Cabbage is the stalwart of the kitchen. Cheap, easy to find, and incredibly versatile, it’s associated with slow-simmered comfort foods and coleslaw. But the same delightful raw crunch that’s so appealing in coleslaw makes cabbage ideal for other salads, too, especially at this time of year when it’s more seasonal and budget-friendly than bagged salad greens. What’s more, there are many wonderful ways to dress and flavor cabbage salads, and those thick leaves mean that these salads can be made and dressed ahead of time without wilting completely (although they will lose a little crunch).
Any type of head cabbage will do for these salads (in fact, you can use them interchangeably). Just avoid loose, leafy varieties like Napa, which are a little more delicate and prone to wilting. I love garden-variety green and red cabbages, and often choose between the two based on color, knowing red is a little stronger flavored. Savoy is another common green head cabbage that has crinkly leaves perfect for soaking up dressing. All are so good in these hearty salads that you won’t be thinking about coleslaw again until next summer.
There are many, many types of cabbage, and at farmers’ markets, you may encounter unusual heritage varieties. They’ll also work wonderfully in any of these salads. Here are a few favorites worth trying, should you see them.
January King: This hardy, crinkly leafed, medium-size cabbage has gorgeous blue-green leaves that are peppered with bright bursts of magenta.
Filderkraut: Reminiscent of an elf’s hat, these large pointed “sweetheart” cabbages are whimsical in appearance.
Kalibos: Also conically shaped, this vibrant red-hued beauty boasts crisp leaves and a tender sweet core, perfect for raw salads.