This roasted cabbage recipe is effortless. You'll spend about five minutes slicing, then the oven does the rest of the work for you. As the cabbage roasts, it softens and turns sweet and its edges begin to brown and caramelize just a bit, resulting in a delicious (but simple) side dish.
What is it?
Cabbage is a member of the Brassica family and is botanically related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mustard, and mustard greens. Roasting cabbage enhances its sweet notes and softens its tough leaves.
Roasted cabbage is easy to make, and makes a nice side dish - especially for a weeknight meal because it takes so little effort to make. Further, cabbage tends to be one of the most consistently affordable vegetables at the supermarket, meaning that it's an excellent choice for home cooks on a budget who want to feed themselves (and the people they love) wholesome, but affordable foods.
What's in it?
To roast cabbage, you'll need three ingredients: cabbage, a cooking fat, and a seasoning. It's a simple recipe, and because it is so minimalistic, you need to pay close attention to the quality of your ingredients.
- Cabbage can use red cabbage or green cabbage as it suits you. In addition, crinkly-leaved Savoy cabbage is a good option, too, and tends to cook a bit quicker.
- Extra virgin olive oil works well with cabbage, as its lighter aromatic notes tend to complement the earthy sweetness of the vegetable. You can use other cooking fats if you prefer, including butter or ghee, and duck or chicken fat.
- Salt gives the dish its flavor and helps to bring balance to the sweetness that develops when you roast cabbage and other vegetables. It also helps to make cabbage more tender, by breaking down the cell walls of the vegetable just a bit.
Tips for Roasting Cabbage
Roasting cabbage is an easy way of cooking it. Aside from slicing up a few cabbage wedges or steaks, making the recipe is nearly effortless. You just layer the cabbage slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and cook until tender and a bit caramelized. But, there are a few things to keep in mind as you make the recipe.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. You want a very hot oven for roasting cabbage. If the oven is set too low, or the cabbage goes into a cold oven, it will steam more than roast and may not brown as efficiently.
- Keep the core. When making other cabbage recipes, such as sauerkraut or cole slaw, you typically remove the tough core; however, keeping the core intact will help keep the cabbage from falling apart when you rotate it in the oven or serve it at dinnertime.
- Brush the cabbage wedges with olive oil rather than drizzling. Brushing ensures even distribution of olive oil, promoting more even cooking and better browning.
- Allow plenty of space. If you place the sliced cabbage too close together, they may steam rather than roast. An inch to two inches of space between each wedge will allow better circulation of heat and air.
- Be careful when rotating. Since layers of individual leaves make up a head of cabbage, and roasting makes them tender, they tend to fall apart easily when moved. Be careful when rotating the vegetables (a pancake turner works well) so that the wedges or steaks remain intact.
How do you cut a head of cabbage for roasting?
There are four ways to cut a head of cabbage for roasting. While the principle of cooking remains the same, each method of cutting can yield slightly different results.
Wedges work well because cabbage is spherical, and wedges ensure that each portion is roughly uniform. To cut a head of cabbage into wedges, first, slice it in half through the core. Then slice each cabbage half at angles, through the core, into three wedges. Slice the remaining half into three wedges as well. One medium cabbage head should yield six even wedges.
Steaks work well, too, because they're uniformly thick. Cut the bottom inch to two inches of the cabbage off so that you have a flat working surface. Next, place the cabbage cut-side down onto your cutting board, and then slice it at 1- to 1 ½-inch intervals to form evenly thick steaks.
Slicing cabbage into thinner shreds rather than wedges or steaks works fine. Unlike wedges or steaks, you won't make individual portions; however, cabbage slices tend to roast faster, reducing your cook time. You'll first slice the cabbage in half and then cut out the core. Next, slice the cabbage into shreds about ¼- to ½ inch thick.
Use red cabbage instead of white cabbage. It works just as well with no other changes to the recipe.
Try Savoy cabbage instead of white cabbage. Savoy cabbage has tender, crinkly leaves and it needs less time to cook, so keep an eye on the time, temperature, and doneness.
Add bacon. The salty, smoky flavor of bacon is a delicious match for the earthy, sweet notes of roasted cabbage. Crisp the bacon first and set it aside, and then skip the olive oil and coat the cabbage wedges in the leftover bacon fat before roasting. Crumble the bacon over the roasted cabbage wedges just before serving.
Add chopped walnuts and shallots. Toss walnuts and shallots onto the sheet pan along with the cabbage, and roast them all together for a nice side dish.
Add caraway seeds at the same time you season the cabbage with salt. Caraway is a natural match for cabbage.
Try crushed red pepper flakes instead of caraway seeds. They give roasted cabbage a nice fiery touch that works especially well when combined with a dusting of ground coriander.
Try sesame oil instead of olive oil and then dress the cabbage with a little garlic, ginger, and green onions instead of caraway seeds.
Swap the fat. Extra virgin olive oil is excellent for roasting vegetables. Its high antioxidant content helps the oil to stand up to high-heat applications; however, you can swap olive oil for another cooking fat if you like. Bacon fat works well. Melted clarified butter or ghee also work nicely, but duck or goose fat pair beautifully with cabbage, too.
Store any leftover roasted cabbage in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and use it within about 3 days.
Roasting cabbage naturally makes it tender, as the cabbage wedges break down and soften in the heat of the oven. Salting cabbage also softens the vegetable.
Roasting cabbage with a bit of olive oil, butter, or duck fat. Fat helps to make many of the nutrients in cabbage, such as vitamin K and various antioxidants, easier to absorb. You can also steam cabbage, and serve it with a little butter, or ferment it to make sauerkraut which increases its B vitamin content.
Little bits of debris, dirt, and insects can find their way into the cabbage leaves and so it's wise to rinse your cabbage with a little water before roasting it. Remove and discard the outer leaves, and then cut the cabbage into wedges or steaks. Rinse it in a colander in the sink, and then pat it dry or set the wedges on a tea towel to drain and dry on the counter.