Skip to Content

Why Is Cabbage Bitter? Is It Safe To Eat? And How To Get Rid Of Bitterness!

Sharing is caring!

We all like cabbage salad or cooked cabbage, but sometimes cabbage can have a bitter taste which can be off-putting for most people.

In this article, we will discuss why cabbage can be bitter, how to remove its bitterness, whether it is still safe to eat, and more.

I understand why you can have this question since it is known that many times we associate bitter tastes with things that are not safe to eat. The bitter taste is actually a defense mechanism for our body, and one of the main ways it tells us that something is poisonous for us. 

That doesn’t mean that everything that tastes bitter is poisonous, but better to be safe than sorry and do your research before eating bitter food that is not supposed to taste bitter.

why is cabbage bitter

Why is my cabbage bitter?

Cabbage tastes bitter sometimes due to its organic sulfur-containing compounds like most other vegetables that are part of the mustard family. Those compounds also have a particular sulfur-like odor, which is one reason why cabbage cause gas. I also have an entire article about why cabbage causes gas, where I go into more details about the cabbage composition.

Those compounds will release their bitterness only when the cabbage is cut and will get more noticeable over time. This is a defense mechanism for cabbage against small pests that are trying to eat it.

You must also know that some cabbage types are more bitter than others, red cabbage being the most bitter of all varieties.

Read Also: Why Is Kale Bitter?

Is it safe to eat bitter cabbage?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to eat cabbage that is bitter due to its natural compounds, but you must ensure that it is not bitter because it is going bad.

Here are a few signs that your cabbage is bitter because it is going bad:

-Smell. The smell should be the first sign, a good cabbage will smell nice and fresh, while the one that is going bad will have a rotten odor that is hard to miss.

-Texture. A good cabbage will have a firm, crisp texture, while a cabbage that is going bad will be soft and mushy.

-Color. The cabbage should have a uniform color without any discoloration and weird spots. So make sure to throw away any cabbage with brown spots, especially if they are on the inner leaves as well. If they are on the first layer of leaves, you can simply get rid of those instead of throwing away the entire cabbage.

-Mold appearance. Since it is a vegetable that has a lot of water content, mold can appear if the cabbage is going bad, so make sure to check the entire surface of the cabbage.

Those signs should help you know if the cabbage has a bitter taste due to its natural compounds or is it going bad and, in this case, is not safe to eat.

Also, knowing those signs will help you buy good fresh cabbage from the market.

Read Also: Best Cabbage Substitute

How to remove bitterness from cabbage?

One way to remove the bitterness from the cabbage is to remove the first layer of it, cut the rest of the leaves into pieces, place them in a bowl and salt them very well. The salt will help quite a lot in removing the bitterness from the cabbage, especially if you give it a few hours to get into the cabbage.

This way doesn’t guarantee that the bitter taste will disappear completely, but it should do a pretty good job at making it less noticeable.

Make sure you wash the cabbage very well before using it. It can also be bitter due to dirt spots or other pesticides that were used on the cabbage.

Blanching the cabbage should also be an effective way of getting rid of the bitter taste. So all you have to do is to fill a pot with water, let it boil, and drop your cabbage in for one or two minutes, then take it out and let it cool.

wash cabbage

Is cooked cabbage supposed to be bitter?

Cooked cabbage is not supposed to be bitter. Cooking cabbage should eliminate the bitter taste, especially if cooked with sweet ingredients like onions and carrots.

Even if you make a salad, not cooked cabbage, you can use this trick to make it less bitter. If the salt was not enough to remove the bitterness, you could add a bit of sugar or other vegetables that are sweet. Keep in mind that onions are sweet only when cooked. 


Bitter cabbage can be natural due to its compounds or can be a sign that the cabbage is going bad. Make sure you check all the signs listed above before cooking or eating raw cabbage.

I hope this article helped you know what to do with bitter cabbage and how to choose a good one.

Sharing is caring!