Crunchy, peppery and low in calories, this pan-seared or lightly charred black pepper cabbage is a delicious side dish. This blackened char on the sliced green cabbage strips is possible without oil, making it a lower calorie alternative to fried cabbage, a Southern staple dish.
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Charred cabbage is an easy whole food plant-based, vegan side dish that's ready in about 10 minutes. It goes really well with Southern dishes, Asian dishes and Indian food. For this recipe, we're achieving the lightly burnt edges in a skillet on the stove.
🧄 Ingredient notes
- Green cabbage - use standard green cabbage for this recipe. To save time, use pre-shredded cabbage from the grocery store, often sold as "cole slaw".
- Freshly ground black pepper - for a fresh and bright taste, since our seasonings are so minimal in this, use freshly ground black pepper from a pepper grinder. I used Tellicherry black peppercorns from Costco for this. Use less pepper, if you're using pre-ground fine black pepper.
📋 Substitutions and variations
Here are some suitable substitutions for the ingredients in this recipe:
- Green cabbage - instead of green cabbage, use cole slaw mix, which usually has a little bit of shredded carrot and purple cabbage mixed in. Or, use sliced purple (red) cabbage instead of green. The finished dish will be dark purple in color and you won't see the char as well, but it'll taste pretty much the same.
- Sea salt - use kosher salt or cajun salt instead
- SOS-free - make this SOS-free by omitting the salt
Switch things up with these variation ideas!
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes, hot sauce, chili garlic sauce or nanami togarashi (Japanese 7-spice) to the finished dish to infuse a little heat. Or, use cajun salt, like Tony Chachere's, instead of sea salt.
- Vegan bacon flavor - to mimic the flavor of pork, sprinkle ½ teaspoon of vegan ham bouillon powder or vegan bacon flavoring into the cabbage instead of salt.
- Curried Cabbage - add 1 teaspoon of curry powder when you add the salt and pepper for a charred curried cabbage
- Pickled Cabbage - if you're looking for a side dish that's more tangy, try making this easy Pickled Cabbage recipe instead!
- Cabbage Steaks - for a recipe that's more of an impressive main entree, try these oven roasted Cabbage Steaks
Here are the step-by-step photo instructions for how to make this charred black pepper green cabbage without frying it or using oil at all.
Pre-heat a large, flat non-stick skillet over high heat on the stove for 1-2 minutes. The skillet must be very hot before adding the cabbage in order to get the char.
Once the skillet is very hot, add cabbage to pan and spread the cabbage out so as much cabbage is touching the bottom of the pan as possible. If needed, do two batches so you don't overcrowd the pan. Sprinkle a tablespoon of water into the pan, to help the cabbage steam a little bit. Don't add more water, though, because it will deglaze the pan and make all of your cabbage brown, instead of beautifully charred. Leave the cabbage alone (do not stir) for 90 seconds.
Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Toss the cabbage, then leave it alone (do not stir) for 90 seconds.
Toss cabbage and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Cook cabbage until crisp-tender and lightly charred (pan-seared).
This cabbage goes really well with Asian-inspired, Southern-inspired and Indian-inspired meals.
⭐️ Expert tips
- The key technique to make this cabbage is to make the pan very hot before adding the cabbage.
- Another tip is to only use a very small amount of water. The water added should immediately evaporate and help steam the cabbage a little bit.
- Lastly, don't overcrowd the pan with a huge mountain of cabbage, even though it cooks down. Do two batches, if need be, and rinse the pan in between batches of any charred bits.
- Wide, flat skillet - non-stick or cast iron - so the cabbage can be spread out in a thin layer and get lightly charred or blackened without accumulating too much water in the pan.
🥡 Make ahead and storage tips
You can cut the cabbage ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator, raw and sliced, for up to 2 weeks. But, the cooked dish is best prepared fresh, at the time of serving.
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and should stay good for up to 5 days.
These ingredients don't stand up well to freezing.
🚦 Calorie density score
🟢 This recipe gets a green light on the calorie density chart. All of the ingredients are lower than 600 calories per pound, so eating meals like this regularly may help you lose body fat. Learn more about calorie density from Jeff Novick, MS, RDN.
Get your own printable calorie density chart for your refrigerator and free ebook explaining calorie density in simple terms.
👨👩👦👦 Serving suggestions
Charred sautéed cabbage goes really well with Cajun-, Asian-, Indian- and Southern-inspired meals.
No, you don't need any olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil or butter to make delicious charred cabbage. Using a very hot cast iron skillet (or non-stick skillet) can achieve the same effect without oil.
🗺 Cultural influences
I've grown up eating fried cabbage here in Texas. It's often made using lots of vegetable oil or even bacon grease. The cabbage gets a little bit charred, blackened or burnt on the edges in the pan.
This type of cabbage is delicious, but this recipe is made using no oil or fat, to keep the calories low and the health benefits high.
This recipe is inspired by my mixed ethnic background and heritage: Native of Houston, Texas, Southern United States, the Cherokee Nation, Czechia, England, Ireland, and Italy.
See About for more information on my cultural influences and how I attribute recipes.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you love this pan-seared green cabbage recipe, check out these Southern-inspired plant-based recipes!
Charred Black Pepper Cabbage Strips (oil-free)
- Non-stick skillet, large or cast iron skillet
- Pre-heat a large, flat non-stick skillet over high heat on the stove for 1-2 minutes. The skillet must be very hot before adding the cabbage in order to get the char.
- Once the skillet is very hot, add cabbage to pan and spread the cabbage out so as much cabbage is touching the bottom of the pan as possible. Sprinkle a tablespoon of water into the pan, to help the cabbage steam a little bit. Don't add more water, though, because it will deglaze the pan and make all of your cabbage brown, instead of beautifully charred. Leave the cabbage alone (do not stir) for 90 seconds.½ head green cabbage
- Season with sea salt and black pepper. Toss the cabbage, then leave it alone (do not stir) for 90 seconds.sea salt, black pepper
- Toss cabbage and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if needed. Cook cabbage until crisp-tender and lightly charred (pan-seared). Serve immediately.