For some reason, whenever I think about all the vegetables I want to cook with and eat, cabbage isn’t on the list. It’s strange because I love cabbage but I fall into a rut where I only think about it when I want to make a slaw or soup. That’s something I need to change because cabbage is a wonderful ingredient that should be on everyone’s shopping list. It’s inexpensive, versatile and delicious.
Cabbage is a staple of cooking all over the world. This multi-layered veggie is a nutritional powerhouse, providing us with many nutrients including: manganese, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin A, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin and folate. Smooth-leafed firm-headed green cabbages are the most common type. Savoy cabbage, also known as curly cabbage, has ruffled lacy, deeply ridged leaves which are loosely layered and more tender. Napa cabbage, also called Chinese cabbage, has long, light green leaves and looks a bit like romaine lettuce. It has a mild, peppery flavor and is often used in stir-fries and to make kimchi. Take a look at all the ways you can cook with cabbage and then give it a try tonight!
Slaws are crunchy, refreshing and colorful with tons of flavor. The classic coleslaw usually contains shredded green cabbage and carrots with a dressing made of mayonnaise and/or buttermilk. You can use an eggless mayo, either store-bought or homemade, or silken tofu to get that rich, creamy dressing. A simple recipe is to mix ½ cup vegan mayo, 2 Tbs. non-dairy milk, 3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar, 1-2 tsp. sugar (depending how sweet you like it) and salt and pepper to taste. Add the dressing to the shredded cabbage and carrots, toss to coat and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. This helps the cabbage to break down and become softer while the flavors marry and intensify. Serve this slaw on the side of your favorite veggie burgers. For more ideas, read How to Make Awesome Summer Slaws without Dairy.
2. Sandwich and Burger Toppings
Cabbage is an excellent topping for a sandwich or burger because it adds crunch as well as flavor. Perhaps the most classic use of cabbage on a sandwich is seen in the Reuben. Try this Tempeh Reuben, Mayim Bialik’s Vegan Reuben Sandwich, The Magical Tempeh Reuben and even a Reuben Burger. A refreshing cabbage slaw helps balance the hot sauce in this Grilled Buffalo Tofu Po’ Boy with Apple Slaw and the barbecue sauce in this BBQ Lentil Meatball Sandwich with Sweet Miso Coleslaw. One of my favorite ways to use cabbage as a topping is to make a red cabbage lime slaw to top my Tempeh “Fish” Tacos.
Adding cabbage to a soup makes it hearty and satisfying. One of my favorite soups is my Veggie-Full Soup which got its name because it is filled with veggies and one cup will definitely make you feel full. To make my Veggie-Full Soup: heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large stockpot. Add 1 chopped onion and cook under medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 3 chopped stalks of celery and 3 chopped carrots and cook about 5 minutes until the vegetables soften a bit. Add 3 minced cloves of garlic and 2 Tbs. tomato paste to the pot. Mix everything together well and let cook for 2 minutes.
Add 6-8 cups of broth or water, depending how much soup you want to make. Add ½ lb. chopped green beans, ½ head of shredded cabbage, 1 tsp. dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Bring the soup to a boil. Then cover the pot most of the way and let it cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes. When the vegetables are softened, add 2 chopped zucchinis and cook, uncovered, for an additional 10-15 minutes. Taste to make sure the seasoning is to your liking. My second favorite way to use cabbage in soup is to add it to black bean soup. Try making this High Protein Black Bean Mushroom Soup and add some shredded cabbage to it for an even heartier dish.
4. Braised and Saucy
When you braise something, you cook it in liquid which not only softens the food but infuses it with flavor. You can braise cabbage in water, broth, wine or any liquid you choose. Braising is a good method for cooking cabbage because it breaks it down, making it tender and delicious. Try this Braised Red Cabbage with Beets that is cooked in red wine with leeks and maple syrup or use beer to make this Braised Red Cabbage with Apples and Beer. Both are perfect dishes for your autumn menus.
5. Sauteed Cabbage
Another way to cook cabbage is to saute it in oil and aromatics. You saute it the same way you would any leafy greens. In this dish, I paired red cabbage with its cousin, collard greens. Both take some time to break down and become tender and the contrasting colors make a stunning presentation. To make Sauteed Red Cabbage and Collard Greens: heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Saute 1 diced red onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add ½ head of red cabbage and mix well so it’s covered with the spices and oil. Let it cook for 4 minutes until it starts to soften. Add 1 bunch of stemmed and chopped collard greens little by little (they will wilt, allowing more room in the pot). Add salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. If the pot is dry, add some water or broth. Let cook until tender but still crunchy, about 7 minutes.
6. Pickle It
You may think you have never eaten pickled cabbage but if you have ever eaten sauerkraut, you have! Pickled foods are very healthy and we should all add more pickled foods to our diets. See how easy it is to Make Raw Sauerkraut and use it to top your sandwiches or veggie hot dogs. Another way to enjoy pickled cabbage is by making kimchi. Kimchi is a spicy Korean pickled food that usually contains cabbage, red peppers, onions, scallions, garlic, and salt and it is considered a superfood. See how to Make Your Own Kimchi at Home and enjoy it on top of salads, on sandwiches and burgers, and with fried rice, stir-fries, and dumplings.
One of my favorite dishes before I was vegan was Moo Shu Chicken. Now I make a vegan version of Moo Shu Vegetables and cabbage is the main ingredient of the dish. It’s crunchy, spicy and sweet. Heat 2 Tbs. peanut oil in a large skillet or deep saucepan that has a cover. Add 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger and let cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms and let cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Add 1 head of shredded savoy cabbage and let cook until it starts to get tender but crisp, about 5 minutes. Add 1 thinly sliced bell pepper and 2 small carrots cut into thin strips and cook about 2 minutes. Lastly, add 6 thinly sliced scallions and cook for about 2 minutes. Make the sauce by adding 3 Tbs. brown rice vinegar, 2 Tbs. each mirin, tamari and hoisin sauce and a few dashes of hot sauce, if desired. Cook for a few minutes to let the sauce thicken. Serve with lettuce cups or Chinese pancakes.
Stuffed cabbage was a favorite dish when I was growing up. This vegan version of Savoy Rolls uses lentils, carrots and sundried tomatoes wrapped in savoy cabbage to make an impressive entrée.
8. Cabbage and Noodles
Noodle bowls are more popular than ever. Cabbage is a great ingredient to add fiber, crunch and flavor to your next noodle bowl. For a super-healthy dish that can be your side or main course, try this Sweet Potato, Red Cabbage and Kelp Noodle Bowl with Rich Miso Dressing. On those cold winter nights, a big bowl of Udon Noodle Soup with shredded cabbage will keep you warm and satisfied. Try this Street Pad Thai for a vegan version of the classic street food that uses cabbage and other veggies.
Cabbage tastes delicious in stir-fries. It bulks up the dish and adds crunchy texture. I recently made a Ginger Tofu and Cabbage Stir-Fry and it was a big hit! Here’s how to make it: place pressed and drained tofu cubes in a bowl. Add 1 tsp. sesame oil, 2 tsp. arrowroot powder, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. ground ginger and ½ tsp. kosher salt. Toss to coat the tofu and let marinate for at least 10 minutes. Heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu in a single layer. Cook, without stirring, until browned on the bottom, about 2 or 3 minutes. Toss and cook until browned and crisp on all sides. Transfer the tofu to a bowl or plate. You may eat one, just one, piece. Say it’s for quality assurance.
While the tofu is cooking, combine ¼ cup brown rice vinegar, 3 Tbs. hoisin sauce, 2 Tbs. tamari, 2 Tbs. mirin and 2 tsp. hot sauce in a mug or small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add in 1 tsp. arrowroot powder. Taste for any adjustments. When the tofu is done, add another tablespoon of oil to the same pan. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and 1 inch fresh grated ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1 small head of chopped green cabbage, 3 julienned carrots, 1 thinly sliced bell pepper and 3 thinly sliced scallions to the pan. Cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. If you want it extra-tender, put a cover on the pot while it cooks. Stir it often. When the vegetables are to your liking, add in the sauce. Stir and toss the vegetables until they are coated in the sauce. Return the tofu to the pan and toss with the vegetables and the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit, about 2 minutes. Serve over brown rice.
10. Bok Choy
Though it looks different than the usual round heads of cabbage, bok choy, also known as Chinese white cabbage, pak choy and white mustard cabbage, is indeed a type of cabbage. Bok choy is tender, mild and sweet. It is available in mature and baby versions. Mature bok choy has large stems which can be separated from the leaves and prepared first since they take longer to cook. Baby bok choy can be cooked whole. It can also be eaten raw in salads. Add bok choy to soups, stir-fries or any veggie dishes.
Sauteed baby bok choy is delicious. To make my Sauteed Baby Bok Choy: heat 1 Tbs. oil in a large sauté pan. Add 3 minced cloves of garlic, ½-inch piece of minced ginger and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir about 30 seconds; be careful not to let it burn. Add 4 bunches of cleaned and trimmed baby bok choy and cook for about 2 minutes. Add 1 Tbs. soy sauce, 1 Tbs. veggie broth or water, and cover the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Uncover the pan and continue to cook about 4-5 minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off and the bok choy stalks are tender. Remove the bok choy from the pan and drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Use just a little; a little goes a long way. You can also enjoy bok choy in this Asian Ginger Tofu and Carrot Rice with Bok Choy, Stir-Fried Crunchy Bengali Bok Choy and this Chinatown Sweet and Sour Bok Choy.
After reading all these ideas and recipes, I hope you decide to give cabbage another chance. It’s definitely an underrated and underappreciated vegetable and it deserves a chance to shine in all its forms.
Image Source: Honey Ginger Tofu and Carrot Rice with Bok Choy