How to Cut Cabbage

By Ann Fulton

Break down a big head of cabbage in minutes for fresh shreds and wedges that add texture, color, and nutrition to salads, slaws, sauerkraut, stir fries, and more. 
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Break down a big head of cabbage in minutes for fresh shreds and wedges that add texture, color, and nutrition to salads, slaws, sauerkraut, stir fries, and more. 

 

What’s the secret to the best salad, slaws, sauerkraut, and other cabbage-centric recipes?

While a bag of pre-shredded cabbage is a convenience I sometimes reach for (no guilt there), a whole head of cabbage offers a longer-lasting, more economical alternative.

In other words, there’s good reason to keep a head of this hearty, cruciferous vegetable in your crisper drawer at all times.

When chosen and cut the right way, a head of cabbage will yield shreds and wedges with superior texture and freshness as compared to pre-shredded varieties. As a result, salads and slaws made with cabbage you cut yourself will also hold up better as leftovers.

The following simple steps and tips will get you on your way. But first, a few FAQs and helpful details about varieties, buying, and storage.

FAQs:

How many cups of shredded cabbage in a head?

When shredded, 1 medium raw head (more on size follows) yields about 8 to 9 cups. As such, 1/8 of a head of cabbage is likely more than enough for 1 cup of shredded cabbage. When cabbage is cooked, the quantity reduces by about half.

How much does a small, medium, or large cabbage weigh?

With regard to red and green cabbage, a small head weighs about 1½ pounds. A medium heads is considered to be approximately 2 pounds. Though they can grow much bigger, for the sake of recipes, a large head is usually considered to weigh about 2½ pounds. It’s always best to abide by weights provided in a recipe, but short of that information, this offers a good guideline. 

How do I substitute freshly sliced cabbage for a bag of pre-shredded cabbage or slaw mix?

The typical grocery store bag of shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix weighs between 14 and 16 ounces, which translates to about 6 to 7 cups of shredded cabbage. (Do look atthe label, as some brands weigh in between 8 and 12 ounces.) Note: I find that the precut shreds tend to soften and compress somewhat, causing them to measure in just under what a similar weight of freshly shredded cabbage weighs. 

What’s the difference between shredded cabbage and coleslaw mix?

A bag of pre-shredded cabbage is just cut cabbage–a single ingredient. A package of coleslaw mix usually adds shredded carrot to the mix. Oftentimes, it includes red cabbage as well as green cabbage.

To make your own coleslaw mix, use mostly green cabbage and then add a cup or so of shredded carrot and red cabbage. You may really use any proportions you like, but these amounts will provide appealing color. For increased variety, you may toss in thinly sliced radishes, shredded broccoli stems, and/or slivered kale. 

What are the most common varieties of cabbage?

There are many varieties within the cabbage family, but following are the types you will most often find in grocery stores throughout the United States. They can typically be used interchangeably in recipes calling for sliced or shredded cabbage.

  • Of all the cabbage varieties, green cabbage is most commonly available at the grocery store. Fun fact: Green cabbage is sometimes known as cannonball cabbage because of the way its leaves, which range in color from pale green to white, wind tightly over one another and form a dense, compact ball.  
  • Red cabbage will add beautiful color to salads and slaws and often appears more purple than red. It has white veins inside which add to its striking appearance. The shape and flavor of red cabbage are similar to that of green cabbage, and the two can often be used interchangeably. When cooked, however, the vibrant color will fade, often turning a blueish shade, and may discolor liquids in soup, etc. 
  • Napa cabbage is a type of Chinese cabbage that is widely used in East Asian cuisine. Classically used in stir fries and as a filling for dumplings, the flavor of Napa cabbage is a bit sweeter than green and red cabbage, and the leaves are more tender. These qualities make Napa cabbage a good choice for salads and slaws or if you’re seeking something more mild than the other varieties mentioned here. 
  • Savoy cabbage is named after the Savoy Region in France and has crinkly, light-emerald green leaves that are tender yet crunchy. Its round shape resembles green cabbage, but the leaves are more loosely packed. Savoy’s flavor is milder than regular green cabbage, but the two can be used interchangeably in recipes.

What’s the best way to choose a cabbage at the grocery store?

Look for a cabbage that feels heavy for its size with outer leaves that aren’t too loose, wilted, or damaged. With the exception of Napa and Savoy cabbage, the leaves should be tight. 

The stem will also give you an idea as to how recently the cabbage was cut. If it is dark brown and shriveled, the cabbage was likely not harvested recently. That said, when stored properly, cabbage has a reasonably long shelf life.

How long can I store cabbage?

I’ve read that a head of cabbage keeps for two weeks, but generations of cabbage lovers will tell you that this cold-hearty vegetable will last far longer. When stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, I’ve kept whole heads of cabbage for well over a month.

When cut, the cabbage tends to dry out more quickly. That said, if the cut edges look slightly dry or discolored but the remaining cabbage looks and smells fine, simply slice away the dried edge and discard, and then enjoy the remaining cabbage.

What’s the best knife to use for shredding cabbage?

A sharp chef’s knife works well. Its longer blade will make it easier to safely cut through a large head, and a sharp blade is especially helpful with firmer green and red varieties. 

Besides a knife, how else can I shred cabbage?

You could use a mandolin or handheld shredder or the slicing disk of a food processor. I’ve included those details in the recipe card. 

What are the nutritional benefits of cabbage?

Cabbage is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and folate. It also contains lesser amounts of vitamin B-6, calcium, potassium, and thiamin as well as a variety of antioxidants and flavonoids. 

Red cabbage tends to contain slightly more of these compounds than green cabbage.

Is cabbage hard to digest? 

The crunchy vegetable is loaded with gut-friendly insoluble fiber, but like kale, broccoli, and cabbage the cruciferous veggie contains raffinose, a naturally occurring sugar that remains undigested until bacteria in your GI tract ferment it. Because of this, some people may notice gas or bloating. If this bothers you, eating smaller portions of raw cabbage and/or eating cooked cabbage may provide relief. 

Did you know? The sulfurous odor that is sometimes associated with cabbage develops only when the cruciferous vegetable is overcooked–and the longer it is cooked, the stronger the odor will become.

 

The best way to cut cabbage: 

  1. First remove any wilted or discolored outer leaves, and then rinse the cabbage under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Place the cabbage on a cutting board, stem side down. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut the head in half lengthwise from the top through the center of the core.
  3. Place the cabbage halves cut-side down, and slice in half again, into quarters. 
Break down a big head of cabbage in minutes for fresh shreds and wedges that add texture, color, and nutrition to salads, slaws, sauerkraut, stir fries, and more. 

4. Flip the quarters up, and make a diagonal cut to remove the core, discarding the core. (It’s the solid part where the stem meets the leaves.⬆) If you’d like to keep the cabbage in halves: Remove the core by making a V-shaped cut. For wedges: Depending on desired use, you may keep the quarters as is or slice in half again for thinner wedges.

Break down a big head of cabbage in minutes for fresh shreds and wedges that add texture, color, and nutrition to salads, slaws, sauerkraut, stir fries, and more. 

5. To shred the cabbage: For short strips, thinly slice along the short side of the cabbage, as shown above. For longer shreds, slice along the length of the quarters, as shown below. Helpful tip: For finer hand-cut shreds, I find it easiest to slice along the long edge. You can create resistance by pressing your knife into the slant of the wedge, which allows for better control when aiming for fine shreds. 

Break down a big head of cabbage in minutes for fresh shreds and wedges that add texture, color, and nutrition to salads, slaws, sauerkraut, stir fries, and more. 

I find cutting by hand to be efficient and effective, although I have included details on using a mandolin and food processor in the recipe card, below.

Break down a big head of cabbage in minutes for fresh shreds and wedges that add texture, color, and nutrition to salads, slaws, sauerkraut, stir fries, and more. 

So now that you’ve created crisp, colorful shreds and wedges, what should you do with them? Cabbage can be eaten raw, steamed, roasted, sautéed, stuffed–or even grilled. Following is a list of reader and family favorite ways to make use of this versatile vegetable.

Favorite cabbage recipes:

How to Cut Cabbage
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Yield: ½ a medium (2 pound) cabbage = approximately 8 cups shredded
Breaking down a whole head of cabbage is easy to do with this simple method. The result is fresh, crisp wedges and shreds that add crunch and nutrition to so many recipes–and the shreds will be fresher and cheaper than a bag of pre-shredded slaw.
Ingredients

1 head cabbage

Instructions
  1. First remove any wilted or discolored outer leaves, and then rinse the cabbage under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Place the cabbage on a cutting board, stem side down. With a sharp chef’s knife, cut the head in half lengthwise from the top through the center of the core.
  3. Place the cabbage halves cut-side down, and slice in half again, into quarters.
  4. Flip the quarters up, and make a diagonal cut to remove the core, discarding the core. (It’s the solid part where the stem meets the leaves.) If you’d like to keep the cabbage in halves: Remove the core by making a V-shaped cut. For wedges: Depending on desired use, you may keep the quarters as is or slice in half again for thinner wedges.
  5. To shred the cabbage: For short strips, thinly slice along the short side of the cabbage. (For a visual reference, see photos in the post, above.) For longer shreds, slice along the length of the quarters. Helpful tip: For finer hand-cut shreds, I find it easiest to slice along the long edge. You can create resistance by pressing your knife into the slant of the wedge, which allows for better control when aiming for fine shreds.
  6. If you’d like to use a mandolin: Set the mandolin to slice using your desired thickness, and then run the quartered cabbage back and forth over the blade. Note that the julienne setting will create tiny pieces rather than nice shreds. Also, to protect fingers from the razor sharp blade, it’s best to wear a protective glove or use a guard.
  7. To use a food processor: Using the slicing disk (the shredding disk tends to create small, rice-like bits instead of shreds), add the quarters to the feed chute, and process. You will likely have to trim the cabbage to fit in the chute. After trimming, place the flat end down.
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