Rotkohl: the sweet, tangy recipe for German red cabbage side dish

Total time: 65 Min
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 6 people
By Cookist

If you're in the mood for a highly nutritious, eye-catching side dish that goes great with everything from sausages to burgers, roasts, and more, you have to try this easy rotkohl recipe. Also known as Blaukraut, rotkohl (pronounced “rote-coal”) is a traditional German side dish made from red cabbage, apples, and onions simmered in apple cider and spices until perfectly tender. It's sweet and sour, so it's a perfect side for many main meals.

Red cabbage is incredibly healthy, and full of antioxidants, fiber, and various vitamins, making rotkohl a nutritious addition to any meal. In Germany, it's typically served with beef roasts like sauerbraten and rouladen, but it goes great with roasted goose, roasted chicken, grilled brats, burgers, and more. Rotkohl is a delicious, colorful dish that will liven up just about any meal!

German Red Cabbage Ingredients

Rotkohl gets its wonderfully sweet, tangy, lightly spiced flavor from its tasty ingredients. Here's what you'll need.

Red cabbage is the most important ingredient as it forms the bulk of this delicious side dish.

Apples and onions bring sweetness and savoriness, respectively, and go so well with the cabbage.

You'll cook them gently in butter or lard. You could also use bacon fat or oil.

For tanginess, you'll need apple cider vinegar and apple cider or unsweetened apple juice.

Redcurrant jelly and brown sugar add a beautiful layer of flavor and a hint of sweetness.

Bay leaves, cloves, and juniper berries add warm flavors and complexity.

Finally, salt and pepper tie the German red cabbage together to make each bite an absolute delight to the taste buds.

How to Make Rotkohl

Rotkohl is super easy to make – even cooking novices can whip up this tasty German side dish with little fuss. Start by melting the butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Put the apples and onions into the pot and cook them for a few minutes. Next, mix in the cabbage and vinegar, followed by the apple cider, cloves, bay leaf, juniper berries, salt, sugar, and pepper.

Turn down the heat to medium, and pop the lid on the pot. Simmer the cabbage mixture for 50 to 60 minutes, stirring every so often until the cabbage is soft and tender. You can also cook it at a lower heat which will take about 75 to 90 minutes. Serve it hot, and enjoy!


Tips for Making German Red Cabbage

Make vegan rotkohl by using oil instead of butter.

For heartier, more flavorful German red cabbage, add chopped bacon or pancetta to the recipe.

Don't overcook the cabbage. It shouldn't turn to mush. You want it to be soft and tender.

What to Serve with German Red Cabbage

Rotkohl goes well with so many dishes. Obviously, it's a great side dish with classic German fare like sausages, pork chops, beer brats, and pork roasts.

Serve it with other German side dishes like spaetzle and potato dumplings. That said, it also goes beautifully with all sorts of pot roasts, burgers, roast chicken, and braised meats.

How to Store Rotkohl

Rotkohl will keep for up to 5 days when refrigerated in an airtight container.

Can You Freeze German Red Cabbage?

Yes! Rotkohl freezes very well. Let the braised cabbage cool, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container. German red cabbage will stay good for up to one month when frozen.

More German Recipes You'll Like

2 tbsp
apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
onion, finely diced
Red cabbage
2 pounds
Apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp
apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
1 cup
red currant jelly
1 tbsp
whole cloves
1 leaf
juniper berries
Brown sugar
1 tbsp
salt and pepper to taste


Use a mandolin to cut your cabbage. The cabbage should be very thinly sliced.

Melt the butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Add in apples and onions and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in cabbage and vinegar.

Mix in cloves, bay leaf, juniper berries, salt, sugar, and pepper.

Pour in apple cider.

Lower the heat to medium. Place the lid on the pot and gently simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, stirring every so often.

Serve hot.


You can use lard instead of butter for a more traditional rotkohl.

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