German Sweet and Sour 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

Rotkohl – otherwise known as German red cabbage is THE reason I grow red cabbages. I hand a couple of them over to my sister Fish Pedicure to make for our family’s Thanksgiving dinner and then I turn another one or two into my own red cabbage to eat throughout the year. (it freezes really well)  I have never, however, grown a cabbage I would consider award winning.

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.

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 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

What is it?

Anyone with a bit of European background has probably had a scoop of red cabbage brighten up their dinner plate during the holidays.

It’s a mixture of fresh red cabbage, sugar, vinegar and apples. The perfect combination of sweet and sour. In Germany it’s Rotkohl, in Denmark Rødkål and in Swedish rödkål.  Same name, same deliciousness.


Freezing cabbage?

Yes, you can freeze cooked cabbage perfectly. Cabbage, cooked or uncooked, freezes very well. It will get softer as anything does once you freeze it, but it doesn’t become watery or gross. 

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 (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.

What to pair it with

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


Quick Red Cabbage Coleslaw recipe

You can reserve some of the red cabbage and turn it into a super-quick coleslaw by shoving some into a jar with a 2:1 solution of sugar to vinegar. Let it steep for at least an hour. I like to add a sprinkling of celery seed as well.   (so use 1/4 cup sugar and 1/8 cup vinegar for example)


German Red Cabbage Recipe

Classic Red Cabbage

Classic Sweet & Tart Red Cabbage recipe. Sugar to taste.
3.93 from 26 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,  before I lied about my height, weight, age or education, I’d lie about being a wildly successful competitive vegetable grower.

German Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage Recipe.  Like Oma used to make.


  1. kelle says:

    Just made this…..SO good! Even my grandbabies loved it.

    • Karen says:

      Oh! That’s perfect, lol. I just made some a couple of days ago too. But I overcooked mine and it’s a bit mushy lol. Glad the grandbabies approved! ~ karen

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Back the heck up. You freeze your cabbage inside of boiling for cabbage rolls? I need more details please. Boiling is the most tedious part of the cabbage rolls process- but I do it because I LOVE them.
    And I have the BEST recipe for them- which I can send a link to but only if you elaborate on this no boiling the cabbage miracle 💙

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elizabeth! Yes just freeze your cabbage for a few days. Or as long as you want. Then when you want to make cabbage rolls just pull it out of the freezer, put it in a colander and set it in the sink or bowl. When it’s thawed you have nice, soft cabbage leaves. You still have to shave off the middle vein. ~ karen!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Huzzah! I’m doing this next time. Thank you. Btw, I mentioned this to my sister and she said this is the way she always does it’s fun I never knew about it!😳

  3. Lydia says:

    Instead of the one cup of water, I use a cup of Merlot wine, or a tad more. Yum!

  4. Carrie says:

    Hi Karen. I’m going to make some red cabbage and freeze it! I also love the idea to freeze the whole cabbage to make cabbage rolls. I hate the mess of boiling it and burning my fingers.

  5. Cindy Kutz says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just like my German grandmother made. I think she added caraway seeds, though. Ever hear of that?

  6. Randy P says:

    A fav in many ethnic European communities too. I’ve had it as a wonderful side to some pork roast slices and steamed bread dumplings with gravy. OK ….. now I’m hungry again and I just finished a late lunch – lol

  7. Lynn says:

    Sounds yummy Karen, I don’t think I have ever had your red cabbage slaw 😟. I know cabbage freezes well when made into cabbage rolls though. I have never just froze plain cabbage balls.
    Question for you though could it be frozen after it’s sliced for slaw/ Bosch soup which ever takes my fancy at the time of taking it out of freezer?
    If so does it need to be cooked / blanched first?

  8. jody says:

    Perfect timing….I still have two cabbages left in my garden and need something else to make with them. So happy to hear cabbage can be frozen as well.

  9. Mary W says:

    Love this post just as much now as I did then – entertaining, makes me laugh, lots of tips, great recipe! Red cabbage added to my menu plan.

  10. Sharon Naftali says:

    Came out 5h3 same way myocardial used to make it
    Thank you

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for rating the recipe and letting me know Sharon! I’m glad you liked it. I’ll be making my own first batch of the season this week. :) ~ karen!

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. toni says:

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

  15. 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.

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