Red cabbage is a type of cabbage that resembles its green counterpart, with the main difference coming from its brilliant reddish-purple or violet leaves. Its flavor is fairly similar to green cabbage, with some nuanced differences, and it can be enjoyed in the same ways, either raw or cooked.
What Is Red Cabbage?
Red cabbage is a member of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) with a tight round head and waxy leaves that are purple or violet in color. Specifically, it is a cultivar of the species Brassicaceae oleracea, along with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale. It is cultivated throughout Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa, and it is available year-round.
Red cabbage can be enjoyed raw in salads and slaws, and cooked by sautéing, simmering or braising. It is also often pickled to make sauerkraut. Blaukraut, or "blue cabbage," is a popular dish throughout Germany that is made by simmering red cabbage along with ingredients such as apples, vinegar, garlic, sugar, caraway seeds, and other spices, and served as a side dish with pork and sausage.
The red color comes from a type of plant pigment known as anthocyanins, which are the same compound that cause leaves to turn red in the fall.
How to Use Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is most commonly enjoyed raw, especially in salads and slaws, although it is frequently cooked as well. Typical cooking methods include sautéing, stir-frying, simmering and braising. It is particularly taste when roasted, which helps to bring out some of the sweetness of the cabbage due to the caramelization of the carbohydrates.
Red cabbage pairs well with sweet and sour flavors, such as apples and citrus, and it is particularly well-matched with pork dishes of all kinds. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and juniper berries are also complementary.
One factor to consider when cooking red cabbage is that it can change color when cooked, depending on the type of liquid it is cooked in. An acidic liquid will help it to maintain its red color, whereas cooking it in a neutral liquid such as plain water can cause it to turn a dark purple or bluish color. For that reason, red cabbage is often paired with apples, although lemon juice, vinegar or wine would also work. When cooking red cabbage in plain water and it turns blue, adding an acidic ingredient can often bring back its original color.
Note, too, that the red color will definitely bleed into other foods, so that might be something to consider when deciding how to prepare it.
To prep red cabbage for a salad or slaw, use a sharp knife to slice it in half through the stem, and then cut out the core from each side. Then simply chop it or shred it to any thickness.
What Does It Taste Like?
Red cabbage has a bolder, more peppery, and almost floral flavor as compared with regular green cabbage, which is milder and more vegetal. Cooking it tends to mellow the flavors, and it can also bring out sweet notes as well. When served raw, it has a crunchy, waxy texture.
A 100-gram serving of raw red cabbage is about 90 percent water, and provides 31 calories, 1 gram of protein, 7 grams of carbs and 2 grams of dietary fiber. It is also a source of vitamin C and vitamin K.
Red Cabbage Recipes
Red cabbage can be used in many ways, whether it is as a side dish or part of a salad, or an accompaniment with pork or chicken. Here is a sampling of red cabbage recipes that feature different ways of preparing it, including raw, simmered, and pickled.
Where to Buy Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is widely available in supermarket produce sections. Look for heads that are tight, heavy for their size, and whose outer leaves show no signs of wilting or browning.
Before cutting, a whole head of red cabbage can be stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, unwrapped, for 2 weeks to two months. Once cut, wrap it tightly and store it in the crisper drawer and use it within 2 to 3 days. Do not wash red cabbage until just before use, as wetness can accelerate spoilage.