Sweet & Sour German Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma Used to Make.

Or Nana or Farmor or Babushka or Bubbie.   Red Cabbage is a classic winter side dish for anyone with even a tiny bit of European heritage.  Shredded and cooked with apples, sugar and vinegar – a sweet and tart European style red cabbage recipe. 

Classic red cabbage recipe

A quick note, before I get right into the exciting world of record breaking cabbages (you and I are super-cool folk who get excited by things like discovering we’ve  already emptied the dishwasher when we thought we HADN’T … and cabbages.) 

I’ve been working on something for the past few months that I’ll be making public in the New Year.  It has very little to do with cabbages but vegetables might be involved.  Or maybe not.  I can’t tell you anything about it but I guarantee it will be fun. As in, I literally guarantee, every single month will be more fun for you.

If you want to be the first to find out about my new project click here. 


(of course you do)  CLICK HERE.

 Now.  Onto the cabbages.

It takes a certain kind of someone to want to grow the world’s largest anything.  Potato, Leek, Carrot, Zucchini …   It was in 2016 that the 90 year old record for the World’s Largest Red Cabbage was broken by David Thomas who grew a 51.1 pound red cabbage.

It beat out the long standing record of a comparably pathetic 42 pound cabbage, also grown by a man. As it turns out, most of the people who want to grow absurdly large vegetables are men.  I think we all know why.

Want to skip right to the recipe? Click here.

If you search the Internet you’ll find a photo of David, a resident of Cornwall, England,  proudly lounging languidly behind his cabbage, his face and left shoulder the only parts of his body that are visible.  

I’m sure this saucy little image is considered quite sexy within the big vegetable crowd.  Need more incentive to spend 4 months growing a big potato?  It’s common knowledge that the only profession searched more often than lawyer on Match.com is Competitive Vegetable Grower.

My own father used to search out the biggest of everything in the grocery store.  Instead of coming home with a bag of beets he’d come home with one beet that was so big it needed to be buckled into the back seat like a sleepy, red-faced toddler.

Today’s recipe for classic German Red Cabbage came from my very own homegrown red cabbage.  My own very small, non award winning, Guinness Book of World Record losing, red cabbage.

Classic red cabbage recipe

Anyone with a bit of European background has probably had a scoop of red cabbage brighten up their dinner plate during the holidays, but a few years ago I started bringing this holiday favourite out of the “only for special occasions” repertoire.


Because I like it. And because it’s stupid fast and easy to make. And?


Cabbage freezes perfectly.

Cabbage, cooked or uncooked, freezes very well. 

In fact, when I make cabbage rolls, instead of boiling the cabbages, I stick the whole cabbages in the freezer for several days.  The freezing softens the cabbage leaves enough that they’re as pliable as if you had boiled them.

And in the case of cooked cabbage,  like this shredded side dish – it freezes perfectly too.


Classic red cabbage recipe

All it takes is one or two perfectly (normal sized) cabbages, some vinegar and sugar and about 1 hour.  I use a knife to slice the cabbage thinly to shred it. Honestly? It’s easier than dragging out and cleaning a food processor.

But if you want to use a food processor, just fit it with the shredder attachment and shred away.

red cabbage and apples

You can add apples too.  I like apples.  If I have apples from my espalier trees that are damaged or or soft this is where I use them.

red cabbage recipe

Shred the cabbage with a knife, slice the apples, chop an onion and you’re almost done.  Don’t forget the bay leaf. The ingredients are simmered for about 40 minutes (until the cabbage is tender) and that’s all there is to it.

I use red wine vinegar but you can honestly use any vinegar: apple cider vinegar, regular vinegar, rice vinegar …

I make a batch every fall, put it in individual sized containers and stack them in the freezer (because my freezer is perfectly organized and yours can be too.)  Don’t envy my organized-freezer-of-a-life because I have a basement I’m afraid to enter for all manner of reasons.

So what do you eat with red cabbage?

Red cabbage goes well with pretty much everything but I especially like it with roast chicken, turkey or anything pork.  Not a giant pork.  Just you know, regular sized pork. I don’t eat a lot of game, but if you do it would be perfect with venison or duck as well.

red cabbage recipe

HERE’S A FUN FACT.  You can reserve some of the red cabbage and turn it into a super-quick coleslaw by shoving some into a jar with a solution of equal parts vinegar and sugar. Let it steep for at least an hour.


German Red Cabbage Recipe

Classic Red Cabbage

Classic Sweet & Tart Red Cabbage recipe. Sugar to taste.
4 from 24 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Canning/Preserves
Author: The Art of Doing Stuff


  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 apples
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 regular sized red cabbage shredded (enough to make 8 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tablespoons white sugar less if you want it less sweet
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf


  • Prep your ingredients so they're ready to go.
  • In a large saucepan over medium, melt the butter.
  • Add in the sliced apples and onion, cooking until soft.
  • Add remaining ingredients and heat to boiling.
  • Cover and simmer 40 minutes.
  • Discard bay leaf and transfer to serving bowl or individual containers for freezing.


*I often taste the cabbage near the end and decide whether I want to add a couple of more tablespoons of sugar.

I don’t think I’ll be growing a giant, fair worthy vegetable anytime soon, but I do think that if I were to ever join Match.com,  before I lied about my height, weight, age or education, I’d lie about being a wildly successful competitive vegetable grower.

Sweet & Sour German Red Cabbage Recipe. Like Oma Used to Make.


  1. That Annoying Guy says:

    Find yourself some Tom Watson Watermelon seeds, start them, water them, nurture them, love them, feed them, swear at them, curse them, hex them, and you might just get a garden champ.

  2. Susan Dubose says:

    I recently went to dinner at my extended family’s home and they served up this dish. It was absolutely fantastic! Admittedly, I enjoy cabbage. Admittedly, I am not big on cloves. But, put together and is terribly tasty

  3. Carla Coleman says:

    Made the red cabbage recipe and was very pleased with how it turned out. Definitely going in the permanent recipe box. I’m looking forward to making it with some venison wurst and potatoes (as someone said in the comments is how they make it) as that would be practically irresistible to the males in the family.

  4. toni says:

    your cabbages are kind of cute compared to david from cornwalls…

  5. Shirley Phillips says:

    Could you cook it with fresh cranberries instead of apples? I want to make it fast in the Instant pot, with non sugar, natural sweetener, like inulin, which comes from apples. I eat a lot of cabbage, but mostly green or savoy, or Chinese.

  6. Lynn says:

    This worked out great! I loved it! Here’s a couple of tweaks:

    For those who can’t tolerate sugar, use 1/2 cup allulose instead. You can get it on Amazon. (It’s real, just 70% as sweet as regular table sugar)

    I recommend combining the water, vinegar, salt, sweetener and pepper together to melt the salt and sweetener together before adding to the cabbage in the pan – this allows for an even distribution of the flavors – and covering the cabbage with parchment paper before putting the lid back on. The parchment will enhance the steam, and makes all the difference when cooking vegetables. (I learned that trick from a fellow chef 🤩)

  7. Lynn says:

    Perfect timing! I was looking for your recipe after buying a red cabbage on a whim. Thanks for helping me make it edible 😍

  8. Petra says:

    We eat a lotta red cabbage in winter time. It gets sauteed sweet and sour, goes in borscht, puts colour in veg salads, etc. Also it keeps well in a cool garage or shed even before you cook it.
    If you pull it from the ground roots intact you can hang it from rafters upside down. Anyway, so said Oma.
    Ours doesn’t have bay leaf or bacon but definitely apples, vinegar, sugar or honey and some whole cloves and maybe a little pepper. Has converted generations of veggie ambivalent kids into cabbage lovers.
    Your comment about menfolk seeking giant vegetables….so true!

  9. Terry says:

    Just added a red cabbage to my Instacart order.

  10. Maureen Norris says:

    My mother is Belgian and she would NEVER use white sugar with red cabbage only brown! It must be right as she’s 97 :)

  11. Suzanne says:

    Hi Karen, Have you ever canned a large batch of your red cabbage after making it?
    I don’t have much freezer space and would love to try canning this in pint jars.
    Appreciate your posts and any response.

    • Petra says:

      If you don’t mind it sweet or sour I’d recommend pickling it (like sauerkraut) rather than canning sauteed cabbage. You then drain off the liquid and lightly saute when reheating it. Should help to maintain the colour.
      Others may disagree.

    • Karen says:

      I haven’t Suzanne. But I’m sure there’s an official red cabbage recipe for canning. (just don’t use mine because it hasn’t been developed for canning) ~ karen!

  12. Beth B. says:

    In my family, we make sweet and sour red cabbage and it is called Kraut Salat. Apples are optional, but we don’t typically put them in and ours does not include the bay leaf. However, the main ingredient you are missing is at the end we fry up a pound of bacon that has been cut into about an inch to an inch and half chunks, and add the bacon and the bacon grease to the cabbage and mix well. It is a staple at all holiday gatherings. Growing up, I was convinced most German food contained one or all of the following ingredients: Vinegar, Sugar and Bacon…lol.

  13. Teresa says:

    Ahhhh, the THRILL of an unexpected empty dishwasher! These are the moments of unbounded joy folks like us live for.
    Happy Solstice, Karen!
    (My current DYI project is making an Inauguration Day advent calendar.)

  14. Karen says:

    Happy Winter Solstice Karen,

    Thanks for freezer cabbage tips, also looking for cabbage growing tips from you in the spring as I want to tuck a few veggies in my tiny town lot wherever I can find sun.
    Great shot of pot, cabbages with dark fabric.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Karen! And for growing cabbages, the one tip I can quickly give you now is that red cabbages don’t get as many pests as green cabbages. ~ karen!

  15. Nanette says:

    Your writing cracks me up! Love it!
    Rumor has it we have European blood running through our veins and I LOVE cabbage so I can’t wait to try this recipe. Apples you say? Hmmmm…great idea! (Insert drooling emoji)

  16. Deni says:

    Loved this! Thank you for sharing.

  17. Carolyn R Schneider says:

    I think that cabbage needs some German potato salad to keep it company.

  18. ROMA PATE says:

    On your Red Sweet n Sour cabbage dish I noticed you did not add any flour to thicken…I have slways used at least a tablespoon to make it a not so liquid

    • Karen says:

      Hi Roma! Nope I don’t find the need to, but if that’s something you grew up with then by all means go ahead and do it. Just always make sure to cook the flour thoroughly after adding it so you don’t have raw flour taste. (which I’m sure you know) ~ karen!

  19. Pam'a says:

    I’m wondering if this recipe would take to a long, lazy afternoon in a crock pot. I don’t see why not. Also, I have a dim memory of another cabbage delicacy I made long ago– I believe it was sauteed somehow, but then finished with sour cream. Heavenly! I could be coerced into digging out the actual recipe, but I’m sure it’s floating out in the ether, too.

  20. NinaMargo says:

    Karen, sorry I’m a day late. Did you use a specific type of apple? Granny Smith maybe? Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      I just used whatever I had in my fridge. :) I believe it was a Macintosh, but yes Granny Smith would be great. ~ karen!

  21. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    Sounds good to me but I can head my son complaining about the smell now! lol

  22. Cooked cabbage is a go-to at my house when I’ve been in the dirt all day and can’t stand the thought of cooking a meal for five people. Add potatoes, smoked sausage, some yummy mustard, rye bread with butter if I’m lucky, and dinner is served.

  23. Phyllis says:

    Oooh, sweet and sour red cabbage is a favourite fall dish of ours, especially when served with some local German sausage. But thanks for the tip about freezing it. Who knew?

    Now how about showing some love for the humble but oh-so-nutritious beet? Sweet and sour beets are a de rigeur offering at our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, and lots of other times
    as well. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

  24. Jody says:

    My cabbages are little too. But, oh so cute. I love slicing into a cabbage and seeing the insides. I am constantly amazed at the patterns in Nature.

  25. Marilyn says:

    Yeah..we know why…I love red cabbage.

  26. Catherine says:

    Karen: this sounds great! I’ll try it if for nothing other than the entertainment value for my family. I love cabbage and it does not return the favor. Also, just a heads up for your web-guru, the text for “Print” on the recipe print button looks like it is set to be white on white or grey on white and or possibly grey. It works out to being a mystery button until you mouse over or press it. They can get all java on it and fix it in nothing flat, I’m sure.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Catherine! Hmm. It’s a plugin and I rooted around a bit in the editor for it and in the 17,000 files couldn’t find the script for the print background colour. I’ll look into it a bit more tonight. :/ Thanks for letting me know! ~ karen!

  27. ronda says:

    Our family recipe comes by way of my Oma. Red cabbage, sugar, vinegar, water, pepper. And garlic, my addition. Add some thickening, and schmekt gut!

  28. linda in illinois says:

    When I helped care for children many moons ago, the kitchen ladies used to make the children cabbage soup, I was appalled by the thought and smell on those days. Then one day tried the soup and by golly gee it was terrific. Now I really like cabbage in most forms, cooked, raw, pickled, etc. Thanks for the recipe Karen, will definitely consider trying.

  29. Teddee Grace says:

    You are too funny. And I needed a laugh this morning. Actually Mr. Thomas is not a bad looking guy, but I really think you could do a further riff on this very manly art of growing….or apparently shopping for…the very large vegetable. When I googled David Thomas and the Very Large Cabbage, which I thought might bring up a children’s book, I noticed lots of violent, manly references to smashing records and the length and size of things. He now seems to have grown a 124.08 pound cabbage. Also, Mr. Thomas, who seems, over the years of competition, to be gathering girth, although it could just be muscle, along with his cabbages, commented, at some length, in response to the male announcer about his very long trip in from Cornwall and told anyone, most likely any man, interested in this competitive sport to just keep trying and enjoy themselves. Not bad advice at all.

  30. Jenny says:

    We’ll have to try this recipe to go with fried pork cutlets and warm German potato salad! I never knew that I liked cabbage like this until my husband brought home a jar of pickled red cabbage last year. Delicious. :)

  31. danni says:

    I’ve never had this, only ever seen it in the movie A Christmas Story…. I need to try it, I love cabbage.
    Best best BEST way to cook is to fry down shredded cabbage in bacon fat tho… mmmmmMMMmmmmm
    And TOTALLY off subject, I was whining that at the beginning of September my louffa vines, although beautiful, insect free, and at least 30 feet long, still hadn’t produced one gourd… BOOM! Bid fat dingle dangles hanging off the trellis! Like they exploded overnight!

  32. Mary W says:

    LOVE this great purple cabbage plant and how easy it would be to pick the small purple bowling balls from a tomato plant’s tiny stems! You have a magical garden, indeed! It surely is your happy place!

  33. Sabina says:

    Oh now I know what I’m making Sunday! I was going to die country ribs and sauerkraut because I love it. But I love sweet and sour cabbage even more! A friend was visiting from out west and making it for her mom who was in hospice care. She asked me for raisins to add but all I had was dried cranberries. It. Was. Fabulous. Try it. You’ll like it 😎

  34. Thandi says:

    So of course the first thing I did was Google “David Thomas world’s largest cabbage”. I was not disappointed.

  35. Marna says:

    Will have to try your recipe. I bet your red cabbage taste better than that man’s, probably old tasting. ;)

  36. Gabriele Butte-Colonna says:

    Instead of sugar I use red Marmelade or jelly, almost better with homemade Orange Marmelade

  37. Constanze says:

    Aside from the apples, my mom also puts in raisins or dried apricots (cut up), and, of course, a bay leaf =D

  38. Dorothy says:

    Braised red cabbage is my favorite winter vegetable dish. It was and is always on the holiday table.

  39. Hazel says:

    I sometimes add a splash of gin. Or juniper berries if I don’t want to waste gin.

  40. MrsChrisSA says:

    Cabbage – even if it is pink and has glitter – no thank you!

    Boarding school cured me of that – they used to cook it until it was grey and the whole hostel reeked of stinky sock cabbage smell.

  41. Ev Wilcox says:

    Your attention to size is interesting (disturbing?)! Copied this recipe but will prob never make it. Cannot think of one person in this family that would eat it but me. Sigh….
    Thanks anyway. As usual the photos are great. (Copied them too)!

  42. Brenda says:

    I like little vegetables but like the sounds of this especially the part about freezing well (and the bit about adding sugar – I just did some other bedtime reading – a Julia Child Mastering recipe for carrots where you add sugar to the water you boil them in and later butter and whipping cream and I closed the book with a smile on my face) … then I read this – BIG SMILE … veggies and sugar! WhoOt

  43. Kathleen Aberley says:

    You freeze cabbage? Really? I really like cabbage, although I am not sold (yet) on freezing it. This I shall have to try.

  44. MaryJo says:

    I think giant vegetables are stupid! But I love all kinds of vegetables, and your cabbage recipe is great!

  45. Lisa says:

    Well you’ve already converted me to Kale (the garlic/oil/lemon recipe) – which I now love (only prepared one way of course); shall have to try your red cabbage recipe. :-)
    PS: You shall never convert me to coriander.

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