Sweet And Sour Braised Red Cabbage

This homey recipe is one of those ‘lost’ recipes that’s super easy, works with a variety of meat dishes, inexpensive and very healthy.  It evokes nostalgic recipes of family dinners gone by.

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I think cabbage, in general, gets a bad rap.  Think about this.  We make cole slaw, sure.  Maybe we serve it up with corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day.  Sometimes, we even go to a wedding and have the humble cabbage stuffed with ground beef and rice and swimming in a sweet tomato sauce.

But the much-maligned cabbage was once used as a symbol of wealth in ancient Chinese artwork. And ancient cultures in Egypt, Rome, and Greece thought cabbage leaves could heal wounds, soothe eye fatigue, cure baldness, and prevent hangovers.

White bowl of braised shredded sweet and sour red cabbage with apples

But the humble cabbage is full of healthy benefits, is low in fat and high in fiber, full of vitamin K, vitamin c, potassium, and sulfur.  It is thought that eating red cabbage helps to detoxify the body, reduce some cancer risks, and helps to regulate blood sugar and blood pressure.  Not too shabby for a lowly vegetable.

In this recipe for sweet and sour braised red cabbage, the cabbage is simmered slowly, swimming in a tangy, sweet and sour braising liquid until it is perfectly tender, delicately sweet, and just a tiny bit tangy.  The acid in the dish is a perfect complement to cut through the fattiness of meaty entrees, especially beef, and pork.

bowl of sweet and sour braised red cabbage

The brown sugar helps to mellow out the cabbage’s natural bitterness, as does the grated apple.  By grating the apple, you allow it to melt into the dish rather than complicate the texture of the cabbage with soft chunks of cooked apple.  The balsamic vinegar and red wine add a depth of flavor and an element of tanginess, sourness, and acidity.  They also help to keep the gorgeous purple color of the vegetable.


  • Toss in a handful of raisins or currants while braising the cabbage.  This will add additional sweetness and an interesting texture.
  • Use shallots in addition to, or instead of, the onions. Shallots are milder in flavor than an onion, a bit sweeter, and have just a hint of garlic flavor.
  • Swap the apple for a pear or even a peach just to change the flavor profile in a subtle, yet delicious way.
  • Add caraway seeds to give it a German flair.
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White bowl of sweet and sour braised red cabbage



An easy side dish recipe that is reminiscent of family dinners from long ago. A little sweet, a little sour, this cabbage dish is a great accompaniment to German sausages, beef or pork entrees.


  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 strips bacon
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 medium granny smith apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 1/22 pound head of red cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded 1/2-inch thick (about 10 cups)
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the cider vinegar, the sugar and brown sugar until both sugars are dissolved. Add the cabbage and toss to coat in the vinegar mixture. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large Dutch oven with a lid, over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to drain on paper towels.
  3. Add the chopped onion to the drippings in the Dutch oven. Saute the onion, stirring often until lightly caramelized. Stir in the grated apple and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Stir in the red wine and the cabbage/vinegar mixture. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes.
  5. Remove lid and stir in the red wine, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and allspice. Stir to combine.
  6. Simmer, uncovered, for another 10 minutes, stirring often until the cabbage is very tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  7. To serve, if desired, crumble the crispy bacon on top. Serve hot.


This dish can be made one day ahead. Cool completely before refrigerating. Reheat over medium heat, stirring often until hot.
This can also be frozen. When ready to use, simply thaw, drain off any juices, and re-season to taste with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.


  • Serving Size: Serves 4 -6


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