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11 Best Napa Cabbage Substitutes

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Napa cabbage is a popular ingredient in Asian cooking, commonly used in stir-fries, noodle dishes, salads and so much more!

While Napa cabbage is a popular ingredient, it can sometimes be difficult to come across in local grocery stores.

So, you’re looking at making a recipe that calls for Napa cabbage but you can’t get your hands on any.

What would be the best substitute for Napa cabbage? The best substitute for Napa cabbage does depend on what you are cooking, but popular substitutes include endives, savoy cabbage, bok choy, red cabbage, pointed cabbage, and more. You do need to consider what you are making to find the best substitute for you.

So, if you are looking for the best substitute for Napa cabbage, keep reading to find out what you can use, and the best ways to use various substitutes!

What Is Napa Cabbage?

Napa cabbage is a variety of Chinese cabbage that is a popular feature found in Asian cuisine, although it is now popular in many different cuisines worldwide.

It is a favorite green for many as it can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of different ways. It has a mild, sweet flavor, and when raw, it has a crunchy texture to it.

It cooks down well too, and it can blend in beautifully with a variety of different ingredients and flavors.

Napa cabbage is often used in kimchi, which is a Korean dish made from a variety of fermented vegetables.

There are so many different recipes that Napa cabbage can be used in and so many different ways that it can be prepared!

The Best Substitutes For Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage is a popular ingredient, but what if you are finding it difficult to get your hands on some, or you want to try something a little different?

Read on to find the best substitutes for Napa cabbage and how best to use each substitute in its place!

1. Savoy Cabbage

Fresh ripe savoy cabbages on white background

Savoy cabbage, also known as ruffled cabbage or curly cabbage, has quite a distinctive appearance to it. Like Napa cabbage, it is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine.

Napa cabbage and savoy cabbage are similar in size, but the leaves of savoy cabbage are thicker than Napa cabbage leaves, so they will have to be cooked longer and they are not regularly served raw.

The best way to substitute savoy cabbage for Napa cabbage is to boil or steam the cabbage, either before adding it to the other ingredients or along with the other ingredients, to cook down and become softer.

When it comes to the flavor, savoy cabbage is similar to Napa cabbage, with a mild flavor that blends in well with many other flavors.

Just keep in mind that savoy cabbage is best when cooked, so it is not the best substitute for raw Napa cabbage.

2. Endives

Pile of endives.

Endives are a great substitute for raw Napa cabbage and are best used in a salad.

When using endives as a substitute for Napa cabbage, take into consideration that endives have a stronger flavor than Napa cabbage.

You will either need to use less so that the flavor won’t be overwhelming, or use the endives for their stronger flavor.

You can use endives in stir-fries, but it is best to add them near the end of the cooking process, as they can take on a bit of a bitter flavor when cooked.

It could be a good idea to adjust your seasonings when using endives in place of savoy cabbage, adding in fewer spices so that the endives do not make the flavor of the dish too overwhelming.

Start by using fewer endives, taste the meal, and then add in more from there if you want more of the flavor to come through.

3. Bok Choy

Assortment of whole and sliced raw baby bok choy (Chinese cabbage) over black textured background. Top view. Square image

Bok choy, like Napa cabbage, is a Chinese cabbage and is popular in Asian cuisine.

It is also known as pok choi and pak choi, depending on where you are in the world.

The flavor of bok choy is similar to that of Napa cabbage, so it makes for a great substitute.

It can be used raw in salads and as a garnish, and it can also be cooked in stir-fries and noodle dishes too.

Bok choy does have a slightly different appearance to Napa cabbage, having a bigger stalk that is white in color, but this does not make much of a difference at all, especially if the bok choy is cooked down.

One popular use of bok choy is to use the big leaves for wraps, as the flavor is mild, and they are strong enough to hold in fillings.

You can use bok choy almost identically to how you would have used Napa cabbage, just with a slightly different flavor and texture, but nothing that would be too noticeable.

4. Red Cabbage

red cabbage isolated on white

The biggest difference between red cabbage and Napa cabbage is definitely the color.

Red cabbage has a vibrant, red-violet color that holds well when it is cooked.

It is a colorful addition to any dish, but it still has that cabbage flavor that it shares with Napa cabbage.

Other than the color, there is not much difference in flavor between Napa cabbage and red cabbage, so it does make for a good substitute if you aren’t too worried about the red and purple hues.

The benefit of using red cabbage as a substitute for Napa cabbage is that it can be cooked and eaten raw, although it is most commonly served raw in salads or as a filling for wraps.

Red cabbage is quite easy to find at the local grocery store too, so it is readily available and it makes a great substitute!

5. Pointed Cabbage

Pointed cabbage and Napa cabbage have a similar look to them, so visually, it makes a good substitute.

Other than this, the two have a similar taste, but pointed cabbage does have a little more sweetness to it.

To account for this, you can add a pinch of salt extra to even out the sweetness, to get it tasting more similar to Napa cabbage.

The leaves of pointed cabbage are slightly thinner than Napa cabbage, so you will either need to have it raw, or cook it for a shorter amount of time than you would have cooked Napa cabbage.

You can use it almost exactly the same as you would use Napa cabbage, but just with less cooking time, or raw in a salad.

6. Broccoli

Broccoli might not be the first substitute that comes to mind when looking for something to use for Napa cabbage, but it can work really well.

You can pretty much find broccoli in almost all grocery stores, so it will be a really easy substitute if you find yourself stuck.

Broccoli can be eaten raw, and it is a great addition to salads, but it is also delicious when cooked, and it can hold onto different flavors, such as garlic and onion.

You will need to cook broccoli for longer than you would cook Napa cabbage if you want it to be soft and tender, but how tender you want your broccoli will be up to you.

One thing you need to be mindful of is not overcooking the broccoli, as it will turn mushy and fall to pieces.

7. Kale

Kale is becoming a staple green in so many homes, thanks to its great nutritional content.

There are a few types of kale, but when using it in place of Napa cabbage, baby kale and curly kale seem to be the better options.

You might have to spend a little more on kale than you would have with Napa cabbage, but it works well as a substitute if you do not have any other option.

Kale can be added to a stir-fry or noodle dish and cooked with the other ingredients, or it can be used raw in a salad or wrap.

The flavor is pretty mild, so you won’t notice much of a difference when using it in place of Napa cabbage.

The one difference that you might pick up on is that when served raw, kale does not have much of the same crunch that Napa cabbage does. You also should not eat the stem, only the leaf.

Kale does lack a bit of texture in a salad, but you can make up for this by using other crunchy ingredients such as cucumber or red onion.

8. Choy Sum

Choy sum vegetable pile close up on white background

Choy sum is another Chinese cabbage that you can use in place of Napa cabbage, and it does successfully substitute Napa cabbage in many different meals.

The flavor of choy sum is similar to that of broccoli, but it is not so overpowering that you would notice much of a difference when using it in place of Napa cabbage.

Choy sum is commonly enjoyed raw, but it can be cooked and added to stir-fries and other meals, and it cooks down tender and with a mild flavor.

Even though choy sum is a Chinese cabbage, it does resemble broccoli more than cabbage.

Choy sum is a great option when you want to use something that does not have a very cabbagey flavor, but still want the benefits of the nutrients and texture.

9. Lettuce

Lettuce is readily available in just about every store, which is why it is one of the most convenient substitutes you can use for Napa cabbage.

However, you should really only use lettuce in place of Napa cabbage when it is served raw.

Lettuce does not do very well when cooked, as it becomes very wilted and does not have a very good flavor, and the water content does not do well in cooked dishes either.

It does make a great substitute for Napa cabbage when chopped up and used raw in salads and wraps, and it has a delicious crunch to it that is so similar to Napa cabbage.

The flavor might be slightly different, and lettuce is slightly fresher and has a more salad-like taste compared to Napa cabbage, but it does work well and it’s a very easy substitute, especially if you have some sitting in the fridge already.

Just be sure to rinse the lettuce well first before using it, as it can often contain some dirt and debris that you would not want to have in a salad!

10. Brussels Sprouts

Most of us think of Brussels sprouts as a vegetable, but they are actually a part of the cabbage family, which is why we have included them on our list as a good substitute for Napa cabbage.

Brussels sprouts have a mild flavor with some bitterness to them, and they are best enjoyed when cooked.

There are many different ways to cook Brussesl sprouts, so you can cook them pretty much the same way you would have cooked the Napa cabbage, whether in a stir-fry, baking, boiling, steaming, and more.

Brussels sprouts do take longer to cook compared to Napa cabbage, so you can either add extra cooking time to cook the Brussels sprouts whole, or you can slice them up and cook them just about the same way you would Napa cabbage.

Use Brussels sprouts in place of Napa cabbage in stir-fries, kimchi, coleslaw, soups, rice dishes, stews, and much more!

11. Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is likely the least common ingredient on this list, but if you manage to find it at a grocery store near you, then it will work as a really interesting and successful substitute for Napa cabbage.

Kohlrabi is a bulb-shaped vegetable that has a crunchy texture. It can be found in either purple or green colors.

If you want to stick to the color of Napa cabbage, you could choose the light green version, but if you wanted to add a pop of color to your meal, purple would be a beautiful addition.

You can use kohlrabi either raw or cooked, and while it has a slightly sweeter flavor compared to Napa cabbage, it does have that mild, green flavor that you would get from the cabbage.

You can cook it in stir-fries and stews, or you can slice it up and add it to salad or wraps.

Final Thoughts

Napa cabbage is beautiful to work with, whether you are wanting to use it raw in a salad or cook it up in a stir-fry. However, if you have a recipe calling for Napa cabbage and you can’t find any, then you are likely looking for a substitute.

Above, we have listed a whole range of different substitutes you can use in place of Napa cabbage.

Some are best used raw, others are best used cooked, and some can be used both ways. The substitute that will work best for you will depend on what you are cooking.

Keep in mind the flavors and textures you are wanting from your meal when choosing a substitute! This way you will be able to find the one that will work well in place of Napa cabbage.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve learned all about Napa cabbage and what its best substitutes are, here are some additional questions that we thought you might have.

Is Napa cabbage the same as regular cabbage?

Napa cabbage and regular cabbage might seem very similar when added to a meal, but if you look at them whole, you will notice a difference.

Napa cabbage is longer and thinner, whereas regular cabbage is rounder in shape.

What is the other name for Napa cabbage?

Another name for Napa cabbage is celery cabbage. It is also sometimes referred to as Chinese cabbage, but this is actually a category that it falls into, rather than its specific name.

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