Easy braised red cabbage is an easy vegetable side that’s perfect for the colder months. This is the best red cabbage recipe as it’s packed full of flavor. The red cabbage is flavoured with apple, onion, vinegar and whole spices including cinnamon, cloves and star anise and sweetened with a spoon of apple jelly.
Our easy braised red cabbage is a great side dish and one that can be enjoyed all year round, but is particularly good over the cold autumn and winter months where we want a touch of comfort to the food we are eating.
The red cabbage is combined with spices, the sweet crab apple jelly and the sharpness of red wine vinegar. Our braised red cabbage with apples is an ideal side dish for serving alongside rich roasted meats.
This traditional red cabbage recipe adds a sharp contrast to often butter laden vegetable side dishes we serve with our Christmas or Sunday roasts.
This spiced red cabbage dish works well with a number of dishes. However, it goes beautifully with pork, chicken, duck and is particularly good with Christmas turkey or goose.
I’ve cooked the cabbage in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, however it can also be cooked in the slow cooker and I include instructions for that too, later in the post.
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- Braised red cabbage with apples is a great make ahead dish! Prepare and cook the day before, then cover and place in the fridge, ready to warm up before serving.
- A really easy dish to freeze! Once cooked and cooled this can be frozen and stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Feed a crowd as this recipe can be easily doubled or quadrupled depending on numbers.
- No fancy equipment required! A sharp knife and heavy bottomed, lidded saucepan or Dutch oven is all your need.
How to cook red cabbage – recipe steps:
- Look out all the ingredients ready to start.
- Prepare the red cabbage.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over a medium heat. Add the sliced onion and saute for 10 minutes until soft but not coloured.
- Prepare the apple ready to add to the pan with the red cabbage.
- Add the apple and cabbage to the pan and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan and heat until the liquid starts to bubble.
- Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid.
- Simmer gently for about 1 hour on the stove top, until the red cabbage has softened.
- If the cabbage is looking a little dry after 45 minutes, give it a stir and add a little water to allow it to continue cooking.
- Remove the cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise before serving.
How to cook red cabbage in slow cooker:
You can also cook red cabbage in the slow cooker, this recipe is really easy to adapt.
- I do recommend softening the onions in a saucepan first as it will add to the flavor, then place into the slow cooker.
- Add the remaining ingredients into the slow cooker and give everything a good stir.
- Reduce the amount of water to 50 ml as you won’t need as much as you would if cooking on the stove top.
- Then place the lid on, turn to the low heat setting and cook for 4-5 hours until the cabbage has softened.
Recipe ingredients and substitutions:
- Unsalted butter: is used to soften the onions. For a dairy free alternative you can substitute with a dairy free butter or some sunflower oil.
- Onion: flavours this easy side dish. You can use brown; yellow or red onion, whichever you have in your store.
- Granny Smith apples: add great flavour as they have a good sourness to them to balance out the sweetness from the onions, sugar and apple jelly. They also hold their shape really well when cooked and don’t break down too much. If you don’t have Granny Smiths, a sour Bramley cooking apple would work too.
- Red cabbage: should be shredded using a nice sharp knife. Shred as finely as you want, but don’t leave in too large pieces as you want the cabbage to braise and soften.
- Red wine vinegar: flavours the cabbage and can be substituted with white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar.
- Spices: a cinnamon stick; whole cloves and star anise form the spice blend for this dish. Add sparingly in the quantities suggested as you don’t want any of these flavours overpowering the dish. You can also add some grated nutmeg and if there is a spice you don’t like, then simply leave it out.
- Soft brown sugar: adds sweetness, but don’t use dark brown sugar as it has too rich a molasses flavour. Instead use a light muscovado or even a demerara sugar as a substitute.
- Crab apple jelly: adds a beautiful sweetness to the cabbage and the apple flavour really comes through. However bramble jelly, blackcurrant jelly or cranberry jelly would also work really well in the dish. What you are looking for is a jelly that will add a fruity sweetness to the dish, without making is sickly sweet.
This dish has the perfect balance of sweet, sour and spice so this is a great vegetable side to serve alongside any main dish. However, the vinegar and apples do add acidity making this cabbage dish the perfect accompaniment to grilled and roasted meats.
This dish works beautifully with pork, chicken, duck and is particularly good with Christmas turkey or goose. My Christmas lunch table is never without a bowl of braised red cabbage with apples.
Don’t be limited to thinking this is a side for serving alongside meat. I have served this recipe alongside vegetarian and vegan sides. Just make sure you replace the butter in this dish with a suitable alternative.
Can I make red cabbage ahead of time?
Braised red cabbage is a great make ahead dish. Make it up to 2 days ahead of time, cover and store it in the refrigerator, ready to warm through before serving. For this reason alone I love serving braised red cabbage on Christmas day!
Can I freeze braised red cabbage?
Braised cabbage is also freezes really well! I usually make a batch of spiced red cabbage around November/early December. What I do then is freeze it into 2 batches, one for Christmas day and one for Boxing day leftovers.
Simply remove from the freezer and allow to defrost thoroughly overnight in the fridge. Then when ready to eat, place in a pan and if necessary add a little more water if the mixture is looking dry before warming up.
Useful hints & tips:
- Do not be heavy handed with the spice! The spicing in this dish is light, and the amounts suggested in the recipe below are quite sufficient to add a balance of spice to the dish. Go too heavy any it can end up tasting medicinal.
- Remove the whole spices from the cabbage before serving as nobody will thank you if they crunch into a whole clove!
- Our braised red cabbage is cooked on the stove top. However, you can also pop the dish into a low oven at 140CFan and cook for 1-1.5 hours, just check mid way through cooking to ensure the cabbage isn’t drying out.
- For dairy-free or vegan diets replace the butter with a non-dairy substitute.
- Allergy advice: gluten free, egg free, soya free and nut free. For comprehensive and detailed allergy advice go to Allergy UK.
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Alternative recipe suggestions:
If you like this recipe then try our other great side dishes:
- Easy Honey Roasted Vegetables
- Savoy Cabbage with Bacon & Cider
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Chestnuts
- Creamed Brussel Sprouts
- Easy Boulangere Potatoes
- Potato Pave
For all my favourite vegetable recipes in one place, check our my 12 Best Vegetable Side Dishes post. All these dishes work great as a vegetable accompaniment to these mains:
Easy Braised Red Cabbage
- 40 g unsalted butter
- 1 large onion (sliced)
- 2 large Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and chopped)
- 1 kg red cabbage (finely shredded)
- 50 ml red wine vinegar
- 100 ml cold water
- 5 cm cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 star anise
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 4 tbsp crab apple jelly
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onion and saute for 10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the apple and cabbage to the pan and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.
- Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan and heat until the liquid starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid.
- Simmer gently for about 1 hour on the stove top, until the red cabbage has softened. If the cabbage is looking a little dry after 45 minutes, give it a stir and add a little water to allow it to continue cooking.
- Remove the cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise before serving.
• Please note that the nutrition information provided above is approximate and meant as a guideline only •Share on Facebook
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