This braised German Red Cabbage recipe (Rotkohl) is as traditional as it gets and never absent at German festivals or restaurants. It’s sweet and sour flavor comes from brown sugar, vinegar and apple. Whole cloves add to its unique flavor and aroma.

For a complete meal make German Red Cabbage with Rouladen and Spaetzle. It’s also great served with bratwurst and boiled yellow potatoes or our traditional potato salad .

The best Red Cabbage recipe in a bowl, ready to serve.

I always have to give a shout out to my wonderful parents for a great introduction to international foods as a teenager. My dad lived in Germany as a young adult and knowing his love for German food, our long time German friends used to bring delicious homemade food by the house. Soon enough, my mom mastered several basic German dishes and it’s with her help, that I get to present them to you on TBFS.

What we love about German Red Cabbage with apples is that it’s easy, cheap, healthy and only gets better every time you warm it up! It’s great for a quick lunch to heat up at work along with the starch and meat you have selected.

It’s satisfying to know as you munch that cabbage is extra healthy, full of fiber and antioxidants and also high in vitamin K.

Ingredients for German Red Cabbage:

  • Red cabbage (also called purple cabbage). You need one whole head of cabbage, thinly sliced.
  • Apple: any kind will do, but Granny Smith, McIntosh or other tart apple are especially delicious.
  • Apple cider vinegar: or white vinegar will substitute. The vinegar and apple help the cabbage to retain its vibrant color.
  • Brown sugar: or granulated white sugar will work too.
  • Whole cloves.
All of the ingredients needed for German red cabbage recipe: red cabbage, cider vinegar, butter, cloves, apple, water, brown sugar, and salt and pepper.

How to make German Red Cabbage:

  • Shred the cabbage.
  • Put half the cabbage into a pot. (Medium sized and heavy: Dutch oven works great!)
  • Grate half an apple on top of the cabbage.
  • Spick the other half apple with cloves and add to pot.
Shredded cabbage in a pot with grated apple and half of an apple with cloves in it.
  • Add remaining cabbage to pot. 
  • In a small bowl, combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper and pour over cabbage. Add 2 Tablespoons butter and cover the pot with a lid.
Shredded red cabbage with shredded apple, vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper, and butter for sweet and sour red cabbage.
  • Bring to boil, then simmer for 1 ½ hours.
  • Remove clove-spicked apple and discard.
A pot of cooked red cabbage with apple in a pot.
  • Stir and serve!

Make Ahead Instructions:

To Make Ahead: You can make this easy German Red Cabbage recipe up to a week ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator. It keeps and warms up really well.

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The best Red Cabbage recipe in a bowl, ready to serve.
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 2 hours
Total 2 hours 10 minutes
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  • Cut the cabbage, shredding into thin, 1/8"-1/4” thick slices. Put half the shredded cabbage into a medium sized heavy pot.
  • Grate one-half of the apple on top of the cabbage in the pot. Poke the whole cloves into the other half of the apple and add to the pot.
  • Add the remaining shredded cabbage on top. In a small bowl add vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Pour over cabbage.
  • Add 2 Tablespoons butter and cover the pot with a lid. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook 1 ½ – 2 hours.
  • Remove apple with cloves and discard. Stir mixture and serve.


Make Ahead Instructions: You can make German Red Cabbage up to a week ahead of time, stored in the refrigerator. It keeps and warms up really well.
Serve with: Rouladen and Spaetzle


Calories: 117kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 1gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 835mgPotassium: 288mgFiber: 3gSugar: 16gVitamin A: 1188IUVitamin C: 55mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 1mg

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I originally shared this recipe February 2021. Updated July 2023.

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About The Author

Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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  1. 5 stars
    My German bonus dad loved it!
    He doesn’t like cloves though so I omitted that and grated the whole apple.

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