Cabbage is a staple ingredient in foods like chow mein, salads, slaws, and eggrolls. It’s probably so well-loved because of its crunchy texture, sweet taste, and extreme versatility in the kitchen. No matter what you’re cooking up, cabbage is sure to add a little something special to your dish. There will come a time, though, when you run out of cabbage or it’s not otherwise available to you. If this happens, don’t fret! There are plenty of tasty substitutes that can take the place of cabbage if you find yourself in this particular pickle.
Some of the best cabbage substitutes you can use in your kitchen include leafy green vegetables like kale, as well as other, similar veggies like brussels sprouts, napa cabbage, broccoli, and bok choy. No matter what you decide to use as a substitute for cabbage, your cole slaw, chow mein, or soup dumplings are sure to be delicious! We’ve compiled a list of our favorite recommendations for your convenience. Keep reading to find out more!
Before we get into our list of substitutes, let’s talk a little bit about cabbage, shall we? Cabbage has a slightly sweet taste to it, and a head of cabbage holds plenty of water so taking a bite from a dish with cabbage in it is sure to be cool and refreshing on your tastebuds every time. This is the main reason why most people use cabbage when they make coleslaw. It’s a great summertime vegetable!
You can also use cabbage to make dishes like egg rolls, chow mein, dumpling soup, and cabbage-wrapped brats. It truly is quite versatile. Just the thought of the delectable crunch of cabbage is enough to make your mouth water. It’s also rather mild-tasting, so it’s a great ingredient to experiment with if you’re relatively new to the world of cooking.
One of the best things about cabbage is there are plenty of substitutes for it that are very available at most grocery stores. Cabbage is also, of course, super available — but if you don’t happen to have cabbage on hand, just open your fridge and see what you can use as a substitute!
What are Good Alternatives for Cabbage?
Cabbage is delicious, but just because you don’t have cabbage in your fridge doesn’t mean you have to hold off on making a mean chicken yakisoba or a coleslaw to call home about. Listed below are our top picks for ingredients you can use instead of cabbage in the kitchen. Check it out!
You can’t make a decent kimchi without napa cabbage. Or, you can, but why not stick to the classics? Napa cabbage is one of the most common ingredients chefs use in Asian cuisine. It looks a bit different from traditional cabbage, sporting crinkly leaves and an odd, oblong shape, but you shouldn’t let that deter you from using it!
While traditional cabbage is more on the bitter side, napa cabbage is nice and sweet. It tastes great in soups and stir-fries (and in kimchi, of course!), and like traditional cabbage, it has that refreshing crunchy texture. Napa cabbage is generally a great option if you’re looking to make a dish that requires a softer cabbage. In other words, if you’re making coleslaw, napa cabbage is an absolute must.
Kale is ultra-healthy, so if it’s nutritional value you’re after, you’ll definitely want to try using kale instead of cabbage in your favorite soup or stir-fry recipe one of these days. In terms of taste and texture, kale is actually pretty different from cabbage, but it can still be used in a lot of the same ways. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend using it in coleslaw or kimchi, but for dishes like beef and cabbage stew, kale would make an excellent substitute.
It’s a good idea to keep in mind that because kale has quite a fibrous texture, you will probably want to blanch your kale leaves for a few minutes before using them in a stew or salad. Like cabbage, it has a slightly bitter taste, meaning it contrasts well with the typical ingredients used in savory or sweet dishes.
Bok choy is one of our favorites! Can’t have a stir-fry without bok choy, now can you? Although bok choy is similar to cabbage, it has a slightly different texture and flavor profile. For example, while traditional cabbage is typically pretty chewy, cooked bok choy has a tender texture when you bite into it. Its leaves may be a little bitter, but the fruit of the bok choy tastes quite sweet.
A lot of chefs love using bok choy because it’s generally easier to work with than traditional cabbage. It’s soft and mild, so it won’t be too overpowering in texture or in taste. If you’re going to use bok choy instead of cabbage, however, you should try to keep in mind that these two veggies aren’t entirely interchangeable. Bok Choy tends to be more delicate, meaning it won’t necessarily hold up as well in soups, stews, and braises.
Aren’t brussels sprouts the cutest? In fact, they kind of look like tiny little cabbages — and they taste pretty similar to cabbage too! Brussels sprouts are quite versatile, and due to their cabbage-like texture, you can easily shred and slice and dice them into a stew or unique-tasting coleslaw. Again, brussels sprouts do taste relatively similar to cabbage aside from the fact they’re a bit sweeter and nuttier in flavor.
Brussels sprouts are also a lot denser than traditional cabbage is, so you’re going to want to cook them for longer to make sure they’re tender enough for whatever dish you’re making. A lot of people might not think to use brussels sprouts as a substitute for cabbage, but we feel like it’s definitely not something you should overlook if you’re seeking a more unique substitute!
Now, chomping down on a piece of celery can feel like a task, to say the least, but don’t let that stop you from using it as a substitute for cabbage in your favorite cabbage-based recipes. Celery is crisp and delicious. It’s sure to add a fresh crunch to any dish under the sun, especially stir-fries and slaws.
Keep in mind that celery doesn’t have the same hearty flavor as traditional cabbage does, so although it’ll certainly add some texture to your dishes, it won’t necessarily contribute to the flavor in a significant way. This is actually a good thing, though. Sometimes, an ingredient is meant to be chewed and savored rather than explicitly tasted.
Broccoli — like cabbage and brussels sprouts — is a cruciferous vegetable. It has an earthy sort of flavor that compliments the savory ingredients typically used in soups and stews. Broccoli has a firm and crunchy texture, so it’s sure to be a star player in whatever dish you decide to use it in. Like cabbage, it’s pretty versatile, which makes it a great substitute.
Chop or dice broccoli florets and toss them into a salad or a hearty Reuben bowl. Like cabbage, it’s sure to add a nice crunch as well as expand the flavor of most dishes in a very pleasant way. Because of the way broccoli looks, it’s generally not the first thing people think of when they’re brainstorming suitable substitutes for cabbage, but we think it definitely should be!
Like most people, we love cabbage — so much so that we often run out of it without even realizing where it all went! If you don’t want to run to the grocery store (or if the store is closed due to it being a holiday), take a peek inside your refrigerator. As previously stated, most leafy green veggies can make a great substitute for cabbage, although napa cabbage and bok choy definitely top our list. Don’t take our word for it. See for yourself, and get to cooking!