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What Is Napa Cabbage? And Is It The Same As Chinese Cabbage?

What Is Napa Cabbage? And Is It The Same As Chinese Cabbage?

Napa cabbage, or Chinese leaves, is a type of cabbage that features a large head and firmly-packed, pale green leaves. 

Typically, it’s found right beside bok choy in Western supermarkets.

But did you know that there are many types of Chinese cabbages? 

There’s minuet, bilko organic, Tokyo bekana organic, the vanilla Tokyo bekana, and rubicon. 

Easily the most common name associated with Chinese cabbage are the Chinese leaves or napa cabbage. 

And there’s a host of other reasons why napa cabbage is getting more attention!

A close-up photo of a head of green cabbage on a wooden cutting board.

What is napa cabbage?

Touted as one of the most popular Asian greens around the world, napa cabbage is taken from the Japanese word “nappa,’” which is known as the edible leaves of vegetables. 

In the supermarket, napa cabbage features these white and light green, tightly-wrapped, almost football-shaped heads, which should help you differentiate them from the regular cabbage.

Napa cabbage is called Chinese cabbage as the vegetable has most likely originated from, well, China.

This leafy, green vegetable is called napa or Chinese cabbage here in the U.S. In other places, such as Australia, it’s called wombok cabbage.

On the other hand, it is known as Beijing Cabbage in Russia; the Japanese refer to napa cabbage as hakusai.

What does napa cabbage taste like?

Napa cabbage boasts a slightly sweeter and milder taste than the ordinary, green cabbage. 

In terms of color and texture, it’s related to bok choy, right with its darker albeit earthier colors.

The leaves of a napa cabbage are smooth and tender, while its white veins are edible.

How to store napa cabbage

After harvesting the napa cabbage heads, it’s recommended that you clean and refrigerate them. 

Napa cabbage is quite notorious for its wilting qualities; its leaves should become bitter as its head dries out.

Once the napa cabbage’s heads are rinsed thoroughly, you need to drain them upside-down to ward off water from accumulating in the dense folds of the leaves.

When the leaves are drained, keep them through your fridge’s crisper drawer. 

This section should provide high humidity and cool temperatures, extending the life of the Chinese leaves.

You may store a whole napa cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

For the unwashed parts, you may also keep them in the fridge; they can be fresh up to a week as well.

Meanwhile, wrapping napa cabbage in plastic should be able to help them from wilting.

A photo of a stack of napa cabbage on a wooden table.

How to cook with napa cabbage?

Popular in Chinese cuisine, napa cabbage can be served raw, such as in a salad or slaw. There’s also the lion head Chinese meatballs, which features napa cabbage.

The vegetable is noted for absorbing all the stock, making the dish taste all the more palatable.

My favorite is the sweet and spicy pork and napa cabbage stir-fry with spicy noodles.

This recipe is famed for its chewy noodles, along with tender veggies and spicy glazed pork.

Tips on buying napa cabbage

When choosing napa cabbage, I’d look for those with firm green leaves that aren’t wilted; the same can be said for cabbages that already show some signs of being eaten by bugs.

Napa cabbage is massive by default. As it is, they should also feel heavy.

Do you eat the white part of napa cabbage?

Yes. The white part of napa cabbage, mostly its stalks, can be eaten raw or cooked.

Is napa cabbage and Chinese cabbage the same thing?

While most grocery stores would label napa cabbage as Chinese cabbage, you must know the difference between bok choy and pak choy, or any other Asian greens, as these stores would put them under the same label.

The bottom line

With its nutritious offerings and tasty nuance, it’s certainly easy to fall in love with napa cabbage. 

But as appetizing as they can be, it’s essential to know how to spot only the best version of it in the market to fully enjoy the experience, whether you’re serving a home-cooked kimchi or a Tahini sumac slaw!

Napa Cabbage Salad

Napa Cabbage Salad

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 12 minutes

This is a simple and refreshing salad made with napa cabbage and a few veggies.


  • 1 lb Napa cabbage
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 T parsley
  • ¼ c corn, drained
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • ¼ t sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Chop the cabbage into small pieces.
  2. Dice the cucumber and red bell pepper
  3. Cut the parsley away from the stem
  4. Pour the olive oil and vinegar into a large mixing bowl. Add in the sugar. Stir to combine.
  5. Add all the vegetables into the bowl with the dressing.
  6. Stir to coat.

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