Lost In Translation. Savoy Cabbage is not Kale, D’oh!

spiced kale; kale; stir fried kale; fried kale; curried kale; garam masala; spices; onions; garlic; green; Green and white Kale; green kale; ginger; white; brown; plate of kale; savoy cabbage,Lost In Translation

D’oh! For the past 8 months I’ve been cooking what I thought was kale. Hah! Jokes on me! No wonder those “kale chips” didn’t quite turn out like they were supposed to. This tale of D’oh begins one day over the summer of 2010. Many trips to my local produce shop used to include a couple of minutes of weirdly eyeing a firm head of leafy vegetable called kapusta. I already knew kapusta meant cabbage in many Slavic languages. But in Czech cabbage is called zeli, and there are different types of zeli. One day I finally came home to double check the word kapusta. My little Czech dictionary said cabbage and when I looked it up online the translation was kale and cabbage. Kale is a type of cabbage so I said, oh cool it’s Kale! And I happy danced because it was on our list of veggies to try.

head of kale; Kale; European Kale; Green and white Kale; white; spiced kale; kale; stir fried kale; fried kale; curried kale; garam masala; spices; onions; garlic; green; Green and white Kale; green kale; ginger; white; brown; plate of kale; savoy cabbage, lost in translation
Eight months ago when I looked up kapusta I also did a Google images search. I somehow, idiotically, convinced myself that the kale variety available here is a bit different from the varieties on Google images. The kapusta was firm, green(ish), and curly, which also describes kale. My excuse is that it was a hot summer day and my brain was too hot to do further research and went on a long holiday. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it, don’t judge. Last night as I sat down to type this recipe and gather some nutritional information about kale, I did the proper research I should have done 8 months ago. It became apparent that this kapusta was not kale but in fact savoy cabbage. Get ready for it… D’OH! And an expletive that I’ll exclude here!
[youtube WhdRsnm7jcU]
Now I’m too tired to look up and give you nutritional information for savory cabbage, perhaps another time. But what I will tell you is that savoy cabbage rocks! It’s a bit firm, won’t wilt too much but I found it to be versatile and delicious. I’ve used it as a side dish, in soups, in stuffing, in curry, as kapusta chips, well you get the picture. Here’s my recipe for Not Kale Savoy Cabbage Spiced with Homemade Garam Masala, it’s really good and you’ll love it. By the way I think this recipe would also taste great using kale. Those of you kale experts would you agree?

spiced kale; kale; stir fried kale; fried kale; curried kale; garam masala; spices; onions; garlic; green; Green and white Kale; green kale; ginger; white; brown; plate of kale; savoy cabbage,Lost In Translation

Ingredients : ( 3-4 servings )
half head or 500 grams/about 1lb. fresh savoy cabbage
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cm or 3/4 inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. sunflower oil or ghee
2-3 tsp. Garam Masala (I used my homemade recipe, spice according to your taste)
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch ground black pepper
pinch of cumin seed
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric


1. Cut the cabbage in half then quarter each half and separate the layers. Run the savoy cabbage under cold water to clean thoroughly and set aside. Heat the oil in a large and deep pan. Then add the onion and saute until transparent, next add the ginger and garlic and saute for another 4 minute.

2. Sprinkle half the Garam Masala over the onion mixture and stir well. Start placing the cabbage in the pan and layering it if need be. Lastly sprinkle the remaining Garam Masala and spices over the cabbage. Cover and turn heat to medium low. Once the cabbage begins to soften you can stir it to better distribute the spices.

I added a little bit of water at a time to the pan to prevent the cabbage from burning and not having to add any more oil. Check on the cabbage often to see if it needs a little more water. The cabbage cooked for about 20 minutes before it became soft and wilted, the texture I wanted. Cook the cabbage until you are satisfied with the texture or crunchiness.

Serve as a side dish.

spiced kale; kale; stir fried kale; fried kale; curried kale; garam masala; spices; onions; garlic; green; Green and white Kale; green kale; ginger; white; brown; plate of kale; savoy cabbage,Lost In Translation

Obviously I’ve never seen kale in person nor tasted it so I didn’t know kapusta from kale, until know. I think. If I’m still wrong about this being savoy cabbage let me know please.

I forgot to tell you that you can also find my Garam Masala recipe on page 6 of my cookbook. On that note I would like to tell you about Lynn’s giveaway. Her blog, Seasoned & Stirred is marking it’s 1st blogiversary. Congratulations Lynn and here’s to many more blogiversaries! To celebrate she is hosting her first giveaway, a copy of my cookbook. Please stop by Seasoned & Stirred for your chance to win a copy of An Epiphany of The Senses and say hi to Lynn.


  1. says

    Would you please translate both kale and savoy cabbage into Spanish for me? I used to think kale was col or repollo, but it seems it is a kind I'm not at all familiar with. Thanks in advance!

  2. says

    Your story is too funny! We all make funny mistakes but at least yours were all tasty. :)

    I remember I bought quince once, but I bought it only knowing it looked like a cross between an apple and a pear. I figured it MUST be tasty.. until I ate it and I couldn't even swallow the bitter fruit… so I let it ripen.. and it never got sweet… and that is when I suspected it was a quince. ;)

  3. says

    You're so cute, Nancy. I think my brain convinces me of weird things too sometimes, and later I'm like 'what?' (smile). I love savoy cabbage by the way, but I rarely see it here. I actually see kale here a lot (both kinds), since it's grown in Florida. I'll make it for you if you ever visit South Florida and visit my hollow;-)

  4. says

    You are so funny ;) I am almost 100% positive that what you have is indeed cabbage, of course sometimes in different parts of the world I can see the mix up as this cabbage has the firm curly leaves. I adore cabbage and love this dish as is :) I have some kale in my garden, maybe we can try an experiment…Hope your having a great evening

  5. says

    @Visda, Thanks for reading :)

    @S, I had to look up kale because I didn't know the name, my family didn't eat it. Kale is col and col rizada. Repollo means cabbage and it's what my mom used. As for the savoy cabbage I found it under several names here: http://tinyurl.com/67oegz3

    @Janet, hehe too funny:) I've never tasted quince but there is a sweet made from it that is delicious, it's called membrillo.

    @Nikki, Thank you:)

    @Stella, I will take you up on your offer. It would be so great to meet you in person and have you cook for me :)

    @Alisha, Glad that you agree and so I don't look like a bigger dummy:) Yes please experiment because I want to know if it would work with kale too.

    @MsByn, Thank you and I hope he will like the recipe.

    @Belinda, Thank you sweetie :)

    @raptoroe, Sort-of, haha !

    @Paaka, Thank you!

    • nicky says

      well thanks for the heads up! i have been doing the same thing, calling it kale not cabbage, living in budapest and vienna, they have no kale here unfortunatley, plenty of cabbage varieties though!

  6. says

    oh what a story, I am always lost..lol
    when I first began really cooking cabbage , was a totally new even in itself..thanks for sharing, stunning pics..

    ps I love your picture tutorials

  7. says

    Awesome post :)..I could recognize those words because they are very similar to language that I speak..It made sense to me that kapusta is cabbage because on mine is kupus for green regular cabbage, and zeli well we saying zelje(zel-ye)and that goes for anything green from Kale or Collard greens family..You meal is divine! Love your photos and and looks extremely tasty!

  8. says

    So how different is savoy cabbage from the normal round cabbage? Is savoy the in between of napa cabbage and green round cabbage? Am I creating more confusion? NOw you should really find the real kale and try it. :)

  9. says

    Looks like cabbage to me. Yum! I love cabbage. Loving all the spices in your cabbage dish. No worries on the confusion, though :-) I mistake stuff for other things all the time. And here's a secret: I didn't know what saffron was for a long time too. Silly me.

  10. says

    Trust me, I've done things like that before!

    Just a month ago, for some reason when I saw “escarole” in a recipe, I ended up buying endive. I knew the difference, but for some reason my mind was on auto-pilot and made me do it! lol Or that's the reason I tell myself anyway.

  11. says

    Hi Nancy, your cabbage/kale looks delicious;-)
    I like Dino kale, if you see it, give it a try. The leaves are dark green, flat, long and more tender than the curly leafed kale. I put chopped kale in soups, it is also good roasted.
    Kale or cabbage sliced thin and served with a dressing are both good raw.
    I also like Napa cabbage and use it a lot in salads. So many good things to try!

  12. says

    @Sandra, Funny I was thinking about you when I was writting about the words kapusta and zeli :) Thanks you for the explanation, I love learning about languages.

    @tigerfish, The difference is that savoy cabbage is curly and tougher than both regular and napa cabbage. Yep it's my mission now :)

    @Penny, Yes I do like that difference in taste from regular cabbage.

    @Scrambledfruit, Hehe glad you agree :)

    @Trish, Thanks for the confirmation. Hehe, I think saffron is a tough one for many :)

    @Peggy, I guess we all have our moments :) I had to look up escarole, haha.

    @Patty, Hi Patty and thank you:) Dino kale looks so delicious! Thanks for all the tips and I'll be on the look out. My stomach just growled.

  13. says

    What a funny story! You are right about this though — it is defintely savoy cabbage! :) I think sometimes the best recipes are discovered this way, and this one looks wonderful! It is something I definitely want to try!

  14. says

    Too funny. Kale, cabbage – they're both green and nutritious ;) Kale does have a firmer texture tho. I prefer the dinosaur kale – it's not as firm and has cute bumps all over it. Good in soups, crisped in the oven for “chips” and even a Kale Lasagna.

  15. says

    I'm so glad I'm not alone. I did exactly the same thing last year- the German translation for savory cabbage was also cabbage or kale. I was equally not impressed with my first batch of 'kale chips.'

  16. says

    @Kedel, Haha too funny and glad to see I am not alone :) I just found kale seeds to plant and the pack has the this name in German, halbhoher gruner krauser. Maybe you can know for sure what to look for?

  17. says

    I was perusing through your site when I came to this post and I just had to drop a comment to say I can totally relate to this. I’m from the US, but moved to Germany, not far from Berlin actually (so I was so going to go try out those cabbage rolls from Joe’s until I read a little further that it was closed >.< ). I have fun with translation and pronunciation all the time here. I often use Wikipedia to help me, I look up the word I want in english and read about it and then look at the pictures and switch to German on the language bar. It doesn't always work, but its been pretty solid for translating things beyond the traditional dictionaries or google.

    On a side note. In german, Savoy Cabbage = Wirsingkohl, Kale = Grünkohl. Kale is often treated like spinach, in that it gets chopped and cooked like cooked spinach and its generally eaten as a christmas side dish.

  18. Jade says

    I read your article since I’m also living in Europe on the search on kale and realized I made the same mistake! a least a delish one

  19. Karena says

    Too funny – I found your site by doing a google search for savoy vs. kale. I live in Belgium and wasn’t sure which was which in our supermarkets. It turns out that in French kale is “chou frisé” – ie. frizzy cabbage, and savoy is “chou vert frisé” – frizzy green cabbage. Apparently.

  20. Lauren says

    Too funny. I just made the same mistake, but in Austria. Seems to be a common mistake when translating. While the German language differentiates between Wirsingkohl (Savoy Cabbage) and Grünkohl (Kale), my local grocery store just had a label that said Kohl. Since “grün” translates to “green”, I figured if it says Kohl and its green, it must be Grünkohl, right? Either way, my Savoy Cabbage chips weren´t too bad either. :p

    • says

      Hehe, well I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s made the mistake.:) I couldn’t tell you since I don’t speak German or live in Germany. Thanks Lauren!

  21. says

    I also found your post researching kale and savoy cabbage. I always thought that kale was savoy cabbage (google translation), but that we use a different kind in Europe. My problem is, I still don’t know what kale is, LOL. I think our groceries don’t carry it as I have never seen it anywhere and I have no idea what’s it even called in my county. Anyway, thanks for your article, now I’m off to the Slovenian forums to ask about kale :).

  22. Alex says

    Living in Slovakia, I too was tricked by the label that said “kale” in the supermarket and ended up with a big savoy cabbage, not kale! So the question is now, what to do with it? The only way I would ever bother to cook such a thing would be in chips. I was going to do a simple wash-sprinkle with seasoning mix that I make on the side, then stick into the over until crispy. Will that work with this cabbage things or better give it to someone who would actually like to cook something like the dish shown above?

    • says

      Hi Alex,

      You can still cook it like the kale chips — just keep a very close eye on it because it cooks and burns quickly. I’ve done the chips and the savoy cabbage tasted delicious. If not you can always cut it up and add it to soup/stews, tastes great. Enjoy!

  23. SRL says

    Oh Gosh ! i have just done the same in France – i got lost in french translation “chou frisé” and Kale – i was so exited and just thought was another type of Kale ! well now i still have to find the famous KALE ! : )

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