German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl) is a popular German side dish that is very easy to make from scratch! It tastes so aromatic with a distinctive sweet and slightly sour flavor and makes a perfect side for a roast dinner together with spaetzle or potato dumplings. This recipe for braised red cabbage with apples is a family favorite!
German Red Cabbage is called Rotkohl or Blaukraut in Germany depending on the region. This easy side dish is a great way to try authentic German cuisine without much effort or special ingredients! It tastes great with a roast like a Sauerbraten or a pork roast but is also often paired with roast goose or duck. A turkey would also be a perfect match for this delicious dish!
Traditional braised red cabbage is one of my favorite ways to prepare red cabbage! This recipe doesn’t need much attention, it cooks to perfection while the roast is in the oven and can also be prepared a day or two before and gently reheated with no last-minute work. Even freezing the cooked Rotkohl is possible!
Adding chopped apples and apple cider to the red cabbage takes this simple dish to a new level of deliciousness! The apples enhance the flavor and go perfectly with the lightly sweet red cabbage. This easy side dish is not only super tasty but also feeds a crowd (you can easily double the recipe!), you have to try it!
Tips and Tricks for Making the BEST German Red Cabbage
- Slice the cabbage very thinly. A mandoline works best! If you cut the cabbage not as thinly as in the photos it will take longer to cook.
- Make sure to use a large enough Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot.
- This recipe works with every kind of apple! German recipes often don’t specify which apple variety works best in a recipe so I always use what I have on hand. Semi-Tard apples work best in my opinion!
- Some traditional recipes use jelly or jam as a sweetener besides sugar. So feel free to add 1-2 Tbsp red currant jam to the cabbage while it’s cooking.
- For an authentic flavor use the spices listed in the ingredients. These are traditional German spices that give the Blaukraut it’s distinctive aromatic flavor.
- Don’t add garlic! Garlic is not used in traditional German recipes.
- You can cook the red cabbage one day in advance and reheat it before serving. It tastes even better on the next day because the flavors have time to blend together!
- Red Cabbage tastes great with roasts, roast goose or duck, and turkey. Serve it together with dumplings or German Spätzle.
How to Cook Red Cabbage
Start with preparing the cabbage. Discard the tough outer leaves, cut it into quarters and remove the hard stalk (photo 1). Then shred the cabbage very finely, using a mandoline (be super careful!) or your sharpest knife. You want it to be really thin (photo 2).
Peel, core, and finely dice the apples and the onion. Melt butter in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot and saute the apples and onion for 2-3 minutes (photo 3). Add the red cabbage and vinegar and stir until combined (photo 4). Add the spices, apple cider, and sugar (photo 5). Cover the pot and let simmer until the red cabbage is soft, about 50 – 60 minutes (photo 6).
You want the Rotkohl to be soft but not mushy. It should still have a little bit of texture but shouldn’t taste like raw cabbage. Some people like their braised red cabbage very soft, some like their’s with a bit more bite, so make sure to taste test after 50 minutes and then after every 5 minutes until the desired texture is reached. If you want to reheat it on the next day let it cool to room temperature then put the pot in the fridge or transfer the cabbage to a glass container.
Looking for more German Side Dishes? Check out these!
- German Cucumber Salad Recipe
- Easy German Spaetzle Recipe
- Authentic German Potato Salad
- Potato Dumplings (coming soon!)
Looking for even more recipes from Germany? Check out my whole collection of German Recipes.
Tools/Ingredients used for making this Red Cabbage Recipe
Mandoline Slicer: This slicer is the BEST! It’s super sharp, made in Germany, and you can slice different thicknesses, julienne, and shred. Perfect for super thin cucumber slices, coleslaw, and making homemade fries! I bought this for my husband’s birthday last year and he loves it.
Cut Resistant Gloves: Better also get a pair of these with the slicer! Trust me this thing is extremely sharp. Luckily we haven’t had any accidents since we bought these but I wish we had these a few years ago when my husband tried to make coleslaw.
Juniper Berries: These dried berries are often used in German Recipes!
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German Red Cabbage
- 2 Tbsp butter, or lard
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, and finely diced
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 pounds red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup apple cider, or unsweetened apple juice
- 1 Tbsp red currant jelly, optional
- 2 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 juniper berries, if you can find them
- 1 Tbsp white sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- In a large Dutch Oven or heavy-bottomed pot melt butter over medium-high heat and saute diced apples and onions for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the red cabbage and vinegar, stir until combined. Then add the apple cider, cloves, bay leaf, and juniper berries. Season with sugar, salt, and pepper.
- Reduce temperature to medium, cover the pot, and let simmer for 50-60 minutes until the cabbage is soft but not mushy. Stir occasionally. Add a little bit more apple cider if needed.
- Adjust seasoning and serve hot.
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Very good! My apple juice was sweetened, so I didn’t put sugar. But the rest I followed exactly. Identical German recipe. Thanks!
There isn’t enough vinegar in it to can, nor enough sugar.
Thanks for sharing! Wonderful with our roladen!
I don’t have any apples at home. Can I substitute with apple sauce ?
Julia Foerster says
Yes, you can use 1/2 cup of apple sauce. Add it in Step 2.
LaDawn K Wells says
This This is the best version of German Red cabbage I’ve ever had! I thought the spices were perfect! My husband also loved it and he’s not a cabbage fan.
This is absolutely delicious! I love using apple cider to braise it. I subbed nutmeg for the juniper berries and used maple syrup in place of sugar. I am making it for the second time today.
Joan Cusumano says
I am going to make this for my granddaughter’s 1st birthday party (Octoberfest theme) I need to know how many servings this recipe has so I can adjust for 20 people thank you
Julia Foerster says
This recipe makes about 6 servings (servings are listed in the recipe card below the image). I think doubling the recipe would make enough for 20 people.
As a flight attendant And a foodie, one of my favorite destinations is Germany. My coworkers and I got into a discussion about how we have not been able to recreate the creamy aspect of the Rotkohl. I found your authentic, thank you, recipe and tried it. It has the perfect texture we have been unable to attain. Danke shoes!
Have made this 1/2 dozen times now, and is always fabulous! Great recipe!
When making it ahead of time, what is the best method of reheating? Do you think it would stand up to a little bit of time in the crockpot (for that purpose)?
Julia Foerster says
I just reheat it in a pot but the crockpot will work too (for reheating and keeping it warm)!
James scharpf says
Love this recipe. Excellent flavor, and very easy. I have made this thee times now, and in my experience it take much less than 50-60 minutes at medium heat. IMHO, start checking for done-ness at about 30 minutes.
Can this recipe be canned?
Sorry, I have no experience with canning so I’m not sure.
Carmen Moore says
Excellent. I could easily have this for every meal
This tastes just like I remember from Germany. Will definitely make it again.
I’ve prepared this four times since I found the recipe in October. Although I have to omit the sugar, jelly, and berries due to dietary restrictions, it still tastes delicious. Thank you for sharing!
Wilhelmina Wessel says
This cabbage is such a pretty color! My husband is going to love this dish!
Aimee Shugarman says
Oooh, making this for my grandma next week!!!