Cabbage has long been a fantastic addition to a whole multitude of dishes, whether you are making a salad, stew, stuffed with meat, or just some sauteed cabbage on its own. But, what do you do if you have no cabbage, or if you are not a fan of eating cabbage?
Since some people will avoid cabbage altogether thanks to its rather gassy effects on our gut, it is good to have alternatives.
Well, having a good substitute for cabbage is important. So, we will go over the substitutes that are the most appropriate, even considering the ever-flavorful red cabbage.
So, let’s find out what will work best for you when you need to replace cabbage in a dish!
What Are The Best Cabbage Substitutes?
There are several substitutes that are ideal for cabbage. Some are more obvious like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, and perhaps Napa cabbage, others you may not think of right away, such as cucumber, celery root, and zucchini.
All of these foods are close to the flavor of cabbage, as high in fiber as cabbage, or are quite crunchy and can substitute cabbage in a salad. Some of these options are all three of these things.
The substitute that you use will end up depending on what exactly it is that you are making, and also how you would need the cabbage to behave in the dish. So, if you were looking to make stuffed cabbage, for example, you will need something with big leaves, so Brussels sprouts are out.
If you are only after a flavor that is similar to that of cabbage then you could use pretty much any of these, as most are very similar in flavor.
Now, it is time to go over each vegetable individually and give you a breakdown of how you can use them. Do note that not every one of these will be ideal for use in everything, as some will be ideal for some recipes or certain techniques in the kitchen.
The name this cabbage has does not really tell you much, however, you are probably more familiar with it than you know, and know it by its nickname: “ruffled cabbage”/”curly cabbage”.
It is as large as regular cabbage, but its veins are thicker, and it is actually rather similar in its leaves to kale. Much like kale, it is also much tougher, so you may need to steam it and cook it before you plate it up.
Once you have softened up the cabbage it can be used for a delicious stuffed cabbage, but really you can use it for any other thing you would use stuffed cabbage for. It is a bit darker, but it is still the closest you will get to green cabbage, which is assuming you cannot even find red cabbage.
Brussels is weird, they look as if a cabbage encountered a shrink ray. They are super cute and can very easily be turned into little bite-sized snacks, some are small enough that you needn’t do anything to make them bite-sized.
Just like cabbage, though, you do need to peel the outer layers first.
Brussel sprouts work out awesome in soups and stews, in the place of shredded cooked cabbage, oh and they are delicious on the grill too. If you are using them raw, it is best to use smaller Brussels sprouts, as big ones are usually a bit bitter.
Slice up your brussels sprouts nice and thin, or get a mandolin out and use them in a salad. Sadly they do not have the same crunch as cabbage, though.
Broccoli is great with any dish, raw or cooked. It is up to you. When using these little tree-like vegetables raw, you should probably slice them into small pieces and make use of the florets, raw stalks are a bit too tough.
Be aware that broccoli will cook quickly and can easily overcook and turn into mush. If you need to use broccoli in place of cabbage in a stew, only add the broccoli towards the end if you want them to retain a bit of texture.
Cauliflower behaves quite as broccoli does, it might even break down a bit faster when cooked. So when you chop it, steam it, puree it, slice it, or eat it raw, you get pretty much the same results as with broccoli except it is white and has a slightly different texture.
This is one thing, however, as roughly chopped-up cauliflower florets can actually be confused with cabbage very easily in salads, so this can actually work well.
Napa cabbage is probably better known as Chinese cabbage, it looks quite similar to romaine lettuce, and is quite long, but it is generally lighter than romaine lettuce. Napa cabbage is significantly lighter in weight than a typical green cabbage, and it is also much lighter in how it tastes too.
It does work lovely in a salad, and it is easier to mix and chop. It could work well for stuffed cabbage but you would have to steam the leaves for this otherwise you simply won’t be able to roll them or stuff them.
Remember that Napa cabbage is not quite as potent in flavor, so if you do seek a strong flavor, you will likely have to add in another substitute to get that cabbage taste.
Bok choy is actually a lot like Napa cabbage and often gets mistaken for Napa cabbage but they are not the same. Bok choy has more contrast on its leaves, being dark green at the edge. The softer areas of the leaves are good for stuffing, though.
The lower section of a Bok Choy leaf is tougher, but it can all work nicely on a grill or in a salad. Bok choy also works deliciously in stews, and soups, like cabbage, do, just remember that bok choy is not as potent in smell or taste as cabbage is.
So, what do you do if cabbage or anything even similar is totally un-doable, well, you do have options and celery root is one of these options, it is deep in its flavor and can be cut really easily on a mandolin.
It has an early root and is a little bit on the spicy side when it comes to flavor, so it can be quick when you add it to a salad. However, if you put it in a soup or stew, that kick does mellow out a bit, but still gives you the flavor of the fall season.
When raw it is juicy with a crunch!
Cucumber might not seem like the ideal replacement for cabbage, but it is actually not a bad idea. This will only really work if you use it raw though, as cucumber gets soft insanely fast, so there just won’t be any texture left, and zero crunches if you add it to a stew.
If some of these just do not sound right, try zucchini, it is not as watery, or as refreshing, however, it is still super crunchy and it might give you a hint of cabbage, but just without all the sulfur, so, it will also not make you as gassy as some of these other options!
It is a nice change if you want to shake things up a bit!
This vegetable is not as popular as cabbage by a long shot, however, it can certainly replace cabbage in foods such as salads. While you can also cook endives, the best way to serve them up is still raw.
Always taste them before you cook them though, especially if you are new to them. They have a stronger taste than cabbage. So, consider that you may have to use different seasonings if you decide to replace cabbage with some tasty endives!
Kale makes for an ideal substitute for many greens and in many dishes, and cabbage is no different. Believe it or not, kale comes from the very famous family as cabbage, it is just significantly leafier.
This leafy superfood is also a fantastic ingredient to be adding to your salads, but it also deals well with being cooked as well. The taste of kale is a bit richer than cabbage, and it looks better, but it will still give you the taste you are after.
When substituting cabbage, you could use baby kale or curly kale. Also, don’t forget, kale is also considered to be a ‘superfood’!
Kohlrabi is a much less popular substitute than the rest of these, but it is just as tasty and is well worth a try. You can find it in purple or green, so it is actually much like cabbage in this regard.
It does have a sweeter taste, so it will also sweeten up your recipe as well, although it may actually be harder to find the purple version. However, if you do manage to get your hands on the purple variety, then you should definitely give it a try in your recipes, it can actually be rather delicious!
Adding In A Red-Purple Color With Beet Juice
Should you wish your substitute to have that red cabbage color, you can add some beet juice to give it that beautiful aesthetic. Do remember, however, that this will taste earned, and maybe even earthy.
Also if you add this to deep greens such as bok choy or savoy, it can make things a brown color, which if we are honest, is less than appetizing.
Lettuce & Leafy Greens
Perhaps your cabbage was in your recipe to give it some bulk, not necessarily for flavor, if this is the case, you could substitute it for pretty much any other leafy green you can think of. So long as you do not cook them down significantly, they can easily keep shape and give you a crunchy texture.
Pretty much any lettuce is fair game there, even radicchio could be a good option, it is just a bit on the bitter side… like a radish.
Can Lettuce Be Substituted For Cabbage?
Thanks to the crunchy texture of lettuce have, it can substitute for cabbage in salads. That being said, lettuce is not really a suitable option for cooked dishes, as it does not respond very well when cooked.
What Can I Use Instead Of Cabbage In Dumplings?
When you cannot use cabbage in dumplings give bok choy a try, you could also try Brussel sprouts, kimchi, or perhaps even blanched collard greens! All of these are decent options.
Is Spinach A Good Substitute For Cabbage?
It is not perfect, but it can work well as a substitute for cabbage. This is especially true if you want to pack a recipe full of nutrition. The main difference is texture, however, so be aware.
What Can I Use Instead Of Chinese Cabbage?
Brussels sprouts can be an ideal substitute for Chinese cabbage in a majority of recipes. They taste similar and you can cook them the same way you cook Chinese cabbage too!