Red cabbage salad

Red cabbage salad - recipe - A kitchen in Istanbul

Red cabbage is one of the most beautiful vegetables I know. The ones we buy have already been trimmed of much of of their beauty, the outer leaves being deemed to coarse for consumption. But as soon as you slice through it, the most wonderful patterns of purple, blue and white appear.

The colour of red cabbage apparently depends on the acidity of the environment in which it grew, with a more acidic soil yielding a red-ish colour and neutral soil a more purple hue. It keeps responding to this even after preparation – so don’t forget the lemon juice or vinegar for a vibrantly colourful result.

But aside from its beauty, red cabbage is wonderful to eat. It is often cooked until soft – in Norway it’s not Christmas without it. But I, like the Turks, find it is even better when used as a base for a crunchy salad.

Red cabbage salad - recipe - A kitchen in Istanbul

The key to cabbage based salads is to slice the cabbage very thinly – as thinly as you possibly can. If the slices are too thick, it will be tough to eat and the bitter flavours are more apparent, even dominating. Use a mandolin if you like; I prefer to use my sharpest knife. When sliced, throw in some salt and give the cabbage a nice massage. This makes the cabbage soften and some of the bitterness withdraws.

This recipe is my go-to red cabbage side salad that goes with virtually any meal. It works particularly well with fried meat, and of course with anything you choose to stuff your pita bread with. Don’t worry about making a lot, the salad keeps well for a couple of days in a tight container in the fridge. Yields 4-6 portions as a side dish.


  • 1/2 medium red cabbage, core discarded and sliced thinly
  • small bunch flat leaf parsley, stems discarded and chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper

My method

  1. Put the cabbage in a colander, add 1 tbsp salt and massage well. Leave on a plate until the cabbage has softened a little, at least 30 minutes, longer if you can.
  2. Rinse and drain the cabbage. Mix with the parsley, olive oil and lemon juice, reserving some of the parsley to scatter on top. Season. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley.

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