There’s really nothing humble about a head of cabbage: It can play just about any part, like the Sarah Paulson of the vegetable kingdom. It thrives in every possible environment — cooked hot and fast in a ripping-hot oven, braised low and slow until silky, charred assertively on a grill, massaged with dressing or fermented until funky.
A head of cabbage seems to last forever in the fridge, so it will wait patiently for a night when you crave a quick pasta, a crunchy slaw or a sheet-pan chicken dinner. Here are a few recipes that prove cabbage can shine as the leading lady and the supporting role.
Half a pound of cabbage, bound with eggs, flour and baking soda, forms the base of these deeply savory okonomiyaki from Kay Chun. Pork belly, scallions, ginger and bonito stock do a lot of the heavy lifting on flavor, but the toppings really bring it all together: tangy okonomi sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes and nori, applied in as artful or chaotic a manner as you like.
Leave it to Ali Slagle, weeknight dinner virtuoso, to turn sausage, beans and cabbage into an elegant 30-minute meal. A 450-degree oven chars thick wedges of cabbage, while rich kielbasa cooks on top and enriches the vegetables. Canned white beans in a simple mustardy dressing add a much-appreciated creaminess.
What’s better than caramelized cabbage? Probably caramelized cabbage that’s soaked up plenty of chicken fat. All that rich schmaltziness is broken up with a splash of sherry vinegar, making this recipe from Eric Kim beautifully balanced and a joy to eat.
Ali Slagle thinks this might be your new favorite way to cook cabbage: charred, with smoky edges, and a bit of soy sauce. It plays very nice with cornstarch-tossed crispy tofu, and the whole dish is finished with cilantro and lime.
Recipe: Crispy Tofu and Cabbage Stir-Fry
Raw cabbage is a beautiful thing, but so is tender cabbage that’s been cooked down. After 15 minutes of sautéing on medium-low heat with leeks and garlic, cabbage softens until it’s almost jammy. And, because Hetty McKinnon is brilliant, she tosses it all into pasta with pecorino and toasted walnuts.
Charring green and purple cabbages creates a smoky, softened version of a slaw. Sam Sifton’s recipe is dressed with crema, chipotle en adobo, cilantro and lime juice — one commenter calls it “the Rolls-Royce of slaws.”
Recipe: Hot Slaw, Mexican-Style
A tender cabbage roll is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself when you have a leisurely afternoon to cook. Sue Li fills hers with ground pork and white rice flavored with ginger, soy sauce and scallions, then serves them with a ladle of hot chicken broth and a drizzle of nutty sesame oil.
Another argument in favor of long-cooked cabbage: this recipe from “Cooking From an Italian Garden,” by Paola Scaravelli and Jon Cohen, adapted by Martha Rose Shulman. Cooking shredded cabbage with lots of aromatics, white wine and a Parmesan rind imparts a deep savoriness, and the whole affair is served on garlic-rubbed toasts.
The genius of this five-star pasta recipe from Aaron Hutcherson is a whole head of sliced savoy cabbage cooked in sweet Italian sausage fat. A rich, thyme-infused sauce with goat cheese and heavy cream doesn’t hurt, either.
This Sue Li recipe also calls for cooking cabbage in leftover fat, in this case from sliced sirloin steak, which does amazing things to the cruciferous vegetable. When the beef and the cabbage come together, flavored intensely with crushed black peppercorns, it’s one of the best toppings a bowl of rice has ever seen.
Cabbage does a fantastic job standing up to creamy, punchy dressings, and this vegan recipe from Ali Slagle is the proof. The cabbage is massaged with a paste of chopped capers, lemon and scallions, then tossed in a tahini and Dijon mustard dressing.
Recipe: Lemon-Tahini Slaw