German Red Cabbage Recipe

There are few German foods that I find more heavenly than stewed red cabbage. I don’t know what it is exactly but I could seriously eat my weight in the stuff. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I mean it. To be honest, it seems to be something about shredded cabbage in general that I love. Cole slaw, German red cabbage, sauerkraut…I pretty much like it all. No, I swear I’m not pregnant — I just love me some well cooked or marinated cabbage.

If you’re going to make stewed German red cabbage from scratch, you should make it a day in advance. The red cabbage really needs time to cook down and soften…otherwise it’s just not going to taste the same. Once you’ve cooked it, just put it into the fridge overnight. If your pot is cool enough, you can put the whole thing in the fridge which will save you from dirtying more dishes and pots. Before you begin cooking your Schweinebraten (or whatever else you are making), take the red cabbage out of the fridge and warm it up slowly on the stove.

When you’re rushed for time, you can also use the canned red cabbage (do they have that in the US?) and just add the apples, cloves, bay leaves and pepper. Also make sure to start it several hours in advance to allow it to really soak in all the flavors.

German red cabbage

Using canned red cabbage due to time constraints but giving it some added flavor with apples, bay leaves and cloves.

Now in case you’re wondering, in Bavaria and southern Germany, red cabbage (cooked or growing in your garden) is called Blaukraut — which actually means “blue cabbage.” And in Austria and central Germany (like Frankfurt), it’s called Rotkraut (red cabbage). But in northern Germany (Hamburg, Berlin), they call it Rotkohl. That also means red cabbage. Confused yet? Cabbage is usually called Kopfkohl (head cabbage) but there are many dialects in Germany and in the North, people call it “Kohl” while those in the south called it “Kraut.” As for why it’s referred to as red or blue in various places, it is believed that that there was no word to describe the color purple (lila) until the 18th century so people had to make a decision whether they would call the cabbage blue or red. In addition, depending on where the recipe comes from, the resulting stewed red cabbage could end up being red or purple in color. In the north, they added vinegar or wine to the recipe which gave it a redder color — hence Rotkohl. In the south, they added sugar and other alkaline ingredients that gave it a more blue or purple color.

Warning: Your house is going to smell so good while you cook this red cabbage and the other parts of your meal that you and all family members may go insane with hunger!

Coming up on Thursday: the surprisingly easy bread dumplings that will rounded out this deliciously killer meal! By the way, you can serve red cabbage with many things besides Schweinebraten. It’s also great with Sauerbraten, duck, goose or venison.


German Red Cabbage (Blaukraut)

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

German Red Cabbage (Blaukraut)

German red cabbage (aka blaukraut or rotkohl) is a popular side dish in Germany for hearty dinners like roasted duck, schweinebraten or venison. You can make your own at home from scratch with just a little bit of planning ahead.


  • 1 kilogram (2.5 pounds) red cabbage
  • A pinch or two of salt
  • 1 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 3 tablespoons clarified butter (_Butterschmalz_)
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 300ml (1 1/4 cups) dry red wine
  • 100ml vegetable stock (_Gemüsebrühe_)
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pepper to taste


  1. Wash red cabbage, cut into quarters and cut out the hard stalk. Cut cabbage into thin strips, put into a bowl and add salt. Mix well with your hands.
  2. Add re-solidified butter to a pot and melt at medium heat. Add onions and apples and lightly steam. Add vinegar and red cabbage. Cook at medium-heat for 7 minutes.
  3. Add wine, stock, cloves, bay leaves, sugar and pepper, mixing in completely. Reduce temperature to low and let stew for at least 45 minutes.


  1. Doris Mühlbauer says:

    Just wanted to add a little something to this recipe:
    I use white pepper, and also add about a teaspoon of caraway seeds. This helps digest the Kraut better and gives a nice taste to it.
    And I agree: I LOVE blaukraut !
    Looking forward to Semmelknödel !

  2. Frau Bach told me to add a little brown sugar instead of white sugar. I LOVE Red Cabbage–as does my whole family.
    .-= Janet´s last blog ..Tuesday’s Trees- American Beech, Fagus grandifolia =-.

  3. Hi Tiffany!
    Wow…I was searching for rotkohl recipes tonight and stumbled on your blog…love it. Someday I hope to escape and become an Expat as well…we will see.
    Well, I made rotkohl tonight (my oma’s recipe), but, ummm, it’s a bit soggy. :( Tastes pretty good, but it’s super soft. I noticed your recipe limits the cook time to 45 minutes…so why do so many recipes call for 2+ hours?? Looking forward to trying your version after we polish off my mess. :)
    Also, Doris – my oma used white pepper also.
    .-= Sandy Frascona´s last blog ..If Winnie the Pooh Experienced Roid Rage! =-.

    • I think a lot has to do with the heat at which you cook it as well as the cabbage itself. I had one recipe where you only cooked it for 30 minutes and it came out horribly…but I think the real trick it to cook it twice, one day after the other. The cabbage really needs to sit and have time to break down into something softer. Rotkohl should be more on the soft side than the crunchy…but not soggy.

  4. Ottawa Foodie says:

    Does anyone happen to have the braised red cabbage recipe from the Time Life Cookbook (Foods of the World) – Germany? I made this recipe in the 80′s and have never had a better one. Looking to make it again and need the recipe. All help is appreciated. I remeber the recipe had jelly (red currant I think), apples (maybe(?) and it seems I might have left it overnight to ‘marinate’. Funny how the memory isn’t so clear after 25 years. lol

    • Sorry to say I don’t have those cookbooks but feel like I might need to get my hands on them :) Perhaps some of the other readers might have a copy. I even looked to see if anyone might have the recipe online but all I could find were others trying to sell their copies of the book. My recipe is translated from a Bavarian cookbook and was passed on from a very Bavarian friend who swears by it.

      Most good braised red cabbage recipes will suggest doing it overnight because the cabbage gets so much softer and flavorful. Apples are fairly standard and I wouldn’t be too surprised about the red currant jelly either — red currants (Johannisbeeren) are very popular here. Some may also put a bit of lingonberry (Preißelbeeren) jam instead of the currant jam.

      Perhaps if you can’t find the recipe, you can just start with a decent one and “wing it.” :)

    • Middle Girl says:

      You might try this one. The link is at the bottom and it sounds pretty authentic.

      Bavarian Red Cabbage


      the red cabbage, quarter and cut into fine strips. Discard the core. Brown the sugar in the butter until
      light brown in color. Add the finely chopped onion and in small cubes cut
      peeled apples. Sauté for a few minutes. Add the red cabbage and mix everything
      to combine. Immediately pour a little of the red wine vinegar on the cabbage so
      it retains the red color. Season with salt, add a little of red wine, bay
      leaves, cloves and steam covered on medium heat until cabbage is tender for
      about 45 – 60 minutes. At the end dust cabbage with some flour, season to taste
      and add some more red wine and/or vinegar if necessary. Add some jam if desired
      for enhanced taste, stir.

      Tip: Do not cook cabbage in a cracked enamel pot because the taste may be
      compromised and the food may get discolored!


      3/4 – 1 kg / 1.6 – 2.2 lbs red cabbage

      40 g / 1.4 oz butter or olive oil

      1 tablespoon Brown sugar

      1 medium onion

      2 – 3 tart apples

      4 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

      salt, 1 cup red wine

      3 – 4 cloves

      2 – 3 bay leaves

      1 tablespoons flour

      2 tablespoons blue berry or red currant jam (optional)

      Adapted from Time-Life’s Foods of the World (Germany)

  5. John Moench says:

    Does anyone know a location for canned rotkohl?

  6. Bonnie Lass says:

    do you still need the Time Life recipe? I have that book and recipes and am happy to download it…if you still need it.

  7. I found your recipe when I googled for a German red cabbage recipe. Your recipe looks so good! If anyone is still wondering, Butterschmalz seems to be something like ghee-clarified butter. It’s sold in Indian and health food stores here in the US. :)

  8. My step-grandmother made this with lard once she came to states from Germany if that helps. : )

    • Well lard would certainly make sense…I mean who had things like re-solidified butter back in the day? Probably tasted better that way too :) I just use butter so far…I guess whatever gets the job done lol.

  9. Jessica Dalske says:

    I am excited to try this recipe but… can I can it after cooking? I don’t think I could eat 2.5 lbs of cabbage and onions before it would spoil. You help is greatly appreciated.

  10. Jessica Dalske says:

    Oops I just saw this for 4. So I could finish it. But do you have a recipe for canning red cabbage? Thanks,

  11. Your recipe seems like a good one to make, not too cloyingly sweet.

    Just a note, the word you’re looking for is “clarified butter”, this is butter that has had all the butter solids removed. You can find this in South Asian markets (ie places that cater for Bengalis, Pakis, or Indians).

    I use goose or roast duck fat, or just plain ol’ butter.


  12. Mmmm. I do love German red cabbage and yours looks totally delicious!

  13. I made your recipe for red cabbage this year for Christmas dinner with Sauerbraten and come sautéed Brussels Sprouts. it was wonderful, and indeed smelled heavenly in the kitchen! One question though: you mention salt, but approximately how much? I took a guess and after a couple hours cooking it was still somewhat salty, so I had to adjust the vinegar and sugar to bring it back in line.

  14. Hello I am from Germany and your recipe is quiet close to the way we do it in Germany in general. Don’t worry too much about the butter. I use simple vegetable oil (no olive oil or other oils with a strong flavor !)  Another hint: try mulled red wine instead of broth or other liquids and use more apples. At the end of cooking add some (rice or corn) starch to bind the juices to the cabbage. Comes heavenly that way !

  15. Middle Girl says:

    This was awful! WAY too much salt! We could not eat it. There must be a mistake in this recipe. Bad for a person’s heart.


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