Sautéed Cabbage with Onions, Ginger and Coconut Milk

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My refrigerator’s veg bin seems to have an ever-present head of cabbage tucked in its back corner.  Cabbage isn’t something that I’ve typically been inspired by.  It’s not exactly the sexiest of veg.  No one raves about that “amazing cabbage dish” they just had.  People don’t scour farmer’s markets looking for that just-picked head of cabbage.

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Coleslaw is always an option, but to be honest, I only really like it atop a pulled pork sandwich (I promise to share my recipe for that at some point). But cabbage is incredibly healthy, inexpensive and keeps in the refrigerator for a long time (I can vouch for that).  So what to do with it?

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An Indian friend of mine described how she sautés it with various Indian spices until it’s soft.  Intriguing, but I needed a recipe with which to work.  Then last week tucked inside my weekly veg box delivery was a recipe for sautéed cabbage (“Call me a Cabbage, I’m in a Hurry” was the witty title).

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I loved that it had ginger, onion, garlic, coconut milk – some of my favorite flavors – as well as aromatic, warm Indian spices such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cinnamon.  And don’t forget turmeric.  For those of you unfamiliar, turmeric has long been a staple in Indian cooking such as curries.  It adds a brilliant yellow-orange color – that easily stains hands and wooden utensils – and provides a warm, subtle earthy, peppery flavor

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So I tried the recipe.  It wins the prize for first cabbage dish I’ve ever made that I’ve snuck into the kitchen to eat as a late-night snack.  It’s that good.  Serve it with warmed flat bread such as naan, as an accompaniment to roasted pork or lamb or on the side next time you make an Indian curry.

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Never again will you be at a loss for what to do with that lonely cabbage in the back of the veg bin.

Sautéed Cabbage with Onions, Ginger and Coconut Milk (serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish)

Note:  Easiest way to grate ginger is with a Microplane zester.  If you don’t have this handy tool, put it on your kitchen gadget wish list – it also is great for zesting citrus or grating parmesan.  But in the meantime use the finest side of a box grater.  Canned coconut milk has a tendency to separate – fat at the top, liquid on the bottom.  Give the can a good shake and/or a mix with a fork or whisk to ensure it’s blended.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

1 heaped teaspoon mustard seeds

1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds

1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more/less to taste

1/2 white or firm green cabbage, finely chopped (about 400 grams)

1/2 cup (120 ml) water

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (200 ml) coconut milk (about half a can)

Zest and juice of one lime


Heat a heavy medium-sized Dutch oven or a wok over medium heat.  Add oil and onion and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.  Stir often and decrease the heat if necessary so as not to brown the onions.

Add the garlic and ginger.  Cook about 2-3 minutes, stirring often.  Add the remaining spices (bay leaves, cinnamon stick, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and red pepper flakes) and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Fold the cabbage through the onion and spice mixture.  Increase heat to medium high and add the water and salt.  Let sizzle and cook until the water has nearly evaporated, about 1 minute, stirring often.  Add coconut milk and stir, cooking until slightly thickened and cabbage has softened a bit, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Add lime zest and juice, salt to taste and serve warm.

Adapted from Abel & Cole

11 Comments

  • Sarah Bloomquist
    Posted March 12, 2015 9:59 pm 0Likes

    I approve of this recipe! This sounds yummy. I like all these ingredients. You didn’t mention anything about cabbage flatulence in your posting…

    • katiebwalter
      Posted March 16, 2015 12:03 pm 0Likes

      Glad to hear you approve:) As for flatulence, I have no idea what you’re talking about…..

  • Suzie
    Posted March 13, 2015 12:49 pm 0Likes

    Thanks, Katie! Sounds yummy. Will definitely make this. Ryad cooks Indian
    style meals every week. We’re fans. Coconut milk, ginger (peel, freeze and grate as needed) and turmeric are staples here. Suzie

    • katiebwalter
      Posted March 16, 2015 12:02 pm 0Likes

      Hi Sue, hope you enjoy it!!

  • dangthatsdelicious
    Posted March 23, 2015 11:31 pm 0Likes

    That looks so delicious Katie!

    • katiebwalter
      Posted March 24, 2015 12:43 pm 0Likes

      Thanks, Donna!

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  • Christa
    Posted August 9, 2016 11:58 pm 0Likes

    Perhaps it would be better to suggest how much lime juice to use instead of “one lime” my lime was really juicy and then the amount of juice it produced… my whole dish just tasted like lime juice and it was kind of disgusting. I added a bunch of curry powder, the other half can of coconut milk, some cashews and raisins and a teaspoon of sugar and kept it cooking until it was something edible (actually really good) but the recipe the way it was was basically inedible and I just think it was probably because of how totally juicy my lime was.

    • katiebwalter
      Posted August 16, 2016 12:15 am 0Likes

      I’m sorry that the recipe didn’t turn out as written. I’ve made it dozens of times with different limes and it always turns out, but maybe in different parts of the country (or different countries) there can be big variances in how juicy the lime is. Next time I make the recipe I will be sure to note how much and let you know (I’m currently on the road without a kitchen, but should be back in action in a week or so). Thanks for letting me know! Katie

  • c Smith
    Posted February 24, 2017 7:32 pm 0Likes

    Good, Katie! I added a pinch of my own garam masala and a red chili for extra heat w/ the ginger, etc.. After RED cabbage softened 3/4 of the way, I added a bunch of coarsely chopped broccolini, heads largely intact and stirred and sauteed until broccolini was crisp tender. Beautiful! Fragrant! Delicious!

    • katiebwalter
      Posted March 1, 2017 2:09 am 0Likes

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed it and I like that you made the recipe your own with the broccolini and red chili.

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