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 ¼" 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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German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl)

4.95 from 20 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine German
Servings 6 -8 servings
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. 

Ingredients
  

  • 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
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

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!

Nutrition

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
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. I have a question. I have some homemade pickled beets and was wondering if I can use the juice instead of the vinegar and use regular cabbage as I don't buy red cabbage. Thanks

    1. Hmm, that's a really interesting question. I honestly can't say how that would turn out, but it would probably be worth a try!

    2. I have used pickled beet juice and beet pieces for this dish. You can omit the apple, but why? It's a very nice twist to the traditional.

  2. Oh man this brings me back. My Great-Grandma Lehmann would always bring this to holiday or family dinners. I loved it. She came from a part of Austria-Hungary that became part of Germany (we believe). i can smell it now

  3. About how much cabbage should there be? Cabbage heads can vary greatly in size. If too much cabbage is used, the dish can be quite bland.

    1. If the cabbage head is very large, I would just use half of it. But in my experience most of the red cabbage heads I get from the store are on the smaller size and pretty uniform, unlike green cabbage.

  4. Oh my gosh so good. This is going in the family recipe book. I substituted 1t caraway seed for the juniper berries and it came out perfect. A much milder sauerkraut.  We served it with Texas style BBQ brisket. 

  5. Thanks for your recipe! I'm glad I read a few of the other replies because I have a 3 lb head of purple cabbage and wouldn't have thought about it being too large for this recipe. That being said, is 1 1/2 lbs still too large for the amount of liquid? Thanks in advance for your help!

  6. So good... I like a bit more bite so I increase the cider vinegar and decrease the apple cider. I always find the liquor a bit too watery... so I'll take a little from the crock, add guar gum and return the slurry to the dish for a nice thick sauce...

  7. Hi Amy,

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. My mother was born and raised in Garmisch-PA. She used to cook this all the time when I was a child. This, as well as sauerbraten, kartoffelknödel, and/or spaetzle. She tried to teach me our family recipes when I was a teenager, but at that time, I behaved like an insolent miscreant that thought he knew everything, but didn't need to know how to cook. I've been trying to remedy that mistake ever since. Anyhow, right before I joined the military, she handed me a Betty Crocker cookbook, and a very aged book of all of our family recipes. I've cooked every recipe in that book since then. Many of your recipes are VERY close to my family recipes. My point is, thank you for sharing recipes that could have been lost in time. I've made many dishes based upon your recipes, and not a single one has come out less than extraordinary. Thank you very much! Peace, health, and happiness to you, your family, friends, and all those that find your recipes. Cheers, Trystian. Sorry for the long post. =)

    1. Thank you for such a heartfelt comment, Trystian! I can't tell you how much it meant to me to read what you wrote. It's one of the biggest reasons why I love my job and sharing these recipes online. I have an old book of family recipes that I love as well and enjoy pulling that out too and making them for my family now. I'm so glad you have had such good results with the recipes you have tried from my site, and hope you find many more that you will love!

  8. Can somebody please advise regarding the weight of the Cabbage. Here in South Africa I have a recipe for Rotkohl which use and it's for a 1 1/2 pound head of Cabbage. However, I find that some heads of Cabbage can weigh 3 pounds and others, only 1 1/2 pounds. I obviously double the recipe for the large head of Cabbage but wondering the approximate weight of Cabbage envisioned for this particular recipe. Many thanks.

    1. I will have to pay better attention to the weight of the cabbage I use the next time I make this, but I'm guessing I typically use a medium to larger sized cabbage.

  9. My family LOVED this! I made it in my instapot and cooked it for 20 minutes. Thank you so much for the recipe! I will be making this again!

  10. absolutely delicious !! Hubby is German and we live in Germany and must say this is the best rot kohl i've tasted Great recipe thank you 🙂

      1. I googled and found that caraway can be a substitute - not the exact same flavor.  Also, gin was suggested - 1 TBS = 1 berry.  But, it said the kind of gin can matter.  Lower end is probably better because it hasn’t had a bunch of other aromatics added.  I’m going to make this today and try it with gin and/or caraway seeds.

    1. Hello Anna,

      yes, this recipe will can very well. In Germany many will make a years supply of Rotkohl at once and can it.