Can You Eat Raw Cabbage? – The Tastiest Ways
Many of us do not have the fondest memories of cabbage growing up, but that is almost certainly because it wasn’t prepared properly!
Gone are the days of soggy cabbage served for dinner or bland, overcooked cabbage served at school lunches. There are so many great recipes to make cabbage delicious, but if you don’t want to cook, you might want to consider trying raw cabbage.
Can you eat raw cabbage?
Yes, you can absolutely eat raw cabbage, in-fact cabbage is most commonly eaten raw. Raw cabbage maintains its full nutrition profile and is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and dietary fiber, and is very low in calories. Raw cabbage is what you typically find in things like salads, coleslaw, or sandwiches.
If this sounds like something you might want to try, read on to find out what you should know about eating raw cabbage.
Is It Safe To Eat Raw Cabbage?
It is completely safe to eat raw cabbage. Cabbage can be cooked, but it does not have to be cooked to be eaten.
However, you do need to make sure that you wash and prepare the cabbage properly before eating it. As it is a freshly grown product, there is a risk that the cabbage might have some debris and dirt, and even some bugs, and these will need to be washed away.
As long as you wash the cabbage well, and keep it stored away at a cool temperature, then it is completely safe to eat it raw.
It is definitely worth trying cabbage raw, as it has some great nutritional benefits, and it is completely safe to eat raw.
What Does Raw Cabbage Taste Like?
Before you try it out, you might be curious to find out exactly what raw cabbage tastes like.
If you have tried cooked cabbage, then you would have a pretty good idea of what raw cabbage would taste like, as they taste fairly similar.
The only difference is that raw cabbage has a greener, fresher flavor, and it can have a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but how severe this aftertaste is will depend on the type of cabbage you are eating.
Adding seasoning to the raw cabbage, such as salt or pepper, or even some olive oil, can help to hide the bitter aftertaste, and give the raw cabbage some great flavor.
Raw cabbage will also obviously be crispy and have more of a crunch to it, compared to cooked cabbage.
If you have never tried cooked or raw cabbage before, then it is best compared to iceberg lettuce, just less watery and with a little more bitterness to it.
Which Are The Best Cabbages To Eat Raw?
Some cabbages are better to eat raw, and others are best suited to different types of recipes and preparations.
Here are some of the most common types of cabbage that you will find at your grocery store, and how they are best enjoyed:
Savoy cabbage is a common type of cabbage. It has crinkly green leaves, and the leaves are quite tender when eaten raw.
The flavor of savoy cabbage is on the sweeter side, and it has less of a bitter aftertaste.
Being tender and sweet, savoy cabbage is ideal to eat raw and to add to salads.
Named after the Savoy region of France (known as Mian cabbage in Italy), savoy cabbage is visually striking and can make for some really beautiful dishes.
Red cabbage is similar to green cabbage in the way that the leaves are waxy, and it is a tight-leaf cabbage.
The problem with red cabbage is that it can be quite bitter, with little sweetness, but this works well in certain raw recipes, such as when mixed in with other ingredients, like in a taco.
It also can work really well as part of a cabbage or coleslaw mix.
Overall red cabbage is extremely versatile, visually striking, and delicious. Red cabbage makes a great addition to just about any meal and is a delicious raw cabbage choice.
Napa Cabbage (Chinese Cabbage)
Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, has a more peppery taste to it compared to other cabbages.
It has a fairly mild flavor and soft texture, so it can easily be added to salads and used in other recipes.
This is the best cabbage to use to make kimchi too!
Green cabbage is probably the most common type of cabbage out there.
It is a waxy, tight-leafed cabbage, which has a medium bitter aftertaste, with a very mild sweetness.
The leaves of green cabbage are crunchy and fresh, and it does well when enjoyed raw with a dressing.
How To Prepare Raw Cabbage
You cannot just grab a head of cabbage from the fridge and bite into it.
There is some preparation that needs to be done with raw cabbage before you can get eating.
How you prepare the raw cabbage will depend on how you are planning on using it, whether you are keeping the leaves whole or shredding them into smaller pieces.
Here is how to prepare raw cabbage:
- Remove any brown or damaged leaves from the outside of the cabbage head, until you are left with fresh green (or red for red cabbage) leaves.
- Rinse the head of the cabbage under cool running water, moving it around in the water to get rid of any debris and dirt.
- Place the cabbage onto a cutting board with the stem down.
- Carefully cut the cabbage down in half lengthways, down through the core.
- If you are going to be using the leaves whole, then start removing the layers of leaves one by one, being careful to keep them whole.
- If you are shredding the cabbage, then remove the core, by cutting into the core at an angle where the stem meets the leaves, and remove it from both halves of the cabbage.
- Place the cabbage halves cut side down, and start at the top of the cabbage, cutting across the width from top to bottom, into slim slithers.
If you are wanting to keep the cabbage in wedges, then stop at step 5, and do not cut out the core. Instead, keep the core in place to hold the leaves together, and cut the cabbage into the size wedges you want.
What Are The Benefits Of Eating Cabbage Raw?
You would be eating cabbage raw for a reason, and this is because raw cabbage has some great benefits!
Here are some of the benefits of eating nutritious raw cabbage:
Cabbage contains anthocyanins, which are naturally occurring antioxidants. These help to reduce inflammation and fight off free radicals.
Cabbage is great to help improve your digestion, thanks to the insoluble fiber and plant sterols. These do a great job at keeping your digestive system regular, and it helps to fuel the good bacteria in your gut.
Cabbage is packed with some great nutrients, such as vitamin C, ascorbic acid, collagen, and iron, which are all essential for your daily intake.
Other nutrients include potassium, vitamin K, and fiber.
Uses Of Cabbage
Since cabbage is used for its flavor and texture, it can be used smartly in several ways!
The best example of its use is in chow Mein or other noodle dishes. While most people prefer cooking the cabbage, we recommend that you add shredded cabbage at the end of any dish to get the most out of its flavor.
Cabbage is a highly forgiving vegetable that can be cooked in many ways. We’ll discuss the best methods to cook it below. For now, let’s talk a bit more about how you can use raw cabbage in different recipes.
Let’s start with a classic: coleslaw!
Coleslaw is perhaps the most iconic way of using cabbage and the best part about it is that you can add a range of different ingredients to it to get varying flavors.
The simplest form of coleslaw can be made by mixing raw cabbage with a bit of mayonnaise, salt, and pepper but you can change things up by adding all sorts of interesting ingredients and vegetables.
Raw cabbage can also be mixed in salads. The best way to have it would be to either shred the cabbage or cut it into cubes.
We recommend using thin slices to avoid an overpowering peppery flavor. The less layered the cabbage pieces are the better they will taste.
Also, a simple dressing of balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper is enough to get the most out of raw cabbage. The sweet and sour flavor of the vinegar will easily cut through and subdue the bitterness of the vegetable.
Mix and match other different vegetables like diced cucumbers and diced onions (washed and drained) for an even greater range of flavors and textures!
Although spring rolls use slightly cooked cabbage, you can adjust the cooking time to preserve or render the crunchiness of the vegetable as required.
The great thing about cabbage is that it can easily wrap around food and once it is slightly cooked, it becomes fully pliable.
One of the best uses of cabbage is in recipes like tacos.
The tortilla, sauces, and other ingredients cover any bitterness or pepperiness from the cabbage. This way you can enjoy the same great crunchy texture without even cooking the cabbage!
If you don’t prefer using raw cabbage in the tacos then you can also lightly steam them to make them less firm and juicier! (More on this below).
Best Cuts Of Raw Cabbage
Cabbage can be cut in several different ways. Some of the more popular styles are diced and shredded.
Diced cabbage is excellent for salads and can also be used to garnish multiple types of recipes. They can also go great in soups. Just add them in at the end and enjoy a juicy and crunchy flavor!
Another great way to use cabbage is to shred it. There are multiple width options you can choose from. Some people like widely cut cabbage while others prefer a thinly shredded cabbage that has a delicate texture.
Almost every type of cut can be used interchangeably. For example, you can use either diced or shredded cabbage in fried rice. Similarly, the same cuts can also be used in salads or soups as well.
Keep in mind, if you plan on cooking the cabbage then each cut will have slightly different cook times – with the thinly sliced cabbage cooking quicker than the thicker diced cabbage.
How To Reduce Bitterness in Cabbage
The bitterness of cabbage depends on its species and size. The most common type of cabbage is called “white cabbage”.
This species is the most prevalent in the market and is so popular that we consume several hundred thousand tons of it every year!
There are varying sizes of white cabbage and while most of them possess similar characteristics, they might slightly vary in flavor. Typically, the smaller variety is usually a bit more intense than bigger cabbages.
You can also use other types of cabbages for the same mouthfeel and more or less the same flavor too.
For example, the purple, and red cabbage species are widely used in restaurants and homes to add color and texture and presentation points to salads and other recipes.
All cabbage species can be consumed raw but if you still want to reduce their pepperiness then you can follow the strategy that we have already mentioned above i.e., cooking the vegetable for 2-3 minutes.
Another way to enjoy cabbage is to stir-fry it on high heat for no more than 2-3 minutes to take the edge of its bitter flavor and to add a delicate but pronounced flavor thanks to the added oil.
When consuming raw cabbage by itself, adding a bit of salt and pepper can also help reduce and curb the pepperiness of the vegetable.
How To Cook Cabbage
Now that you know how to eat raw cabbage and its best uses. Let’s look at how you can cook it to get the most out of its flavor.
Cooked cabbage is perhaps the best way to enjoy this vegetable as it offers just the right balance of flavor and crunchiness without becoming overly soft.
Here are some great methods:
Steaming cabbage is a fantastic way to render its exterior skin and to bring down its peppery flavor. To steam cabbage, simply put sliced, shredded, or diced pieces of cabbage in a bowl or foil, and then place the foil in a steamer.
You don’t need to cover the foil because the vegetables will cook fairly quickly on a rolling boil.
Close the lid with the vegetables and steaming water inside and then let it cook for about 2-5 minutes. Check after the 4-minute mark to see how well the cabbage has cooked.
You can add 3-4 more minutes to adjust the cooking time as required. Remember, the less you cook the cabbage the more of its crunchiness you will preserve.
Raw cabbage can be slightly toasted for a balanced flavor without sacrificing its characteristics. The oven method is great if you wish to slightly warm up or render the cabbage without bringing out the steamer.
Simply place the cabbage pieces in the oven tray and spray a bit of oil or water on them. The liquid will create a protective barrier and will keep the cabbage from becoming overly dry.
You can cook the cabbage at 450°F for 8-10 minutes on each side for the best texture or 15 minutes on each side for a light char.
Want to go even further? Try adding a sprinkle of salt, garlic powder, chili flakes, and ground pepper. This combination of spices goes well with both cooked and raw cabbage too!
Frying the cabbage will make it extremely succulent and delicious. Fried cabbage is used extensively in Asian cuisine and is a great way to add a range of complex flavors to any dish.
Cabbage can be deep-fried and shallow fried. We suggest that you start with the shallow frying method as that will allow you to have more control over the cooking time and texture of the cabbage.
To fry it, pour just a dash of olive oil on a non-stick skillet and add the cabbage. Keep the heat on medium and fry the slaw for about 2-3 minutes for maximum crunchiness or 4-5 minutes for a softer but juicer cabbage.
Deep frying cabbage follows the same procedure. Deep-fried cabbage can be used in soups, gravies, rice, and other recipes.
This is where the cube-diced cutting method will work best. Cut equal size cubes and then remove the layers of the cube to form thin cube-shaped cabbage pieces.
Then fry the raw cabbage pieces for about 2-3 minutes or until their texture becomes slightly wrinkly.
How To Store Raw Cabbage
Cabbage is one of the easiest vegetables to store. Thanks to their rounded size, you can easily wrap them in cling wrap or put them in a large air-tight container.
We recommend starting with the cling wrap method as that can preserve the cabbage for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
Here is how you can store cabbage for the short and long term:
- Rinse the exterior of the cabbage to remove any dirt. Once rinsed, place the cabbage over a dry paper towel. The water will make its way out of the cabbage and will slowly dry from the inside out. Make sure that you dry the cabbage completely!
- Once the cabbage is cleaned and dry, place it over the edge of a sheet of cling wrap. Then bring the corners together and start wrapping the cabbage by rolling it to the other end. This should securely cover all of the vegetables. You may also double wrap it for better coverage.
- Make sure that you tightly wrap the cabbage or moisture may get into the packaging which will expedite spoilage!
- Place the cabbage in the coldest part of your fridge and store it at 40°F. The cabbage should remain fresh for up to 10-14 days. If you want to use some of the cabbage then you can unwrap it, cut it and then tightly wrap it again in fresh cling wrap.
Long Term Storage
Raw cabbage can be stored for up to 9 months! But there are a few considerations to this method.
Cabbage can be stored in two ways. The first method involves slicing the cabbage and then storing it as is in the freezer using freezer-safe bags. The second method requires blanching the vegetable for a few minutes before freezing it.
The difference between both methods is that unblanched and cut cabbage will remain fresh for about 2 months while blanched cabbage can remain fresh for up to 9 months!
Here’s how to use each method:
- Clean and cut the cabbage and then rinse the individual pieces.
- Dry out the pieces by placing them over a dry paper towel and then keeping them under a fan for no more than 30 minutes. You can also use several paper towels to dry them manually if you don’t wish to wait that long.
- Store the cut pieces in freezer-safe bags and keep them at the back of the freezer. For maximum freshness, we recommend storing raw cabbage at 0F for up to 2 months.
Here’s how you can store raw cabbage for even longer:
- Clean and cut the cabbage as desired.
- Bring a large pot with water to boil and then blanch the strips or leaves for no more than 90 minutes. For wedges or thicker cuts, you may process the cabbage for up to 2-3 minutes.
- Once blanched, dry the blanched cabbage pieces by placing them over a wet towel. You can follow Step 2 above. Drying the vegetable will prevent freezer burn and will help preserve the crunch and freshness of the cabbage.
- Place all the pieces in a freezer-safe bag and store them at 0F for no more than 9 months. Thaw each bag in the microwave at the thaw setting or move the bags to the fridge to thaw them overnight.
Now that you know how to properly eat raw cabbage and how to store and use it in different ways, here are some great related questions!
Can you freeze a whole cabbage without cutting it?
Freezing a whole raw cabbage isn’t advised because it can deteriorate the vegetable from the inside.
Remember, the cabbage will thaw from the outside-in which means that some parts may not equally thaw which may result in a loss of texture and less flavorful cabbage.
Also, freezing a whole cabbage is not convenient as it will take up more storage space and will also take considerably more time to thaw as well.
Can you eat the core and ribs of a raw cabbage?
Yes. While the leaves of the vegetable are more commonly consumed, you can also eat the core of the cabbage without cooking it.
It will be firmer and crunchier than the rest of the vegetables and may also have a slightly more pronounced cabbage flavor than the leaves because of its density.
A great way to use the core of cabbage is to save them for stir-fries and braises instead of coleslaw or salads.
Is it better to eat cabbage raw or cooked?
It is probably better to eat cabbage raw, to get as many nutrients as possible from the cabbage as you can, as sometimes, these nutrients can be lost during the cooking process.
Can you eat cabbage like lettuce?
You can definitely eat cabbage like lettuce, using it in salads and wraps, although you just need to be aware that it does have a slightly different taste to lettuce.
Which cabbage is good for eating raw?
Green cabbage is one of the best for eating raw, as it has a mild, peppery flavor that isn’t too overwhelming.
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