This basic guide to common cabbage varieties has tips on using green, red, savoy & napa cabbages. You’ll also find lots of easy, tasty vegan cabbage recipes — plant based goodness that everyone can enjoy.
Cabbage is one of the most versatile of vegetables, it keeps well in the fridge, and is economical. It can be used raw or braised, simmered, steamed, or stir-fried. Read on for tips and many ways to use this widely available vegetable.
The cabbages are part of the cruciferous (or brassica) family of vegetables, which also include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale, among others.
The following information is adapted from Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas, reprinted with permission from Melissa’s Produce.
Common green cabbage
Buying and storing cabbage
Look for heads of cabbage with firmly packed, crisp-looking leaves, avoiding those with soft spots, cracks, or discoloration. Heads should feel heavy for their size.
Store in a plastic produce bag in the vegetable drawer for 2 to 3 weeks. Cabbage can be balanced and frozen for up to 3 months.
The common cabbage varieties
There are more than 400 varieties of cabbage, though we’ll be covering the 4 most common here, shapes can range from spherical to elongated.
Leaves, deeply veined and superimposed layer upon layer can be smooth or curly, firm and sturdy, or delicately limp. Colors run the gamut from almost-white green to deep forest green to reddish purple.
Green cabbage: Generally round, firmly packed heads. Pale green outer leaves and white-light green inner leaves. Tightly packed leaves are sturdy with a crunchy texture. Strongest spicy-sweet texture when cooked.
Napa cabbage: Some are barrel-shaped, others are long and cylindrical. Leaves have a delicate texture than green cabbage; they’re pale green and deeply crinkled. Napa has a milder flavor and more tender texture than the other varieties featured here. It’s a favorite in several Asian cuisines.
Red cabbage: Similar to green cabbage in shape and texture, with an enticing red-purple color. Sturdy with a crunchy texture, red cabbage has almost as strong of a flavor profile as green when cooked, though it’s optimal use is raw to retain color.
Savoy cabbage: This variety comes in looser heads than green, with deeply textured leaves. It has a slightly more delicate flavor than green cabbage, but is almost completely interchangeable.
Prepping the cabbage varieties
Firm head cabbage (green, red, and savoy): Remove any wilted or discolored leaves. To shred, cut in half, then in half again to make quarters. Cut the core off each section, leaving a little so that the wedge stays together. Place cut side down on a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, cut into shreds according to desired thickness.
Napa cabbage: Simply cut shreds crosswise, similar to how you would cut romaine lettuce. Shorten shreds if desired.
To blanch: Immerse cut cabbage in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. This is a good way to prep if using the leaves for stuffing, as it makes them more pliable. This is also how to prep if you’d like to freeze the cabbage. Not recommended for red cabbage.
Special tips for red cabbage: If cooking, use nonreactive pans (that is, not aluminum or cast iron) to prevent the cabbage from turning blue. To prevent discoloration when using raw red cabbage, as in salads, sprinkle with a tiny bit of vinegar or toss immediately after shredding with vinaigrette or lemon juice.
Which cabbage varieties are interchangeable?
As far as recipes go, green and savoy cabbage are interchangeable. Red cabbage, while having a similar flavor and texture as common green cabbage, needs a special touch so as not to lose its vivid color. And napa cabbage has a character of its own, though in some cases you can swap in savoy or green cabbage.
Cabbage nutrition information
All cabbage varieties are excellent sources of Vitamin C and good sources of Vitamins A, K, and folate, as well as the minerals potassium and magnesium.Cabbage is also a good source of fiber. See the full nutritional profile of cabbage.
Green cabbage and/or savoy cabbage recipes
Vegan Sausage, Potato, and Cabbage Skillet: It’s easy to transform the original meaty version of this recipe to make a hearty vegan sausage and cabbage skillet. The addition of potatoes makes it a substantial main dish.
Spicy Asian Noodle Stir-Fry with Plant-Based Ground & Cabbage: Plant protein mingled with cabbage and plenty of garlic and scallion, it’s an easy, luscious dish for noodle fans.
Stir-Fried Soba Noodles with Corn and Cabbage: This tasty Asian-inspired dish of stir-fried soba noodles, featuring plenty of cabbage and corn teams especially well with tofu dishes.
Sesame Soba Noodles with Leafy Greens: An Asian-flavored dish of sesame soba noodles is laced through with collard greens (or lacinato kale) and green or savoy cabbage.
Hungarian Cabbage Noodles: Traditionally made with egg noodles, this easy 5-ingredient vegan version swaps in bowtie pasta, though you use any short, chunky shape you have on hand.
Vegan Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup: A hearty bowlful of cold-weather comfort, this classic gets a bit more heft with homemade croutons nestled into each serving.
Vegan Kale and Cabbage Colcannon: In colcannon, the classic Irish recipe, potatoes, cabbage, and/or kale are lightly browned in a skillet. In this vegan version, both kale and cabbage are used, as well as a generous amount of scallion.
Slow-Cooker Dill Cabbage Steaks Over Rainbow Potatoes: Contributed by Kathy Hester, plant-based slow cooking expert, who writes: “I have to admit that I was skeptical about cabbage steaks, but once I tried them, I was hooked. This takes very little effort and makes the perfect stick-to-your-ribs meal.”
Red cabbage recipes
Sesame-Ginger Red Cabbage and Carrot Slaw: It’s not always easy to pair Asian-style dishes with salad, but this sesame-ginger red cabbage and carrot slaw might just be the perfect accompaniment.
Fruity Red Cabbage Slaw: When your dinner plate could use some color and crunch, this fruit-filled red cabbage and carrot slaw is a pleasing option.
Daikon and Carrot Salad with Red Cabbage: Daikon radish in a cold dish is especially compatible with Asian-themed meals. This interpretation gets a burst of color with red cabbage, and extra crunch with sesame seeds.
Apple and Kohlrabi Slaw: Kohlrabi is a crunchy, sweet vegetable that’s perfect for refreshing salads like this apple and kohlrabi coleslaw made with two kinds of cabbage (napa and red), contributed by chef Bryant Terry.
Crunchy and Colorful Cabbage Apple Slaw: Featuring crisp apples, red and/or green cabbage, and a lemony dressing, this easy salad goes with many kinds of meals.
Rainbow Salad Bowl: You don’t have to slavishly follow a recipe to make an eye-popping rainbow salad bowl. Simply use plenty of colorful veggies and serve in an arrangement by color.
Sesame Stir-Fried Kale and Red Cabbage: This simple and pretty preparation of stir-fried kale and red cabbage proves that this hardy green is perfect for flash-cooking over high heat.
Purple Rainy Day Soup: Boldly magenta, or perhaps violently violet, this stew-like soup of a different hue features purple potatoes (or purple yams), black quinoa, and red cabbage. Created by Hannah Kaminsky, this soup is as delicious as it is visually stunning.
Napa cabbage recipes
Asian-Flavored Cabbage and Kale Slaw: But when you combine cabbage and kale in a single salad and give them an Asian spin, it takes these two cruciferous vegetables to another level. This no-mayo slaw is crunchy, savory, and downright addictive!
Kale and Cabbage Salad with Baby Corn and Bok Choy: Kale is quite compatible with Asian flavors when used as a salad green. This colorful kale and cabbage salad is especially good with the napa variety, but the other green cabbages — or even red cabbage — work as well.
Napa Cabbage and Kimchi Coleslaw is a great choice for serving as a side dish with Korean specialities and other Asian-style dishes. Naturally vegan and gluten-free, it’s a slaw with a spicy kick.
Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms, Napa Cabbage, & Tofu: Embellished with napa cabbage, bell pepper, and scallions, here’s a quick noodle and napa dish flavored with ginger, readymade teriyaki sauce, and an optional blast of Chinese black bean sauce.
Green Goodness Vegetable Lo Mein: It’s so easy to make vegetable lo mein, a Chinese restaurant favorite, and this homemade version is bursting with flavorful green vegetables.
Winter Vegetable Miso Soup: Surprisingly substantial, this winter vegetable miso soup features roots, cabbage (preferably napa), tofu, and shiitake mushrooms.
Stir-Fried Chard with Napa Cabbage: This dish is downright addictive, served on its own or over hot cooked rice or noodles. Napa cabbage is a superb companion to dark leafy greens, adding a lighter texture and flavor as well as visual interest.
Vegan Kimchi Soup: Featuring bok choy, cabbage, and mushrooms, this adapted classic is ready to eat quickly. It’s sure to become a favorite of vegetarian and vegan kimchi fans!
Easy Green Cabbage Kimchi: From Attainable Sustainable, a step by step how-to for making a traditional kimchi with napa cabbage. Here’s our roundup of kimchi recipes to use it in!
Sunshine Napa Cabbage Kimchi: This vibrant, turmeric and ginger-infused napa cabbage kimchi (excerpted from Mississippi Vegan by Timothy Pakron) is crunchy, zesty, and tangy — the perfect addition to salads, sandwiches, and wraps. It can also be tossed into fried rice or a vegetable stir-fry.
See more of our Good Food Guides and Recipe Roundups.
Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas
is available wherever books are sold
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