Cabbage is an excellent source of many important nutrients. It provides a great crunchy texture and has a peppery but very balanced earthy flavor in many recipes.
However, when it comes to its use in recipes, some might not like the inclusion of cabbage for a range of reasons.
For example, the hallmark peppery flavor of cabbage is equally beloved and disliked by many. So, knowing its substitutes is going to come in handy!
What are the best substitutes for cabbage? There are many great substitutes for cabbage, including bok choy, cauliflower, kale, turnips, zucchini, chard, and savory cabbage. You can also venture out and try more distant substitutes like beetroot or spinach.
Read below to learn more about cabbage substitutes, how they taste, how they compare, and the best ways to use them in everyday cooking!
Characteristics Of Cabbage
Cabbage comprises several cultivars of the Brassica oleracea family. It is available in many varieties and sizes but is generally known for its firm texture and crunchy leaves.
This vegetable can be found around the world and is a staple in many regions.
It is also one of the most well-known and famous vegetables due to its uses in universal salad dishes, savory recipes, and most notably, in Chinese cuisine.
Before we list the substitutes for cabbage, it is first important to highlight its characteristics – which would make it much easier for you to decide when and how to substitute this leafy vegetable!
Flavor And Varieties
On their own, raw cabbage leaves have a distinct peppery flavor, although the flavor isn’t as strong as other leafy vegetables, it is still considered to be noticeably peppery.
Once cooked, the slight bitterness goes away almost completely and you can easily mask its flavor using condiments.
As mentioned, cabbage is available in many sizes. You might be familiar with the larger ones found in supermarkets but other varieties in the cabbage family can be smaller and have different colors too.
Most recipes refer to the most common variety that you are probably familiar with.
Since all of the types share the same flavor, you can freely substitute different types of cabbage for more or less the same result.
Cabbage is primarily used in salads and vegetable dishes and is either diced, sliced, or shredded. It is noticeably used more in Asian cuisine and its presence can be seen in many Chinese dishes.
One of the best ways to get the most out of this vegetable is to fry it!
This is important to know because if you want to substitute cabbage then you must first figure out how you want to use it so that you pick the best substitute from the choices below.
For example, if you are looking for a crunchy texture then you probably shouldn’t pick pliable leafy vegetable substitutes like spinach.
Bok choy and savoy cabbage are great substitutes for cabbage’s crunchiness and can be used in stir fry and deep fry recipes as well.
Color And Visual Texture
Another characteristic of cabbage is that it doesn’t lose a lot of its color when cooked. Unlike other leafy vegetables, cabbage provides a great visual advantage that isn’t found in less dense vegetables.
Once cooked, the cabbage leaves will become tender but will more or less retain their characteristic green color!
Other vegetables like kale or spinach, won’t be able to handle high heat and will lose a lot of their texture during the cooking process.
Meanwhile, cabbage leaves are firmer and can take high heat for several minutes until they start to become tender.
A close substitute for its color and texture characteristics would be cauliflower, savoy cabbage, and turnips.
While they don’t exactly taste like cabbage, some of these substitutes share similar flavor notes and a lot of the same texture!
Cabbage is used in many recipes and is prepared in several ways as well. It can be grilled, boiled, baked, fried, and steamed.
Its cooking time depends on the method of cooking and the heat applied to it but generally, cabbage can be cooked in 10-15 minutes under normal heat.
Depending on how tender you want it to be, you can cook it for 5-10 more minutes with condiments for the desired texture.
Raw shredded cabbage or slaw is famously paired with mayonnaise and can be found in several varieties around the world.
Replicating the flavor and crunch of cabbage in coleslaw using substitutes may seem like a difficult task but it can easily be replaced by other similar leafy vegetables (more on this below).
9 Best Substitutes For Cabbage
Now that you know the characteristics of cabbage and its uses in various scenarios, let’s take a look at 9 substitutes for this fantastic crunchy vegetable.
1. Bok Choy
Bok choy is an ideal replacement for cabbage in several recipes. Although it doesn’t share the same flavor notes, its dense leaves and its texture can prove to be useful.
This vegetable has a rather mild flavor compared to broccoli and cabbage but is prized for its similar texture.
It can’t handle heat like cabbage but if cooked the right way, you just might not be able to notice the difference between the two, especially with the use of condiments!
Bok choy can be sauteed, grilled, baked, fried, and more. It is perhaps best used in salads and many other pan-fried vegetable recipes as well.
We love cauliflower!
This vegetable is known for its amazing texture and crunchy bite. Rather than being peppery, it has more of a vegetable and earthy flavor and can be used in several recipes.
You can easily replace cabbage with cauliflower as it shares more or less the same textures too – in some cases, it’s even better than cabbage!
Fried cauliflower is a great example because this vegetable retains some cooking oil which adds to its flavor and succulent crunchiness!
Cauliflower is also fairly firm and can handle high heat very easily.
Although raw cauliflower wouldn’t make for a great substitute in slaw or salad recipes, you can perhaps first steam the vegetable to make it more desirable in different scenarios.
Kale packs a lot of nutrients and is known for its earthy flavors. It isn’t spicy like arugula or peppery like cabbage which makes it a great replacement in several recipes.
This leafy vegetable has firm leaves and depending on how you cook it, it can retain most of its crunchiness and texture even with high heat.
However, we wouldn’t advise using kale in stir-fry recipes as this vegetable is likely to get overly tender.
Kale is arguably better than cabbage when it comes to nutrition and provides a much heartier bite.
Perhaps the best way to use kale as a substitute for cabbage would be in salads or slaw recipes.
Turnips are highly nutritious and their consumption is linked to many health benefits too.
When it comes to cooking, turnips are more similar to cabbage than you might think!
Raw turnips have a slightly peppery and bitter flavor that somewhat resembles that of cabbage and since they are very firm, you will get a very satisfying bite from this vegetable.
Turnips can be cooked in many ways but if they are boiled and cooked using hot oil, they will lose a lot of their texture and color.
However, cooked turnips also become noticeably less peppery and take on a nutty, earthy, and slightly sweet flavor!
They can be substituted in salad dishes and other recipes that call for cabbage. Just steam them and use them however you like!
This vegetable comes in the category of “distant substitutes” but we guarantee that you will love its flavor and texture in just about any recipe.
Beets are loaded with antioxidants and provide a lot of nutritional benefits too. They can be cooked in many ways but are usually prepared via steaming.
Raw beets have an earthy flavor and a crunchy texture.
On the other hand, cooked beets will take on a pronounced earthy and sweet flavor that is beloved by many people around the world.
Be careful when substituting beets though as they are known to expel a very dark color and also have several dyeing and commercial applications due to this characteristic too!
Zucchini isn’t a perfect substitute but if you are going for a hearty and delicious vegetable then you should seriously consider using it.
This vegetable can be either sliced or diced but it isn’t known to be of much utility when shredded.
Cooked zucchini is tender and moist and will probably also become a bit translucent. Raw zucchini has a slightly bitter and peppery flavor but once cooked, it will become a bit sweet and earthy with a rich feel.
The main use of zucchini in the context of substituting cabbage would be in salads.
Perfectly steamed slices of zucchini can add an incredible texture and flavor to any dish so we highly recommend that you try it out the next time you make a mixed salad!
Spinach is one of the most accessible vegetables around the world. It is packed with a lot of nutrition and will easily win over cabbage in many side-by-side comparisons.
Though not perfect, spinach is a fantastic substitute for cabbage, especially if you are looking to pack a recipe with nutrients.
The most noticeable difference between the two is their textures. Spinach doesn’t have the same crunch and can become very tender when heat is applied to the leaves.
Even if you fry spinach, it will never truly become crunchy in the way that cabbage is.
However, raw spinach can more or less provide the same bite as cooked cabbage and can be used in many recipes. If slightly cooked, it can have a better flavor than cabbage too.
Spinach has a mild and slightly sweet taste whether it’s raw or cooked which gives it a huge advantage, especially if you compare it to the peppery flavor of raw cabbage.
Chard is another leafy vegetable like spinach but is much closer to the flavor of cabbage.
Raw chard has a peppery and slightly bitter flavor just like cabbage and it can be cooked in several ways.
The downside of using this vegetable is that, just like spinach, its leaves tend to lose a lot of their texture under heat. But once cooked, the vegetable will have a mild, earthy, and slightly sweet flavor.
However, the saving grace for this vegetable is its stem which offers a very similar crunch and texture as cabbage.
You can even try baking or steaming the stems to make them a bit more tender and less bitter or peppery!
Many recipes make use of chards in different ways. For example, the leaves can be washed and cooked separately to lower their bitterness and peppery flavor.
Meanwhile, the stems can be grilled, baked, or even fried in light flour batter for a different texture and flavor!
9. Savoy Cabbage
Savoy cabbage is perhaps the one true substitute for regular cabbage.
This vegetable belongs to the same family as cabbage but has different visual and flavor characteristics and is considered a winter vegetable. Savoy cabbage has a crinkled exterior and isn’t as large as cabbage.
Its leaves are tightly packed in layers and just like cabbage. This vegetable can also be diced, sliced, or shredded which makes it an excellent substitute for slaw, soup, stir fry, and salad recipes.
The best part is that savoy cabbage has a much milder flavor when it is raw or cooked compared to regular cabbage.
Plus, both these vegetables can be used interchangeably in almost every recipe that calls for regular cabbage.
Next time you visit the supermarket, make sure that you pick savoy cabbage, regular cabbage, and a few substitutes from our list to see which one fares best in different cooking scenarios!
Generally, all leafy greens are known to have several substitutes.
This makes them a great food source for people with allergies, pickier eaters, or people who simply like to have multiple options for different recipes.
Now that you know the different substitutes of cabbage and their uses, here are some great related questions:
How long can you store cabbage substitutes?
Cabbage substitutes can ideally be kept in the fridge within an airtight bag for about 2 weeks. Almost all of the substitutes will fare well for 14 days as long as they aren’t cut.
Once cut, store in an air-tight container after drying them and consume within 2-3 days.
As mentioned above, you can freeze some of the raw vegetable substitutes.
However, some leafy vegetables like kale and spinach may fare better if they are first steamed, packed, and then stored in a freezer-safe bag for 1-2 months.
Can you eat raw cabbage right off the shelf?
While cabbage can generally be consumed without cooking, it first needs to be cleaned properly. This goes for every type of vegetable that you buy from the supermarket.
Please make sure that you bring the vegetables home and clean them thoroughly before consuming them.
Additionally, keep in mind that raw cabbage has a bold peppery flavor that people tend to either strongly like or strongly dislike.
If you’re trying cabbage for the first time, it might be a good idea to cook or steam it first, as some people only enjoy the taste of cooked cabbage.
Is cabbage nutritionally better than cauliflower?
Cauliflower is considered to be a better option when it comes to macro and micronutrients.
Both vegetables are considered to be healthy but if you are looking for better vitamin and antioxidant profiles then cauliflower is the way to go!
However, cabbage is still considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables and is primarily used for its health benefits, crunchy texture, and balanced flavor.