There is an alien invading your grocery store.
And, no. I don’t mean those “Franken-foods” like bottled cheese whiz or marshmallow whip in a jar. I mean an actual, certifiable, GREEN ALIEN.
One with strange wrinkles and things sticking out of its face.
I give you: Kohlrabi.
Well, I’m guessing you’ve gathered by now that this page is not dedicated to UFOs. You have, however, managed to catch us for the next installment in our “Those Weird Veggies” series.
And let me tell you. This is a weird one.
A Little About Kohlrabi
While kohlrabi (“coal-ROB-bee”) may seem like an alien in the American kitchen, it’s actually a run-of-the-mill vegetable for some international cultures. The name “kohlrabi” literally means “cabbage turnip” in German. It’s a staple in some middle Eastern diets. And – I laughed at this – the most popular Vietnamese variety of kohlrabi (or “su hao”) is the UFO cultivar. (Source)
See, I told you there were aliens.
Kohlrabi is part of the brassicae family, which includes cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli.
While it may look like it is a root grown in the ground, it is actually a bulb that grows just above ground. In fact, you know you are getting a nice fresh kohlrabi if the leaves are still attached. And great news – the leaves are perfectly edible!
Kohlrabi has started to gain in popularity as farmers markets and CSA boxes become more mainstream.
Kohlrabi’s Nutritional Breakdown
Last month we highlighted parsnips, the surprisingly versatile root vegetable that looks like a carrot but has a completely different nutritional make up – and in some areas was even healthier than a carrot.
I’ve never really looked into the nutrients in kohlrabi before, so I was actually a little surprised at what I found. While kohlrabi certainly has wonderful vitamins and nutrients, it actually isn’t THAT much different from broccoli. In fact, in many nutritional categories, broccoli actually packed MORE vitamins across the board.
While the broccoli florets (think: trees) are favored in American cuisine, the kohlrabi compares much more to the broccoli stem (check out how to use broccoli stems in your cooking here).
Which might make you wonder… why even bother with kohlrabi? I mean, broccoli is so much more easily available! Why would you want to invite the Green Vegetable Alien into your kitchen??
Why Bother With Kohlrabi?
First of all, kohlrabi has a MUCH more mild flavor than broccoli. Personally, the back of my throat burns a little when I eat raw broccoli. Kohlrabi has a much gentler flavor (and doesn’t burn my throat).
Additionally, kohlrabi can easily be eaten raw, shredded, boiled, steamed, sautéed, spiralized, or roasted. Not many veggies can hold up to that level of culinary variety. Keep reading for more details.
And unlike broccoli (which usually goes bad in a week for me), kohlrabi keeps a REALLY long time in the fridge. I mean, a REALLY long time.
In fact, I picked up some kohlrabi a month ago. Unfortunately, I got pretty sick and ended up in the hospital a few days later. I was off my feet for a few weeks after that… and pretty much all the produce in my fridge went bad.
But not my alien-friend, kohlrabi. Here it is, a month after chilling in my fridge, in all its glory.
Ignore the wilted leaves. That’s a given. But this kohlrabi was just as good as the day I bought it. It wasn’t spongy, moldy, or off-tasting. I don’t know about you, but I need more vegetables with this level of flexibility in my life!
But do you know the main reason why I eat kohlrabi?
Because I get bored.
I eat a very vegetable-rich diet. Sometimes, you just get…bored. I mean, green beans and broccoli are nice. But sometimes you just want to live a little. Have a different flavor or texture, you know?
How To Prepare Kohlrabi
There are some tricks you should know about kohlrabi. You can’t just wash it and start chewing away.
First, I like to slice off the top and bottom of the kohlrabi, which gives me a flat surface to work with.
Next, take a really good quality vegetable peeler or a knife and peel/cut away the outer layer. You’ll know you’ve cut away enough when it turns from greenish, to whitish, to pale-greenish again.
You’re actually cutting away the ultra-tough woody exterior. I mean, you technically COULD eat it. But it’s so crunchy and fibrous, I don’t know why you’d want to.
The inner part of the kohlrabi is very tender and easily slices, dices, or spiralizes. And unlike parsnips, you don’t have to worry about coring. Once you’ve peeled, you’re ready to go!
My Favorite Way To Eat Kohlrabi
It’s time for a confession. While I prefer raw kohlrabi to the taste of raw broccoli, I’ve never been a huge fan of the flavor of kohlrabi. I’ll eat it when it’s served to me, but I don’t bounce out of bed in the morning and say, “Today is a Kohlrabi Day!”
Kohlrabi is one of the EASIEST vegetables to spiralize because it’s the perfect shape for optimal spiralization.
There’s something about the spiralizer that is just magic. I don’t know if it’s the different shape and texture? If it’s how fun it looks?
But I’m kinda addicted to spiralized vegetables, particularly spiralized kohlrabi.
I threw this dish together in 47 seconds: spiralzied kohlrabi, cherry tomatoes, cut carrots, dried basil, and an oil-and-vinegar salad dressing I had in the fridge.
And it was delicious.
In fact, I’m going to the zoo tomorrow and packing this for part of my lunch.
But maybe you don’t own a spiralizer (quick! Get it here! You won’t regret it!). That’s okay. We’ve got PLENTY of great recipes for you to check out:
- Roasted Kohlrabi from All Recipes
- Spiralized Kohlrabi Salad with Apples from Inspiralized
- Beet, Kale, and Kohlrabi Salad from A Couple Cooks
- Kohlrabi and Carrot Coleslaw from The Kitchn
- Kohlrabi Fritter Patties from A Couple Cooks
- Kohlrabi Risotto from Martha Shulman