Oma's German Red Cabbage ~ Rotkohl

Oma Gerhild

by: Gerhild Fulson  /  Cookbook Author, Blogger, German Oma!

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German red cabbage recipes, aka Rotkohl, Rotkraut, and Blaukraut, are among those best vegetable recipes that Germans love! That sweet and sour flavor - it's almost like eating candy!

Red cabbage is a great side dish that goes so well with dishes like rouladen (or flatladen in my family) and meatloaf. This traditional recipe is wunderbar with just about any German meal.

German red cabbage is such a traditional side dish.

This simple recipe is also perfect (and traditional!) for the festive season. It's a fantastic side dish to adorn your Christmas dinner table along with roast duck, Sauerbraten, German potato dumplings, bread dumplings, and perhaps another delicious side dish like these roasted Brussels sprouts.

Sweet and sour red cabbage has such great flavor and is that ONE German food that's so traditional throughout all of Germany, yet there are many little changes that every Oma does to make hers unique.

What's the best way to cut red cabbage?

  • The first thing to realize when making any of the red cabbage recipes is that you'll end up with red fingers if you're not careful. Red cabbage (also known as purple cabbage) can be used to dye yarn and Easter eggs! So, unless you want purplish-red fingers, wear some disposable gloves while shredding/cutting the cabbage.
  • Remove any outer leaves that are wilted. With a good sharp knife, cut off the root end and cut the cabbage in half through the stem. Cut cabbage into quarters and diagonally cut out the core. Then, from the top end to the bottom, slice cabbage wedges into thin shreds. You can also shred the cabbage using a mandoline, cheese grater, or food processor. I don't bother to use a kitchen gadget for this, because it goes quickly enough just using a knife.
  • Be careful, though, if you're working on a plastic-type cutting board. It, too, will stain red. On a wooden board, the red color normally washes off easily, but if you are concerned you may ruin a good butcher-block-type board, just use a cheap plastic one.

What can you do with leftover red cabbage?

If your head of cabbage is too big to use just for cooking the recipe below, you could always use the leftover cabbage to make something else, like a German red cabbage slaw recipe, but I think the best thing to do is to double or triple the recipe!

Why? Because having leftover cooked red cabbage is the BEST! Although it tastes wonderful when it's made fresh, it's even better the next day. And, thankfully it freezes really well, meaning you can always have some in the freezer ready for those days when you need a quick side dish.

Oma Says:

I love how our families get used to the way we, as mothers, make our foods. Even though it may be different than others of our same culture, it becomes the traditional way for making it for ourselves. And, it's the way our children love it!

Our boys always ask for more when I make it the way they are familiar with it. Now that they have families of their own, I'll make lots so I can send the leftovers home with them.

My solution to this is to always choose the largest head of red cabbage I can find. Then, I double or triple the recipe. That way there's leftovers for them, as well as for hubby and me!

Can you make vegan German red cabbage?

Since we've got newly converted vegans in our family, I'm working hard at trying to make German foods that we can all love and enjoy together. Red cabbage is a family favorite. And now, it still is by making just a small adjustment.

The change? Just use oil rather than butter or bacon fat. It wouldn't taste absolutely the same, but it is still delicious!

Need that “all’s good with the world” feeling? Comfort food will do that. Get your copy of Oma's German favorites in her Comfort Foods e-Cookbook.

Take a look at Oma’s Comfort Foods eCookbook and enjoy the traditional taste of German cuisine!

Take a peek at all Oma's eCookbooks. They make sharing your German heritage a delicious adventure!

How to get cooked red cabbage to look red?

Make sure you add the vinegar at the end of the cooking time.

At first, when you look at the cooked red cabbage, it'll look really 'mucky' in color. Add the vinegar and POOF! The cabbage turns into a vibrant and beautiful color.

A traditional addition to red cabbage is to add apples. Check out this Red Cabbage Recipe if you're wanting it to be totally authentically German.

Lydia Remembers ...

I have so many wunderbar memories in the kitchen with my Oma, and have had MANY of her most popular and traditional recipes, like this red cabbage.

This traditional German red cabbage recipe has become one of my very, very favorites. Every family get-together we have where there is red cabbage sitting on the table, I can about imagine the priceless look on my face. Of course, I'll have more than a couple servings of it. How can I resist Oma's famous cabbage!

I tend to cheat a little bit and buy the red cabbage in a jar (which you can find at any grocery store) instead of making it totally from scratch like Oma does for the family. Though sometimes, I know Oma likes to keep it simple and use the jarred red cabbage one, too!

When I make red cabbage, I love to serve it alongside Oma's recipe for slow cooker roast beef (tastes like rouladen), and gravy made from the meat juice. 

More red cabbage recipes:

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Oma's German Red Cabbage

If you're a cabbage fan, then you'll love this German red cabbage recipe, aka Rotkohl, Rotkraut, and Blaukraut. It's among the best vegetable side dishes that Germans love! We just love that sweet and sour taste that goes so well with dishes like

 rouladen (or flatladen in my family) and meat loaf. This traditional recipe is absolutely wunderbar with just about any German meal.

Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

60 minutes

Total Time

70 minutes


Makes 6 - 8 servings


  • 2 - 3 tablespoons butter, bacon or pork fat, or olive oil (use oil, if making this vegan)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 head red cabbage, shredded (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch


  1. In a large saucepan or large dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Lightly sauté onion.
  2. Add red cabbage. Continue to sauté for several minutes, stirring. When some of the sauteed red cabbage has browned, add about 1 cup water.
  3. Add salt, pepper, cloves, and sugar. Stir.
  4. Bring to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 30 - 60 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Add a little water, as necessary, and stir occasionally during simmering.
  5. Once cabbage is tender, add vinegar. This will give the cabbage that beautiful red colour. Taste, and season with more salt, cloves, pepper, sugar, and/or extra vinegar as needed.
  6. Mix cornstarch with cold water and slowly stir in just enough to thicken the red cabbage liquid. Serve and enjoy!


  • The traditional red cabbage is cooked till almost the "mush" stage. If you prefer, you can slice the cabbage instead of shredding and cook it only about ½ hour instead if you prefer a cabbage dish with a bit of bite.
  • I use white granulated sugar, but you could use brown sugar too.
  • Try using apple juice instead of water and apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. It tastes even better the next day!
  • Next time, try this red cabbage with apples recipe. 
  • Here's how to make this using canned or jarred red cabbage for an extra quick version.
  • If you only have whole cloves, you can cut your onion in half and stud the cut side with 4 to 6 whole cloves. Omit the sautéing part for the onion. Remove the onion (with the cloves) before serving.
  • This goes really well with almost any German meat recipe, especially traditional with rouladen or schnitzel, but also great with pork chops, roast beef, and roast chicken.

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12.21.2021 revision update

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German red cabbage is such a traditional side dish.

Oma's German Red Cabbage Recipe ~ Rotkohl

Oma's German Red Cabbage Recipe ~ Rotkohl
Red cabbage recipes abound. Here's my very traditional, super delicious sweet/sour German version that's so scrumptious and makes the perfect side dish to almost anything. Lecker!

Ingredients: butter, red cabbage, seasonings, onion, vinegar, cornstarch,

For the full recipe, scroll up ...

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