Sautéed Cabbage with Fennel and Garlic

December 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm (A (4 stars, love), Cook's Illustrated, Cruciferous rich, Monthly menu plan) (, )

Back in March I made the Cook’s Illustrated recipe Sautéed Cabbage with Miso and Scallions, and we liked it, so I wanted to try some of the other variants. This week I tried the version with fennel and garlic, and we enjoyed it as well. It’s a relatively simple recipe, but tasty.

Alma, who is generally not a huge cabbage fan, really likes this recipe. So do I. Even though I screw up the browning step EVERY TIME. I always forget to not stir the cabbage at the start. It’s actually pretty tricky to get the cabbage to brown without burning. But even if you don’t really brown your cabbage, it’s still really tasty. The combination of the salt, the sweet cabbage, the acid from the lemon juice, and the umami from the parmesan–yum. I’ve added this recipe to our monthly menu plan, although I probably only make it once every couple of months.


  • 1 small head savoy cabbage (1 1/4 pounds), cored and sliced thin
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil (divided) [I use less, maybe 2 Tbsp.]
  • 1 fennel bulb, fronds minced, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced thin
  • 3/4 tsp. salt (divided)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced to paste
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice [I use more]
  • Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese


Green cabbage may be substituted for the savoy cabbage. Soaking the cabbage gets rid of some of the enzymes that produce sulfurous flavors; do not skip this step. If your fennel does not have the green fronds attached, substitute 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley.

  1. Place cabbage in large bowl and cover with cold water; let stand for 3 minutes. Drain cabbage well and set aside. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add fennel bulb and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer fennel mixture to small bowl.
  2. Return now-empty skillet to medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add cabbage and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, without stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until cabbage is wilted and lightly browned on bottom.
  3. Stir once and continue to cook, uncovered, for 2 more minutes. Stir a second time and cook for another 2 minutes, until cabbage is crisp-tender and lightly browned in places. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in fennel mixture, reserved fennel fronds, and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste, transfer to serving bowl, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil [I omit this step], and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve.
  4. Serves 4 to 6.

My notes after my second attempt:

I always forget to put in the fennel fronds. I’m not sure how Alma would like them.

I think last time I had more cabbage, maybe 1 1/4 pounds of cabbage after coring? Or perhaps that was the weight of the whole cabbage? I’m not sure. Last time I used a ginormous fennel. There was still plenty of seasoning and room in the pan. I could probably use two normal-sized fennel heads and have both fit in the pan fine. Alma likes to snack on the fennel as “a little appetizer” while she’s waiting for the cabbage to finish cooking.

Last time I served this with quinoa and black-eyed peas (plain, sprinkled with tarragon for adults and nutritional yeast for toddlers) . It made a lovely, satisfying dinner. For a slightly fancier dinner I might serve the cabbage with this delicious 101 cookbooks recipe for black-eyed peas with leeks and tarragon. Alma didn’t care for the leeks or tarragon, so she ended up just eating plain black eyes. But Derek and I both really liked the leek and tarragon combination.

Update Nov 18, 2019:

I made sliced the cabbage and sauteed the fennel and then Derek finished the dish while I played a game with Alma. I used regular (not savoy) cabbage and I think 1 pound 2 ounces or maybe 1 pound 4 ounces. The dish turned out really well. Everyone liked it. I left the sauteed fennel and fennel fronds separate, but even Alma ended up mixing everything together. I served this dish with instant pot mushroom risotto and it went really well together. The only problem was that the whole meal was white, beige, and brown. It needed a little color!

Note that the original recipe called for a nonstick skillet, but we have had no problems making this in our heavy 12-inch stainless steel skillet.


  1. austingardener said,

    I didn’t know you used non-stick pans??

    • captious said,

      We have one for eggs but actually for this recipe we just used a normal stainless steel skillet. Thanks. I’ll fix the recipe.

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