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German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl) is a popular German side dish that is very easy to make from scratch! It makes a perfect side for a roast dinner together with spaetzle or potato dumplings. This recipe for Rotkohl with apples is a family favorite!

Close-up of red cabbage on a white serving plate.

Growing up in Germany, Rotkohl has been one of my favorite side dishes together with Spaetzle! Traditionally served with a roast like Sauerbraten or pork roast on a Sunday or during the Holidays this easy German dish tastes so delicious with a distinctive sweet and slightly sour flavor.

German Red Cabbage is called Rotkohl in northern Germany and Blaukraut in the south of Germany. It can be found in every German restaurant and grocery store but it’s very easy to make from scratch just like our German potato salad. This easy side dish is not only super tasty but also feeds a crowd, you have to try it!

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!

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Great way to try authentic German cuisine without much effort or special ingredients
  • Can be made ahead and reheated or even frozen
  • Tastes delicious with a roast like sauerbraten, turkey, or German Rouladen

Ingredient Notes

Here is an overview of the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. Scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom for quantities.

  • Butter: I use unsalted butter to saute the apples and onions. It adds lots of taste. You can also use lard.
  • Apples: You need two medium apples for this recipe. Belle de Boskoop or Granny Smith work best but any apple will work. The apples need to be peeled and finely diced.
  • Onion: One small to medium onion is needed for this recipe. Finely dice it and saute it with the apples.
  • Red cabbage: You need one medium head of red cabbage. It should weigh about 2 pounds and after thinly slicing it you should have about 8-10 cups.
  • Apple cider vinegar: Adding a little bit of vinegar adds some sour notes. Apple cider vinegar works best but you can also use red wine vinegar.
  • Apple cider: For even more flavor I add apple cider or unsweetened apple juice to the Rotkohl.
  • Jelly: Many recipes call for adding a little bit of jelly or jam. Lingonberry jam (Preiselbeermarmelade) or Red currant jelly is usually used but cranberry sauce is a great alternative. If you don’t have any on hand just leave it out.
  • Juniper berries: These are often difficult to find. Many European stores carry them in the spice section. If you can’t find them just leave them out.
  • Sugar: For some added sweetness white sugar is often used.

How to make this recipe 

Detailed measurements and instructions can be found at the bottom of the page on the printable recipe card.

Red cabbage being sliced on a mandolin.

Step 1:  Slice the cabbage very finely, using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Peel, core, and finely dice the apples and the onion.

Diced apples in a skillet.

Step 2: 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.

Finely sliced red cabbage and seasonings in a dutch oven.

Step 3: Add the red cabbage and vinegar, and stir until combined. Then add the apple cider, cloves, bay leaf, and juniper berries. Season with sugar, salt, and pepper.

Red cabbage cooking in a dutch oven.

Step 4: Reduce temperature to medium, cover the pot, and let simmer for 50-60 minutes until the cabbage is soft but not mushy. Stir occasionally. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Expert Tips

  • 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 semi-tart apple! German recipes often don’t specify which apple variety works best in a recipe so I always use what I have on hand. Granny Smith apples are not traditionally used but work well.
  • Some traditional recipes use jelly or jam as a sweetener besides sugar. So feel free to add 1-2 Tbsp red currant jam, lingonberry jam, or cranberry sauce 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 its 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 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.

Recipe FAQs

What is Rotkohl?

Rotkohl is a traditional German side dish made from red cabbage, onions, apples, vinegar, sugar, and spices. The ingredients are simmered together until the cabbage becomes tender and the flavors melt together. Rotkohl has a balance of sweet and tangy flavors and is served with hearty German mains like roasts and game dishes.

How to prepare red cabbage?

Discard the tough outer leaves, cut the red cabbage into quarters, and remove the hard stalk with a knife. Then slice the cabbage very finely, using a mandoline (be super careful!) or your sharpest knife. You want it to be really thin.

When is Rotkohl done?

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, and some like theirs 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.

Close-up of a fork holding up some red cabbage above a white serving plate containing red cabbage.

Serve it with

Rotkohl is traditionally served with roasts and other meat dishes. But it is not only delicious with German dishes but would also be a perfect side dish for a Thanksgiving turkey! Any of these main dishes would taste delicious with it.

  • Venison: Rothkohl is the perfect side dish for any venison dish. It’s often served with deer or wild boar goulash and medallions.
  • Roasts: Sauerbraten, pork roast, or beef roast all go well with it.
  • Duck: Duck is very popular in Germany and is usually served with Rotkohl, orange sauce, and Kartoffel Knödel (potato dumplings)
  • Goose: Serving a roasted goose is very popular during the holidays in Germany.
  • Chicken: In some regions in Germany it’s popular to serve braised red cabbage with roasted chicken.
  • Turkey: Turkey is not very common in Germany, but Rotkohl would make a great side dish for a whole roasted turkey or a turkey breast.
  • Pork hock:
  • Rouladen: German beef roulade is filled with onions, bacon, and pickles and rolled up into small rolls, and served whole.

Side dishes that go well with German braised red cabbage are potato dumplings (Kartoffel Knoedel or Klosse), bread dumplings (Semmelknoedel), Spaetzle, and potato pancakes (Kartoffelpuffer).

There are also some dishes that are not traditionally served with Rotkohl. For example, breaded dishes, like German Schnitzel and Jaegerschnitzel are not served with it. Bratwurst is also usually served with Sauerkraut and not with Blaukraut.

Make-ahead, storage, and freezing

Make ahead and storage: You can make the Rotkohl 2-3 days in advance and store it in the fridge in an airtight container after letting it cool down.

Freezing: You can also freeze the cooked Rotkohl. Let it cool down, divide it into portions into large freezer bags, and freeze it for up to 3 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature for a few hours.

Reheating: Rotkohl is always served warm but reheating is very easy. Put the defrosted red cabbage in a large enough pot and gently reheat it for a few minutes over low-medium heat until hot. If it looks dry add some apple cider.

German Red Cabbage in a white bowl.

More German dishes to try

Are you looking for even more recipes from Germany? Check out my whole collection of German Recipes.

Tools and Ingredients

These links are affiliate links.

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: 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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4.97 from 28 votes

German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)

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 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!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, or lard
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 pounds red cabbage, one medium head, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider, or unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 Tbsp lingonberry jam, 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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 semi-tart apple! German recipes often don’t specify which apple variety works best in a recipe so I always use what I have on hand. Granny Smith apples are not traditionally used but work well.
  • Some traditional recipes use jelly or jam as a sweetener besides sugar. So feel free to add 1-2 Tbsp red currant jam, lingonberry jam, or cranberry sauce 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 its 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 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 156kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 272mg | Potassium: 498mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 1840IU | Vitamin C: 91mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 1.4mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

This recipe was originally published in 2018 and updated in 2023.

About Julia Foerster

Hi, I'm Julia! Born in Germany, I call Canada now my home and love to share my favorite dishes with you! Here you'll find hundreds of recipes, all made from scratch, with lots of tips and detailed step-by-step instructions.

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24 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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)?

  3. 5 stars
    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.

  4. 5 stars
    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!