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German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl mit Apfel)

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German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl mit Apfel) is a classic German dish that holds a special place in the heart of traditional German cooking. It is a wonderful blending of tangy, sweet and sour flavors. We blend red cabbage, apples and onions with wine, vinegar a nd spices, then gently slow cook the cabbage dish until tender.

While this easy and flavorful side dish pairs wonderfully with a variety of meals, it’s an absolute must when served alongside my German Sauerbraten.

Rotkohl in a Dutch oven pot with a serving spoon.
German red cabbage after simmering.

Authentic Rotkohl Recipe

I’m thrilled to share with you a recipe that holds a special place in my cookbook collection. This recipe was adapted from my cherished “German Time Life Foods of The World Cookbook,” a gem I’ve treasured since the 1960s. 

The authenticity of this traditional German recipe shines through in every bite, transporting you straight to the heart of Germany with its rich flavors. Rest assured, when you make this, you’re indulging in a genuine piece of authentic German culinary heritage.

I added more wine than the original recipe, but it is an optional ingredient if you don’t cook with alcohol. The wine helps preserve the bright color of the cabbage and gives Don and I an excuse to have a glass with dinner. The flavor improves over time, so it is a great recipe to make a day ahead and reheat for a quick side dish.  

Here is Why This German Red Cabbage Recipe Works

  • Balanced Flavor Profile: The combination of sweet apples, tangy vinegar, and the deep richness of wine creates a perfectly balanced flavor profile for this German recipe.
  • Slow Cooked: Gently simmering the red cabbage ensures that all the ingredients meld together and allows the spices and flavors to infuse the cabbage thoroughly.
  • Versatility as a Side Dish: German red cabbage, with its mix of sweet and sour notes, pairs wonderfully with a range of main courses. Whether it’s a hearty meat dish like Jaeger schnitzel or a simple roasted chicken, this recipe for red cabbage complements and elevates the meal.

Ingredients for this Traditional German Cabbage Dish

Here is a list of the ingredients for this German cabbage recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details. 

Ingredients for making German red cabbage.
  • Produce: Yellow onion, Red cabbage, Granny Smith apple.
  • Pantry: Brown sugar, apple juice, olive oil, vinegar, grape jelly. 
  • Pantry Seasonings: Ground cloves, Allspice, nutmeg, bay leaf.
  • Other: Red wine.

A serving dish filled with braised red cabbage.
Easy German red cabbage recipe

How to Make German Braised Cabbage 

Here is a brief overview of how to make German braised cabbage. You will see more details if you scroll down to the printable recipe card below.

  1. Sauté the onions in a Dutch oven or large pot.
  2. Add the cabbage; braise till wilted.
  3. Season with salt, pepper, spices, and the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Cover and simmer until tender. 

Variations for German Red Cabbage

German recipes are known for their depth of flavor and versatility. If you’re looking to add a twist to this classic German side or want to diversify your favorite family menu, here are some delightful recipe variations you can make or save for another time. 

German Red Cabbage with Bacon

Start by frying 6-8 slices of chopped bacon in the Dutch oven until crispy. Remove the crisp bits but leave the rendered fat. Continue with the original recipe, sautéing the onions in the bacon fat. Sprinkle the cooked bacon bits over the cabbage just before serving for a delightful smoky flavor and added crunch. This is my favorite variation to this German dish. 

Spicy Kick Variation

Add a pinch of dried pepper flakes or 1-2 finely chopped fresh chilies (seeds removed) to the cabbage while sautéing. This braised German purple cabbage variation will give the recipe a gentle heat that contrasts nicely with the sweet and sour elements.

Herbed Medley

Introduce a handful of freshly chopped herbs like parsley, dill, or chives towards the end of the cooking process. These herbs will provide a fresh, aromatic dimension to the slow-cooked cabbage recipe, making it even more fragrant.

German red cabbage in a serving dish next to an apple.

Tips for Success

  • Choosing the Cabbage: Opt for a firm head of red cabbage with crisp, shiny leaves. The deeper the color, the better.
  • Cooking with wine: The wine is optional, so feel free to leave it out if you prefer not to use alcohol. If you do use it, it will give the red cabbage a more vibrant color and depth of flavor. 
  • Customize to Your Taste: Feel free to play around with the spices. Some people love adding a pinch of caraway seeds for an added depth of flavor.
  • Make ahead option: German red cabbage is perfect for meal prep because it tastes even better the next day. Simply reheat in a pan or in the microwave.

Storage and Reheating

In the fridge: Store the cooked red cabbage in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Ensure it’s cooled completely before sealing to prevent condensation.

In the freezer: You can freeze German red cabbage for up to 3 months to serve later for a quick meal. If you choose to freeze this recipe, it will not have as much crunch when it thaws. 

To reheat: If frozen, thaw the red cabbage in the fridge overnight. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat or zap in the microwave until warmed through.

A Taste of Authentic German Cuisine

Germany, with its diverse regions, offers a rich tapestry of culinary delights. From areas where beef is a staple to those that favor pork or wild game, each region has something unique to offer. Red cabbage, or Rotkohl, is a traditional recipe that can be found throughout the country and is often served as a side dish to a heavier meal with meat.

If you have cherished memories of your Oma (German for grandma) preparing red cabbage for a family dinner, you will love this recipe. 

More German Recipes to Try

This is an easy and delicious German red cabbage recipe.

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Red Cabbage with Apples (Rotkohl mit Apfein)

German Red Cabbage (Rotkohl mit Apfel)

A traditional German recipe for red cabbage with apples (Rotkohl mit Apfel) that is sweet, tangy, and savory having a nice balance of spices.
4.97 from 31 votes
Print Pin Save
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Calories: 127kcal
Author: Pat Nyswonger


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced thin
  • 1 medium head of red cabbage about 2-1/2 pounds cored and sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and grated
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple pure juice not concentrate
  • ¾ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 3 tablespoons grape jelly or red currant jelly optional


  • In a dutch oven, add the olive oil and the sliced onions and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the red cabbage and braise just until the cabbage is wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Cover and simmer until the cabbage is cooked and tender—do not boil or overcook. Cooking time is about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve with a slotted spoon to drain the juices.


  • If you don't want to cook with alcohol, you can omit the wine.
  • If you don't have the jelly on hand, add an extra 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 127kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 102mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 19g

A collage 2 photos of a red cabbage recipe for Pinterest.

Pat Nyswonger

Pat is a wife, mom of four adult children, and grandmother to seventeen beautiful children. She is a self-taught home cook and loves creating delicious meals for her family and friends. Her kitchen is the hub of activity in her home, and she loves to entertain.

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4.97 from 31 votes (31 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating

Jennifer Arens

Wednesday 18th of March 2020

Can you preserve this recipe for later use in glad jars?

Pat Nyswonger

Thursday 19th of March 2020

Jennifer, thank you for this great question! I have never tried preserving this cabbage and apples. I know that it will keep in the fridge for a few days, you could try freezing it but the texture may change. If you do experiment with preserving it I would love to hear of the results.

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