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This delicious German Red Cabbage (also known as Rotkohl or Blaukraut depending on which part of Germany you are in) is a fantastic sweet and sour recipe that is served with many traditional German dishes.

We love German food and eating out at German restaurants. It reminds us of the time we lived in Germany doing summer-long internships during school! German Plum Cake and German Apple Cake with Streusel Topping [Apfelkuchen mit Streusel] are two of our other favorites if you are looking for a dessert to go with your meal!

An image of a bowl filled with rotkohl (a German red cabbage recipe).

Everybody knows that Germany is famous for sauerkraut, but not as many seem to have heard about rotkohl (pronounced rote-coal). I like eating vegetables, but I LOVE eating rotkohl. It’s seriously so, so good that I always want second helpings. 

If you have ever been to Germany or eaten at a German restaurant, chances are you have seen this favorite traditional dish.

What is Rotkohl?

Rotkohl is a cooked German red cabbage recipe that is easy to make, although it does take a little time for the cabbage to braise slowly on the stovetop. It’s a very popular German side dish that varies somewhat by region, but frequently combines thinly shredded red cabbage, tart green apples, and vinegar, with a little sugar or apple cider to balance things out.

I find that compared to sauerkraut, rotkohl it is not as intensely mouth puckering and has a milder, subtly sweet taste thanks to the addition of apples, cider, and a little bit of sugar.

I don’t know if it is the vibrant purple hue or the sweet, the sweet and sour flavor, or the texture which is tender but not mushy that really speaks to me. Regardless, this simple red cabbage dish is easily one of my favorite German recipes and I really hope you love it as much as I do.

An image of onion, red cabbage, and green apple.
An image of a serving bowl filled with German red cabbage, also known as blaukraut or rotkohl.

How to make traditional German red cabbage

  1. Prep the cabbage, onion, and apple: Quarter the red cabbage, then use a mandolin to thinly slice it into shred no more than 1/4″ thick. Chop the onion, and core and chop the apple. You can peel the apple if you want to, but I find that it cooks down enough that the texture of the peel disappears in the completed dish.
  2. Saute the onion and apple: Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add in the onions and apples. Saute for 7-10 minutes until soft.
  3. Add red cabbage: Stir in the shredded red cabbage and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add liquids and spices: Pour in the red wine vinegar and apple cider, then stir in the sugar, bay leaf, cloves, juniper berries, and salt.
  5. Simmer until soft: Bring the liquids in the dutch oven to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the rotkohl simmer for 1 hour until the cabbage is soft but not mushy.
An image of cabbage being shredded on a mandoline.
An image of a large dutch oven with apples and onions being sauteed on a stovetop.
An image of red cabbage with spices in a dutch oven on the stovetop.

What to serve with German red cabbage 

The tangy flavor of German red cabbage goes well with many dishes, but especially hearty and meaty ones. Although it’s just as good with simple pasta, in my opinion. Any of these German recipes would be excellent with rotkohl.

But it’s also fantastic with grilled pork chops, roasted chicken, and other non-German main dishes as well. It’s a pretty versatile side!

Do you serve rotkohl hot or cold?

While I personally prefer to eat this dish warm, you can serve it hot or cold. It’s totally up to your preferences!

Consider eating it hot when fresh and enjoying the leftovers cold, since one batch makes quite a lot of rotkohl. But the leftovers heat up really well too, and I actually think the flavor is even better the next day! 

Can you freeze rotkohl?

Yes, German red cabbage freezes well. For best results, freeze the rotkohl in an airtight container for up to one month. Thaw in the fridge overnight and serve either warm or cold.

An image of a bowl of thinly sliced, braised red cabbage made with vinegar and apple cider the traditional German way.

More Delicious Vegetable Side Dish Recipes

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An image of a bowl of rotkohl, a traditional German red cabbage dish.

German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)

This delicious German Red Cabbage (also known as Rotkohl or Blaukraut depending on which part of Germany you are in) is a fantastic sweet and sour recipe that is served with many traditional German dishes. 
4.95 from 18 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: German
Diet: Gluten Free
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Calories: 131kcal
Author: Amy Nash


  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple peeled and chopped
  • 1 head red cabbage sliced very thin
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 juniper berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Melt butter in large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and apples and saute for 7-10 minutes until soft.
  • Add the cabbage to the onions and apples, and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the red wine vinegar, apple cider, sugar, bay leaf, cloves, juniper berries, and salt. Bring the liquids to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer for 1 hour until cabbage is soft but not mushy. Serve warm or cold.


Many traditional recipes also called for 2 tablespoons of cherry preserves or red currant jam, but that’s not as easy to find and I never have it on hand, so I leave it out and don’t really notice a difference.
A mandoline makes slicing an entire head of cabbage quick and easy. Just be careful of your fingers!


Calories: 131kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 268mg | Potassium: 451mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 1699IU | Vitamin C: 83mg | Calcium: 75mg | Iron: 1mg
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