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How to Shred Vegetables

Shredded raw vegetables add brightness, flavor, and crunch to recipes, as well as needed nutrients. Here's how to shred vegetables -- and how to use them once they're shredded.

What Are Shredded Vegetables?

By definition, to shred means to push food across or through a shredding surface to make long, narrow strips. To finely shred means to make long, thin strips. Most vegetables can be shredded with a box grater, a hand grater, or a food processor; however, cabbage lettuce, and other leafy greens can be easily shredded with a knife. We'll show you the best ways to get the job done.

When to Shred Vegetables

Here are some of the most common ways in which shredded vegetables are used in recipes:

  • Raw Vegetables for Salads: Some vegetables such as carrots, jicama, turnips, celery root, cucumbers, and zucchini can be tough to eat in their raw form unless they're cut into small pieces. One way to do this is to shred the veggies, which breaks them into softer bits that are easier and more delicate to eat.
  • Lettuce for Sandwiches & Tacos: Shredded spinach, leaf lettuce, and iceberg lettuce add great texture to tacos and sandwiches.
  • Sturdy Greens for Salads: Raw hefty greens, such as Swiss chard, turnip greens, and escarole, are usually too coarse to eat in large pieces. Shred them before adding to other salad greens.
  • Carrots & Zucchini for Baking: Carrots and zucchini are often made into baked treats, such as carrot cake or zucchini bread. You'll need to shred these vegetables before adding them to the recipe.
  • Cabbage for Coleslaw: Cabbage is the quintessential ingredient in a traditional coleslaw, though other shredded veggies, such as carrots, onions, jicama, and asparagus, can also be used.
  • Colorful Veggies for Garnishes: A sprinkling of finely shredded raw radishes, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, and other colorful veggies can dress up anything from devilled eggs to party dips.

Tools for Shredding

  • Box Graters (pictured above): This simple, inexpensive piece of equipment is four tools in one -- it usually has a grating surface, a shredding surface with large holes, a shredding surface with small holes, and a slicing surface.
  • Plane Graters (pictured below): These are composed of one shredding surface (such as a fine-hole or large-hole surface) attached to a handle.

Either will work, but each has its advantages. While the box grater offers more functions, the plane grater takes up less room in your kitchen and can be easily tucked into a drawer.

How to Shred Nonleafy Vegetables

Here's how to shred root vegetables, cucumbers, asparagus, summer squash, and other nonleafy vegetables:

  • Wash the vegetables.
  • Peel the vegetables, if needed. With the exception of radishes, most root vegetables, such as carrots, onions, turnips, jicama, and celery root, are usually peeled before shredding. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin of the vegetable. You may want to peel cucumbers if the outer skin is tough; leave asparagus and summer squash (such as zucchini and yellow squash) unpeeled.
  • Shred away! Push the vegetable through the large-holes on the shredding surface of a box grater or a plane grater, starting from the top of the grating surface and moving the vegetable to the bottom of the grater. To finely shred the vegetable, push it through the smaller holes of the box grater or use a plane grater with small holes.

Tip: As the vegetable you're grating becomes smaller, it's easy to shred skin from your fingertips or knuckles if they get too close to the shredding surface. Once the vegetable has been shredded down to a small piece, cut this remaining piece by hand into small strips using a sharp knife. This will help you avoid cutting your fingers on the grater. You can also buy a shredding glove to protect your hand.

How to Shred Round Cabbage & Iceberg Lettuce

  • Discard the wilted outer leaves. To wash, hold the head, core side up, under cold running water, pulling leaves apart slightly. Invert the head and drain thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.
  • Cut the head of cabbage or lettuce through the core into quarters. Use a knife to cut the core from each quarter. Discard the core.
  • Place a quarter section, cut side down, on a cutting board.
  • Hold a cleaver or chef's knife perpendicular to the cabbage or lettuce. Slice it into long 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick shreds.

How to Shred Other Leafy Greens

Follow these instructions for napa cabbage, Savoy cabbage, Swiss chard, escarole, kale, romaine, turnip greens, and other sturdy leafy greens:

  • Discard tough outer leaves; cut away tough stems and core, if present. To wash, rinse in cold water. Pat dry or spin dry in a salad spinner.
  • Stack the leaves on a cutting board.
  • Use a cleaver or chef's knife to slices the leaves crosswise into 1/8- or 1/4-inch-thick shreds.

Shredding Vegetables in a Food Processor or Blender

You can also use a food processor fitted with a shredding blade to shred vegetables. Follow the directions given by the manufacturer. We do not recommend shredding vegetables in a blender, as blenders chop the food into short, small, uneven pieces rather than shredding them into long, narrow uniform strips.

Shredding: How Many/How Much?

Carrots, cabbage, and other greens are often used by the cupful in recipes. Here's a guide to how much of each you'll need for each cup:

  • Carrots: 1 medium carrot equals 1/2 cup shredded carrot.
  • Round Cabbage: One 2-pound head equals 12 cups shredded cabbage.
  • Napa Cabbage: One 2-pound head equals 12 cups shredded leaves and sliced stems.                                                                                       
  • Savoy Cabbage: One 1-3/4-pound head equals 12 cups coarsely shredded cabbage.
  • Iceberg Lettuce: One 1-1/4-pound head equals 12 cups shredded lettuce.
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