In which an old ingredient learns new tricks: Cabbage Stir Fry. Thinly sliced cabbage sautéed with ground chicken (or with beef) and carrots in a light and flavorful Chinese-inspired stir fry sauce, this quick, healthy dinner will have you rethinking the possibilities of our friend, Mr. C.

Chicken and cabbage stir fry on a plate

Although cabbage is a common ingredient in Asian main dishes (both vegetarian and meat-based), the idea of using cabbage to make a healthy stir fry didn’t occur to me until recently.

I usually think of cabbage as an “on-the-side” situation.

Sautéed Cabbage. Cabbage Steaks. Asian Cabbage Salad. All are tasty, but none are a traditional main event.

Cabbage’s long shelf life (it can last several weeks in the refrigerator) and budget-friendly price tag have made it a popular ingredient in our home as of late, so I decided to see what more I could do with it.

And since “what more I could do with it” most often materializes as “ME HUNGRY, MUST EAT NOW!” that “more” followed the easy dinner path of least resistance: stir fry.

Cabbage stir fry on a plate with chicken

A Delicious Way to Cook Cabbage

If you’ve found cabbage suspect up until this point, cabbage stir fry will make a believer out of you.

  • While raw cabbage can be bitter, when sautéed as it is in this stir fry recipe, it becomes caramelized, lightly sweet, and tender. You’ll hardly recognize it.
  • Low carb lovers especially will rejoice. Twirled on a fork, the thin strands of cabbage reminded me of noodles.

In fact, by my second serving, I skipped the rice I’d planned to serve with the stir fry entirely. The stir fry cabbage is entirely satisfying on its own.

Easy cabbage stir fry with chicken

A Special Ingredient to Elevate Your Cabbage Stir Fry

Our kitchen is no stranger to clean-out-the-fridge stir fry situations—Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry, Tofu Stir Fry, and Easy Chicken Stir Fry with Vegetables and Mandarin Oranges are but three of many.

What makes this recipe special (other than its namesake addition of cabbage) is a new spice I’ve never used in a stir fry before but that sets it apart: ground cloves.

Now, it might sound like I just opened my spice cabinet, closed my eyes, and grabbed the first container within reach, but there’s a method to my madness.

  • Cloves are a key ingredient in Chinese five spice powder.
  • Since Chinese five spice is a lesser-stocked ingredient in many U.S. homes, I wanted to see if I could create a stir fry with its subtle, warm effect, without asking you to purchase a new spice you might only use once or twice a year.

If you do own Chinese five spice powder, by all means feel free to use it here. If you were looking for an excuse to buy it, this cabbage stir fry is a good one. (Use about 1 teaspoon and omit the cloves).

And if neither of the above applies to you, use ground cloves. You’ll be pleased with the results.

Two Asian pantry staple ingredients I do insist you buy are low sodium soy sauce (or gluten free tamari or coconut aminos for our Paleo friends) and rice vinegar.

These two, along with fresh garlic and ginger, will open you to just about every one of the healthy stir fry recipes you can find here.

Cabbage stir fry on a plate

How to Make Cabbage Stir Fry

This recipe calls for basic green cabbage, which is inexpensive and widely available. It looks like a large orb and has wide, pale green leaves.

  • This recipe would also work with red cabbage (no changes to the recipe needed).
  • If you are looking for something to do with Chinese cabbage (also called Napa cabbage) you can use it to make stir fry. Not that since it is more tender, it will cook more quickly.

The Ingredients

  • Ground Chicken. I chose to use ground chicken in this recipe, since it’s lean and versatile. In addition to chicken, beef and pork go well cabbage, so feel free to swap out the ground chicken for a lean version of one of these or for ground turkey.
  • Cabbage. The unexpected stir fry star! Once cooked, the cabbage is delightfully tender and coated in the rich flavors of the sauce and spices. Cabbage also brings oodles of Vitamin-C and potassium to the dish (read more about cabbage here).
  • Carrots. An easy and healthy way to bring color to the stir fry. Carrots are rich in Vitamin-A and fiber (see more health benefits of carrots here).
  • Ground Cloves. My sneaky spice addition that adds warmth to the dish.
  • Garlic + Ginger. Essentials for the best stir fry flavor (just ask Sweet and Sour Chicken).
  • Red Pepper Flakes. For a pinch of spice. If you prefer less spice in your stir fry, you can scale it back.
  • Stir Fry Sauce. Soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice vinegar coat every ingredient in a rich blend of umami/sweet flavors. It will keep you coming back for more (and more!).
  • Green Onions + Cilantro. For a finishing touch of freshness.

The Directions 

  1. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices to one bowl, and add the stir fry sauce ingredients to another.
  2. Cut the cabbage (check out the section below for tips on how to cut cabbage for stir fries).
    Ground chicken in a skillet
  3. Brown the chicken, stirring in part of the soy sauce.
    Carrots and cabbage in a skillet
  4. Saute the cabbage and carrots.
    A skillet with cabbage and carrots
  5. Pour in the sauce ingredients, cover, and cook until the cabbage is wilted.
    Cabbage stir fry in a skillet
  6. Add the green onion, cilantro, and chicken. ENJOY!

How to Cut Cabbage for Stir Fry

To make sure that the cabbage is tender and caramelizes in your stir fry, the key is to slice it thinly.

  1. Slice off the stem end of the cabbage head so that you have a sturdy base.
  2. Cut the cabbage in half starting from the top and working towards the bottom, cut end.
  3. Lay the cut side down on the cutting board so that its flat surface is touching the board.
  4. Cut each piece in half again.
    A head of cabbage being chopped on a cutting board
  5. Turn each resulting quarter piece crosswise, and cut it into thin strips (about 1/8-inch thick). The strips are ready to be used in the stir fry!

Cabbage Stir Fry Storage Tips

  • To Store. Cabbage stir fry can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm stir fry in a large skillet or wok on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Add a splash of rice vinegar to perk the cabbage back up.
  • To Freeze. Leftovers can be frozen in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. The cabbage texture may change a bit, but the flavors will still be tasty.

What to Serve with Cabbage Stir Fry

While this recipe is delicious served on its own, here are a few ideas of what you could serve with it:

  • Rice. A side of brown, white, or cauliflower rice would be delicious with this stir fry.
  • Noodles. Try it with brown rice noodles for a tasty, filling meal.
  • Veggies. Take your vegetable servings up a notch with a side of Roasted Frozen Broccoli.

More Healthy Stir Fry Recipes

Two bowls of healthy cabbage stir fry

Recommended Tools to Make Cabbage Stir Fry

This super tasty stir fry was such a hit, I’m wondering what other ways I should be cooking with cabbage. If you have any favorite ways to use it in addition to stir fry, I’d love to hear about them below.

And if you try this cabbage stir fry with chicken (or any other protein), please leave a comment below to let me know how it turned out for you! Your comments and ratings mean so much to me and are helpful to others too.

Cabbage Stir Fry

4.88 from 24 votes
This quick, healthy cabbage stir fry features chicken or beef and thinly sliced cabbage cooked in a light and flavorful stir fry sauce. Easy and delicious!

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Total: 27 mins

Servings: 6 servings


  • 5 cloves minced garlic about 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes if highly sensitive to spice, reduce to 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce divided, plus additional to taste
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 small cabbage about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
  • 1 pound ground chicken lean ground beef, ground pork, or ground turkey
  • 2 cups shredded carrots about 10 ounces or 4 medium
  • 1 small bunch green onions finely chopped (about 6 small)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • Prepared brown rice or brown rice noodles for serving (optional—omit to make low carb; I love this stir fry on its own!)


  • In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes and cloves. In a separate bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the rice vinegar, and the maple syrup. Keep both close by.
  • Cut the stem end off of the cabbage. Next, cut it in half from the top of the cabbage down through the stem. Place the flat, cut side against the surface of your cutting board, then each half into quarters (again, from the top down towards the stem). Turn each quarter crosswise, then cut into thin, 1/8-inch strips. Keep handy (I like to pile my cut cabbage into a bowl as I go).
  • Heat a large, deep skillet, Dutch oven, or wok with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Once hot and shimmering, add the chicken. Cook, breaking up the meat. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Continue cooking until the meat is fully cooked through and any liquid that has collected in the pan has mostly cooked off, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl. Make sure you have the skillet lid handy.
  • Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the cabbage and carrots. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is just starting to wilt.
  • Add the soy sauce and spice mixture. Cover the skillet and cook over high heat for one minute, until the cabbage is completely wilted but isn’t mushy.
  • Uncover, and stir in the green onion, cilantro, and reserved chicken. Let cook 30 additional seconds. The cabbage should be crisp tender (if it’s not, cook it a bit longer). Serve hot with rice or noodles and an extra dash of soy sauce as desired.


  • TO STORE: Cabbage stir fry can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm stir fry in a large skillet or wok on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Add a splash of rice vinegar to perk the cabbage back up. 
  • TO FREEZE: Leftovers can be frozen in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. The cabbage texture may change a bit, but the flavors will still be tasty.


Serving: 1(of 6)Calories: 235kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 17gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 65mgPotassium: 879mgFiber: 6gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 7535IUVitamin C: 61mgCalcium: 100mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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  1. Hey Erin! I love this dish but it always ends up being kind of watery at the end. Am I doing something wrong?
    I was thinking of adding a little cornstarch at the end to thicken it up a bit.

    I am also using Coconut Aminos instead of Soy Sauce which is just as tastey!

    1. Hi Jason! This is pretty puzzling because as you can see, even in the video, there is very little water and there is only 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, that would not be enough for it to cause it to be watery. Are you cooking until the meat is fully cooked through and any liquid that has collected in the pan has mostly cooked off? If not, it needs to be drained. Also what kind of cabbage are you using? The cabbage I use, just a standard green cabbage does not produce enough water to make it watery. Lastly are you cooking over high heat? I’ve not used the coconut aminos so I am not sure if that is contributing to you having water at the end. Hope this helps!

      1. Thanks for the reply Erin!
        I have cooked the meat until it is fully cooked and most/all of the liquid is cooked off.
        I am using standard green cabbage, and cooking on medium-high heat.
        I will be making this again tonight. Either way it is delicious!

  2. This was so yummy and easy to make! Definitely will become part of the rotation. I made it exactly as the recipe and it turned out great. My daughter liked it with noodles but I enjoyed it on it’s own. The leftover can be warmed up but it’s real tasty cold too!5 stars

  3. Tried it! Vegetarian family, we did not add meat but did side with brown rice. Delicious! Thank you keep em coming.😋5 stars

    1. I’m sorry to hear the recipe wasn’t to your taste. I know it’s disappointing to try a new recipe and not enjoy it. I (and many other readers) have enjoyed it, so I really wish they would’ve been a hit for you too! Feel free to reduce the amount of ginger if you prefer.

  4. I have made this twice now and this recipe is a keeper. I was skeptical to use ground meat in a stir fry, but I went with it and really loved the result. I used red cabbage my first time, and regular green cabbage my second time, and I much prefer it with green cabbage. The red cabbage tasted fine, but didn’t wilt down as well and the color once cooked (and especially leftover) was unappealing. I served it once with rice and once with noodles, and both are equally tasty. I used 5-spice since I have it stocked, but can see where the cloves would bring the spicy notes that the 5-spice adds. This will be my go to recipe when I’ve got cabbage to use!5 stars

  5. Great flavor! I will back the ginger and pepper flakes down a bit next time. Perfect way to use up left over cabbage from fish tacos.5 stars

  6. Was looking for a cabbage stir fry and this worked great. After the prep work, it was quick to cook.
    Added left over brisket at the end. Whole family gave a thumbs up.5 stars

  7. This stir fry is so delicious and satisfying. I bought cilantro then forgot to add it, because I was so excited to sit down and eat this beautiful meal. Thanks so much Erin for this wonderful meal! We all enjoyed it very much! Look forward to making again!5 stars

  8. Thought it was great! I did tempeh baked in the oven separately for my protein. If you’re doing the same I would recommend doing only 1/8th tsp of clove. I found it overpowering, and am not a huge fan of cloves on a normal day. I had to split my veg into two pans 😂 and wish I had only done a pinch of cloves on one batch. Very unique though! Everything else was perfect!5 stars

  9. Hi Erin, I make your recipes all the time and love them. Would this cabbage recipe work with red cabbage vs green cabbage? I have a head of red cabbage I would like to use.

  10. Hey I am confused about adding the garlic/ginger mixture. Are you only mixing that in or cooking it before adding the chicken.

  11. I made this recipe because I had leftover cabbage from a coleslaw that I needed to use and this was fantastic! The recipe is so simple and doesn’t require many ingredients, but the flavor was phenomenal. I served it on a bed of brown rice and it was delicious. Thank you for sharing this!!!5 stars

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