Kohlrabi, also known as German turnip or cabbage turnip, is very popular in Northern and Eastern European countries like Germany and Hungary as well as northern Vietnam and eastern India. The funny-looking vegetable is part of the same family as broccoli and cabbage and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes.
What Is Kohlrabi?
Kohlrabi grows as a bulb with leaves shooting up from the sides, giving it an almost alien look. It can be white, green, or purple with little difference in flavor, and has a mild taste that has made it popular in dishes from salads to soups. Peeling and chopping or slicing is the only prep required. Farmers like to plant the bulb since it is easy to grow in tandem with other crops and has a long growing season, making it a popular farmers' market find. Kohlrabi tends to be moderately priced when compared to other farmers' market veggies.
How to Cook With Kohlrabi
The bulb, stems, and leaves of kohlrabi are all edible, but you'll need to peel it first. The thin peel is bitter and unpleasant and is easily removed with a peeler or paring knife. Trim the brown end before using, and separate the leaves from the bulb for best results. Stems and leaves should be cooked as soon as possible since they will wilt quickly.
Kohlrabi is a versatile veggie that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Cube, slice, or dice the bulb and steam, sauté, or roast. Whole bulbs can even be hollowed out and stuffed with a filling before baking. If your bulb still has leaves attached, the greens can be steamed or sautéed as you would fresh kale. To serve kohlrabi raw, thin slices are best. Use a mandoline or sharp knife to cut thin slices or matchsticks before serving.
What Does Kohlrabi Taste Like?
When raw, kohlrabi has a flavor similar to raw cabbage with a lightly spicy kick like a radish or turnip. The amount of spice will depend on the size of the bulb, with smaller bulbs having a milder taste and crisper texture. Kohlrabi is crunchy without being tough, making it popular in salads and slaws. Cooked, it has a subtle flavor and texture similar to broccoli stems. The stems and leaves are also edible, and when cooked, they resemble mild-tasting collard greens or Swiss chard.
Kohlrabi is juicy and crunchy raw and adds a fresh taste to salads and slaws. Its lightly spicy crunch plays well with cabbage, carrots, and greens. Diced kohlrabi is a nice addition to soups and stews, and can be treated like other root vegetables like turnips. Steamed kohlrabi can be served as a side dish with a little melted butter, mashed, or pureed in a soup. Toss in oil and roast it for a simple but tasty side dish.
Where to Buy Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi is available year-round, with peak season running from fall through spring. This odd-looking vegetable is frequently grown by small-scale farmers because it can be planted alongside tubers that have the same water and soil needs (such as beets). You'll find green, white, and purple kohlrabi at farmers' markets or in your local CSA basket, where it's often sold with the leaves still attached. This ensures that the vegetable is extra fresh, plus the leaves are delicious. When buying whole kohlrabi, choose ones with crisp-looking, vibrant leaves.
Kohlrabi also appears in supermarkets, especially health food stores and specialty markets. It's frequently sold with the leaves removed. Look for kohlrabi that feels heavy and is firm without blemishes or dark spots. Smaller bulbs tend to be sweeter, with large bulbs becoming woody and stringy.
Kohlrabi is easy to grow at home and very cold tolerant. Plant in full sun and grow in rich soil during cool weather months.
How to Store Kohlrabi
Remove the stems and leaves if they are still attached and cook as soon as possible (within the first day or two) since they will wilt quickly. Store all parts of the kohlrabi in the crisper, with the leaves wrapped loosely in a plastic bag and the bulbs left uncovered. The bulb will keep for up to a month in the fridge but use it sooner if you are planning to serve the vegetable raw to ensure a crisp texture.
Nutrition and Benefits
Kohlrabi is low in fat and high in fiber, providing 17% of the daily recommended intake in a 1-cup serving. The vegetable is high in calcium and even provides a noticeable amount of potassium (10% per 1-cup serving). Raw or cooked, it's a healthy addition to any meal as a side dish or ingredient.
US Food & Drug Administration. Daily value on the new nutrition and supplement facts labels. Updated May 5, 2020.