Can we find the best cabbage substitute no matter which recipe we’re planning to make?
I love cabbage when it’s in season, whether it’s cooked or raw. I especially crave it in stir fry, in quantities that many find a bit too much.
But, if it’s not in season, I really don’t like it. It turns into a vegetable that has little taste. That’s my reason for deciding to find some awesome substitutes.
I will admit that when it comes to finding replacements for fresh vegetables sometimes our choices are a bit limited. It also depends on which recipes we’re making.
Other vegetables are much easier to find substitutes for. For example, any tomato variety has plenty of substitutes because there are so many tomato varieties to choose from and there are plenty of canned tomatoes to cook with.
Let’s see if that’s the case when we’re looking for the best cabbage substitute. Or if it’s one of those situations where we are limited in our choices.
My Favorite 10 Best Cabbage Substitutes
Since we’re talking about vegetables, let’s talk a bit about biology. It will help us put things into perspective.
Cabbage belongs to the Brassica oleracea family. Brassica is Latin for cabbage and oleracea translates to vegetable/herb. This is a leaf and leafstalk vegetable.
Moreover, red and green cabbage are practically the same only with different colors so they can be used interchangeably.
In the same family, you’ll also find the following vegetables: kale and collard greens, broccoli, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi (German turnip), Portuguese cabbage.
This family sure has some very delicious substitutes. Some of these vegetables from the Brassica oleracea family also work perfectly as bean sprout substitutes in many dishes.
Depending on what you’re making, you can take your pick for the best cabbage substitute right from this list of vegetables belonging to the Brassica oleracea family. Let’s find out more about them.
1. Napa cabbage (best cabbage substitute)
Let’s start with a substitute that actually includes the word cabbage in its name, which is also known as Chinese cabbage.
If you’re looking for a replacement for cabbage rolls, Napa cabbage is the perfect candidate.
They don’t look the same but these 2 are perfect substitutes, especially when it comes to Asian cuisine.
Napa cabbage is perfect for stir fry and noodle dishes. Nowadays, it’s also pretty easy to find in many supermarkets and it’s not too expensive.
I love the leaves of green/white/red cabbage because they’re thicker, almost rubbery, and have a slight pepper-like flavor but Chinese cabbage is just so awesome, one of the best substitutes for cabbage.
It turns just as sweet when it’s cooked, which is awesome. It just lacks the same crunch.
Napa cabbage can also be used raw in salads and slaw. It might be more tender and more delicate in flavor but it will work perfectly, even when it’s eaten raw.
And if you really want to undertake a serious cooking experiment, you could try making kimchi. Chinese cabbage is the main ingredient.
2. Bok choy
The term Chinese cabbage can also refer to bok choy.
Moreover, since we started talking about making Asian dishes, it would be a total shame to forget about bok choy.
I love the shape of the leaves and how they combine 2 textures: the green part is tender and the white part is crunchy.
I don’t find that it has much taste but some might find it more flavorful than napa cabbage. It blends well with a lot of ingredients.
If you give me a dish of bok choy stir fried with oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger, I’m a happy person. It’s simple but satisfying.
3. Choy sum
Another vegetable that carries the name Chinese cabbage is choy sum. It’s very closely related to the other 2 that I recommended above.
It’s the more delicate, smaller version of bok choy.
I absolutely love it because it comes with delicate yellow flowers. That’s why it’s also known as Chinese flowering cabbage.
The flowers are also edible. If you’re making a simple stir-fried choy sum, the flowers will stand out in that mass of dark green.
4. Brussels sprouts
Some people have a hate relationship with Brussels sprouts. The first time I ate them, I found that they had no particular taste, except being bitter. The second time, I found them sweeter than green cabbage and, since then, I love them.
The thing with Brussels sprouts is that they’re not as easy to cook. If they’re not cooked right, you’ll hate them. There are plenty of recipes that involve oven roasting them with different ingredients.
Moreover, you should pick those with smaller heads because they’re sweeter and more tender. Pick bright green heads that are firm and heavy because the leaves should be tightly packed. It’s a dense vegetable. Tiny but mighty.
I prefer them as a side dish so I don’t particularly consider Brussels sprouts to be the best cabbage substitute.
However, you can definitely shred Brussels sprouts to replace shredded cabbage. For that, you can use a blender, a mandoline, a cheese grater or some awesome knife skills.
You just need plenty of those tiny, green heads. It can get quite expensive if you’re trying to feed a bigger family.
5. Savoy cabbage
I will also mention this cabbage variety as a substitute for green cabbage but I don’t love it as much.
The thing is that it’s milder-flavored, which is why I’m not a big fan of it. Although some consider it to be sweet.
Plus, for some, it might be harder to find than even regular cabbage.
However, you can use it to make cabbage rolls, which is awesome.
The crinkled, wrinkly green leaves look totally awesome but they’re not as crispy. I’ll give it an extra point for the whole appearance.
A very long time ago, when I first read about kale, my first thought was: is this a type of cabbage that I wasn’t aware of?
As it turns out, I was a bit right because kale is a member of the same family.
If you want to find the best cabbage substitute that is quite different from the vegetable that you’re trying to replace, this is it.
Kale leaves are thicker, can leave your mouth feeling dry and can be a bit bitter but they look absolutely beautiful in a stir fry. Or in minestrone. Or in salads.
But if you don’t like kale in your salads, replace it with lettuce, Swiss chard, collard greens, baby spinach, Chinese broccoli or arugula.
Kale and Savoy cabbage have the most in common in terms of appearance.
7. Collard greens
Since collard greens are a nice substitute for kale, both in terms of texture and flavor, I thought I should also include these leafy greens as a substitute for cabbage.
They have plenty of uses, from green juices, smoothies, stews or for making stir-fries.
Their mild and sweet flavor makes them an awesome leafy green not just for Southern cooking but for a wide array of dishes, whether you want to enjoy them raw or cooked.
8. Grape leaves
If you want to try different wrappers for cabbage rolls, I can’t think of a better option than grape leaves.
You can buy them in a jar and you don’t have to do much to them. You just have to rinse them, remove the stems, and leave them in a colander to dry.
If you’re using fresh grape leaves, you’ll have to wash them, remove their stems, blanch them in boiling water, and then let them dry.
Greek cuisine has some of the best stuffed grape leaves. They’re called dolmades. If you love cabbage rolls, try making dolmades and serve them with Greek yogurt.
Raw, kohlrabi will have a taste similar to broccoli or cauliflower. It’s not exactly a perfect replacement for cabbage but it can definitely work.
However, the sweetness comes when you cook or roast kohlrabi. The sweetness is similar to parsnips.
To add even more dimension, it has a spicy note that will remind you of radishes.
There are so many ways to cook kohlrabi: slaws, stir fry, salads, noodles, etc.
Kohlrabi are usually sold as bulbs but it can also come with the greens still attached. If you buy it with the leaves, use them raw in salads or sautéed like collard greens.
As for the bulb, once you peel off the outer layer, you’re good to go. For salads and slaws, the easiest and fastest way is to grate it. The same goes for stir fry.
I think that kohlrabi (German turnip) is the perfect way to end this article on the best cabbage substitute because it’s just as versatile as the ingredient we’re trying to replace.
Hear me out. If you don’t have apples for your coleslaw, make a carrot and apple coleslaw.
You might end up loving it more than the original version that is made with green, red cabbage and carrots.
Popular Cabbage Recipes
To see when we might need to find the best cabbage substitute, let’s talk about some popular recipes with this vegetable.
Haluski (cabbage and noodles)
Haluski is buttery fried cabbage and onions with noodles, baked and ready in less than 1 hour.
In this case, we can substitute cabbage with a lot of ingredients: Savoy cabbage and Napa cabbage will be the first two popular picks because they have a similar taste, texture, and look.
However, we can make Haluski with kale, kohlrabi, collard greens, bok choy, choy sum, and even broccoli or broccoli rabe.
Kielbasa (cabbage stir-fry)
Kielbasa is a sausage and that’s where the name of the recipe comes from.
As the best substitute for cabbage, you can use the same vegetables that I mentioned for Haluski. When it comes to stir-fried, you can use a lot of different vegetables if you don’t have the one that the recipe calls for.
You can even make it with sugar snap peas.
If you don’t have red or green cabbage to make coleslaw, you can use Napa cabbage, Savoy cabbage or sliced Brussel sprouts instead.
The texture won’t be the same because neither of these three wonderful cabbage substitutes have the same crunch, they’re not as crispy, which might be a problem for some.
I would also like to make another recommendation when it comes to making coleslaw without cabbage.
You can make carrot and apple coleslaw. I know that the taste is completely different but you get a wonderful crunch, sweetness, and a perfect combination of flavors.
Corned beef and cabbage
You could simply make the corned beef with carrots and potatoes.
Or you could use Napa or Savoy cabbage as a substitute.
Or maybe you would prefer Brussel sprouts or some kale or broccoli or collard greens or even some asparagus.
Basically, use whatever vegetable you like more and it’s the easiest to find.
Or maybe for your corned beef and cabbage sans cabbage you would prefer some oven roasted parsnips as a substitute.
Stuffed cabbage rolls
Try making stuffed grape leaves instead of stuffed cabbage rolls.
There are a lot of variations for stuffed grape leaves, a lot of cuisines have their own version and I love them all, the Greek and the Lebanese cuisines are just two examples.
All in all, as you can see just from these few recipe examples, we have plenty of options that we can make use of as best cabbage substitute, no matter what we’re cooking.