Nourishing Your Body With Napa Cabbage

Napa or nappa cabbage (Brassica rapa pekinensis) is a variety of the species Brassica rapa, along with bok choyrapini, and turnips. It belongs to the Brassicaceae, family, along with mustardkalecollardswatercressrapiniBrussels sproutsarugularadishescabbagekohlrabibroccolihorseradish, cauliflower, daikon, land cress, rutabaga, and shepherd’s purse. It is a type of Chinese cabbage that is also known as Peking cabbage, Chinese leaf,  celery cabbage, wong nga bok, siu choy, hakusai, pechay, tsina, and pai-tsai. The name “napa” comes from Japanese, where nappa (菜っ葉) refers to leafy green vegetables. The flavor is sweeter than green cabbage. The leaves are long and crispy.

Napa cabbage originated in the Bejing region of China. It may be a naturally hybridized cross between bok choy and a turnip. It has been grown in China since around the fifteenth century, and has also been grown in Korea for centuries.  It is believed to have been brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers. The plant did not show up in Japan until the late 1800’s but Japan has since produced many hybrids. Napa cabbage was introduced to North America from China toward the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Today, napa cabbage is cultivated in countries all over the world. It remains an extremely popular vegetable in China, partly due to its versatility. In Korea, it is pickled, salted, and flavored with ginger and chili peppers to make kim chi, the national dish of Korea. Napa cabbage is produced in the US primarily in California and Florida. With over 12,393 acres per year in cultivation, it can be found almost as easily as the common green cabbage.  The most common Napa cabbage in the US is stocky with crinkled outer leaves – dark at the top and white towards the stem-end. The other type found in the US is a variety called “Michihli” which is long and slender with ruffled top leaves.

The nutritional value of napa cabbage is much higher than the regular green cabbage. It also has fewer calories. A 1.25-cup (100 g) portion of shredded raw napa cabbage contains less than 20 calories and has no fat or cholesterol and almost no sodium. It is an abundant source of soluble and insoluble fiber, vitamin C, folate, calcium, potassium, and manganese. Napa cabbage loaded with phytochemicals like lutein, carotenes, isothiocyanates, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol and thiocyanates that protect against heart disease and cancer. 

Nutrients in 100g (1.25 cups shredded) Napa Cabbage

Vitamin C 27 mg


Vitamin K 42.9 µg


Folate 79 µg


Vitamin B6 0.232 mg


Vitamin A 318 IU


Calcium 77 mg


Manganese 0.190 mg


Potassium 238 mg


Riboflavin 0.050 mg


Iron 0.31 mg


Phosphorus 29 mg


Fiber 1.2 mg


Thiamine 0.040 mg


Magnesium 13 mg


Carbohydrates 3.23 g


Niacin 0.400 mg


Protein 1.2 g


Pantothenic acid 0.105 mg


Zinc 0.23 mg


Fat 0.2 g


Sodium 8 mg


Cholesterol 0 mg


Energy 16 kcal 0.8%
Carotene-α 1 µg
Carotene-ß 190 µg
Lutein-zeaxanthin 48 µg

Unwashed napa cabbage stores well refrigerated, and will keep for about five to seven days in the vegetable crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Do not cut the leaves or ribs until you are ready to use them. Cut leaves begin to oxidize rapidly, and the cabbage will lose some of its vital nutrients and will spoil faster. When it is at its freshest, use it raw in salads but as it gets older keep it for cooking only.

Tips for Preparing Napa Cabbage

1. Use the large outer leaves of the napa cabbage to make napa cabbage wraps. You can roll just about any filling inside the large, flexible leaves: rice and beans, chickpea salad, salsa, seitan, tempeh, etc. You can secure the wrap with a toothpick for presentation. Using a cabbage ‘wrap’ instead of a flour or corn wrap will save on calories and boost your vegetable intake.

2. Shred napa cabbage, toss with julienne carrots and red bell pepper, lightly dress in your favorite dressing, to make a delicious coleslaw.

3. Heat a small amount of extra virgin olive oil or broth in a large nonstick skillet. Add garlic and chopped fresh ginger and cook one minute. Add sliced napa and sauté until tender-crisp, about five minutes. The edges get a bit caramelized and those nice curly leaves add some great texture without adding calories.

4. Slice or shred napa into a pot of simmering vegetable stock along with other vegetables such as onions, celery, or parsnips and some long noodles to make a substantial soup. It keeps a nice tender texture and absorbs flavors very well. Drop the cabbage into the pot during the final five minutes of cooking time.

5. Slice napa and place in a steamer over a pan of simmering water. Cook three to five minutes until crisp tender. Serve tossed with some sautéed garlic.

6. Napa cabbage is an excellent leaf for plating a dish. Place a large leaf on the bottom of a salad or entree plate and you have already made your meal appear healthy and appetizing. The fresh green color will accent colors beautifully. Lay two leaves across a plate, or even a shredded leaf on the bottom of a plate. Napa has such a tender hearty texture that your guests can slice into the ‘plate accent’ and eat the garnish.

7. Use napa cabbage as a wrap for spring roll ingredients and steam.

Enjoy this versatile, delicate vegetable often!

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

7 thoughts on “Nourishing Your Body With Napa Cabbage

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