The Difference Between Green, Napa, Red, and Savoy Cabbage

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One-Pot Braised Cabbage with Bacon(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

Go to the store with a “head of cabbage” on your list and you’ll see your choices are abundant. Gone are the days when a big orb of green cabbage was your only option. Now there are a whole slew of varieties readily available, all with great potential in the kitchen. So which one to choose? Here are the four most common types of cabbage out there and how to best use each.

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Creamy Cabbage Gratin with Bacon and Mushrooms(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

Green Cabbage

This is likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cabbage. Large and round, with wide pale-green leaves, it’s a classic for good reason. It has a light, peppery flavor when eaten raw, which mellows when cooked. The leaves can be thinly sliced and eaten raw in a slaw or they can be tossed into soups or stir-fries. Green cabbage also holds up well when sliced in thick wedges and roasted or grilled until the edges get smoky and charred.

Great Recipes Using Green Cabbage

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Tangy Cabbage and Jalapeño Slaw(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Red Cabbage

Green cabbage’s counterpart looks quite similar, but has the added benefit of a purple-red hue. Since its structure and flavor are so similar, red cabbage can be used just like green cabbage, although it’s especially good at brightening up a salad with a pop of color. Its vibrant hue does tend to seep out and color the ingredients around it, so keep that in mind.

Great Recipes Using Red Cabbage

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Deep-Dish Cabbage and Farro Casserole(Image credit: Christine Han)

Napa Cabbage

Also called Chinese cabbage, this variety looks quite different from the rest. Its large and oblong instead of soccer ball-like and has frilly pale yellow-green leaves. Its flavor is a little sweeter than green and red cabbage, and the leaves are far more tender, so it’s a great choice if you’re looking for something more mild. It’s a classic addition when filling dumplings or making stir-fries, and it’s also great raw in salads and slaws.

Great Recipes Using Napa Cabbage

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Weeknight Cabbage Rolls(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Savoy Cabbage

Savoy cabbage has the same shape as green and red cabbage, but has the most striking deep-green, crinkly leaves. Its flavor is also quite mild, but earthy too. Its leaves don’t have that same crispness to them that other cabbages do when raw, so we like it best when cooked, either roasted or sautéed.

4 Great Recipes Using Savoy Cabbage

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