eric K. May 16, 2018
Can't stop dreaming about this broccoli, Emily!
Nancy May 15, 2018
First, to EmilyC...this article is great, and I can't wait to make the brined broccoli!
Second, to Sue - preserved lemons are a Morrocan condiment that have spread beyond that cuisine to wider use in European and American cooking.
Here's trad recipe from Paula Wolfert (takes 30 days aging)
And here's simpler version from Joan Nathan (need to sit only for one day)
EmilyC May 15, 2018
Thanks so much Nancy for providing these great links and for the kind words! Hope you enjoy the broccoli!
Sue May 15, 2018
For all us newbies or non-adventurous cooks - how do you make brined lemons for this??
EmilyC May 15, 2018
Hi Sue: Nancy provided great links on how to DIY preserved lemons (thanks Nancy!). You can also buy them in jars (Whole Foods and many other grocery stores carry them) or sometimes I find them on the olive bar. They’re so lovely so hope you try some, and this broccoli too! : )
witloof May 16, 2018
I highly recommend making your own, after experimenting with store bought and DYI. It's so easy, basically just cutting the lemons, salting them, and sticking them in a jar with more lemon juice, bay leaves and peppercorns.
icharmeat June 5, 2018
so, once i started using my home preserved lemons, the lemons at the top were no longer submerged in brine (they like to float once the jar has had some of the contents removed) and have turned brownish. Is this any worry at all or just a cosmetic issue?
EmilyC June 5, 2018
I honestly don't know! Maybe submit your question to the hotline and hopefully others will weigh in...