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blog-kohlrabi slaw

The weather whiplash we’ve been experiencing lately requires agility, both at the market and in the kitchen. Take last week, for instance: Those single-digit days had me entertaining thoughts of a fork-tender chuck roast or choucroute garni, fragrant with juniper, but no, I didn’t act fast enough. The forecast turned balmy, and the morning I set aside for shopping was improbably warm, with wispy fog and a low sky the color of an oyster shell. Rich, heavy food was suddenly unappealing—I didn’t want to buy or cook it, let alone eat it. I tore off a good bit of my shopping list, threw it in the nearest trash can, and opened myself up to opportunity.

The mild day had lured a few unexpected purveyers to the Union Square Greenmarket, including the folks at Keith’s Organic Farm, who usually finish their season at Christmas. Among their crates of potatoes, carrots, and garlic was one of kohlrabies (pronounced “coll-rahb-ees,” and yep, that’s the correct plural). Propped on top was a copy of The Art of Simple Cooking II, the latest cookbook by Alice Waters, smartly turned to a spread of kohlrabi recipes. Now that is the way to sell an ingredient that’s unfamiliar to many.

I wrote about kohlrabi about a year ago, but a few things bear repeating: It’s delicious cooked or raw, and swings from the seasonings of Eastern Europe to those of China and India with ease. What really spoke to me when I saw it on Saturday was the fact that it’s clean-tasting and hearty, all at the same time—exactly what’s called for in an unseasonably warm spell in January.

Technically speaking, kohlrabi is not a root vegetable, but instead a bulbous stem that grows above ground. It plays well with root vegetables, however, so it allows for some fancy footwork on your part: In a winter salad or the slaw below, try mixing it with turnip, rutabaga, or celery root. A member of the nutrient-dense Brassicaceae family, it’s particularly high in potassium and vitamin C.

Alice Waters suggests serving serving the slaw alongside a bit of salami or prosciutto, some fried vegetables, or a spicy baked Dungeness crab. I ended up splurging on a duck breast and cooking it the way Floyd Cardoz taught me, but can’t wait to pair the slaw with fat grilled sausages next week. That is, if the weather holds.

Buying & prep notes: You can use either green or purple kohlrabi for this recipe; they are both white underneath the skin, and I can’t detect much difference in flavor. I prefer one medium kohlrabi to two small ones here, as it will have a greater ratio of flesh to peel. Lastly, when peeling, remove any fibrous layer beneath the surface.

Kohlrabi, Carrot, and Apple Slaw

Adapted from The Art of Simple Cooking II, by Alice Waters

Serves 4

1 medium or 2 small kohlrabi bulbs

1 red, orange, or yellow carrot

½ apple (such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, Pink Pearl, or Braeburn), cored

1½ teaspoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon coarsely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Peel the outer woody skin from the kohlrabi. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, cut the kohlrabi into thin pieces. Then cut the pieces into matchsticks.

2. Cut the carrot into pieces and then into a matchstick julienne as above. Cut the apple half into slices, then matchsticks.

3. Stir together the vinegar, parsley, and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Taste for salt and acidity and adjust as needed, then toss with the fruit and vegetables.


  • Omit the apple, use lemon or lime juice instead of the vinegar, and cilantro instead of parsley. In a small dry pan, heat ½ teaspoon each nigella seeds and black or brown mustard seeds until they pop. Stir them into the slaw.
  • In addition to (or instead of) the kohlrabi, use radishes, turnips, rutabagas, beets, or celery root. Fennel is also a great addition.