All About Kohlrabi

Green and Purple Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi With Greens. Westend61/Getty Images

Kohlrabi, German for "cabbage turnip," is an unconventional vegetable that's popping up at farmer's markets and specialty produce stores. The flavor of this crunchy bulb combines the earthy sweetness of cabbage with the sharp bite of a turnip or radish. And while the bulbs have an alien-looking quality to them, the whole plant—both bulb and greens—is edible and provides a delicious addition to slaws, salads, and soups. Kohlrabi varieties come in either pale green or purple and can be sold with or without their leaves attached. Throw one in your basket the next time they're in season. You won't be disappointed by this Northern European delicacy.

Where to Buy Kohlrabi

This odd-looking vegetable is actually coveted by small-scale farmers because it can be grown alongside tubers, like beets, that have the same water and soil needs. For this reason, you'll find kohlrabi at farmers markets or in your local CSA (community supported agriculture) basket, where it's often sold with the leaves still attached. This is the best way to buy it because 1.) Kohlrabi with its leaves attached is, no doubt, incredibly fresh, and 2.) The leaves are delicious and can be used in salads or sautéed, similar to kale.

Kohlrabi is also cropping up in specialty supermarkets, like Whole Foods or your local health food store. Chances are regional farmers supply these outlets, assuring the vegetable's freshness. In bigger chain stores you may see it sold as bulbs only. But even without the greens attached, kohlrabi is still a good purchase for use in slaws and other recipes.

How to Choose and Store Kohlrabi

Look for small bulbs of kohlrabi—about 3 inches in diameter—for a sweeter flavor and a more tender texture. Small bulbs taste a lot like peeled broccoli stems. But large kohlrabi bulbs develop a sharp, more radish-like flavor as they grow and they tend to be woody. Still, their thick, fibrous peel can be removed to reveal the tender crunchiness within.

Similar to carrots and beets, you should remove kohlrabi's leafy stalks before storing to prevent them from becoming soft. Use the leaves and stalks immediately, or at least within a few days, in recipes that call for kale or collard greens. Then scrub the kohlrabi bulbs clean, wrap them loosely in a plastic or paper bag, and refrigerate until you're ready to use them. Fresh kohlrabi will last up to several weeks in the fridge.

Prepping Kohlrabi Bulbs

It can be tempting to avoid the labor of peeling any vegetable, and in some cases—like carrots, for instance—it works. But not so with kohlrabi. The bulb's peel is tough and unpleasant to eat. Take the time to remove all of the fibrous peel, with a vegetable peeler or paring knife, to reveal the tender vegetable treasure underneath. 

Using and Cooking with Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi is delicious raw. Cut it into wedges and pair it with a creamy dip for a midday snack. Or drizzle it with soy sauce to add a salty kick to a healthy treat. Kohlrabi also adds bite and crunch to salads like this carrot kohlrabi slaw. Slice it thin or shred it with a grater, then combine it with other ingredients.

Kohlrabi can also be chopped and added to soups or stews, or boiled, combined, and mashed with potatoes or other root vegetables. Adding kohlrabi to a mash lightens it up and provides a hint of spice to the tuber dish.

Roasting transforms kohlrabi into a remarkably sweet side dish. Just peel the bulbs, cut them into wedges or chunks, toss them with olive oil and salt, and then roast them in a hot oven until browned and tender like in this roasted kohlrabi dish.