The Impressive Health Benefits of Cabbage

Despite its impressive nutrient content, cabbage is often overlooked.

While it may look a lot like lettuce, it actually belongs to the Brassica genus of vegetables, which includes broccoli, cauliflower and kale.

There are over 400 different varieties of cabbage grown throughout the world, from round to conical in shape; with flat or curly, tight, or loose leaves; and in green, white, red, and purple colors. Out of the hundreds of varieties, however, only a few make their way to the Canadian grocery store produce section, those being the green, red (or purple), Savoy, and Napa cabbage varieties.

Green Cabbage

Looking similar to a head of iceberg lettuce, green cabbage is the most common variety. The outer leaves range from dark to pale green while the inside is pale green or white. When raw, its texture is somewhat rubbery and its flavor kind of peppery but once cooked, the green cabbage softens and takes on a sweeter taste. You want to choose heads that are heavy in the hand and with tightly bound leaves. Before using, discard the outer wilted leaves.

Green cabbage can be eaten raw when sliced thinly as in coleslaw, or it can be added to stir-fries, casseroles or soups. Of course, this is the cabbage we are all familiar with when it comes to cabbage rolls.

Red or Purple Cabbage

Red or purple cabbages take longer to mature, so these types are generally not as tender as green or white varieties. Most often, pickled raw shredded red cabbage makes a striking addition to coleslaw and traditional salads. Red cabbage can be used interchangeably in most standard cabbage recipes, but be aware that the color will leach into any other ingredients.

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy cabbage, originating in Italy, has deep green crinkly leaves and is considered the most tender and sweet. The head is less compact, due to the wrinkled leaves, but looks similar to green cabbage. It is the better choice for stuffed cabbage since the leaves are more pliable and stand up to longer cooking times, but is also great raw in coleslaw.

Napa Cabbage

Called Chinese cabbage (although its name comes from the Japanese word “nappa”), this yellow-green, oblong head has frilly leaves and crisp, thick stems. One of the milder flavored cabbages, Napa can be eaten raw or cooked and is softer and sweeter than the other varieties. 

Choosing Cabbage – Look for brightly colored leaves with crisp, moist looking edges, fresh looking cut ends without browning and heads that feel heavy for their size. Any yellowing leaves, bruised leaves, or mushiness (or even potential mushiness) anywhere? Leave it at the market.

Storing Cabbage – Head cabbages (green, red, Savoy) are storage vegetables that last a remarkably long time on the stalk before they are harvested. Once harvested, keep them well chilled, loosely wrapped in plastic, and they will last up to two weeks.

Preparing Cabbage – Instead of washing head cabbage, you can just remove and discard the first layer of tougher, dirty leaves. Bunched cabbage, like Napa, can be chopped or have their leaves separates and then rinsed clean. Cut out and discard the tough core of the head cabbage. The easiest way to do this is to halve or quarter the cabbage first and then cut out the core. Chop or slice the leaves as you like.

Quick Pickled Cabbage

Spoon some pickled cabbage on top of fish, hot dogs, and burgers, as well as pulled pork sandwiches. You can also mix it with chopped cilantro and sliced green onions and serve it with chicken or meat as a flavorful and colorful topping.

  • ½ red cabbage (shredded)
  • 1¼ cups water
  • 1¼ cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 12 black peppercorns
  1. Put the water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vinegar, salt, and sugar. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, if using.

  2. Put the shredded red cabbage in a bowl and then pour the hot brine over it.

  3. Divide the brined cabbage between 2 (1-pint) jars, layering evenly with the garlic slices, coriander seeds, and peppercorns.

  4. Place the lids on the jars and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

This quick-pickled cabbage is a delicious condiment to have on hand since it goes with just about everything. In addition to the tangy flavor, pickled red cabbage brings a pop of bright color to a plate; when the acidic vinegar brine comes into contact with the cabbage, the vegetable goes from deep purple to a beautiful shade of red. 

Quick-pickled cabbage is easy and convenient because it doesn’t need to be fermented and is ready to eat in as little as 2 hours. (For the best flavor, however, refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours before serving.) Because quick-pickled vegetables are not processed, they are not shelf stable and must be stored in the refrigerator.

Roasted Cabbage Steak

These Roasted Cabbage Steaks are super easy to make and so tasty. Because they are roasted, the cabbage leaves become very tender and absorb the flavors of the seasonings that are sprinkled on them before cooking. The outer leaves also take on a slight crispiness, which is a nice contrast to the tender centre.

  • 2 small green cabbage
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tsp paprika (optional)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder (optional)
  1. Cut the stems off the cabbage heads and then cut each one in half, then in half again. You should have four flat discs of cabbage that are about ¾ to 1 inch thick from each head. Place the cabbage steaks on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper, allowing some space between each one to even cooking.

  2. Brush the cabbage with the olive oil, coating them thoroughly. Then generously sprinkle the salt and pepper (garlic powder, and paprika if using) on the cabbage steaks. Flip the cabbage over and repeat, brushing them with oil and sprinkling the seasonings.

  3. Bake the cabbage steaks at 400°F for about 25 minutes, (flipping halfway) until the leaves are browned and the center is tender. Serve hot out of the oven.

Delicious Easy Coleslaw

Make the dressing and set it aside. Then combine the cabbage and carrots. Combine the dressing and slaw mix about 20 minutes before serving. This will give a nice crunch to the salad.

  • 6 cups green cabbage (thinly sliced)
  • 1 large carrot (grated)
  • ¼ cup sweet or green onion (minced)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dill
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  1. In large bowl combine dressing ingredients: mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, dill, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until everything is combined well and taste for additional seasonings.

  2. Stir in cabbage and carrots. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours for the slaw to absorb the dressing and soften a bit. The longer the cabbage sits in the dressing, the softer and creamier it will become.