Many of us exit the holiday season feeling like it’s time to refresh our plates and our palates by trying a little something new. For fresh flavors that’ll soothe your belly and your bank account, look no further! The answer is in… cabbage. (Yes, like in the old-school fairy tale “Rapunzel.”)
Cabbage is easy to find in the winter, is affordable, and can be prepared in so many fabulous and flavorful ways. And if you’re thinking this plain veggie isn’t a “dark leafy green,” you’re dismissing it too soon.
Any type of cabbage — whether it’s savoy, napa, or the classic green or red — will give your body a boost. It’s extraordinarily nutritious and, for those who need a little TLC in the bowel department, it’s fibrous. For the sake of simplicity (because that’s why you’re here), we’re going to focus on green and red cabbage.
Beyond being easy to cook with and easy to find, cabbage is packed with nutrients, including:
- vitamin C (another great reason to eat cabbage in the winter)
- vitamin K
- fiber (helpful for keeping things regular and clearing your skin)
- sulforaphane (a compound that may help prevent cancer)
Before you get out the salt and pepper, it’s important to know when, where, and how to choose a head of cabbage that will serve you well.
Cabbage grows in all 50 states and is generally best harvested in the fall and winter. If you live in California, you’re especially lucky, because cabbage can be found in season year-round in the Golden State.
When choosing a head of cabbage, play by the rules of feel and look. Feel for firmness and heaviness. Look for leaves that are tightly attached to the stem. Vibrant red or green leaves will also tip you off to a good pick.
As for storage, cabbage can stay fresh for 3 to 8 weeks if left whole (not chopped or shredded) and refrigerated. Want to extend your cabbage’s shelf life? Don’t wash it until you’re ready to prepare it, and store it in a plastic bag to help it retain moisture (though this isn’t necessary).
Cabbage is more than sauerkraut and soggy slaw (though I am personally a big fan of sauerkraut, and you can find all kinds of wonderful flavors of it these days). No matter who you are, there’s a cabbage recipe for you.
Raw, roasted, fermented, pickled, or sautéed, there are plenty of easy ways to enjoy cabbage. Here are a few suggestions.
Vegan coleslaw with tahini
This is one of my original recipes. It’s hearty, slightly tangy, and great at room temperature, and it keeps in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.
If you’re looking for a new twist on coleslaw, this vegan slaw is wonderful because it’s filling and provides enough comfort for cooler days. At the same time, it’s not overly heavy and is a tasty way to eat your fair share of nutritious cabbage. Also, there isn’t much to making it — just mix and serve!
- 1 cup tahini
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon coconut aminos or tamari
- 2 teaspoons brown mustard
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 6 cups shredded coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)*
- 2 handfuls raisins
- Hot sauce
- In a small mixing bowl, combine tahini, 4 tablespoon olive oil, apple cider vinegar, coconut aminos, and mustard.
- Combine onion, balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and cook for several minutes until onion starts to become translucent.
- In a large bowl, combine coleslaw mix, tahini mixture, and cooked onion and stir until cabbage is evenly coated.
- Add raisins and season to taste with hot sauce and salt. If desired, add paprika to taste to augment the dish’s spice.
*You can buy ready-made coleslaw mix at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Coleslaw mix consists primarily of green cabbage, plus a bit of red cabbage and shredded carrots.
The ultimate vegetarian steak, this is one of the simplest and tastiest ways to prepare cabbage. This recipe works great with either green or red cabbage. No fine chopping or shredding required!
I like this straightforward, basic cabbage steak recipe from Allrecipes and will add a dash of tamari or coconut aminos during the last 5 to 10 minutes of roasting.
For an extra kick, consider adding a slice of sharp cheddar cheese during the final minutes. I like to roast my cabbage steaks until they’re crispy and slightly burnt around the edges. They’re best eaten warm and fresh!
Cabbage is a key ingredient in many dishes, and preserving this vegetable by fermenting or pickling it offers the benefit of gut-nourishing probiotics.
Consider kimchi or other forms of fermented and pickled cabbage as a digestion-boosting garnish.
If you’re looking for a fun kitchen project, check out this easy kimchi recipe by Emily Han of The Kitchn. Or you can pick up a jar of premade kimchi at your local Asian market, farmers market, or natural foods store. I love a spoonful of kimchi along with rice and stir-fried veggies… or straight from the spoon!
Be it pickled, roasted, or raw, we know cabbage makes an excellent side dish. But we also want to consider how the simple cabbage can be part of the main event. It takes just a handful of awesome, healthy ingredients to make cabbage a meal.
Add a little protein, such as in these Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw by Bon Appétit or this Asian Quinoa Salad by Minimalist Baker.
If you’re looking for a wholesome way to feed your belly and start the new year right, stock up on cabbage and get out the knives and spices — it’s going to be a zesty new year!
Greta Kent-Stoll is a writer and Ayurvedic practitioner. Find more of her work at ashevilleayureveda.net.