Cabbage, that pale green orb, the staple of many nations’ cuisines - Eastern Europe, Korea and Ireland to name a few - isn’t on everyone’s favorite vegetable list. But perhaps it’s time to give this cruciferous vegetable a second look, because it’s got so much going for it! Cabbages are:
- easy to grow
- long lasting
- a good source of vitamin C, fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and K, and more.
- loaded with antioxidants
- readily available and affordable
Adding cabbage to your meals is all about finding preparation methods that speak to you, after all remember how we used to feel about Brussels Sprouts?!? High heating roasting has transformed this tiny cabbage cousin from the mushy, bitter vegetable of our childhood to the darling of the restaurant scene with their sweet, nutty, smoky flavor. Perhaps the versatile cabbage is deserving of a similar makeover!
While cabbage may look and feel similar to lettuce, and can be used in many salad-like preparations, it is in fact related to the Brassica family of vegetables which include broccoli, cauliflower, kale. It can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, sautéed, stir-fried, baked and fermented.
Chop or shred it for coleslaw and in other salads, or use whole leaves as a heart-healthy substitute for wraps or steamed for more traditional cabbage rolls or explore one of the recipes we’ve listed here. What a great way to add nutrition while you cut carbs and calories.
Cabbages come in many different colors - red, purple, green, white - and with varied types of leaves - smooth or crinkled or even leafy, depending on the type. The most commonly available varieties of cabbage are:
Cannonball Cabbage (photo above)
More commonly known as green cabbage, the cannonball cabbage is one of the most popular cabbage varieties. It is so named for the way its leaves are wound tightly over one another, with the final product resembling a cannonball. The dense leaves make it perfect for shredding into coleslaw or fermenting into sauerkraut. It is also delicious braised, stewed or boiled in a simple soup with chopped-up cabbage, carrots, corn and pork ribs. Try Spicy Indian Cabbage.
This relative of the cannonball cabbage looks very different with its dark, leafy tips and slender celery-like stems. The delicate flavor of bok choy is great in stir fries of all kinds or simply on its own with minced garlic, oyster sauce and salt to taste. Try Stir fried Bok Choy with Chicken.
Oblong in shape with frilly, yellow-green leaves, this cabbage variety is sweeter and softer than the other varieties and is widely used in East Asian cuisine. This is the cabbage of choice for making kimchi. It can used in salads, slaws and grain bowls as well as in stir fries. Try Crunchy Asian Style Slaw.
Probably the most beautiful of the cabbages is this lacy variant. The leaves of the savoy cabbage are more loosely layered and less tightly packed than green or red cabbage, which gives it a shorter refrigerator life. Savoy cabbage is more tender than the other cabbages and works beautifully as a fresh, crunchy wrap or braised in butter and stock or steamed then wrapped around a filling as for stuffed cabbage. Try it in Cabbage Wraps.
This cabbage can at times be very red and at other more purple as its color changes according to the pH value of the soil it grows in - the leaves grow reddish in acidic soil and more purplish in neutral. Red cabbage turns blue-grey as it cooks but you can easily mitigate this by adding some form of acid (lemon juice or vinegar) as it cooks. It is delicious and add a nice crispness and punch of color when sliced thinly into lettuce salads or coleslaw, braised with some bacon, apple cider vinegar and apples or fermented into sauerkraut. Try Red Cabbage and Apples, great as a side dish with meats and fish.
Last But Not Least Fermented Cabbage
When cabbage ferments, it makes natural probiotics that nourish the bacteria in your gut, providing many health benefits. Sauerkraut and kimchi are two great examples and both are great as condiments on sandwiches, with eggs or meats, or garnishing a salad. They’re flavorful and easy to add into your meals.
Storage and Handling Tips
Cabbage is best stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. A plastic bag may help retain moisture but isn't totally necessary when it's whole. Once the cabbage is cut into wrap it tightly in plastic before returning it to the refrigerator. Properly stored cabbage may last a month or more! Find more tips and recipes here.