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Rotkohl (German Red Cabbage)

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Have you tried Rotkohl? This braised German red cabbage is tender, tangy, and absolutely delicious!

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So, I mentioned I was going to try to use up the rest of the red cabbage from my Asian Fusion Salad earlier this week. I did it!

Both Michael and I have German heritage. Mine’s paired with Danish and British, and Michael’s is paired with Swiss. While my family sure thinks it’s neat we have German heritage, we haven’t exactly kept it alive (we sort of keep the Danish side alive…).

Michael’s family, on the other hand, has a rich German heritage and his family has very much kept it alive and well. His father and sister lived there for a few years in college and speak German fluently, German words find their way into normal conversations, and almost everyone in the family took German in school at one time or another. We have all sorts of German and Swiss recipes from his side of the family, and there were a few I’d never tried.

Rotkohl was one of them. I used the family recipe, and, while it was cooking, did a little more research on the subject.

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As anyone who’s ever eaten some of the more popular German food knows, sauerkraut and other pickled/vinegary foods are quite common. For those who find sauerkraut a little too strong or sour (Heh… accidentally typed ‘sauer’), rotkohl is a sweeter, less pungent alternative.

Basically a sweet-and-sour braised red cabbage, rotkohl (pronounced “rote-coal”) can be made one of two ways. The first is a more vinegary, sauerkraut-ish version, and the second sweetens things and tones down the vinegar with the addition of browned butter. Michael’s family recipe uses browned butter, but I snuck a taste before adding it in, and found I liked it both ways.

We made a whole German meal out of the dish by pairing it with (what else?) grilled sausages and some German potato salad, complete with a warm, vinegary, bacon-infused dressing.

Note on the recipe: the flavor improves with time, so whether or not you add the browned butter, feel free to make it ahead of time and let it rest in the refrigerator. Just bring it to room temperature or warm it up a touch before serving.

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white bowl of braised red cabbage

Rotkohl (German Red Cabbage)


  • Author: Emily Dixon, One Lovely Life
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: about 6 as a side dish 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Let’s make Rohtkohl! This German braised red cabbage recipe is bright, tangy, and absolutely delicious. Perfect for Oktoberfest or any time!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 apple, grated (you can leave the skin, just remove the seeds)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch cloves
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • *for sweeter version: 4 Tablespoons butter

Instructions

  1. Combine. Add shredded red cabbage, grated apple, vinegar, water, sugar, pepper, and cloves to a large pot.
  2. Boil & Cook. Cover the pot with a lid and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cook about 30 minutes or until tender, but still with a small bite.
  3. Drain & Finish. Use a colander to drain extra liquid from the cabbage. Add in fresh lemon juice and stir to combine.

*If You’re Making The Sweeter Version:

  1. Brown butter in a small saucepan by cooking it over medium-low heat until foamy and golden.
  2. Add To Cabbage. Remove from heat and stir into cooked cabbage mixture with the lemon juice.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: German

Keywords: rotkohl recipe, german red cabbage, braised cabbage, braised red cabbage

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42 Comments

  1. Yeah definitely not making this one. But bless you for liking cabbage…its one veggie I only tolerate in certain forms (like ramen noodle salad, Asian slaw and, well, Asian food in general).

    The only food I liked when i was in england was ethnic (Thai) or sweets (can we say french pastries???) Makes me think I’m not cut out to be a European.

    1. Hi Anna,
      your post makes me smile… just because, from my point of view as a European/German living in New Zealand: England would be the last place i’d send somebody to try it. ;o)
      I’m pretty sure a visit in a french/german/austrian/italian… bakery or butcher shop would help you to give it another try.
      But Rotkohl is definitely one of our winter favourites! Redwine braised beef & potatoes with it – soooo good!

        1. Mukul – I don’t have an estimate for you, I’m afraid. This recipe can fit a small cabbage or stretch to match a large one. I’ve never weighed my cabbage. I’m so sorry!

  2. I am German and like Rotkohl as well. Our family recipe calls for red currant jam and goose fat – unfortunately I have a hard time finding those here in the US. Should you have access to it – give it a try!

  3. Hi Emily! This red cabbage looks delicious. My husband is of German heritage and he would love it if I prepared a German meal for him. What other dishes would you recommend? I’m new to preparing German food so I’ve taken to researching it online, but would be very happy for any suggestions you may have!

    1. Kristin – that’s so great! On Monday, I’ll be posting a German potato salad recipe, and then my husband’s family always loves to do grilled/cooked sausages (kielbasa, or Bratwurst, etc.) Between the potatoes, rotkohl, and sausages, we had a pretty full meal. I’ll look into some more ideas and post them here if I come up with any other good ones!

    2. Dunno if you’re still interested, but you can’t go wrong with a good sauerbraten or rouladen! I do love me some german gulasch as well and round off the meal with spatzle. Mmm mmm good!

      1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Jagerschnitzel! We went to a German restaurant a couple of nights ago. I had Jagerschnitzel with spätzle and rotkohl. I was in heaven! I am craving it! So thus, how I came to your page looking up rotkohl!! LOL I have tried to loved German Potato Salad but I just don’t. (Sorry grandma!). My grandma was German. Both her parents were from Germany. But I am in love with Schnitzel of any kind. Glad it isn’t difficult to make. But I was sure rotkohl would be…but it’s not! Yeah!! Thanks for the recipe!!

  4. I just made this tonight and it’s a little sweet in my opinion. Next time I think I’ll half the sugar and add more vinegar and lemon juice. I used to buy rotkohl all the time when I lived in Germany and I miss it so much! This recipe is close, just needs a little work to be right for me. 🙂 Thanks for posting!

  5. YUM! Made this for a family dinner and we all loved it, which is a lot considering all but one of us had lived in Germany for a time and were used to eating it there. I did follow one commenter’s suggestion to cut the sugar in half and was happy with the result. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  6. I loved it! I used to do it year after year with Omi’s recipe,not for last two years, but i will do it for New Year’s Eve with Glaze ham.

  7. My mom is German, I grew up eating smorkohl? That’s how I remember the name, I’ve been trying to make it several times through the years, but could never get it just how my moms tasted! She just said little this a little that!! Going to make it tonight!!!!

  8. I made this recipe tonight and LOVED it! I have made similar dishes, but wanted to try this one because you mentioned it was authentic. I cut the sugar to 1/4 cup, added allspice in place of clove, and simmered for longer than 30 minutes- still came out great. It was served with grilled pork loin and potato salad with Dijon mustard and bacon. Thank you for the recipe.

  9. I’m in Vancouver, Canada and have a German background. My son is home from university and the one thing he asks for over Christmas is Rotkohl. It can be entirely vegetarian or with Speck as I grew up with. Once you acquire a taste for it, it can become one of your favourites. Frohliche Weihnachten!

  10. A German student visiting our company let me taste some of hers. She was eating it so happily, I had to try some. It reminded me of the cabbage (and other veggie) dishes my Vietnamese wife cooks for me. I generally like things with the vinegar-sugar combo, and several of her recipes and sauces use that, so I thought she’d like Rotkohl. I know…. I’m a lucky man to be married to a wonderful woman who cooks such good food. 🙂

  11. I’m using your recipe to make Rotkohl for my husband’s meeting tomorrow night. We’re feeding 50 people an authentic German meal. I will let you know how it comes out 🙂

  12. My wife and I are both Anglo German and we both make German style red cabbage, the only item we changed was add a bit more of sugar and we used brown sugar as it makes a big flavor improvement and we used allspice rather than clove, We took some of it to a church supper and several members asked us if we went to Germany or a German deli.. they were surprised when we told them it was home made… This is by far the best RED CABBAGE recipe we have found.

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