Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl * (2024)

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Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl * (1)

by: Gerhild Fulson / Cookbook Author, Blogger, German Oma!

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There’s nothing quite like delicious German red cabbage, aka Rotkohl, Blaukohl, or Blaukraut. It is the perfect side dish to just about any German meal.

This traditional German red cabbage recipe calls for apples, which gives it that wonderful sweet-and-sour flavor.

This dish will also add such a vibrant pop of color to your meal! Even people who say they aren’t a big cabbage fan find it’s almost like eating candy! They take second helpings, it's so good.

Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl * (4)

Plus, this recipe for red cabbage is an easy side dish to make and tastes even better the next day, so it’s a good idea to make it ahead of time if you can.

Red cabbage recipes are really a staple in German cuisine.

What is German red cabbage?

This traditional German side dish is shredded red cabbage (also known as purple cabbage) that is braised. That is to say, just like braised meats, the raw cabbage is lightly browned in a little fat, then liquid is added as the cabbage continues to cook until tender.

In Germany, this traditional recipe is known by different names, depending on the region. In Northern Germany, where I’m from, red cabbage is called Rotkohl. In Central and Western Germany it is called Rotkraut. And in Southern Germany it is called Blaukohl or Blaukraut, which translate to blue cabbage.

The difference between Rotkohl and Blaukohl lies in the method of preparation. One uses apples and vinegar to turn the purple cabbage red and the other uses baking soda and juniper berries which turns the cabbage blue.

Sweet and sour red cabbage is the usual way I love to make this side dish. In fact, it's the only way that I recall my Mutti ever serving red cabbage. It's German food at its best! :)

However, there are other ways that some Germans make this. Some will insist on cooking the cabbage until it turns to total mush. Others, like to keep a bit of a bite and will not cook it as long.

Some will insist that juniper berries, bay leaves, whole cloves, cinnamon, and/or apple juice need to be added.

My suggestion? First, try it the way I've posted it below (which in my humble opinion is the best red cabbage recipe!) and then go ahead and experiment with the various other ingredients to find the right recipe that suits you best.


You'll need a nice big knife to cut through the cabbage, as well as some disposable gloves.

Why the gloves?

If you don't use gloves, your hands will be stained a lovely pink and purple color from cutting the red cabbage! A stain that is hard to remove.

Lemon juice will help to remove it. Oh, and do wear an apron.

Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl * (5)

This is a really easy recipe to make vegan. In fact, it's my favorite one to use when I'm serving it to a mixed gathering, with vegans and non-vegans. Both really enjoy this.

To make it a vegan recipe for red cabbage:

  • Make sure you use oil instead of the butter or lard

Yep, it's that easy to convert. If you have vegan butter, you can use that, but it's not necessary.

Lydia Remembers...

I have so many wunderbar memories in the kitchen with my Oma, and have had MANY of her most popular and traditional recipes, like this red cabbage.

This recipe for red cabbage has become one of my very, very favorites. Every family get-together we have where there is red cabbage sitting on the table, I can about imagine the priceless look on my face. Of course, I'll have more than a couple servings of it. How can I resist Oma's famous cabbage!

I tend to cheat a little bit and buy the red cabbage in a jar, instead of making it totally from scratch like Oma does for the family. Though sometimes, I know Oma likes to keep it simple and use thejarred red cabbage one, too!

When I make red cabbage, I love to serve it alongside Oma's recipe for slow cooker roast beef (tastes like rouladen), and gravy made from the meat juice.

Go to recipe >

When Oma makes her red cabbage from scratch...I'm telling you, it is SO lecker! Especially with the apple chunks in it. That really is the cherry on-top of the finished product.

Learn a little bit about me,Lydia, and my kitchen adventures with Oma!

Need that “all’s good with the world” feeling? Comfort food will do that. Get your copy of Oma's German favorites in herComfort Foods e-Cookbook.

Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl * (7)

Take a peek at all Oma's eCookbooks. They make sharing your German heritage a delicious adventure!

Oma says,

Our kids repeatedly ask for this. Because this is such a family favorite, I always make a big batch of this Rotkohl recipe by getting the largest red cabbage I can find.

Also, you can use any kind of apple for this recipe.

From sweet apples, like a Fuji, to sweet and tart apples, like a Honey Crisp, to just plain tart apples like a green apple (aka Granny Smith); whatever you happen to have in your crisper will work.

What to serve with sweet and sour German red cabbage

Authentic German red cabbage goes particularly well with hearty meats such as:

  • beef recipes like Sauerbratenor German Goulash
  • pork recipes like breaded pork chopsand pork roast
  • poultry recipes like roast duck(served with potato dumplings, this a very traditional meal for the holidays!)

German red cabbage is also one of the TOP 10 traditional side dishes to serve with rouladen!

If you'd like to check out more popular German side dishes, click herefor a list of the top 24 best German side dishes.

Ready to make this recipe for red cabbage?

Is the recipe below locked?Here'swhy.

Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl * (9)

Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl

There’s nothing quite like this delicious recipe for red cabbage. German red cabbage is the perfect side dish to just about any German meal. The apples in this recipe give it that wonderful sweet-and-sour flavor.

Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

60 minutes

Total Time

70 minutes


Makes 6 - 8 servings


  • 1 medium head red cabbage, shredded
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons bacon fat, butter, or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 apples, peeled and cored, shredded or diced
  • ½ cup red wine (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons white or brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch


  1. In a large pot or large dutch oven, heat bacon fat over medium heat and lightly sauté the onion.
  2. Add shredded cabbage and apples. Continue to sauté for several minutes.
  3. Add 1 cup water, red wine (if using), cider vinegar, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper. Stir.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 30 to 60 minutes or until the cabbage is tender, adding more water if needed.
  5. Add lemon juice. Taste and season with more salt, cloves, pepper, sugar, and vinegar as needed.
  6. Mix about 2 tablespoons cornstarch with cold water and slowly stir in just enough to thicken red cabbage liquid.


  • For an extra quick red cabbage recipe, use canned or jarred red cabbage. Add shredded or grated apples. Simmer until apples are cooked, about 10 minutes. Season and thicken with corn starch as above.
  • Want another version for red cabbage without the apples? Then check out my other German Red Cabbage recipe. There are easy instructions there how to cook cabbage as well as prepare it.
  • The traditional recipe for red cabbage calls for cooking the cabbage until it's almost mush. If you prefer, you can slice the cabbage instead of shredding and cook it only about ½ hour instead if you prefer a more textured cabbage dish. Delicious as well.
  • Feel free to experiment with a different mix of spices and herbs (as mentioned above), as well as other vinegars, such as: white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and white or red wine vinegar.
  • Leftovers taste even better the next day. Leftover red cabbage will last a few days in an airtight container in your fridge. Extras also freeze well.

* * * * *

Unless otherwise noted recipe, images and content © Just like Oma |

04.27.2022 revision update

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Words for the Wise

"The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips."

Proverbs 18:7 (NLT)

Top of Recipe for Red Cabbage

Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl * (2024)


Authentic German Red Cabbage Recipe with Apples – Oma's Rotkohl *? ›

Next to Vitamin C, you can find carotenoids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and kaempferol in cabbage. Anthocyanin has proven to be beneficial for your heart health. A study showed that the consumption of this plant compound may significantly lower your risk of heart attacks, and may also lower your blood pressure levels.

Is Rotkohl good for you? ›

Next to Vitamin C, you can find carotenoids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and kaempferol in cabbage. Anthocyanin has proven to be beneficial for your heart health. A study showed that the consumption of this plant compound may significantly lower your risk of heart attacks, and may also lower your blood pressure levels.

How long does Rotkohl last? ›

Store in pantry up to one year. Opened jars need to be refrigerated. Tips: If product is too tart for your taste, add a bit of sugar when heating to eat.

What is the German word for red cabbage? ›

Known as Rotkohl, Blaukohl or Blaukraut in Germany, depending on the region, this braised red cabbage is a staple side dish that is served throughout Germany.

How do you cook red cabbage without losing color? ›

Lock in the colour by adding a touch of vinegar when cooking red cabbage in water. This stops the lovely deep purple hue from running. Don't be too heavy-handed with red cabbage. A lot of its frumpy reputation comes from it being over-pickled or boiled for an eon.

What happens if I eat red cabbage everyday? ›

Some of the potential health benefits of red cabbage include: Heart health. Diets high in anthocyanins, like those found in red cabbage, are linked with lower blood pressure. They're also linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease.

Is red cabbage bad for your gut? ›

Red cabbage is a good source of fibre, including the insoluble variety which promotes regular bowel movements. The fibre in cabbage acts as a prebiotic, which means it's the type of fibre that provides a fuel source for the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut.

Should red cabbage be refrigerated? ›

Storage. Cabbage should be stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 90–95 percent. Cabbage should be refrigerated and not brought out to room temperature until just before use.

Should red cabbage be kept in the fridge? ›

How to Store Cabbage in the Fridge. Whether it's red or green, Savoy or napa, fresh cabbage should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. For red, green and Savoy cabbage heads, this storage method will keep the cabbage fresh for up to 10 days.

How can you tell if red cabbage is rotten? ›

You may also notice a strange or off smell if red cabbage is spoiling. Red cabbage should feel firm and robust, but if it starts to feel slimy or overly soft, it's likely past its prime. In any of these cases, it's best to discard the cabbage. Always store red cabbage in the fridge.

Should red cabbage be served hot or cold? ›

Simmer for 1 hour until cabbage is soft but not mushy. Serve warm or cold.

How do Germans eat cabbage? ›

Cabbages of all types and colors feature in so many traditional German dishes! Everything from a northern German dish of dark green cabbage and sausage to a hearty Bavarian kohlrabi and white cabbage soup, from blaukraut (a braised red cabbage side dish) to pork chops with sauerkraut, a complete meal in a pan.

What do Germans call sauerkraut? ›

What does sauerkraut mean? Sauerkraut is the German language equivalent of “sour cabbage.” In reality though, it can mean different things to different people. To busy home chefs, sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, is a fast, easy way to liven up their families' favorite meals.

What happens when you add vinegar to red cabbage? ›

When cooked in an alkaline liquid like water, red cabbage turns blue. Adding vinegar, lemon juice, or another acid helps the cabbage to retain its red-purple color.

Why do you soak red cabbage in water? ›

Crisp it up: Shredded cabbage stays perky if it's soaked in cold water. This also helps cut the pungent edge. Drain well before combining with other ingredients.

What is the healthiest way to eat red cabbage? ›

It's delicious raw, steamed, sauteed, and fermented. It retains the most nutrients when it's eaten raw, but is still highly nutritious when cooked.

Is it OK to eat cabbage everyday? ›

It is important to note that, while it is true that eating cabbage may support weight-management goals, this veggie should not be overconsumed, as too much cabbage can lead to gastrointestinal side effects, like bloating. It is also important to enjoy cabbage as a part of a balanced and healthy diet.

Which cabbage is the healthiest? ›

It tastes similar to green cabbage. However, the purple variety is richer in beneficial plant compounds that have been linked to health benefits, such as stronger bones and a healthier heart. Purple cabbage is also thought to lower inflammation and protect against certain types of cancers.

How healthy is pickled red cabbage? ›

2,3 These antioxidants have properties that help to reduce inflammation in our bodies, as well as protect our hearts. 2,3 Additionally, red cabbage also contains high amounts of vitamin C and vitamin K. 3 Together, these two nutrients assist with skin health, wound healing, blood clotting and bone health!

What is the healthiest way to eat cabbage? ›

Although you get different nutrients if you cook or ferment it, raw red cabbage in particular might give you the best nutritional boost per serving. Slice it very thinly and leave it for about 10 minutes to help bring out the fullest, most complex flavors. Then add it to salads or sandwiches or turn it into coleslaw.


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