How to cook red cabbage

Learn how to cook red cabbage to serve with your Christmas dinner with our easy step-by-step recipe including a few twists to jazz it up a bit

how to cook red cabbage

Learn how to cook red cabbage with our easy step-by-step red cabbage recipe. From preparing your cabbage to cooking in the oven or boiling, we've got it covered.

Most types of cabbage are best cooked quickly but red cabbage, a winter vegetable, comes into its own when slow cooked with apples, spices, dried fruit and a little wine or cider vinegar. Knowing the right way to cook red cabbage will bring out its natural sweetness. It’s also a traditional vegetable for pickling, thinly sliced and steeped in pickling vinegar, the colour and flavour really helps to pep up cold meats and cheese.

When buying red cabbage choose one that is firm with bright leaves. It should keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

How to cook red cabbage


You will need a sharp knife because red cabbage can be much tougher than your usual white cabbage. Prepare it by removing the outer leaves and cutting it in half from top to stalk, not round the middle. Cut in half again, remove the centre white stalk and then thinly slice the cabbage or shred in a food processor.

Our Food Director, Elisa Roche, says: 'The easiest way is to chop off the woody base, then slice the cabbage in half lengthways, then cut the two halves again lengthways (so you have quartered the cabbage). Finally, cut out the tough core - you’re then ready to get slicing.

How thinly or thickly you slice your cabbage will depend on what you’re cooking. If the red cabbage is being cooked quickly then cut it quite thinly; if you’re cooking it for a while then a little thicker is fine. It’s extremely easy with a sharp knife but some food processors also have attachments that you can use. If you want longer slices, you can cut the cabbage in half lengthways, then cut out the core, lay the cabbage flat side down and slice.'

Most recipes for red cabbage involve slow cooking the cabbage on the hob. However, it is possible to roast your red cabbage. In this recipe, we've added some fruity flavours - but you can cook without, if you prefer.


  • 1 small red cabbage
  • 2 small cooking apples such as Bramley's
  • I small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 25g butter
  • 2tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2tbsp raisins
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • Olive oil


Step 1: Preheat your oven. For a slowly cooked cabbage: cook at 150C, Gas 2 for 11/2 - 2 hrs. For a cabbage which is a little crispier on top: roast at 200C, Gas 6 for 35-45mins.

Step 2: To get the best results, slice your cabbage quite thinly and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle over a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss to cover all the red cabbage. Once you’ve got your red cabbage all oiled up - it's time to add some additional flavour, but you could leave it without if you prefer.

Layer the cabbage and apples with the remaining ingredients in casserole dish. Add 3tbsp water, cover the dish and cook in the oven for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary. For a more traditional flavour, you could try adding just cinnamon and orange zest.

Our Deputy Food Editor, Rose Fooks, loves to add caraway seeds and a little balsamic vinegar to enhance the sweetness of the red cabbage. You don’t want to add too much liquid at this point or you will end up braising the cabbage.

Step 3: Once the cabbage is nice and tender, and has soaked up all the flavours, serve with your favourite meats or store in the fridge for a couple of days and reheat when ready.

Top tip: Sometimes when cooking red cabbage the colour turns blue, if this happens simply add a little lemon juice or vinegar to restore the red colour.

How do you braise red cabbage?

Cooking braised cabbage also involves cooking the cabbage in the oven but with more liquid than roasting. Because there is cooking liquid, the cabbage will be softer in texture and also have its own sauce.

When braising you usually fry food first. You can fry the red cabbage in a little oil to soften it slightly then mix in some fragrant spices. Cinnamon and ginger work well, especially during the festive period. If you want to add anything like shallots or a grated apple then fry this with the red cabbage first before mixing the spices in. 

You will then need to add the cooking liquid. We recommend red wine, cider, apple juice or beetroot juice. Cover and place in the oven at 160C, Gas 3 for 11/2 - 2 hrs. Stir occasionally just to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Boiling red cabbage: how long to boil red cabbage

Boiling red cabbage is simple and just perfect if you want to serve red cabbage with a hearty roast dinner. It doesn't take long to boil cabbage either which is great if you're short on time. Just prepare your cabbage as noted above and then chop the cabbage into small wedges.

  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil - fill about half way.
  2. Add the red cabbage wedges, a pinch of salt and bring down to simmer.
  3. Cook for about 10 minutes and stir cabbage every now and then.
  4. Cook for another 5 minutes and then drain.
  5. Put the cabbage back into the warm pan and cook on a low heat with a knob of butter. Season and serve!

How to pickle red cabbage

Pickling red cabbage is a great way to preserve and use up vegetables. Especially those that are going to go off before being used or if you grow lots at home. The great thing is that pickled vegetables last a long time - most last at least 6 months.

To pickle red cabbage, you will need sterilised vinegar-proof preserving jars to store the pickled cabbage in, salt, distilled vinegar and some flavourings such as chilli, red onions and mustard seeds.

Slice your cabbage and red onions (if using), cover in salt and leave overnight. The next day, wash the salt off, drain and dry the cabbage and onions. Fill the sterilised jars with the cabbage and onion mix, place your choice of spices in the jars and fill each one with vinegar so that it covers the cabbage. Seal the jars and leave in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks before eating. Store in the fridge once opened. Pickled cabbage is great with cheese or served at a BBQ.

Samuel Goldsmith
Freelance food writer

Former Assistant Headteacher, Samuel has a BSc in Food from the University of Birmingham and is also Co-Vice Chair of the Guild of Food Writers and a Trustee of 91 Ways CIC. His work has featured in national and international publications including Waitrose Food, Australian Delicious, and the LAD Bible Group. Samuel has also consulted on a number of best-selling food and drink books, and was a nutritional consultant for BBC’s Eat Well for Less.