Cabbage, red

Why Eat It
Nutrition Chart

Why Eat It

Red cabbage, a member of the large family of cruciferous vegetables, is rich in nutrients. Along with significant amounts of nitrogen compounds known as indoles, and dietary fiber, red cabbage is a rich source of vitamin C (supplying almost twice as much vitamin C as green cabbage).


Similar in flavor to green cabbage, red cabbage has deep ruby red to purple outer leaves, with white veins or streaks on the inside. Its texture may be somewhat tougher than that of green cabbage.


Cabbage grows in a variety of climates and conditions; in fact, it is cultivated commercially in almost every state for local markets, and since it also stores well, there is always a good supply. During the winter, most cabbage comes from California, Florida, and Texas.


Look for solid, heavy heads of cabbage, with no more than three or four loose "wrapper" (outer) leaves. These wrapper leaves should be clean and flexible but not limp, and free of discolored veins or worm damage, which may penetrate the interior of the head. The stem should be closely trimmed and healthy looking, not dry or split. The inner and outer leaves should be tightly attached to the stem.

A head of cabbage should not look puffy. Fall and winter cabbage from storage is usually firmer than the fresh picked types sold in spring and summer. Don't buy halved or quartered heads of cabbage, even if well wrapped: As soon as the leaves are cut or torn, the vegetable begins to lose vitamin C.


Cabbage keeps well--and retains its vitamin C--if kept cold. Place the whole head of cabbage in a perforated plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator crisper. An uncut head of red cabbage will keep for at least two weeks.

Once a head of cabbage is cut, cover the cut surface tightly with plastic wrap and use the remainder within a day or two. Rubbing the cut surface with lemon juice will prevent it from discoloring.


Don't wash cabbage until you are ready to use it. The interior is nearly always clean, but if you want to rinse it, do so after cutting or chopping. Avoid cutting cabbage in advance (it will lose vitamin C). If you must prepare cabbage an hour or more before cooking or serving it, seal it tightly in a plastic bag and refrigerate.

When cutting cabbage into wedges, leave part of the core intact to help hold the leaves together. However, when cabbage is to be cut up into smaller pieces, the first step is to quarter and core it: Cut the cabbage in quarters through the stem. Then cut out a wedge-shape section from each quarter to remove the stem and core.

To slice or shred cabbage, place a quarter wedge on the cutting board so that it's resting on its side. Slice the wedge vertically, gauging your cuts to produce wide ribbons or fine shreds, as desired. Or, grate cabbage by hand on the coarse side of a grater, or shred it in the food processor, using the grating disk.

Use a stainless steel (not carbon steel) knife when cutting cabbage; the vegetable's juices react with carbon steel and will turn the cut edges of red cabbage blue. To further preserve its bright color, red cabbage should also be cooked in a nonreactive vessel, not an aluminum or cast-iron pot.

To remove single leaves for stuffing, cut the base of each leaf with a sharp knife, then carefully peel the leaf from the head to avoid tearing it.

Steaming: This is the best way to conserve nutrients, color, and crisp-tender texture. If cabbage is steamed with no added water--that is, cooked in its own moisture--it will retain 68% of its vitamin C content, compared to 44% when cooked in water to cover. Place quartered, sliced, or shredded cabbage in a vegetable steamer over boiling water, or in a pan with 1/2" of boiling water. Cooking times: for quarters or large wedges, 10 to 15 minutes; for shredded cabbage, five to 10 minutes.

Boiling: The pungent smell for which cabbage is notorious is caused by sulfur compounds released when the vegetable is heated. Cook cabbage quickly, in a large quantity of water, in an uncovered pot (don't use an aluminum pot, which promotes the chemical reaction).

Another advantage to cooking cabbage briefly in an uncovered pot is that it will conserve more of its vitamin C. Adding cabbage to water that's already boiling will also help. Cooking times: for quarters or large wedges, 10 to 15 minutes; for shredded cabbage, two to three minutes.

Braising: Braising red cabbage with acid ingredients helps to preserve its color; a classic dish cooked this way is sweet-and-sour red cabbage. Use lemon juice or wine vinegar (about 1 tablespoon per cup of cooking liquid), or braise the cabbage in red wine or cider. Cook sliced apples and onions with the cabbage, and balance the sourness with brown sugar or honey. Cooking times: 20 to 30 minutes.

Microwaving: Cut a head of cabbage into wedges and place them in a microweavable baking dish with 2 tablespoons water or chicken stock. For shredded cabbage, add 1/4 cup liquid to 2 cups cabbage. Cooking time: for wedges, five to seven minutes; for shredded, five minutes, stirring halfway through.

Stir-frying: Stir-fry sliced or shredded cabbage on its own, or combined with other vegetables such as red bell peppers. Cooking time: one to two minutes.

Nutrition Chart

Red cabbage/1 cup shredded raw

Total fat (g)
Saturated fat (g)
Monounsaturated fat (g)
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
Dietary fiber (g)
Carbohydrate (g)
Cholesterol (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Vitamin C (mg)

Date Published: 04/20/2005
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