Can purple cabbage be eaten raw?

Purple cabbage, also known as red cabbage, is a type of cabbage with dark purple leaves and a milder flavor than regular green cabbage. It is a popular vegetable used in salads, slaws, juices, and other dishes. Many people enjoy eating purple cabbage raw, but some wonder if raw purple cabbage is safe or if it should be cooked before eating.

Is Raw Purple Cabbage Safe to Eat?

Yes, raw purple cabbage is generally safe to eat. Purple cabbage contains some of the same nutrients as other cabbage varieties, including vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber. Eating it raw helps preserve these nutrients.

As with other raw vegetables, there are some risks associated with eating raw purple cabbage. It could potentially harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella if contaminated during growing, harvesting, handling, or storage. However, the risks are low, and proper handling helps minimize the chance of foodborne illness.

Washing raw purple cabbage thoroughly before eating can help remove dirt and debris that could carry pathogens. Avoid eating damaged or bruised leaves. Refrigerate cut or chopped raw cabbage and use within a few days to prevent spoilage.

Nutritional Benefits of Raw Purple Cabbage

Eating purple cabbage raw offers several nutritional benefits:

  • Vitamin C – Raw purple cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C. One cup provides over 50% of the recommended daily intake. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that promotes immune health.
  • Vitamin K – Purple cabbage contains high levels of vitamin K. One cup meets over 60% of the daily need. Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and bone health.
  • Potassium – With one cup containing over 10% of the RDI, raw purple cabbage is a good source of potassium. Potassium supports nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and heart function.
  • Fiber – Raw purple cabbage provides 2-3 grams of dietary fiber per cup. Fiber promotes healthy digestion and may help reduce cholesterol.
  • Anthocyanins – The purple pigments in raw cabbage contain anthocyanins. These plant compounds act as antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation.

Potential Concerns with Eating Raw Cabbage

While raw purple cabbage is generally healthy and safe to eat, some people may want to exercise caution or avoid it in certain cases:

  • Foodborne illness risk – Those with weakened immune systems, older adults, young children, and pregnant women face a higher risk of foodborne illness from contaminated produce.
  • Thyroid issues – Raw cabbage contains goitrogens, compounds that may interfere with thyroid function when eaten in excess.
  • Digestive concerns – Some people find raw cabbage hard to digest. The high fiber and carbohydrate content may cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea.
  • Blood thinner medication – The vitamin K content may pose problems for those on blood thinners like Coumadin. Suddenly increasing vitamin K intake can reduce medication effectiveness.

Consulting a doctor can help determine if any special precautions are needed when adding raw purple cabbage to your diet.

Tips for Eating Raw Purple Cabbage

Here are some tips for enjoying raw purple cabbage safely:

  • Look for firm, tightly packed heads without brown or limp leaves. Avoid cabbage with signs of damage.
  • Remove tough outer leaves. Rinse the rest under cool running water before slicing, chopping, or shredding.
  • Use within a week for peak freshness and to avoid spoilage.
  • Keep cut cabbage chilled at 40°F or below.
  • When dining out, avoid raw cabbage garnishes on hot foods that may have enabled bacterial growth.
  • Stir chopped raw cabbage into recipes just before serving.
  • Enjoy raw purple cabbage in moderation. Eat no more than 1-2 cups per day.
  • Pair with other raw veggies, fruits, nuts, oils, citrus juices, herbs, and spices to enhance nutrition and flavor.

Is Raw Cabbage Tastier Than Cooked?

Raw and cooked cabbage offer different flavors and textures. Many people prefer the crunch of raw cabbage in salads, slaws, and sides. Cooking softens the leaves and stems. This alters the mouthfeel but allows the flavors to become more mellow and sweet.

Preferences for raw vs cooked cabbage come down to personal taste. Some enjoy the peppery bite of fresh raw leaves. Others like cabbage cooked to tender softness in soups and stews. When eaten together, raw and cooked cabbage provide contrasting textures.

Both raw and cooked cabbage have merits. Raw preserves more vitamin C, but cooking makes certain nutrients more bioavailable. Combining raw and cooked cabbage dishes in your diet can offer both nutrition and variety.

Benefits of Raw Cabbage

  • Crunchy, crisp texture
  • Sharp, tangy flavor
  • Higher vitamin C content
  • Lower calorie and carb counts

Benefits of Cooked Cabbage

  • Softer, more tender texture
  • Mellow, sweet flavor
  • More bioavailable antioxidants
  • Easier digestion

How to Use Raw Purple Cabbage

Here are some tasty ways to enjoy raw purple cabbage:

Slaws and Salads

Finely shred raw purple cabbage to make crunchy slaws and salads. Dress with oil, vinegar, citrus juice, herbs, and spices. Toss with other vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. Some classic combos include:

  • Purple cabbage slaw with carrot and apple
  • Chopped kale and purple cabbage salad
  • Almond chicken salad over purple cabbage

Wraps and Bowls

Use raw cabbage leaves as edible wraps for grain bowls and other fillings. Thinly slice or shred purple cabbage as the base of bowls topped with proteins, veggies, and sauces. Some bowl ideas include:

  • Turkey taco bowl on purple cabbage
  • Pulled pork in cabbage wraps
  • Vegetable fried rice bowl with raw cabbage


Add purple cabbage to fruit and vegetable juices. Combine with carrot, celery, beet, apple, lemon, and ginger for a healthy, antioxidant-rich drink.

Garnishes and Toppings

Brighten up tacos, sandwiches, flatbreads, soups, and grains by topping them with shredded or thinly sliced raw purple cabbage for crunch.


Use raw cabbage wedges or shredded cabbage to make tangy pickled vegetables. Try quick-pickling shredded cabbage in rice wine vinegar, salt, and spices.

Common Questions

Does raw cabbage last longer than other raw greens?

Yes, raw cabbage tends to last longer than more delicate lettuces and greens. Kept chilled, whole heads of cabbage can last for weeks. Shredded cabbage keeps for 5-7 days. The thick, dense leaves resist bruising and wilting.

Can you eat purple cabbage raw if you have IBS?

It’s best to proceed with caution. The high fiber content in raw cabbage may exacerbate IBS symptoms like gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Thoroughly cooking cabbage breaks down the fibers. Fermented cabbage in sauerkraut contains probiotics and digests easier as well.

Is purple cabbage better raw or cooked?

Both raw and cooked purple cabbage have merits. Raw retains more vitamin C and has a crisper texture. Cooked cabbage offers a softer texture and mellower flavor. Enjoying both raw and cooked cabbage provides the most benefits.

Does raw cabbage have goitrogens?

Yes, raw cabbage contains goitrogens. These compounds may interfere with thyroid function by blocking iodine absorption when consumed in excess. Moderate portions of raw cabbage as part of a varied diet are unlikely to cause problems for most people.

Can you ferment raw purple cabbage?

Yes, you can use raw purple cabbage to make cultured veggies and sauerkraut. Fermenting cabbage breaks down fibers and starches into probiotics. This may improve digestibility for some people compared to eating raw cabbage.

The Bottom Line

Raw purple cabbage is safe and healthy to eat in moderation. Its crunchy texture and peppery flavor make it a perfect addition to salads, slaws, juices, and other dishes. While cooking cabbage alters some nutrients, both raw and cooked cabbage provide benefits. Mix up your cabbage intake for the best nutrition and flavor.

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