The humble cabbage is an economically important plant with European origins.1 While eaten all over the world, it has a reputation of being boring because it’s often used as a simple side dish for gatherings such as backyard barbecues.2 However, ignore it and you’ll miss out on its culinary potential and health benefits.
Different Ways of Cooking Cabbage
Before learning how to cook cabbage, it’s important to first prepare cabbage properly, and that starts from choosing the best cabbage possible. The Spruce Eats recommends that you “look for heads with plenty of outer leaves, and check the bottom to make sure the leaves are not pulling away from the stem.”3
Inspect the leaves to make sure they are fresh and have minimal wilting, and look for those that have tight groupings. Here’s another useful tip: If you’re at a farmers market, ask the producer when the cabbage was harvested — cabbages are sweeter after a frost.4 The next step in cooking cabbage is to prepare it. Better Homes & Gardens has outlined easy-to-follow steps on how to ready the vegetable before cooking:5
- Remove the loose outer leaves and rinse the head with water.
- Slice the head in half, then slice further into quarters.
- Remove the core from the wedges.
- If you want to coarsely chop a wedge, simply slice a wedge perpendicular to the knife and cut into one-fourth-inch pieces.
Now that you know how to prepare cabbage, it’s time for you to cook it. But the question is, what is the best way? The answer depends on what you want, as there are several ways to cook cabbage. These ideas adapted from EatingWell magazine provide several methods you can try at home:6
How to Cook Cabbage on the Stove
- Heat coconut oil in a large pot on medium heat.
- Add quartered cabbage (with the core taken out), stirring occasionally for five minutes until the leaves wilt.
- Add organic chicken or vegetable broth into the pot, with a dash of salt, pepper and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot and lower heat until cabbage becomes tender.
- Add a splash of apple cider vinegar and increase temperature to medium high. Continue to cook until most of the liquid evaporates.
- Place a steamer inside a large pot, then add enough water to fill the bottom of the pan. The water level must not reach the steamer basket.
- Let the water boil, then add cabbage slices to the steamer. Cover the pot until the cabbage is cooked thoroughly, around 10 to 12 minutes.
- In a pan, heat coconut oil over high heat.
- Add chopped cabbage, stirring occasionally for seven to 10 minutes until the leaves wilt.
- Season the cabbage with salt and pepper, then add fennel seeds (optional).
- Fill a large pot with water until it reaches a height of half an inch. Slightly salt the water.
- Bring the water to a boil and add cabbage slices. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the slices once.
- Remove the water and continue to boil until the remaining liquid evaporates. Add organic grass fed butter and toss the vegetables.
How to Cook Cabbage on the Oven
- Heat the oven to 245 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut the cabbage into wedges and toss in coconut oil. Place the wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet, then season with salt and pepper, plus caraway seeds (optional).
- Roast the cabbage until tender, around 25 to 35 minutes. Flip once halfway through cooking.
Cooking Different Types of Cabbage
If you don’t cook with cabbage often, the green variety is probably the one you’re most familiar with. However, there are actually other varieties available, leading to different characteristics that you can take advantage of, depending on what you’re cooking. The Spruce Eats outlines the four most commonly used cabbages:7
- Green cabbage — The most common cabbage variety, it resembles iceberg lettuce. It has a peppery taste when eaten raw, but becomes sweeter when cooked.
- Red or purple cabbage — This variety is practically the same as green cabbage, as it may be interchanged in recipes without changes in flavor. The only difference is that your food will take on a redder appearance. Furthermore, if you cook red cabbage with an alkaline substance (such as tap water), it will turn blue because of the anthocyanin in the leaves. It’s recommended you add acidic agents, such as lemon juice, if you want to maintain the red look.
- Savoy cabbage — It looks similar to green cabbage, but has wrinkled leaves and is considered to be the most tender and sweetest cabbage variety.
- Napa cabbage — It has a milder flavor, with sweetness and frilly leaves.
Now that you know the cabbage varieties, which one goes best with what dish? The Michelin Guide provides useful insight on the best dishes to cook for each cabbage:8
- Green cabbage — Best prepared shredded to make great coleslaw or sauerkraut. Also works well in soups.
- Napa cabbage — Heavily used in East Asian cuisine, this cabbage is used to make kimchi.
- Savoy cabbage — Works great as a wrap for ingredients such as meat, or braised for a different flavor.
- Red cabbage — Best used on salads or coleslaw, as well as sauerkraut.
Ways to Cook Cabbage
Boiled Cabbage: Simple Boiled Cabbage Recipe
- 1 medium head cabbage
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 3 to 4 tablespoons melted organic grass fed butter
- Black pepper to taste
- Rinse the cabbage and cut into six wedges.
- Pour filtered water onto a pot until it is one-half inch deep. Add the cabbage slices and salt, and simmer. Cover the pot for eight to 10 minutes.
- Turn the cabbage and simmer for another eight minutes until tender. Discard the water, and simmer until the remaining liquid evaporates.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
(Recipe adapted from The Spruce Eats9)
Fried Cabbage: Lemon Garlic Sautéed Cabbage Recipe
- 10 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- Red pepper flakes, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- Half of a lemon, cut into wedges
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add all ingredients (except the lemon), stirring occasionally until the cabbage becomes tender, around 10 to 15 minutes.
- Squeeze two lemon wedges over the cabbage. Adjust seasoning as needed and add more lemon to taste.
- Serve and enjoy.
(Recipe adapted from Inspired Taste10)
Steamed Cabbage: Simple Steamed Cabbage Recipe
- 1/4 small cabbage, cut into slices
- 2 tablespoons raw, grass fed butter
- Salt to taste
- Fill a large pot with water and place a steam basket on top of it. The water must not touch the basket.
- Boil the water and add the cabbage slices to the steam basket.
- Cover the basket and cook until the vegetable becomes tender, around five to eight minutes.
- Place cabbage in a container, add butter and salt, and serve.
(Recipe adapted from The Spruce Eats11)
Roasted Cabbage: Easy Roasted Recipe
- 1 medium head cabbage, cut into 6 to 8 wedges
- Coconut oil for drizzling
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the cabbage wedges on a baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with oil and seasoning on one side, then repeat the process on the other side.
- Roast the cabbage until lightly browned, which is about 10 minutes. Flip wedges and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
(Recipe adapted from Serious Eats12)
Sautéed Cabbage: Quick Sautéed Cabbage Recipe
- 1 small head white cabbage
- 2 tablespoons raw grass fed butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Himalayan salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cut cabbage in half and slice as thinly as possible around the core. Discard the core.
- In a large pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add cabbage, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes until the cabbage begins to brown.
- Add more seasoning to your liking and serve.
(Recipe adapted from Food Network13)
Grilled Cabbage: Grilled Cabbage Steaks
- 1 large cabbage head, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- Coconut oil, for brushing
- Himalayan salt and freshly ground pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Chopped organic bacon (already cooked), for serving
- Crumbled blue cheese made from grass fed milk
- Chopped green onions
- Homemade ranch dressing
- Create a medium-high heat for the grill.
- Brush the cabbage steaks on both sides with oil, then season with salt, pepper and the red pepper flakes. Grill for five minutes on each side.
- Top with the bacon, cheese and green onions. Drizzle with the homemade ranch dressing.
(Recipe adapted from Delish14)
Cabbage Stir-Fry: Quick Stir-Fry Cabbage Recipe
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger, minced
- 1 head napa cabbage, sliced
- 2 tablespoons organic soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons organic sesame oil, for drizzling
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high temperature.
- Add the onion, garlic, ginger and sauté for a minute.
- Add cabbage and cook until leaves begin to wilt, about two minutes.
- Add the soy sauce and vinegar, stirring for three minutes.
- Remove from heat and drizzle sesame oil.
(Recipe adapted from Food Network15)
Cabbage Recipes: Cabbage Soup
Making your own cabbage soup is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to this wonderful vegetable. Aside from being tasty in its own right, it’s the best meal to warm up a cold winter day. To make the most out of this dish, you will need a slow cooker.
Crock Pot Cabbage Soup
Cook Time: 4 hours Serving size: 4
- 2 to 3 free-range organic chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3/4 cup carrots, chopped
- 1/2 cup zucchini, peeled, deseeded and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
- Coat slow cooker with coconut oil, then add chicken.
- Add chopped celery, carrots, zucchini, garlic and onion. Next, add basil, oregano, salt, pepper and broth.
- Cook soup on high for approximately two hours and then remove bones from chicken and add chicken back to the pot. Add the chopped cabbage.
- Cook soup on high for an additional two hours before removing from the slow cooker. Enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from Paleohacks16)
Cabbage Health Information
Cabbage belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, kale and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their bitter taste due to their sulfuric compounds, but this very feature makes them unique from a nutrition perspective.17 You may refer to the table below to give you an overview of the vegetable’s offerings:18
|Calories from Fat||0.7|
|Total Fat||0 g||0 %|
|Saturated Fat||0 g||0 g|
|Cholesterol||0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium||18 mg||1 %|
|Total Carbohydrates||5.8 g||2 %|
|Dietary Fiber||2.5 g||9 %|
|Calcium 40 mg||Iron||0.47 mg|
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs. Source: USDA
Health Benefits of Cabbage
Research has shown that cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, a compound that has anti-inflammatory properties, chemoprotective compounds and osteoporosis-fighting abilities.19 A 100-gram serving of cabbage contains 2.5 grams of dietary fiber,20 which may benefit your health in profound ways, such as:
- Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease — Higher intake of dietary fiber may significantly reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a meta-analysis published in 2017.21
- Lowering the risk of colon cancer — A 2017 study published in Metabolism noted that dietary fiber may help lower your risk for colon cancer.22
- Managing Type 2 diabetes — Those affected with Type 2 diabetes may fare better when dietary fiber intake is increased, as it may help decrease glucose absorption into the bloodstream.23
To learn more about cabbage, I recommend reading the article “What Is Cabbage Good For?”
Go Crazy With Cabbage
At first, cabbage may seem like an ordinary, boring vegetable. But as it turns out, all you need is some creativity and it can easily become one of your favorite ingredients to cook with. The sulforaphane and dietary fiber are great bonuses to your health as well.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cabbage
Q: Is cabbage good for you?
A: Cabbage is a healthy vegetable that you should add to your diet. Research shows that cabbage contains sulforaphane, which is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables. This veggie family contains antioxidant properties that may benefit your health in several ways.24
Q: Can you freeze cabbage?
A: Yes, you can freeze cabbage, but it needs to be sliced up, blanched and cooled in ice water first. From there, you can enjoy the vegetable all year long.25
Q: Is cabbage keto?
A: According to Perfect Keto, cabbage is a low-carb veggie that may fit in a ketogenic diet plan without affecting ketosis.26
Q: Is cabbage a low-carb veggie?
A: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that a 100-gram serving of cabbage contains only 5.8 grams of carbs,27 making it a low-carb food.
+ Sources and References