How to cook red cabbage

Red cabbage recipes

How to cook red cabbage

29 September 2023

Cooking red cabbage can be done in a variety of ways. Find out how to cook red cabbage to perfection with this handy guide.

How to cook red cabbage


Cooking red cabbage can be done in a variety of ways. Find out how to cook red cabbage to perfection with this handy guide.

Of all the side dishes that grace our dinner tables, deep purple red cabbageis perhaps the most striking. There are a number of ways to cook red cabbage but the most common are to braise or pickle it, although it’s also delicious raw in winter salads and coleslaws. Red cabbage is full of vitamins (A, C and K), minerals and antioxidants so eating it raw or juicing it also provides a fantastic health boost.

Perhaps one of the more unusual qualities of red cabbage is that its juice can act as a home-made pH indicator: it turns red in acidic solutions, blue in neutral and greenish-yellow in basic solutions. This sensitivity to acidity causes regional variations in colour – the more acidic the soil, the redder the cabbage, while more neutral soils produce a deeper purple colour.

When is red cabbage in season?

Red cabbage (also known as purple cabbage) is in season from September to December, though some varieties can be harvested as early as July.

How do you pick and prepare red cabbage?

Choose red cabbages that are densely packed and heavy in weight with firm outer leaves. Avoid cabbages that are light and soft, or those which have too many outer leaves removed. Red cabbages can be stored in a cool, dark place for a week to ten days.

Before cooking, remove any tired or discoloured leaves and always cook red cabbage with a little vinegar. This preserves the beautiful purple colour – without it, the cabbage will turn blue!

How do you make braised red cabbage?

Braising is probably the most common method of cooking red cabbage – it takes very little effort and gives wonderful results especially when braised slowly with apples, red wine and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or juniper berries.

How do you pickle red cabbage?

Red cabbage has traditionally been pickled, particularly across northern Europe, as a way to stretch out the cabbage-eating season. This technique allows you to infuse the cabbage with a wide variety of aromatics such as mustard seeds, star anise, cloves or cinnamon. Adding chillies and ginger, as in Josh Eggleton’s pickled red cabbage recipe, will add a welcome kick of heat to this wintery staple.

How to make red cabbage slaw

There are a huge number of different ways to make a red cabbage slaw. For the main ingredients, you can combine red and green cabbages with carrots for a more multi-coloured bowl, or keep to just red cabbage for simple, deep purple salad.

The dressing is equally flexible. Lemon juice, dill, red onion, sesame and caraway for example will give the slaw a more eastern European taste, whilst this classic and versatile combination of coriander and lime works as well with tacos as it does banh mi.




  • 400g of red cabbage, thinly sliced with a sharp knife
  • 15g of fresh coriander, finely chopped, or a mixture of coriander and mint
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped, optional
  • 50g of spring onions, about 3, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of lime juice, plus more to taste
  • 3/4 tsp table salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add the cabbage, herbs, chilli and spring onion to a large bowl


Whisk the olive oil, lime juice and salt together and season with a few good grindings of black pepper


Pour the dressing over the salad and mix to combine. Taste the salad and adjust the amount of lime and salt to taste – we added an extra 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice and an extra pinch of salt


You can serve this straight away, but ideally let it sit for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the cabbage to soften and wilt down slightly, as the salt draws out its moisture


Leftovers will keep for around 5 days in the fridge. The slaw will soften slightly as time goes on, but will retain its crunch

How do you boil red cabbage?

Red cabbage can also be boiled. To preserve the crunch, cook in salted boiling water with a teaspoon of vinegar for 5 minutes unless a softer consistency is desired in which case cook for a little longer. Alternatively, red cabbage is very good cooked sous vide as the cabbage will become tender without losing its shape or texture. In this Peruvian pork chop recipes from Robert Ortiz, boiled cabbage is blended into a dramatic purple purée.

What goes well with red cabbage?

Red cabbage can stand up to a whole host of flavours from soy sauce in an Asian salad to heady spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. Onions, sweet apples and raisins also bring out the best in this earthy vegetable which goes beautifully with meats such as pork, duck, venison, partridge and sausages. Pickled red cabbage is an excellent match for cheese, cold meats and smoked fish.

Red cabbage braised with vinegar and apples makes a traditional sweet and sour recipe to accompany a roast and beautifully spiced versions are commonly found at Christmas celebrations served with turkey, goose or baked ham.

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