There are many varieties of cabbage to choose from, but there are also other vegetables you can use to replace cabbage when you’re out of it or you simply do not like its taste.
If you’re looking for a cabbage substitute, start by going through the other kinds of cabbage, which are usually the best alternatives in terms of similarities. Depending on your recipe, you can also extend your range of choices to additional options.
The best substitutes for cabbage
Despite being widely used in many recipes, cabbage is often overlooked and not considered anything special. Actually, this vegetable has a lot to offer, because even though it’s low in calories, it’s actually rich in nutrients such as:
– Vitamins (B6, C, K)
Moreover, it helps digestion and can reduce inflammation, on top of reducing the risk of heart disease.
Cabbage comes in different varieties and colors, which aren’t exactly the same but can be interchangeable. The most common variety is the green cabbage, also called white cabbage.
Red cabbage is the other well-known variety of the common cabbage. A red cabbage head is slightly smaller than a green cabbage one and despite the name, its color is actually purple, in fact, it’s also called “purple cabbage”.
This variety of cabbage is actually considered a superfood because it contains 10 times the vitamins and anticancer flavonoids that you can find in green cabbage, but when it comes to recipes, these two cabbages can be used interchangeably because they taste the same.
Cabbage is a fundamental ingredient for famous dishes such as the Korean kimchi or the German sauerkraut. When you’re out of cabbage, or maybe the recipe doesn’t require enough cabbage to justify a trip to the grocery store, you can try one of the following substitutes for cabbage.
1. Napa cabbage
Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, is the main ingredient in Korean kimchi, which has become increasingly popular around the world in recent years.
Napa cabbage is different from red and green cabbage because it’s shaped like a rugby ball and it has yellow-ish leaves. It belongs to a different family than the most common cabbages, specifically, it is rumored to be a cross between a turnip and bok choy.
Although it’s great when added raw to salads and slaws, its mild and slightly sweet flavor makes for a great cabbage alternative in stir-fried recipes or when filling dumplings.
You can find napa cabbage in the average grocery store, although when possible it is recommended to buy it from an Asian store or market because they usually have the freshest and juiciest napa cabbages.
2. Brussels sprouts
If you’re looking for a vegetable similar to cabbage, look no further than Brussels sprouts. These small round vegetables come from the same family as cabbages and are indeed considered small cabbages.
Brussels sprouts are rich in minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin K and C, which help strengthen your immune system and improve bone health. The fibers contained in Brussels sprouts also help digestion and gut health.
It is better to avoid boiling Brussels sprouts, because the process makes them sulfurous and gives them an unpleasant taste, which is why these small cabbages used to be very unpopular, especially among kids.
The most common way to use Brussels sprouts is to cut and clean them before cooking them. They are a good substitute for shredded cabbages in your recipes, but they also make a good stand-alone side dish.
3. Savoy cabbage
Savoy cabbage is the ideal substitute for cabbage in soup, hotpots, or even stuffing recipes. Like all varieties of cabbage, it is rich in nutrients, particularly vitamin C, which works as a shield against free radicals, that are responsible for the destruction of our cells.
The leaves of the savoy cabbage aren’t as crunchy as the average cabbage, so if your dish only lacks a crunchy feeling and you’re out of cabbage alternatives, you should look into other vegetables such as cucumbers or celery, even though their taste won’t be exactly the same.
Savoy cabbage is also great sautéd or roasted. For people who have digestive issues or weak intestines, savoy cabbage can be boiled in water with cumin or green anise seeds before being added to the normal recipe.
4. Choy Sum
Choy Sum can be easily confused with Napa cabbage or Bok Choy because it’s usually labeled “Chinese cabbage”. Indeed, it originated in China and it is largely used in traditional Chinese cuisine.
It can be described as a smaller and more delicate version of Bok Choy and it closely resembles broccoli. It has a juicy, bittersweet flavor and a crunchy texture.
Choy Sum is delicious when served roasted or stir-fried and it’s packed with nutrients, including proteins, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C.
This vegetable is not the closest cabbage substitute, but if you’re looking to give a new kick to an old recipe or even if you’re looking for a brand new side-dish, you should give Choy Sum a chance!
5. Bok Choy
Bok Choy is also known as pak choy or Chinese white cabbage because it’s been used in Chinese cuisine for thousands of years.
It features a large variety of recipes worldwide and on top of being a good cabbage substitute, it’s also a great bell pepper alternative. In fact, its stems have a sweet taste and crunchy flavor that works as a great replacement for both.
Bok Choy leaves, on the other hand, have quite a bitter taste and do not contribute to the crunchiness, so you should remove the leaves before cooking it if you don’t enjoy the bitterness.
Bok Choy is low in calories just like cabbage, and has many health benefits:
– Helps to maintain bones health
– Naturally decreases blood pressure
– Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
– Reduces chronic inflammation
– Improves the immune system reaction to infections
– Balances blood sugar levels
This cabbage replacement works really well in stir-fried recipes, but also soups or steamed with other vegetables. It is recommended not to overcook it, because the stems tend to become mushy, just like zucchini.
Celery is a versatile vegetable that has known a rise in popularity in recent years due to its high nutritional value, as it has a low glycemic index and contains:
– Vitamins (A, K, C)
It’s commonly considered a “diet food” because it has nearly no calories and high water content, but it’s so rich in micronutrients that it is slowly making its way into every kind of recipe, from soups to sandwiches.
Cabbage and celery don’t taste the same but are interchangeable because they have the same signature crunch that it’s usually the main reason why you would substitute cabbage with celery or vice versa.
Celery has a mild taste, but not everyone enjoys it. Luckily, even if you can’t find another cabbage substitute, there are also many celery substitutes to try out in your recipe.
Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family, although it is not as well-known as its siblings. It has a mild and sweet flavor that is somewhere between a turnip and a water chestnut, and it has two varieties just like common cabbage: green and purple.
The shape of kohlrabi is kinda odd and definitely recognizable because it looks like a radish with stems popping up everywhere on the surface. The purple variety is rare to find, but the green variety hasn’t reached widespread popularity yet either, despite being a very versatile vegetable.
The leaves of the kohlrabi usually make for a delicious addition to your salads, but most often you may find the bulbs without any leaves. To prepare Kohlrabi, trim off the base and top of the bulb, peel it and slice it or dice it into pieces. Kohlrabi can be roasted, steamed, and puréed among other things.
Kale comes from the Brassica oleracea, just like cabbage. The difference between the two is that cabbage comes from the terminal buds of the plant, while kale is a selection of its leaves.
Kale has slowly made its way into many recipes and it’s a very popular alternative to cabbage for salads.
This vegetable is easy to grow and can withstand many adverse climatic conditions. It is recognizable because of its elongated leaves and its dark color, which is pretty different from the common cabbage.
Kale is easily found in stores, where it’s usually present in two varieties:
– Curly Kale: curly kale is often cooked because the raw leaves are quite fibrous and they also have a strong and earthy taste.
– Baby Kale: the leaves of baby kale are more tender and have a mild taste, therefore they are preferred for salads.
Kale is a superfood just like red cabbage because it’s rich in nutrients and low in calories. Specifically, kale is high in vitamins (C, K, A), calcium, antioxidants, beta-carotene, and iron (when cooked).
How to choose a cabbage substitute.
Most alternatives to cabbage remain within the cabbage family, so it will be important to know how to choose a cabbage substitute.
As a general rule, fresh vegetables should have vibrant and consistent colors, so if you notice any spots or blemishes, the product might be past its prime or have been ruined during transport.
Unlike fruits, the smell isn’t really a key factor with vegetables, although something that smells too sweet or too sour is not to be considered fresh. The important thing is that the vegetable feels firm to the touch.
When buying the most common varieties of cabbage, choose a head that feels tight and heavy for its size. The stems should be firm and the leaves should be colorful and healthy.
You can store cabbage in your refrigerator for a few days when it’s leafy. If it doesn’t have leaves and it’s uncut, it can last a couple of weeks in the crisper drawer, otherwise, it should be consumed within 2-3 days.