Do your budget a favor and get the scoop on this versatile vegetable.

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It seems inevitable: Slide open the crisper drawer and there's a forgotten half head of cabbage. You don't want to throw it out, but there's only so much slaw you can make, right?

Put aside the Marzetti's for now and consider the multitude of other cabbage possibilities. Hearty and filling in soups, refreshing and crunchy in a slaw, braised to tender perfection — that humble cabbage in the back of the fridge isn't looking so bad. Use this guide to get up to speed on how to buy, store, cook, and serve cabbage. 

Different varieties of cabbage

The four varieties of cabbage you'll come across in the store are red, green, Savoy, and Napa. They can usually be used interchangeably, but some recipes will call out one type: Savoy for stuffed cabbage leaves, green cabbage for the slaw atop Baja fish tacos. Napa cabbage is the most tender (making it most like a lettuce) and red is a bit tougher and needs a bit more attention (usually by way of a bright, sharp salad dressing or a braising liquid) to really shine. 

Pro tip: If you're cooking red cabbage and don't want the color to fade to a dull blue, add an acid (lemon juice, vinegar, wine) to retain the magenta shade.

Cabbage
Credit: Getty / Richard T. Nowitz

How to buy and store cabbage

A few of cabbage's many perks include its affordability and year-round availability (though November through April is peak season). And for the health minded, it's full of dietary fiber, packed with nutrients and naturally low in calories. 

When shopping for fresh cabbage, select heads that feel firm and heavy for their size. Look for bright, lustrous leaves—no wilting or pale specimens. 

Store your purchase in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. And while it will last up to a month, the cabbage will start to lose freshness once chopped, so aim to use it within a day of prepping. 

When it comes time to tackle the chopping, start with halving the head. If you'll be roasting, keep the core intact. Having a little of it attached to each cabbage wedge ensures the pieces won't fall apart during cooking. Otherwise, remove the stiff core then slice with a mandolin or by hand for recipes that call for shredding.  

Methods for cooking cabbage

When overcooked — a common mistake — cabbage creates a pungent, not-so-pleasant smell. When cooked properly, it can yield impressively delicious dishes. Here's how to achieve the latter.

Roasting

Consider this the foundation of your cabbage repertoire. It's quick, simple, and makes for a hearty side. Get a step-by-step walk-through of the roasting process.  

Soups

Cabbage goes great in a variety of soups, plus it's a surefire way to use up a leftover half of a head from earlier in the week. Use Savoy cabbage in this creamy potato soup or in this version with miniature meatballs with a touch of cream and nutmeg (Hello fall flavors!).

Slaws + salads

Crunchy, bright, peppery, sweet: Cabbage has all the traits we also value in a satisfying salad. Toss it with oranges and almonds in this summery salad, mix it with a miso vinaigrette or pair it with thinly sliced applies in this fall-ready salad side dish. And of course you can't go wrong with the old cabbage stand-by: Try these marinated and tangy slaws.

Braised

This technique involves gently cooking shredded cabbage as it's partially submerged in liquid (typically wine, vinegar, or water) until it evaporates, and the resulting product is oh-so-tender. This bacon and apple version holds up nicely next to a roast pork or slow-cooked beef. 

Casseroles

Cabbage plus casserole preparation equals big time comfort. This one takes the ingredients of cabbage rolls and translates them to a quick casserole, while this one is chock-full of Yukon gold potatoes and plenty of fresh sage. 

Stuffed

In the mood for more of a cooking project? Turn to cabbage rolls, where the boiled leaves are then generously filled with meat, rice, and plenty of seasonings. You can't go wrong with the traditional Polish version (aka golumpki)