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Braised German Red Cabbage Recipe (Rotkohl)

This Braised German Red Cabbage makes a deliciously simple side dish for almost anything. You can serve it with meat, fish, fried or poached eggs, or as a part of your veggies and grain bowl. This recipe is very easy to make using budget-friendly ingredients.

Top view of the braised German Red Cabbage in a black pan standing on a purple napkin on a grey background.

What is Braised German Red Cabbage?

Braised red cabbage is an easy side dish that is very popular in Germany and other European countries. In German-speaking parts of Europe, you can find it on the menu of almost any restaurant.

In different parts of Germany, braised red cabbage is known under different names and is called Rotkohl, Rotkraut, or Blaukraut.

Depending on the region, the recipes also slightly vary, but in the end, you get a simple braised red cabbage German style.

This popular German side dish is infused with bay leaves, cinnamon, and cloves, and has a distinct sweet and sour flavor.

Why I Love This Recipe

Red cabbage (also known as purple cabbage or blue cabbage) is very nutritious. It’s a good source of dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.

The glycemic load of raw red cabbage is 2.

Unfortunately, here in North America, humble red cabbage is very underappreciated, which is a shame because it’s inexpensive and quite easy to prepare.

Many traditional German red cabbage recipes call for a lot of sweeteners such as cane sugar, brown sugar, or honey. I find that there is no need to add so much extra sugar to the dish.

Red cabbage gets naturally sweeter as it cooks, and you can use apples of a sweet variety, so I cook red cabbage without added sugar.

Braised red cabbage tastes better the next day, so this recipe is perfect for making in advance.

Braised red cabbage on a black plate with a silver spoon on the left side.

How Do You Serve German Red Cabbage?

Traditionally, braised red cabbage is served around Christmas, usually with roasted poultry. It’s a perfect side dish to prepare for any dinner party around the holidays because it can be cooked a day ahead.

But you don’t have to wait for the holidays to make a batch of German red cabbage. Make it as a meal-prep and enjoy for dinner with meat, fish, chicken, or as part of a grain-and-veggie bowl.

Braised red cabbage tastes best when it’s warm.

Ingredients Overview

Here are the ingredients you will need to make German red cabbage:

The Main Ingredients:

  • Red cabbage: Choose firm, compact cabbage heads that feel heavy for their size. Remove wilted outer leaves before cutting the cabbage. You can freeze the leaves and other bits and pieces you won’t be cooking and use them to color Easter eggs.
  • Vegetable broth: Use low-sodium or no-salt-added mild-tasting vegetable broth to make sure it doesn’t overpower the dish.
  • Onion: Onions pair well with red cabbage and add notes of savory flavor to the dish. Make sure to thinly slice them and cook in olive oil until they start to caramelize.
  • Olive oil: Use mild olive oil or avocado oil. Many traditional recipes call for duck or geese fat or bacon. You can use those if you aren’t making a vegan version.
  • Apple cider vinegar: The vinegar helps to maintain the vibrant color and balances the sweetness of the apples.
  • Apples: Use sweet apples if you want to follow my recipe and make it without sugar. If you plan to add sweeteners, you can use sour apples such as Granny Smith to enhance that sweet and sour flavor.
  • Spices: The traditional spices usually used to prepare German red cabbage are bay leaf, cinnamon, and cloves.

Optional Ingredients:

  • Cornstarch, potato starch, or flour: If you prefer the red cabbage to be a little bit creamy, you can add a thickener at the end of cooking. Usually, you would only need about one tablespoon.
  • Bacon: If you aren’t making a vegan option, you can add some bacon to the red cabbage.
  • Juniper berries: These dried berries are popular in European cuisine. They enhance the unique flavor of German red cabbage and emphasize the sweet and sour notes of the dish.
  • Red wine and red wine vinegar: Many traditional recipes call for red wine and/or red wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar.
  • Brown sugar: If you decide to add sugar to the red cabbage, you will only need about 1 tablespoon. Add it at step #2 together with salt and vinegar.
  • Red currant jam or raspberry jelly: A popular way to finish up red cabbage is to add some jam or jelly. Add it as the last step at the very end of cooking.

Top view of the German red cabbage on a plate standing on a purple napkin. A silver spoon on the left side.

How to Make Braised German Red Cabbage

  1. Remove outer wilted and dry leaves. Cut out the core. Shred the red cabbage as thin as possible. Use a mandolin slicer if available. (Photo 1)
  2. Place the shredded cabbage into a large bowl. Salt the cabbage and pour the apple cider vinegar over it. Carefully massage the cabbage with your hands for about 1 minute. The cabbage will change the color and slightly reduce in volume. Keep in mind that red cabbage can stain your hands and nails, so wear gloves if needed. Set the red cabbage aside for about 5 to 10 minutes. (Photo 2)
  3. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion starts to caramelize. (Photo 3)
  4. Transfer the cabbage into the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients – apples, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, whole cloves, and vegetable stock. (Photo 4)
  5. Toss to combine the ingredients. When the cabbage heats through, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes. Check on the cabbage a few times during cooking to ensure that there is still enough liquid in the pan. Add more liquid if needed. (Photo 5)
  6. When the cabbage is done cooking, take it off the heat. Taste it and season with salt and pepper if needed. Put the cover back on the pot and let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving. The cabbage usually tastes better the next day. (Photo 6)

Collage of the preparation steps.

What to Keep In Mind When Cooking Braised Red Cabbage

  • Red cabbage juice stains everything. It will stain your hands and nails, your expensive cutting board, your countertop, your clothes, and any plastic it comes in contact with. So, make sure to wipe it immediately and wear gloves if you want to protect your hands.
  • Slice the cabbage as thin as possible. Cabbage takes a long time to cook so slicing it thin will help to reduce cooking time. Try to slice it into uniform pieces, so all the cabbage cooks at the same time.
  • Use a large Dutch oven or saute pan with a heavy bottom. Cabbage burns easily. Using a proper pan will help you to avoid burning the cabbage.
  • Keep an eye on the amount of liquid. The liquid can reduce during cooking, so make sure to check on the cabbage from time to time. Add more liquid if needed.

How to Store German Red Cabbage

Braised German red cabbage keeps very well in the fridge. In fact, it tastes better the next day, so you can make it ahead and enjoy for a few days for lunch or dinner.

Store it in the refrigerator in a glass airtight container for up to three days.

Remove all the spices if you intend to store it for longer than a day.

How to Reheat Braised Red Cabbage

You can reheat the cabbage on the stovetop over medium heat. Make sure to stir it from time to time so that it heats evenly. If you notice that it becomes too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of liquid.

Individual portions can also be reheated in the microwave.

Close-up side view of the German Red Cabbage in a black pan.

German Red Cabbage

Braised German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)

Yield: 4 portions
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This German Red Cabbage Recipe is very easy to make. All you need are a few inexpensive ingredients. This delicious dish can be served with meat, fish, fried or poached eggs, or as a part of your veggie-grain bowl.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 medium apples (sweet variety), cored and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Remove outer wilted and dry leaves from the red cabbage. Shred the cabbage as thin as possible. You can use a mandoline slicer if you have one.
  2. Place the shredded cabbage into a large bowl. Salt the cabbage and pour the apple cider vinegar over it. Massage the cabbage with your hands for about 1 minute. The cabbage will change the color and slightly reduce in volume. Keep in mind that red cabbage juice can stain your hands and nails, so wear gloves if needed. Set the red cabbage aside for about 5 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion starts to caramelize.
  4. Transfer the cabbage into the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients - apples, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, whole cloves, and vegetable stock.
  5. Toss to combine the ingredients. When the cabbage heats through, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes. Check on the cabbage a few times to ensure that there is still enough liquid in the pan. Add more liquid if needed.
  6. When the cabbage is done cooking, take it off the heat. Taste it and season with salt and black pepper if needed. Put the cover back on the pan and let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving. You can also let it cool and then reheat to serve. The cabbage usually tastes better the next day.

Notes

  • If you decide to make the cabbage with sugar, add about 1 tablespoon of brown sugar at step #2.
  • If the cabbage is done cooking but there is still a lot of liquid left, open the lid and turn up the heat for a few seconds. This will help the liquid to evaporate. Alternatively, you can add about one tablespoon of corn starch, potato starch, or flour to thicken the sauce.
  • A popular way to finish up the cabbage is to add one or two tablespoons of red currant jelly or raspberry jam.
  • Store in the fridge in a glass container with a tight lid for up to 3 days. Reheat to serve.
Nutrition Information
Yield 4 portions Serving Size 1/4 of recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 136Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 0mgSodium 103mgCarbohydrates 19gFiber 4gSugar 12gProtein 1g

Nutrition facts provided on this website are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a qualified health care provider for personalized diet advice and make sure that each of the ingredients is allowed in your diet.

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