Cabbage: The Most Underrated Vegetable

A primer on the four types of cabbage commonly sold in markets. 

Published Aug. 4, 2022.

Cabbage may seem unexciting—boring, even—but I urge you to give it another look. Cabbage is available year-round, is sweet, and takes well to myriad preparations. And it’s delicious.

In the summer, I love to cut it into wedges and grill it; it really needs no adornment other than salt, pepper, and flavorful char, but grilled cabbage wedges are great when you brush them with a sauce or glaze toward the end of cooking. And, of course, there is coleslaw, which I like to put a charge into with sassy ingredients like fresh red chile, chipotle powder, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, and chunks of drippy-ripe stone fruit. 

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In the cooler months, I typically go for roasting (wedges again, or sometimes just an untamed tangled mass of sliced leaves) or braising in lots of olive oil with onion and herbs. 

There are four main varieties of cabbage commonly available in markets. Whichever you choose, look for tight, compact heads that show no signs of drying. Here’s a rundown on the types of cabbage you’re likely to find at the store. 

Green Cabbage

The classic. Green cabbage is very crisp and has a firm texture and mellow flavor. Its firmness and light color make it great for showing off tasty char from the grill or oven.

Grilled Cabbage

Putting cabbage over fire can transform it into a soft, sweet, deliciously smoky dish.
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Red Cabbage

Crimson cabbage is a bit waxier, sweeter, and more floral than regular green cabbage, but you can use these types interchangeably—or, even better, together— in recipes.

Molasses-Glazed Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes with Red Cabbage Slaw

A molasses and cider vinegar mixture does double duty as a glaze for grilled pork chops and sweet potatoes and a dressing for a red cabbage slaw.
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Napa Cabbage

This crisp, delicate, oblong cabbage is often sold when it’s about the size of a loaf of bread. It has a light crunch and refreshingly sweet flavor that is appealing both raw and cooked. Try it in salads, slaws, or stir-fries.

Napa Cabbage Salad

Crisp, refreshing napa cabbage is the flavorful salad green you never knew you loved.
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Savoy Cabbage

This round cabbage sports loose, wrinkled leaves and has a mild flavor and delicate texture. It’s named after the Savoy region of France, where it’s a favorite vegetable for braising.

Bubble and Squeak

The name's a little quirky, but this dish—a deliciously crispy mess of fried mashed potato and cabbage—is pure comfort.
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