Cabbage is a great addition to any dish, be it a stew, a salad, sauteed on its own, or stuffed with delicious meats. So what do you do when you have no cabbage, at all ? Or you simply don’t like cabbage in p[articular, but are open to other ideas.
Well you need a cabbage substitute, of course ! We’re going to cover the most appropriate cabbage substitutes, and we took into consideration the red cabbage too, no worries. Now let’s take a look.
Best cabbage substitute
The best cabbage substitutes are savoy cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, Napa cabbage, bok choy, celery root, cucumber, and zucchini. All of these are either close in flavor to cabbage, high in fiber, or fairly crunchy and perfect to use in a salad. Some are all three combined.
Which you use will depend on what you’re cooking, and how the cabbage would have to behave. For example if you’re making stuffed cabbage, you’re going to need something with big leaves. If you only need the flavor it doesn’t really matter which you use, as the first few are very close in flavor.
We’ll explain each of these vegetables, and how they can be used instead. Not all of them are great for everything, some are better suited for specific cooking techniques or specific recipes.
1. Savoy cabbage
The name of this cabbage may not tell you much, but you’ve likely seen it already and called it ‘curly cabbage’ or ‘ruffled cabbage’. It’s as big as a regular cabbage, except it’s got much thicker veins, just like kale. And like kale, it’s much tougher so it requires some steaming and cooking before you add it to a plate.
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Once softened, you can use it for stuffed cabbage or any way you’d normally use green cabbage. It’s a little darker than green cabbage, which can go all the way to almost white sometimes. Savoy cabbage is the closest thing to green cabbage, assuming you can’t find any cabbage at all, not even red.
2. Brussel sprouts
Brussel sprouts are funny little things and they look just like a tiny cabbage. They’re cute, and they can easily be turned into bite-sized pieces. Some of them are small enough to remain so. You still need to peel the outer layers, just like for cabbage.
These work great in a stew or soup, wherever you’d need shredded cooked cabbage. They’re great grilled too ! If you’re looking to use them raw, you can, just be sure to pick up smaller ones. The bigger ones tend to be a bit bitter.
Slice them thinly, or use a mandolin, and use in your salad. Just don’t expect the exact same crunch as cabbage, because they’re softer.
Broccoli is a great addition to any meal, and you can cook it or leave it raw, it’s up to you. If left raw we recommend slicing it into smaller pieces, and only using the florets. When raw the stalks are way too tough.
Keep in mind that broccoli cooks fairly fast and easily turns to mush. So if you need to supplement cabbage in a stew, add the broccoli towards the end if you want them to keep some texture.
Cauliflower will behave just like broccoli, maybe it will break down a little faster when it cooks. So steamed, chopped, raw, sliced, or pureed, you will get the same results as with broccoli, except white.
There’s this thing though, where roughly chopped cauliflower florets can easily be confused with cabbage in a salad, so they may just work better.
5. Napa cabbage
Napa cabbage is otherwise known as Chinese cabbage. It’s long, and looks much like romaine lettuce only lighter. Napa cabbage is much lighter in weight than regular green cabbage, and it’s lighter in taste as well.
But it works beautifully for salads, since it’s easier to work with (chop and mix). It may just work well enough for stuffed cabbage, except you will have to steam the leaves. Otherwise you won’t be able to stuff and roll them as well.
Keep in mind that Napa cabbage is a little lighter in flavor, so if you’re looking for a stronger flavor you may have to add another one of the substitutes on this list.
You can also grill Napa cabbage and get a really nice flavor going.
6. Bok choy
Bok choy can be easily confused with Napa cabbage, but they’re different. Bok choy has a greater contrast on its leaves, with a darker green towards the edges. The softer part of the leaves re better suited for stuffing if that’s what you need.
The lower half is a bit tougher, but all of it works in a salad or on the grill. You may also use bok choy in soups and stews, just like regular cabbage. Keep in mind bok choy is lighter in taste and smell than cabbage.
7. Celery root
Alright what if cabbage or anything cabbage-like is completely out of the question ? Well there’s still some options you have, and here’s the first one. Celery root is deeply flavorful and can be easily cut on a mandolin on thin ships, which can then further be cut if you want.
This root is very earthy and a little spicy in flavor, so keep that in mind when you add it to a salad. If you want to add it to a stew or soup, it will mellow out but still remind you of the fall season and every veggie stew you’ve ever eaten.
If use raw it’s got a beautiful crunch, and is a little juicy.
Cucumber may be your go-to veggie for crunch and refreshment, and why not use it in place of cabbage ? Now this only works if you’re going to use it raw. Cucumber gets real soft real quick, so there wont be any texture or crunch left if you throw it in a hot pot.
Zucchini is another option if you don’t want to go the cucumber root. It’s not was refreshing and watery, but it’s still crunchy and may vaguely remind you of cabbage, but without all the sulfur flavor.
It’s a nice change from cucumber if that’s what you’re looking for.
Adding purple-red color with been juice
If you want your cabbage substitute to look vaguely reddish-purple, then adding a bit of beet juice may be in order. Keep in mind that this juice tastes a bit earthy, and even a bit sweet, kind of like cooked corn.
If you add this on top of deep green veggies like savoy cabbage or bok choy it will turn things into a nasty brown shade, so maybe only use it on the lighter colored veggies.
Read Also: Sunflower Seed Substitute
A word on lettuce and leafy greens
If your cabbage was there to add bulk to the recipe, and no necessarily add flavor, you can easily substitute it for any leafy vegetable known to man. As long as you don’t cook them down, they will keep their shape and even provide some crunch.
Romaine, iceberg, Boston lettuce, everything’s fair game. Radicchio can provide some nice purple action if you’re looking to sub the red cabbage. Just keep in mind it’s a little bitter, just like radishes.
And that’s pretty much it ! Now you have all kinds of options to replace the cabbage in your recipe.