17 Crispy, Crunchy Napa Cabbage Recipes

Take a peek at this crisp, green cabbage and learn what it can do for you.

January 12, 2021
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Napa cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, is a part of the vast brassica family (along with cauliflower and Brussels sprouts). It's different from standard green cabbage in that it has thick white ribs and crinkly, soft yellow or pale green leaves with a feathery texture. But it's not just their looks that are different: As Russ Parsons notes in How to Pick a Peach: "Asian cabbages (Brassica rapa) actually come from a different species than European cabbages (Brassica oleracea). They are more closely related to bok choy, broccoli rabe, and, most oddly, turnips." 

You can find napa cabbage at most grocery stores with well-stocked produce sections, but if not, an Asian market will definitely carry it. Pick a heavy head with bright white ribs and crisp leaves that don't look limp or tired. To keep it fresh, wrap the cabbage in plastic wrap and store in the vegetable crisper. Feel free to peruse our 17 favorite napa cabbage recipes for inspiration on how to use it. Napa cabbage has a more delicate flavor and texture than Western cabbage, but substitutes easily, making it perfect for eating raw in salad and slaw (but still tough enough to stand up well to all kinds of cooking methods).

1. Helen Getz’s Napa Cabbage with Hot Bacon Dressing

Hot bacon dressing is a friend to all manners of greens, whether dark and leafy or sturdier, like sautéed cabbage. Combine bacon, bacon fat, and vinegar for smoky, tangy, thoroughly umami-packed flavors that will have everyone finishing their vegetables with gusto. 

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2. Tofu, Napa Cabbage & Delicata Squash Stew

This comforting vegetable stew comes together in an hour or less, with savory pan-fried tofu, delicata squash, and tender napa cabbage providing the heft and vegetarian oyster sauce, Xiaoching cooking wine, enoki mushrooms, and Thai chili lending bold Asian flavors. 

3. My Mom's Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

This recipe for Taiwanese noodle soup, or niu ro tang mien, is full of tender, flavorful beef. Serve the dish with ladles of the sauce thinned with some of the pasta water, creating a broth that doesn't overpower in flavor or texture. 

tahini sumac slaw

4. Tahini Sumac Slaw

Tangy, lemony sumac and zippy fresh lemon juice combine boost tahini's nutty, savory flavor and provide a formidable dressing for this crisp cabbage salad. Toss with pomegranate seeds just before serving for sweet, juicy burst of fruitiness and striking color contrast.  

minestrone soup

5. Minestrone Soup

Napa cabbage adds flavor and a hearty texture to an assortment of vegetables (whatever you have in the fridge work great), beans and a scrap of Parmesan rind in this brothy minestrone soup. Give your bowl a generous shower of freshly grated cheese before serving. 

shrimp and soba salad

6. Kimchi, Shrimp, & Soba Salad

Kimchi brine makes a superb brine for shrimp—a spicy, acidic addition to nutty, toasty soba noodles. Toss with crisp, tender shredded napa cabbage for texture, and serve for a light lunch or dinner. 

chinese chicken salad

7. Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese chicken salad combines shredded napa cabbage with any other two or three vegetables you have in the refrigerator—carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers—and fresh herbs like basil and cilantro. Toss with shredded chicken and a savory soy dressing for a rib-sticking salad that's a classic for good reason.

8. Napa Cabbage Wedge Salad with Apples & Buttermilk Dressing

Freshen up your classic wedge formula of iceberg, bacon, and blue cheese with Napa cabbage, crisp apples, red onion, and a robust, creamy buttermilk Parmesan dressing. It's as colorful on the plate as it is on the palate. 

mom's kimchi recipe

9. Mom's Kimchi

Somebody's mom's kimchi recipe (or any recipe passed down through the family) is exactly what you want when attempting a staple ingredient like kimchi. Rely on napa cabbage's tender texture to ferment completely, then rely on napa cabbage kimchi for all your spicy, zingy culinary needs. Eating it straight out of the jar is also widely accepted.  

chinese dumplings

10. Tina's Delicious Chinese Dumplings

Homemade dumplings are guaranteed to be worth the extra labor, with a guaranteed all-you-can-eat dumpling feast at the end. Try them steamed, fried, or boiled in your favorite soup. 

grilled steak sandwich with blue cheese coleslaw

11. Grilled Steak Sandwich with Blue Cheese Coleslaw

Roast beef and blue cheese meets pulled pork and coleslaw in this delicious, hearty sandwich. If your picnic needs a signature sammie, consider this meaty creation and assemble on-site for best results. 

spicy sesame pork noodle soup

12. Spicy Sesame Pork Soup with Noodles

A long, slow simmer is the key to this rich, flavorful pork broth that's chock full of tender napa cabbage and infused with tamarind for its sweet, tangy notes. Garnish with sliced scallions and Japanese furikake, Korean gochujang, or any other toppings you like for an unforgettable bowl. 

chorizo tacos with slaw

13. Chorizo Tacos with Slaw & Avocado

This recipe couldn't be simpler: fry sliced chorizo sausage and transfer to tortillas, top with a simple napa cabbage slaw and sliced avocado, and drizzle with an easy yogurt-based sauce. The result is a spicy, crisp chorizo taco in 30 minutes or less. 

soup dumplings

14. Shrimp Soup Dumplings

How does the savory pork and shrimp soup get into the soup dumpling? Follow this recipe—it's simpler than it looks—and discover the magic of these liquid gold-filled pouches steamed on napa cabbage leaves for extra flavor. 

vegan chicken pho

15. Andrea Nguyen's Vegan "Chicken" Phở

Skip the chicken in Andrea Nguyen's vegan phở ga in favor of everything else that makes a warming, satisfying phở broth: herbs, spices, aromatics, and seasonings (and napa cabbage) galore. Teeming with rice noodles and seared marinated tofu, this is one bowl of goodness you'll make over and over. 

ginger congee with pork

16. Gingery Congee with Pork & Crispy Shallots

Fans of hot, soothing rice congee will enjoy this variation, with tender napa cabbage stirred in to wilt shortly before serving. Crunchy fried shallots and tender stir-fried pork make this a memorable meal. 

stir-fried rice with leftovers

17. Stir-Fried Rice with Leftovers

Napa cabbage is more than happy in any fried rice recipe, and this stir-fried rice, fortified by nearly any leftovers in your fridge, is certainly no exception. It cooks down quickly and thoroughly, so add as much as you like. 

What's your favorite way to use napa cabbage? Let us know in the comments. 

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KizzyKarms2@! August 10, 2019
With one head, I will throw some in a couple of stir-frys, the hard rib and white areas will go into a hamburger soup, the fluffiest and frilliest leaves will go into a romaine and garden vegetable salad, and if there is anything left, I will lightly fry it up with some julienned carrots, red cabbage, leek, and some light herbs and spices.
Vee M. April 26, 2019
I use it as a bread substitute for sandwiches.
Kelli A. February 1, 2019
How do you know when to throw it away?
Beth January 9, 2019
I use the outer leaves of napa as shells for stir fry - kind of in a lettuce wrap adaptation.

Also - shred the inner leaves and add my patented garlic infused olive juice... So delicious!
Barbara R. September 21, 2017
My favorite is chopped for salad with avocado, dill, a little garlic and add a little olive oil, season salt and lemon juice to toss. It's the most refreshing salad on a hot summer day.
b0op January 20, 2015
You can do Korean BBQ and use Nappa cabbage instead of lettuce.
There is another Korean dish called bossam that uses nappa cabbage
strategydiva January 18, 2015
I grew these in my high-altitude garden (9000') in Colorado last summer and they thrived. My favorite thing to do was brush them with olive oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill them whole. Delish.
Lindsay-Jean H. January 19, 2015
That sounds fantastic.
Hannah N. January 18, 2015
Lindsay-Jeaaan. You are a fount of information.
Lindsay-Jean H. January 19, 2015
Thanks lady. :)
Tom P. January 18, 2015
Chopped sautéed in butter with salt & black pepper.
jopan January 17, 2015
I braise my Napa cabbage with tofu and shiitake mushrooms (sometimes with dried shrimp for extra flavor, sometimes adding corn starch too)