Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Traditional German and Austrian sweet sour red cabbage. Shredded red cabbage cooked with vinegar, sugar, and butter.

  • Prep time: 7 minutes
  • Cook time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • One 2-pound red cabbage
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

1 Cut the cabbage in half, cutting through the core as you do this. Cut the cabbage halves in half again, again through the core. Cut out the core from the quartered cabbage and discard. Thinly slice the cabbage.

2 Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced red cabbage and toss to coat with the butter. Sauté until slightly wilted, about 5 minutes.

3 Sprinkle sugar over the cabbage and toss to coat evenly. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pot. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until the cabbage is completely tender, stirring often, about 30 minutes total.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Comments

  1. Abby

    I just made this for supper. It takes me back to my Oma and Opa’s house.
    Oddly enough, my husband made sesame chicken (a Chinese dish) and they seemed to go very well together in the same dinner.

  2. John Turner

    My partner’s grandmother passed this recipe to me when she knew I liked cooking. She was 83 in 1977 and was given the recipe by her mother. She added a Bramley cooking apple to your ingredients. Very delicious. Serve with game or roast lamb. Quince jelly also complements the cabbage and meat.

  3. babibi

    Hey, I’ve been making this dish for many years now as a holiday tradition for thanksgiving dinner. It goes perfectly with turkey. The only difference is that the original recipe that I use also calls for a clove of garlic, shallots, and a dash of salt and pepper. It puts it slightly more on the savory side i guess.

    I didn’t know it was Austrian as I got it from the Philadelphia magazine where it claimed that it was a traditional dish eaten by our nation’s forefathers.

  4. aussie

    I learned how to make this dish from my grandpa, also from Austria. In our opinion, an absolutely KEY ingredient for this is bacon. Sautee the bacon until crisp, break into small pieces, and pour it (still hot, with all the melted grease) over the fresh cabbage in a large pot, then add the vinegar and sugar (we usually don’t measure, but do it to taste because some cabbage may be sweeter than others). Skip the butter. Yum!

  5. aussie

    Oh, and we add some finely chopped apples (a tart variety) and finely chopped white onion as well.

  6. Michjelle

    I’ve been making this for years! My husband would never touch it until we had it as an accompaniment to pork cutlets in a German restaurant. Now he insists on it whenever I cook pork of any sort. I plan on canning some this fall.

  7. Krista

    This is very similiar to the Danish style sweet and sour cabbage that I make, except that I use apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic. I’ll have to give this variation a try next time!

  8. Mary

    Sweet and sour cabbage is SO tasty and versitile. I use a very close version of this recipie- i go half and half with red wine vinegar and balsamic- on sandwiches, hot dogs, and bratwurst where I would otherwise use sauerkraut. Its a great alternative and the color makes everything more exciting. I have had a really positive reaction from the under ten croud to my “Purple Reubens.”

  9. Jane

    My Oma used to double the quantity (and yes,with grated apple)and part of it baked as a strudel.

  10. Felicia

    Oh my gosh, this was delicous. I had a head of red cabbage hanging around and this came up as the recipe of the day with perfect timing :) I didn’t get around to making this until last night, though. I ended up having to cook it for about 45 minutes for all of the vinegar to reduce down. The dish is such a lovely color, it really complements the rest of the food on the plate :) So flavorful for something so simple!

  11. Tammy

    Oh good heavens, this is tasty. My family is thouroughly Pennsylvania Dutch by heritage, so we eat sauerkraut with everything – especially Thanksgiving turkey!! But this is so much prettier and more festive…. I think the turkey’s got a new favorite partner. Thanks!!

  12. Mandy

    For generations my German background family has been making something similar. But, instead of sugar, brown sugar is used and instead of balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar is used. Also, no oil is used. The recipe is as follows:
    Head of red cabbage -shredded
    1/2 cup brown sugar – packed
    1/2 cup cider vinegar
    1 cup water
    Few dashes clove powder
    salt & pepper to taste
    1 cup diced apples (optional)
    In a pot, bring water, sugar, vinegar, and spice to a boil. Add shredded cabbage. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at low simmer until cabbage is tender and juice has reduced and thickened slightly. If you are opting to use the apples add them in towards the end of the cooking so that they are tender but don’t fall apart. This goes great with my grandmother’s wonderful Saurbratten (made with beef or venison), Roast Pork Loin with onion gravy, or her incredible Jagereintopf (Hunter Stew). Enjoy!

  13. irmgarde

    We are having extended family for Christmas (distant cousins) and they insisted on bringing and making red cabbage for dinner…. which is fine (we’re serving duck), but now I’m not sure what to serve with it. The recipe she uses is similar to this one… what do you think compliments red cabbage.. it’s such a strong taste. thanks in advance.

  14. Perry

    When I lived in Illinois my parents used to take me too a restaurant where they served Roast Pork,Sweet Cabbage but it wasnt red and it had Caraway Seed in it and the pork as well. Then they would top off the dinner with something called a Kolashki(I certainly hope I didnt dismember the spelling of that dessert).

    Would anyone know where that recipe could be found it was absolutely wonderful I have never tasted anything like it since we left. And the last time I visited it was out of business. HELP. If anyone has any suggestions?

    You might try looking at our kolache recipe filled with poppy seeds. You can use other fillings too. ~Elise

  15. Stella

    I just finished my inaugural try at your recipe. It was so nice to try something so very different (for me) and it turned out beautifully. I think I will serve it with some kind of pork next time. Thank you!

  16. Laurie

    My Mom use to make red cabbage all the time but I never knew how she made it. I just made this recipe and it was out of this world. I never heard of using balsamic vinegar before. My Mom always used regular red or white. But the balsamic vinegar really gave it the flavor. Thanks so much. I really enjoyed it.

  17. Sprittibee

    I so. love. this.

    I cooked up a bowl full of this (altering the recipe here and there according to your comment section and the amount of cabbage I had) tonight. I ate nothing but a big heaping bowl full of cabbage for dinner! So delicious.

    I have bookmarked your site. Looking forward to coming back and seeing you in my bloglines.

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to post this recipe (altered somewhat) on my blog, too! I keep a collection of my favorite meals online for easy access anywhere I am if I want to cook. This recipe will be a fine edition to my favorites.

    I love your photo, by the way. I took my own photo for my blog post, however. Cute blue bowl as well.

  18. Lizzie

    I made this last night, and as I was cooking, it tasted a little bit bland, so I added some red pepper flakes, ginger, and a little curry powder. I served this with curried yellow split peas over buckwheat soba noodles and fresh cilantro. It was an absolutely amazing combination of sweet, spicy & savory. So I suppose I used this recipe only as a base, but it was a good one regardless.

  19. Brad

    I came up with an interesting twist to this recipe. I cut the head of cabbage in half, and let it sit on a smoky BBQ grill (the coldest spot) for about 45 mins. I proceed with the recipe as above, but I use Splenda instead of sugar, and I also use “Smart Balance” butter, add a little garlic and some crushed red pepper flakes. It’s one of my favorite dishes! The smokiness of the cabbage combined with the sweet and sour and spicy flavors is irresistable!

  20. carolyn

    So delicious. Thank you for the recipe. I added a bit of wondra flour as mine was a bit liquidy and this seemed to work very well. Very delicious with pork chops.

  21. Susan

    I never met a cabbage dish I didn’t like. I threw in about 1/3 C of raisins and it complimented it wonderfully.

  22. Edith Miller

    This is the best recipe I’ve tried:
    1/4 cup butter,4 apples (granny or Mcntosh or mixed)1/2 red onion,sliced,1 head red cabbage,shredded,one cup grenadine,8 cloves,1/3 cup brown sugar,2 bay leaves, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup butter,juice from 1/2 lemon. Melt butter in Dutch oven, add onion,apples,cabbage
    cloves,sugar,grenadine,simmer,covered 1 hour. Then add vinegar,butter,and lemon juice.
    My family loves it when I fix this with a typical German menue.
    Keep up the good work

  23. Ellen

    I just made this tonight with a homegrown red cabbage. Very good! Served it with kielbasa, white beans, and fried apples.

  24. Dana

    I had pork roast, steamed potatoes with leeks in white sauce and sweet ‘n sour red cabbage. Fabulous!

    My mother used to make this but I did’nt have the recipe and this worked great! I added a little corn starch and marmelade and made it a little like Harvard Beets. My fave!

    Thanks for the great recipe!
    Love to the world,
    Dana

  25. Becky

    I have been wanting a recipe for Red Cabbage for sometime. When my husband selected bratwurst for dinner, I thought this is my chance. I picked up a bag of shredded cabbage and figured I would find something on the net. What luck, this recipe was the seond result from my google search. If I had known how easy it is to make red cabbage, I would have been making it a long time ago. I think it will be my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year. I can’t wait to try more recipes from this site.

  26. William

    My German mother used to make this but she would first char brown cut up hot dogs in the butter before adding the cabbage and also add a couple of sliced up apples, brown sugar instead of white and apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic.

  27. Barbara O'Brien

    My mom and Oma made red cabbage simalar to William’s posted on January 1st 2009. We didn’t use the hot dogs but did use apples, some onion, brown sugar and regular vinegar but also added 2 or 3 whole cloves(not garlic but the actual spice) and a bay leaf. The cloves give it a great taste. Remove the cloves and bay leaf just before serving.

  28. Tonya Remo

    How do you go about canning the sweet and sour cabbage after it is made? I have a garden full of purple cabbage.

    Great question. I suspect you need to pressure can these, but don’t really know. ~Elise

  29. Mary Beth Seldal

    I think to can red cabbage, you will need to cook it first, then pack loosely into jars and seal, pressure cook at 15 lbs. for 20 minutes. I used to do this with sweet and sour cabbage , and it turned out wonderful..I chopped the cabbage, added apple cider vinegar, butter, brown sugar or honey, and apples. You can add fennel seeds or cloves,nutmeg or allspice. Check out the recipe on Garden Web, Oct.28,06, by gardenlad..that is what I use, minus the raisins,dill and caraway seeds. Hope this helps..guess what..we also have a garden full of red cabbage.

  30. Lisa

    I have had a head of cabbage in the fridge and I was trying to find something to do with it. I love that this recipe includes ingredients already in the kitchen and am going to try it today.

    My husband and I are vegetarians so maybe we’ll try it with veggie hot dogs.

  31. Alex

    Hi there – great recipe but I was a little concerned with the amount of butter and sugar.

    Instead I sauted onions and a chilli pepper in olive oil. Then dumped in then red cabbage with about a quarter cup water and steamed it. Then threw in a bit of balsamic and one tablespoon grapefruit marmalade (just a pithy marmalade). Excellent!!!

    Thanks for the inspiration

  32. DarLynn Andrasko

    Thanks for the post on canning the red cabbage. I canned my father-in-laws Hungarian Lecso (peppers, tomaotes, onions & bacon) and it worked great. I wanted to do the red cabbage (his has caraway seeds in it as well) but never knew how to go about it. Do you cook it fully before packing in quarts or slight undercook it do you think? Seems the 20 minutes process time would complete the cooking.

  33. CARLEEN GERRITS

    I am 81 years of age and I have been eating this as long as can remember. My Grandparents were both from Germany and came to this country in 1899. I prefer the apple cider vinegar and chop apples into it. Never did have it with butter. I am thinking it all goes along with personal preference. I do add and subtract from manh recepies but with this one, I say why ruin perfection.

  34. D Baltadonis

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! I have missed this exact taste since I came back from Germany! I am so very grateful to you for posting it & sharing! I Love the fact that it’s sooo easy too! Brings back many, many good memories!

  35. Roger

    I learned this recipe when I was 15 working in a Eurpoean restaurant. I love it, I have always loved it. I do vary it one little bit though and instead of sugar I use about 1/2 cup honey. it turns out amazing.

  36. Patti Lecron

    This recipe is perfect and I wouldn’t change a thing about it! I’ll never buy prepared sweet and sour cabbage again and will make this one from now on. My family loves it.

  37. Donna

    I have two questions. Can you freeze the cabbage after cooking it and what is the difference between balsomic and apple cider vinegar? Thank you.

    Great questions. I don’t know about freezing the cabbage, as I have not done that. Regarding the difference between balsamic and apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar is aged, often thick, and usually somewhat sweet. You can consult the Wikipedia for more information on balsamic vinegar. ~Elise

    • Emily Summer

      It freezes very well. We put leftovers in ziplock and lay flat. Defrost, dump into saucepan, heat and eat. I thinks it even tastes better than fresh cooked cause all the flavors have mingled.

  38. Dani

    This will be great with some butter and bay leaf roasted new potatoes.

  39. Jenson

    Only one comment so far this year?!? I have been lurking on this recipe for a looong time now. It is my steadfast german food side dish recipe. Even my now 6yr old daughter loves it. I figured i should give it another boost of attention.

    It’s such a simple recipe yet it comes out so superb. I don’t use balsamic though, i defer to the ol’ german standby of cider vinegar. We like the more sour taste it gives all the german foods we make.

  40. Gary Kaiser

    I made this recipe tonight for dinner with pork roast and potatoes.My mother used to make this and everybody used to complain that she didn’t make enough!well I haven’t had it since she passed about 8yrs now.Thanks I’ll make it all the time now.

  41. Cosima

    I am a German living in Hong Kong and can attest to how well red cabbage goes with Chinese meat dishes like pork marinated in soya sauce and ginger.

    My mum’s red cabbage recipe begins with a few tablespoons of rendered goose or duck fat, an onion or two, fried on low heat until brown and sweet, then deglaze with red wine vinegar. Add finely shredded red cabbage and a peeled and sliced apple or two, as well as spices: bay leaf, crushed juniper berries, crushed pepper, and salt. If you want you can also add a few whole cloves and a cinnamon stick. Either add red wine or water to simmer until tender.

    The newest addition to our family recipe is a bit of home made kumquat or bitter orange jam mixed in at the end. If you don’t want to do that sugar is fine too.

  42. Jean

    Great recipes! When I was a little kid back in the depression in the 1930s, my Dutch family prepared sweet and sour red cabbage with some brown sugar, cider vinegar and a little salt and pepper, served with any sort of beef or pork and mashed potatoes and gravy. Whatever you use, a sweet – honey, jam, Splenda, white sugar, brown sugar and a sour – cidar vinegar, lemon juice, wine vinegar, will all be delicious. Balsamic vinegar by itself is sweet and sour – that’s all you basically need, along with some salt and pepper. Then and now, red cabbage costs a little more, but it is worth it.

  43. Don

    I’ve been making this for years, slightly different recipe, but similar. It freezes very well, I always make about 6 quarts and freeze/share with friends and family. Enjoy!

  44. johanna

    Only got to read this now, was also catching up on traditional recipes back in austria. we eat red cabbage mainly with venison, accompanied by cranberry sauce and potato croquettes. Some people add orange juice to their cabbage, which I think works very well. Haven’t had this in ages! Yum!

  45. Ell

    Can you prepare this as is and can in a pressure canner?

    • Elise

      Hi Eli, great question! I have not canned this recipe so I don’t know what issues there may be with canning it. I recommend consulting a canning book or find a recipe online that gives specific instructions for canning.