Kohlrabi is a delicately flavored member of the cabbage family. This vegetable gets its name from the German words kohl, which means cabbage, and rabi, for turnip. Hence its nickname “cabbage turnip.”
The kohlrabi is a swollen stem (not a root) from which large leaves spring. The origin of this tasty, crisp vegetable is currently unknown, however, plant historians estimate that it goes back to at least the Roman Empire. Commonly compared to the flavor of broccoli stem, kohlrabi is a vegetable that is relatively easy to grow and has become more popular at farmers’ markets in recent years.
Kohlrabi is low in calories, and is a rich source of vitamin C. Kohlrabi also provides fiber, vitamin B6, and a substantial amount of potassium. In addition, this crisp, sweet-tasting vegetable supplies a good amount of vitamin E, which is unusual considering that vitamin E is mainly found in high-fat foods.
For a full listing of nutrients, see Kohlrabi in the National Nutrient Database.
Types of kohlrabi
There are both green and purple varieties of kohlrabi. Purple kohlrabi tends to have a slightly spicier flavor. Both the bulb and the leaves of the kohlrabi are edible. The bulbs are sweeter and crisper than turnips, to which they have been compared. The leaves have a kale-collard taste.
How to choose the best kohlrabi
Whether buying green or purple kohlrabi, look for crisp bulbs, without any bruises or blemishes. If the leaves are intact they should be green and crisp and not wilted. While in general it is preferable to select small or medium-sized kohlrabi—less than 3 inches in diameter—there is a variety of kohlrabi that grows to be as much as 8 inches in diameter and is still very sweet and tender.
How to prepare kohlrabi
The tough skin of kohlrabi should be peeled before slicing, shredding, or cutting it into chunks. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked.
7 kohlrabi recipe ideas
- Make coleslaw with kohlrabi instead of cabbage.
- Serve raw kohlrabi as part of a platter of crudités.
- Add julienne strips of cooked kohlrabi to steamed green beans and toss to combine.
- Make a kohlrabi gratin with sliced ham or potatoes.
- Cook kohlrabi with garlic and an apple and mash as you would mashed potatoes.
- Add thin slices of raw kohlrabi to sandwiches.
- Instead of potatoes, use kohlrabi to make latkes or fritters.