What Is Kohlrabi?
Kohlrabi may look like a root vegetable, but it is actually related to cabbage, with a cabbage-like smell and the taste of broccoli stems. This makes it a great alternative to cabbage or turnips.
Kohlrabi, which can be green or purple, is a bulbous vegetable surrounded by two layers of stiff leaves attached in a rosette, like a cabbage. It has long leafy greens that shoot out from the top. All parts of the kohlrabi can be eaten, both raw and cooked. It is delicious steamed, sautéed, roasted, stuffed, creamed, in soup or stew, and eaten raw.
Smaller kohlrabi tends to taste sweeter; the vegetable develops a sharper, more radish-like flavor as it matures. Look for fresh leaves, which indicate recent harvest, and a firm bulb.
To prepare kohlrabi, you need:
- A vegetable peeler
- A cutting board
- A sharp knife
- A baking sheet, oven-safe dish, or deep pot, depending on your cooking plan
How to Prepare and Store Fresh Kohlrabi
Cut off the greens right away; you can store them in the refrigerator in a sealed container for a few days but the sooner you use them, the better. Tender raw ones add great flavor to salads or you can sauté or steam them as you would other greens.
The bulbs will last for a few weeks stored loosely in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Before use, remove the tough woody skin with a vegetable peeler or knife. Both the green and purple varieties resemble a turnip on the inside, and kohlrabi actually means “turnip cabbage” in German.
How to Cut Kohlrabi
Cut the bulb in half; it should be solid all the way through, with no spongy or brown spots. Cut out any small bad areas, leaving only the firm bulb intact.
Thinly sliced kohlrabi cooks faster, and matchstick, half-moon or small dice pieces are best for sautéeing or stir-frying. You can cut it into larger cubes for use in a stew or for roasting, or even hollow out the interior to be stuffed with a meat or vegetable filling.
The raw bulb also adds a crunchy texture and interesting flavor to salads and slaws. You can grate it, slice it, julienne, or dice it depending on how you want to use it, but it's best to keep the pieces thin and small when you serve it raw.
How to Cook Kohlrabi
This versatile vegetable can be roasted, steamed, stir-fried, or puréed in a soup. For a simple side dish, sauté the sliced kohlrabi in a bit of butter in a skillet. Once it begins to show some caramelization, season it with salt, nutmeg, and a little sugar for increased sweetness. Continue cooking until slightly al dente, with a bit of crispness, and serve it immediately.
Recipes With Kohlrabi
In Germany, where kohlrabi is a popular vegetable and readily available, you will often find kohlrabi cooked in cream. This preparation involves boiling slices or chunks of the kohlrabi bulb in broth or salted water until tender, then serving it with a cream sauce made with the cooking liquid.
Along with Germans, Hungarians adore kohlrabi. A popular dish in that country is Hungarian creamy kohlrabi soup, in which the vegetable is puréed until smooth. Another Hungarian dish is stuffed kohlrabi—ground or leftover pork and beef are combined with egg and sour cream and stuffed into a hollowed-out kohlrabi.
And don't be afraid to try it raw. Slice the kohlrabi bulb thinly and add it to your favorite salad, perhaps along with the tender greens, or put some on your next vegetable platter and serve it with a tasty dip.