German Red Cabbage Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 10 min. Cook: 65 min.
This inexpensive red cabbage recipe makes a tender, tasty vegetable side dish. It's traditionally German, but it pairs well with all kinds of foods, in every season.

Updated: Apr. 17, 2024

German red cabbage is sneakily versatile. I first made it to serve alongside sauerbraten (one of the most classic German recipes), which was a pairing that my grandma used to make. But then it started to pop up on my menu every few weeks as a side dish or as a garnish to sandwiches. Once I made it a couple times, I found myself thinking up ways to add the sweet-tart cabbage recipe to everything: sausage pasta, beef roast, beef lo mein and so much more.

You get a lot of bang for your buck with this recipe. Red cabbage is easy to find, inexpensive and nutrient-dense. It’s packed with vitamin A, potassium and antioxidant-rich vitamin C; it’s low in calories and it’s a good source of dietary fiber. And of the many ways to cook cabbage, this is one of the easiest. Simply cut up a few ingredients, add them to a pot, and stir occasionally until everything is soft and sweet. It’s a great autopilot dish for a weeknight dinner or even a dinner party.

Ingredients for German Red Cabbage

  • Cabbage: Red cabbage is easy to find year-round. It’s actually purple in color, so you may also hear it referred to as purple cabbage. The leaves are quite dense, which makes them perfect for long cooking; they become very tender and mild-tasting as they simmer.
  • Onion: A simple white or yellow onion, when cooked low and slow, becomes soft and super sweet. If you’re one of the tear-prone, here’s how to cut an onion without crying.
  • Apple: Many types of apples work well in this recipe, but firm, tart apples that can stand up to cooking are best: think Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp or McIntosh.
  • Vinegar: Plain white vinegar adds a welcome note of acidity that brightens the robust flavor of onions and cabbage. If you prefer, use apple cider vinegar instead.
  • Sugar: Adding sugar to the cooking pot balances the sharpness of the vinegar, draws out the sweetness in the other ingredients and makes for thicker, sweeter pan juices.

Directions

Step 1: Saute the onion and apple

In a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray, cook and stir the onion and apple over medium heat for about five minutes until the onion is tender.

Step 2: Cook the cabbage and spices

Stir in the cabbage, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for about one hour, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender. Serve the cabbage warm or cold.

A Bowl of German Red Cabbage with a Spoon.TMB Studio

Recipe Variations

  • Add spice: Many spices complement cabbage well. Try baking spices like cloves, allspice or cardamom, or steer the recipe into earthy and spicy territory with cumin seeds, caraway, spicy pepper flakes or even curry powder.
  • Add fat: While this recipe calls only for a spray of cooking oil, you can enrich it with a tablespoon or two of your favorite cooking fat, such as olive oil, canola oil or butter.
  • Add bacon: Bacon and cabbage are a classic combo. Cook the bacon in the pan before Step 1, then cook the onion and apple in the rendered bacon fat. Or, simply add cooked, chopped bacon to the recipe near the end and warm it through.

How to Store German Red Cabbage

Keep leftover German red cabbage in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will be good for up to five days. Enjoy it cold or gently reheated, either on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Can you freeze German red cabbage?

Yes, you can freeze German red cabbage. Since the cabbage is cooked until quite tender, it actually holds up well to freezing without much change in texture. To freeze, allow the cabbage to cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag. Store it in the freezer for up to three months. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating, or enjoying it cold.

German Red Cabbage Tips

Two Plates of German Red Cabbage with Sausages.TMB Studio

What’s the best way to cut cabbage?

Large heads of cabbage can be intimidating, but they’re actually fairly easy to cut. To cut red cabbage, first rinse and remove any outer leaves that are wilted, blemished or dry. With a chef’s knife, slice off the root end, then cut the cabbage in half through the stem. Slice the cabbage into quarters, cutting out the root diagonally. Finally, thinly slice the cabbage in the short direction, which makes it easier to eat. You can also shred cabbage with a food processor blade, mandoline or cheese grater.

What do you serve with German red cabbage?

Any classic German recipe tastes fantastic with a side of zippy red cabbage, from beef pot roast to pork schnitzel. But there’s no need to stick to Bavarian inspiration; this dish tastes great with all kinds of meals. Serve it hot in the wintertime alongside roast beef, chicken or hearty stews. In the summer, it makes a delicious cold dish served with grilled hot dogs or sausages.

What can you do with leftover red cabbage?

Leftover cooked red cabbage is delicious on a roast beef sandwich or as a side for stews or soups. Leftover raw red cabbage is also useful. Add raw shredded red cabbage to any salad for extra nutritious crunch. It also makes a colorful and tasty vegetable slaw. Try adding cabbage to potato soup, shepherd’s pie or use it in any of our other favorite cabbage recipes.

Watch how to Make German Red Cabbage

German Red Cabbage

Prep Time 10 min
Cook Time 65 min
Yield 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 medium apple, sliced
  • 1 medium head red cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray, cook and stir onion and apple over medium heat until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients; cook, covered, until cabbage is tender, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve warm or cold.

Nutrition Facts

1 cup: 64 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 23mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate (12g sugars, 2g fiber), 1g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1/2 starch.