Oma’s German Red Cabbage Recipe- Skip the Jar, Make it Yourself!

My daughter just came out of her room and says “the house smells like Christmas, how long have I been studying?” It’s true, even though red cabbage doesn’t take much time to make, and fits with a lot of different meats… in our house, I usually make it for the holidays. My German red cabbage recipe is actually my mother’s red cabbage recipe. Only, this year I realized it was time to measure things and write them down (well, mostly… how much wine goes into the red cabbage versus how much goes in to the chef is entirely your choice). Then of course, I forgot to take photos (Christmas time is crazy enough without me trying to photograph every meal…). So today, a random Wednesday, we are having red cabbage with dinner! And the house smells like Christmas.

Rotkohl or Blaukraut

Just like Potato Salad, there are approximately 954,507 ways to make German Red Cabbage. Some people make it with bacon, or added pork fats, and I’ve seen recipes that add cornstarch to thicken it. Some are cooked long, some short. Red Cabbage even comes with different names depending on where you are in Germany. At Christmas in OUR house it was Rotkohl (red cabbage), on alternate Christmas’s in my Bavarian god-mother’s house, it was Blau Kraut (blue cabbage).

This recipe that I grew up with isn’t cooked down as far, and since there is no meat, it works as a nice vegetarian side dish (leave out the butter, and it’s vegan). Sweetness comes from sugar, tartness from Apples and Apple Cider vinegar. And red wine mellows the flavor (and the cook).

Note- The Red Wine is optional, so I leave it to you. Just know that the alcohol from the Red Wine will burn off, so you don’t have to worry about serving to kids.

german red cabbage recipe

Make Red Cabbage Ahead of Time!

You can shred the cabbage in NO TIME AT ALL if you use a Food Processor. Even with the bigger one, you might have to empty the bowl twice. I use the Cuisinart… because it has easy to clean off press-buttons, and the parts go into the dishwasher.

Once the cabbage is cooking, you don’t have to stand over it. Just let it cook and break down the onions and apples (I swear, they VANISH… which is nice, because the kids can’t possibly pick the onions out. Instead, they fuss about the cloves). Stir occasionally. Taste towards the end and add any extra vinegar or sugar that might be missing. Letting it sit for a while in the pot after it’s done cooking will let the flavors mellow. To me it’s better the next day (maybe that’s because my mother always cooked the red cabbage the day before Christmas to free a spot on the stove ON Christmas).

It also freezes very well. Just put it in containers… LABEL IT (no, you won’t remember what’s in the package)… and when you are ready to eat thaw and heat.

This red cabbage recipe makes around 7 cups of cooked cabbage.

German Red Cabbage Recipe

Serve with Roasts, Rouladen, Christmas Goose, or Duck.

german red cabbage recipe

Oma's German Red Cabbage Recipe

Red Cabbage shows up on our holiday table every time. Luckily, it's easy to make, and you can make it ahead of time to make holiday cooking easier. 
Adjust the recipe to your taste. 
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cuisine German
Servings 14


  • 1 Head of Red Cabbage
  • 1 medium yellow Onion
  • 1-2 Apples sour ones, like a Granny Smith
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 8-10 whole cloves
  • 2 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt to start
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper or a few Peppercorns
  • optional- Red Wine I used a Merlot use 1/4 to 1/2 cup.


  • Set a pot on the stove (I used my soup pot to cook the Cabbage, so it wouldn't get crowded.)
  • Add about an inch of water.
  • Peel off the outer layers of the red cabbage if they look damaged.
  • Cut the cabbage in half, and remove the core.
  • Then slice the cabbage into thin shreds (about 1/4 inch?). I use a food processor, so it goes fast, but you can use a knife.
  • Dice the Onion
  • Peel and dice the Apple/s
  • Add the red cabbage, onion, and apples to the pot.
  • Add the butter, bay leaves, cloves, sugar, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar and wine to the pot.
  • Bring the water to a boil, stir everything together.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, stir again
  • cover and let cook for 30-40 minutes.
  • Check it from time to time. Stir.
  • At around 30 minutes, taste it.
  • Add sugar or vinegar to taste
  • Add some wine for color and flavor.
  • At around 45 minutes check again.
  • This is as far as I usually cook it. If you like it softer, cook it another 15 minutes.
  • From this point you can serve it.
  • Or let it cool, and reheat later.
  • Or let it cool, and freeze it in smaller portions.


This is a basic recipe for German Red Cabbage. Feel free to adjust it to your personal taste. Add more sugar or vinegar.... add more red wine. 
Keep in mind, the flavors deepen after it sits a bit. If you make it one day, it will taste better the day after. 

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 Cooking German Red Cabbage

Honestly, it’s not difficult, just put all the ingredients into the pot… and let it cook
german red cabbage recipe

After 30 minutes, it will look like this

german red cabbage recipe
Cook, and adjust for flavor… you want it to be sweet and tangy.
Cook longer if you like it softer.


german red cabbage recipe

10 thoughts on “Oma’s German Red Cabbage Recipe- Skip the Jar, Make it Yourself!

  1. My Electric just came on again. It goes off every 2 hours for 2 hours. My house is quite cold. We got a unexpected winter storm here in Texas. Many people don’t have water. My daughters house had no Electric since Sunday. Also no water. I have a small propane heather, but ran out of propane. Can’t find any anywhere. Besides I’m froze in in my drive way. My neighbor offered to drive into town and try finding me propane. The one thing I’m really worried about, is that my laundry rooms pipes will freeze. I have a all Electric house. Running short on groceries too.Texas was not prepared for this weather. We are having minus 9 degree temperatures.
    My mom always made Red Cabbage when she made beef Rouladen. but my family here in America don’t care for Red Cabbage. I always liked it very much. I need to stop writing, in case my Electric gets shut off again. It coshes problem with my computer. You all take care, be safe. Gigi.

    1. I have family and friends all over Texas from Dallas to Georgetown to San Antonio. Things are really bad down there now so I feel for you Gigi. Hang in there. Things will get better soon. Sandy. BTW. This receipe does sound good and easy. Hope to try it soon.

    2. Hi Gigi, just cheking in and making sure you’re okay! I was also caught in that winter storm, funny how small the world is, as I actually live in North Carolina. I was checking this recipe for a cultural foods recipe book. My mom always made this over the holidays. I couldn’t stand the smell as a child. Hope you are well.

  2. Hi.
    Not long ago I wrote a post “23 red cabbage recipe ideas”. I mentioned your recipe in this post and left a link to your blog. Hope you are ok with that. If not please let me know and I will delete it.

    Here is a link –

    I would be very happy if you could also link back to this post or any of my other posts on your blog. Anyway, nice to meet you and thanks for the recipe.


  3. How do I print out the recipe without printing 40 pages of German cooking

    1. In the recipe section… under the O in Oma’s Red cabbage title… there’s a little printer icon. CLick it

  4. The red cabbage recipe looks so good. Can’t wait to try to make it.

  5. what about the bay leaves and cloves? do they need to be removed?

    1. My mom never bothered (unless they were right on top). But chewing on a clove is yucky. I try to take them out

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