Just as there’s more than one way to skin a cat, 50 ways to make a record, or A Million Ways to Die in the West, there’s a whole lot of ways to cook cabbage. It can be pickled, fermented (as in the case of sauerkraut or kimchi), steamed, stewed, sautéed, braised, or even eaten raw like in a coleslaw. This is perhaps why it’s so popular around the world. In 2018 over 70 million metric tons of brassicas (the vegetable family that cabbages are in) were produced around the world! That’s a whole lot of cabbage.
But of course, nobody eats a certain food just because you can cook it in so many ways. Fortunately cabbage is also a nutritious, tasty, and cheap vegetable.
However, nothing is all positive. For me, the main downside of cabbage is its large size. If you’ve ever bought a massive cabbage you know how difficult it can be to use it all before it starts to go bad. The solution? Freeze it! Oh yes, in short, you can certainly freeze cooked cabbage. In fact, you should only freeze cabbage after it’s been cooked and not raw.
Read on to learn all you need to know about freezing cooked cabbage.
Does Cabbage Freeze Well?
Yes, cabbage does freeze very well but only if it’s been cooked before it’s frozen.
If it’s not cooked before it’s frozen then it will become a mushy and soggy mess. This doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it?
Cabbage freezes so poorly when it’s raw because it’s a leafy vegetable. Like most other vegetables, the high water content and fibrous membranes don’t handle freezing well at all, resulting in a squishy cabbage.
However, if cabbage is frozen after it’s been cooked there is nearly no discernable difference in flavor or texture compared to its unfrozen counterpart.
Just as there’s various ways you can cook cabbage, there’s also quite the variety that you can choose from. There may even be a couple of which you might be surprised to learn are a type of cabbage. Why is it important to know about the different types of cabbage? Well, they’re not all equal and some freeze a bit better than others.
Green cabbage is one of the most common types of cabbage that’ll you find at your local supermarket. It’s perhaps best used when it’s cooked. It freezes very well.
Red cabbage is quite similar to green cabbage in both its popularity and ability to freeze. It can easily be frozen after it’s been cooked and then added to many dishes.
Napa cabbage is also known as Chinese cabbage, or celery cabbage. It looks like a cross between Romaine lettuce and Swiss chard. It also freezes very well after it’s been blanched.
Despite it looking too fragile to be able to freeze, you can also certainly freeze bok choy. However, you should probably be the most mindful when preparing bok choy to freeze. It’s recommended that you either cook it or blanch it before freezing it.
Brussels sprouts, along with bok choy, may have been a surprise to see here for some. But when you look at them, they look just like mini cabbages, don’t they? They’re perhaps the best of the cabbage family to freeze. The two best ways to freeze Brussels sprouts are either after they’ve been blanched or roasted.
How to Prepare Cooked Cabbage For Freezing
I’ll go into various ways that you can prepare cooked cabbage for freezing, both by itself or as a part of popular meals or types of cooked cabbage.
However, before you even prepare the cabbage you need to make sure you have a cabbage worth freezing. The best cabbages to freeze are the freshest and have a nice appearance – both tend to go hand-in-hand.
The right cabbage should be crisp. Avoid cabbage that has soft, wilted, or discolored leaves. For the best results, try to get your cabbage from a local farmers’ market. This ensures that the cabbage hasn’t been transported across the country or been sitting in a warehouse for a long period of time before you bought it.
As you’ve probably noticed, I mentioned that almost every type of cabbage should be blanched before freezing. That’s because it’s the best way to lock in the nutrients. Perhaps even more importantly, it helps to maintain the natural color and texture when it’s thawed, which can have a big impact on whether or not it’s a pleasure to eat it.
The first step is to make sure that the cabbage is washed properly and free from any bugs that hitched a ride. To do this, thoroughly wash the head of cabbage. To be extra safe you can also soak the cabbage in salt water for 30 minutes before blanching. After it’s done, rinse it with normal water and then peel off any yellow or discolored leaves.
Next, cut the cabbage into quarters as evenly as possible and avoid removing the core. The core helps to keep the leaves together and attached during the blanching process. Dry the cabbage with paper towels thoroughly and then it’s ready to blanch.
- Boil a large pot of water that is enough for all of the quartered cabbage and prepare a large ice bath.
- Add the cabbage pieces after the water is boiling.
- Boil the cabbage for 90 seconds.
- Remove them with a colander and plunge them into the ice bath. This is an essential part of blanching as it stops further cooking and locks in the nutrients and color.
- After the cabbage has completely cooled, remove it from the ice bath and shake off excess water.
How to Freeze Cooked Cabbage
After your cabbage has been prepared via blanching, it’s ready to be frozen.
Before anything else, it’s important that the cabbage is as dry as possible before it’s frozen. Excess water on the cabbage will lead to freezer burn or extra ice forming which as I said earlier, can harm the cell walls of the cabbage and turn them smooshy, which is what you want to avoid.
After you’ve ensured the cabbage is dry, peel individual leaves off and place them on a baking sheet. Then place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 2 hours. This is a flash freeze and it will prevent them from sticking together when you store them.
After the cabbage is frozen, place the leaves into various freezer-safe bags in the desired amounts. This way you can take out an individual bag to defrost rather than having to go piece by piece from one large bag. Trust me, your future self will thank you.
After you have put them into labeled bags, remove as much air as you can and then seal them tightly. Then, place them in the freezer!
Alternatively, you can shred the leaves before freezing them. This way you can put frozen cabbage directly into the food you’re cooking without defrosting it first.
How to Freeze Meals With Cooked Cabbage
Of course, there are other ways that you can store cabbage too, in a meal or cabbage that’s cooked differently than blanching. Here are just a couple of ways.
This is a great food to cook a whole lot of as it freezes very well and it tastes just as good defrosted as when it’s fresh.
However, storing soup can be a bit annoying and/or messy. It helps if you have rigid airtight containers. Durable freezer-safe bags can also work. However, the risk of freezing a soup in a bag is the puncturing of the bag it’s in and it also can be a bit awkward pouring soup into a bag.
To freeze cabbage soup, just wait for the it to completely cool. Then, separate the soup into desired portions in either containers or freezer bags. Label them and then carefully place them in the freezer so they don’t tip over and possibly spill before freezing.
Whether you fry cabbage by itself or with a bit of bacon, it can easily be frozen. Allow it to cool either on the countertop or in the fridge first. Once it’s chilled or at room temperature, spoon the desired portions into labeled containers or freezer-safe bags and then place them in the freezer.
This method works for most of the thicker-leaved cabbages but it’s particularly good for Brussels sprouts. You simply need to roast the cabbage or Brussels sprouts as you would normally.
When they’re finished, let them cool down and then place them in a labeled freezer-safe bag and put it in the freezer. Brussels sprouts can be stored in the freezer for up to 12 months.
How to Thaw Frozen Cabbage
The thawing process for frozen cabbage is very important. If you try to rush it, you can end up with mushy cabbage. You DON’T want to thaw cabbage at room temperature, in the microwave, or running it under hot water. The color, texture, and flavor will likely be ruined if you do it this way.
The best, and really only, way to defrost frozen cabbage is to leave it in the fridge for a few hours or even overnight – depending on how much cabbage you’re defrosting. It will also be safe from harmful bacteria forming while it defrosts.
If you cut or shredded the cabbage before you froze it then you can forgo the defrosting process and put it straight into the soup, casserole, or another dish you’re cooking.
Can You Refreeze Cooked Cabbage?
Yes, and no. You should avoid refreezing cooked cabbage if you can as the quality will likely suffer.
How well or poorly it refreezes can depend on the form of the cooked cabbage as well.
Whilst it may be safe (depending on how it was handled when it was defrosted) the quality of the cabbage will likely severely suffer if it’s refrozen.
If, after defrosting, it’s been exposed to temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit then you shouldn’t refreeze it. If it has only been in the fridge and there are still some ice crystals on it then it shouldn’t be a problem to refreeze.
How To Tell if Cooked Cabbage Has Gone Bad
After you freeze it, how can you tell if cooked cabbage has gone bad? Thankfully, it’s simple.
To tell if cooked cabbage has gone bad all you need to do is a quick sight and smell test. If it looks like it’s bad, or it smells spoiled or off then it should be discarded. Whilst cabbage is great, it’s not worth getting sick for.