One of the best things about eating a plant-based diet is that there is no end to the different types of vegetables available. It’s so much fun to try new foods and learn how to cook with them. I now eat so many kinds of veggies that I once never even knew existed … like kohlrabi.
If you have never seen kohlrabi, it looks sort of like a cabbage whose outer leaves are at the ends of long stems. It’s also known as a “German turnip” and it tastes like a cross between cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli stems. It sounds like an identity crisis waiting to happen but the truth is, kohlrabi is a very versatile veggie. Let’s learn more about kohlrabi and how to incorporate it into our diets.
1. What Is Kohlrabi?
Many people think kohlrabi is a root vegetable but actually, it is a member of the Brassica, or cabbage, family. The name of the vegetable is German – “kohl” means cabbage and “rabi” means turnip – and it is a popular vegetable in Germany. Kohlrabi, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale are all cousins in the same yummy family, all of them growing above the ground.
Kohlrabi can be green, white, or purple. It has a bulbous bottom which is the most common part eaten but the entire vegetable, including the leaves, is edible. The skin is a bit tough (you can peel it but you don’t have to) and the inside is creamy white. So what does kohlrabi taste like? Some say it tastes like broccoli stems, turnips, cucumber, cabbage, or celery root mixed with sweet apples. The flavor is a bit sweet and a bit peppery. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked and is extremely versatile.
2. Selection and Storage
Kohlrabi is a cool-weather crop but is available year-round in markets. As with most vegetables, you want to choose those that are firm, heavy, and solid. Avoid kohlrabi that are soft or have blemishes or cracks. Smaller kohlrabis have smoother tastes than larger ones. When you get home, separate the leaves from the bulb and store in the crisper drawer of the fridge for a week or more.
Kohlrabi can be frozen. Simply wash the vegetable, peel off the skin, and remove the greens. Blanch the kohlrabi, either whole or cut into pieces, and store in a freezer-safe container.
3. Nutritional Benefits
Kohlrabi is rich in nutrients and minerals including antioxidants, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, and vitamins C, B, A,and K. It also has a lot of dietary fiber which can improve digestive health and make us feel full with minimal calories.
Kohlrabi has been found to help with nerve and muscle function, maintenance of blood pressure, iron deficiency, bone strength, cardiovascular health, and vision health. The phytochemicals are believed to help prevent certain types of cancer.
4. Eat It Raw
The Happy Veganarian!/Flickr
Kohlrabi can be enjoyed raw for a crispy and flavorful snack. Trim off the leaves and the stems, which you can eat later, and wash the vegetable. If the skin is too tough for you, you can peel it. Then either cut into chunks or slice the bulb thinly on a mandoline. You can eat it as is or flavor it a bit more with salt, olive oil, or a yummy sauce for dipping.
Raw kohlrabi can be eaten as a snack, crudité, or appetizer, or it can be shred raw into slaws and salads for a mildly spicy crunch.
5. Cooking with Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi can also be cooked. It can be steamed, boiled, fried, roasted, braised, mashed, or baked. Turn this veggie into soup, sides, and even pasta. Cooking kohlrabi caramelizes the sugars and brings out the sweetness of the vegetable. Kohlrabi pairs well with mustard, dill, and celery seed and it is also a common ingredient in German and Indian cuisine. The greens on the ends of those long stems can also be sauteed and eaten like any other dark, leafy green. You can even cook the leaves like you do kale to make healthy chips for snacking on. This Creamy Kohlrabi Soup has two bulbs of kohlrabi that are cut up, sautéed, and then blended into a delicious soup that’s packed with flavor.
6. Cut Carbs
We’re always looking for ways to cut carbs and calories and, just like cauliflower, kohlrabi can be a healthy substitute for potatoes. The next time you boil or steam cauliflower or potatoes for a side of mashed veggies, try adding some kohlrabi to the mix. It’s a great way to enjoy a favorite side with a whole lot less calories. Try adding kohlrabi to this Mashed Cauliflower or this Mashed Potato Casserole with Broccoli and a Cauliflower Gravy. If you love latkes or potato fritters, try shredding kohlrabi for the recipe instead. These Potato and Kale Latkes would taste delicious with kohlrabi as would these Crispy Spinach and Potato Fritters. Kohlrabi can also be used to make fries (see next section).
Kohlrabi can also be a substitute for pasta. In this Kohlrabi Spaghetti alla Foriana, kohlrabi is spiralized into noodles. The intense flavor in this dish from the walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic is incredibly delicious.
7. Burger and Fries
Any vegetable that can be turned into fries is a favorite of mine. To make Baked Kohlrabi Fries, peel 2 heads of kohlrabi and cut them into French fry-shaped sticks, 1/3 inch wide by 2 inches long. Toss the kohlrabi fries with olive oil and your favorite spices. I like ground cumin, garlic powder, chile powder, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt. Arrange the fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes, then flip the fries and bake for another 20 minutes until crisp and browned. Serve with your favorite condiment. Or try these Baked Kohlrabi Fries with Tzatziki Sauce.
Of course, fries go best with burgers and this Kohlrabi Schnitzel Burger is incredible. Kohlrabi is sliced, breaded, and fried into cutlets or schnitzel. Then it’s put on a bun with homemade Thousand Island sauce for one of the best burgers ever!
The next time you head to the grocery store or the farmer’s market, pick up a few kohlrabis, and try it for yourself. Once you taste it in any of these recipes, kohlrabi will become an addition to your shopping list essentials.
Lead image source: Baked Kohlrabi Fries with Tzatziki Sauce