Cabbage is one of those versatile vegetables that can be used in many recipes, including salads, slaws, stir-fries, and soups. Plus, it can stand alone when either baked or boiled as a side dish.
As a gardener and vegetable lover, I have many times substituted these vegetables, which are almost all considered green leafy vegetables, for cabbage and for each other in making fresh green salads, stir-frys, casseroles, soups, stews, and even quiches, with great success. Each of these replacements puts its own little spin on a dish, so choose the one that seems most appropriate for what you are making.
This list includes the vegetables that are not types of cabbage but that have similarities in taste or texture to cabbage.
1. Choy Sum
Choy Sum is a green leafy vegetable that is a member of the mustard family that looks very similar to turnip greens. Choy sum has a sweet taste and is often used in soups and stir-fries and can be used in most dishes as a cabbage substitute.
While arugula is most popular as a salad green, it is actually a member of the same family as cabbage and can be substituted for cabbage in cold and hot dishes and will add a similar flavor and nutrients as does cabbage.
Related 15 Best Similar Substitutes for Kale.
Broccoli is in the same family as cabbage. These vegetables are all called cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli can be substituted for cabbage in some recipes but not so well in others. Broccoli will give you a similar crunch to cabbage when used raw in salads.
This is also true of broccoli when cooked in stir-fries. And although broccoli is delicious in soups and other hot dishes, it tends to get limp and mushy if overcooked, so it is better to add broccoli toward the end of the cooking process when adding it to soups and stews so that it will not become overcooked.
4. Brussels Sprouts
Although many people think that Brussels sprouts are just baby cabbage, they are a different vegetable altogether. They do have a similar taste, except Brussels sprouts are more bitter than cabbage, and they are in the same family. When cooked, Brussels sprouts can be substituted for cabbage, especially in stir-fries and soups, and stews. But Brussels sprouts are seldom eaten raw because of their bitterness and so would not make a good substitute for cabbage in salads. They are best when boiled, stir-fried, baked, and broiled.
A few years ago, I grew Brussels sprouts for the first time and was fascinated by how they grew all up and down the stalk of the plant where the leaves attach to the stalk. I had so many that I tried to find different ways to cook them, and so I started putting them into soups and stews and found that they are delicious that way.
Cauliflower is in the same family as cabbage and makes a delicious substitution for cabbage in salads, stir-fries, and soups. Like broccoli, if using cauliflower in soup or stew, add it toward the end of the cooking process so that it doesn’t become overcooked.
Celery is a member of the same family as cabbage and adds a similar crunch to salads that cabbage adds. Celery is also commonly used in soups and stir-frys along with cabbage, and although you normally see both vegetables used in the same dishes, if you do not have cabbage on hand, the taste of celery will add a similar taste and texture as cabbage does in all your recipes that call for cabbage as an ingredient.
7. Collards, Kale, and Spinach
Collards, kale, and spinach are all delicious green leafy vegetables in their own right, and while they do not add crunch to a dish like raw cabbage, they do have a similar flavor and can be added to salads, soups, and stir-frys instead of cabbage, and they will make delicious additions to any recipe.
Kohlrabi is an unusual-looking vegetable from the same family that includes cabbage and broccoli that is often called either a cabbage turnip or a German turnip. It looks like the root of a turnip with just a few oddly spaced leaves growing out of the bulb, unlike the turnip that has all the leaves growing out of the stem in the center of the top of the turnip bulb. The entire kohlrabi can be eaten and, when raw, tastes very much like cabbage with the spicy taste of a radish. Kohlrabi is a good substitute for cabbage in any recipe.
9. Swiss Chard
Although Swiss chard is actually a type of beet, it is a member of the spinach family and has edible leaves and stems which can easily substitute in most recipes that call for cabbage. It will add a little extra color and texture to salads and will add flavor and loads of nutrients to soups and stir-fries.
Types Of Cabbage That Substitute Best For Green Cabbage
While this information is primarily about substitutes for plain old green cabbage that we all know and love, there are other types of cabbage that can be substituted for green cabbage, and they are my number one choice as substitutes for green cabbage. If you have any of these cabbages on hand, by all means, use them as a substitute if you are out of green cabbage.
1. Bok Choy
Bok choy, sometimes called Chinese cabbage, is a type of cabbage that looks more like celery. It has long, leafy stalks that grow from a bulbous stem, and when it is mature, the stem or base is wider than a stalk of celery. Even though it can be used in any recipe, like soup to replace cabbage, it is best when stir-fried, braised, or roasted.
2. Napa Cabbage
Napa cabbage is another type of cabbage that is often called Chinese cabbage, and while it is also green, it differs from green cabbage in several different ways, even though it can be substituted for green cabbage in any recipe. The three primary differences you will find in napa cabbage are:
- An oblong shape instead of round like green cabbage.
- A slightly sweet and milder flavor than the other cabbages but with a peppery kick.
- Loosely layered leaves that are not as tightly headed as the other types of cabbage.
3. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage, like green cabbage, is round and tightly headed, though usually smaller and more compact than green cabbage. It has a deep reddish-purple color that is quite striking and makes a very colorful dish when added raw to coleslaw or salad. But, even though the taste is similar to green cabbage, it has a slightly sweet and milder taste when cooked that is more like napa cabbage with a bit of a peppery kick. The one disadvantage of using red cabbage is that when added to a cooked dish like soup, the reddish-purple color, which comes from the flavonoid pigment that it contains known as anthocyanin, will turn that dish an unappetizing blue color.
4. Savoy Cabbage
Savoy cabbage is very similar to green cabbage, round and tightly headed, but it is smaller than green cabbage and has leaves that are dark green and crinkled instead of smooth like green cabbage. The leaves of savoy cabbage are much more tender raw than the other cabbages, and it has a milder taste than the others. This cabbage will taste and look the same in soup as green cabbage.
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Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
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