Authentic German Red Cabbage (Rotkraut)

Here’s a Delicious German Red Cabbage Recipe For You To Enjoy!

Searching for the best red cabbage recipe? You’re in the right place! Our German red cabbage is sweet, a little sour, and makes the perfect side dish.

Known as Rotkraut (as well as Rotkohl and Blaukraut) in German, this popular German side is made from red cabbage, sweet apples, onion, and a number of spices like cloves and bay leaf.

It’s a dish with a vibrant color that looks gorgeous on the serving table!

bowl of german red cabbage on white counter with silver spoon sticking out
German red cabbage – can’t mistake it!

Red cabbage is a dish we’re both used to. Eric ate it growing up when it was served at large family dinners at the Ukrainian side of the family.

Our recipe is about how red cabbage is traditionally prepared in Germany, but it is – of course – also eaten in many other countries.

Traditionally, this German dish goes well with roast duck and potato dumplings for Sunday lunches.

It’s something we’ve had many times while living in Germany (especially when visiting Lisa’s grandparents) and it’s definitely popular where Lisa grew up in Bavaria!

german red cabbage on white surface with cabbage leaves and cloves around
The cloves are the spice that make German cabbage have that distinct aroma!

As we’ve mentioned, this is a more traditional recipe that includes apples. For that reason, some people would call it “Apfelrotkraut”.

We’re not adding bacon or similar ingredients, but this is definitely a variation that you could try out.

How to Make German Red Cabbage (Step-by-Step)

If you want to make authentic German red cabbage, you can follow our recipe card but also check out the step-by-step photos as a visual guide.

cored red cabbage on white cutting board
This is what it looks like to core the cabbage…

Start by removing the outside leaves of the cabbage and give it a good rinse. Then cut the red cabbage in half and remove the hard core.

thinly sliced german red cabbage cut in half
The cut pieces in German red cabbage end up quite small.

Now cut the red cabbage into thin strips. We like it better with thin strips but that’s not as important as in our German coleslaw recipe since the red cabbage actually gets cooked and softens up a bit.

Once you have cut the red cabbage into strips, place them into a bowl and set it aside.

apples and onions chopped on cutting board
Chop the onions and apples…don’t forget to peel them!

Peel the onions and the apples and chop both into small cubes.

onions and apples frying in cooking pot
Fry those onions and apples.. you’re almost ready for cabbage!

Heat the bacon grease in a large pot on the stove, add the apple and onion cubes and fry them on medium heat until the onions become translucent. Stir ocasionally.

red cabbage and apples simmering in pot on stove
Everyone’s together for the final red cabbage simmer!

Then add the cabbage, give everything a stir and fry the cabbage for a few minutes as well. Now it’s time to add the sugar, vinegar, cloves, bay leaf, water, and red wine (optional).

If you use red wine, reduce the amount of water accordingly. Give everything another stir and then let the cabbage simmer for around 40 to 50 minutes.

Stir it occasionally during that time. Depending on how crunchy or soft you want the red cabbage to be, you can adjust the time accordingly.

german red cabbage in bowl with spoon and cabbage around
Here’s the final product: German red cabbage ready to serve!

Before serving, remove the cloves and bay leaf. Also add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm and enjoy!

Storage Tips

As for storage, this red cabbage should be refrigerated after serving. It will last in the fridge for two to three days.

You can reheat it (since it’s best served hot) on low on the stovetop. If you have a microwave, you can also just heat it up again that way.

Related Recipes

For more great German recipes – or for more salads – try out these recipes:

bowl of german red cabbage on white counter with silver spoon sticking out

German Red Cabbage (Rotkraut)

Our traditional and delicious German red cabbage recipe is made with apples, onion, and a few key spices. This colorful side dish pairs well with heavy meat-based dishes and looks beautiful on any table!
4.17 from 6 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8


  • 1 small red cabbage
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • 2 medium-sized apples
  • 1 tablespoon bacon grease or oil
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-5 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine, optional – reduce water amount accordingly


  • Remove the outside leaves of the red cabbage, wash the whole cabbage, and cut it in half. Remove the hard stem and cut the cabbage into fine strips.
  • Peel and finely chop the onions. Also, peel the apples and cut them into small pieces.
  • Heat up the bacon grease or oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onions and apples and fry them until the onions become translucent.
  • Add the red cabbage strips and briefly fry them as well. Now add the sugar, vinegar, cloves, bay leaf, water, and red wine (optional). When using red wine reduce the amount of water accordingly. Stir everything and let the cabbage simmer on low heat for 40-50 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • After about 40-50 minutes – or once the cabbage is soft enough for your liking – remove the cloves and bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!


You can store the red cabbage in the fridge for two to three days.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 100kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 2mg | Sodium: 27mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 10g

This nutritional information has been estimated by an online nutrition calculator. It should only be seen as a rough calculation and not a replacement for professional dietary advice.

Course Side Dishes
Cuisine German
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1 thought on “Authentic German Red Cabbage (Rotkraut)”

  1. 4 stars
    Hi there! I am just about to make it as I lost my recipe. I am German from Montreal and my mother’s cooking was quite extraordinary. ( German only) Throughout the years I have become a self made chef and simply love to enjoy great wines and food. Mediterranean is of course my all favourite. Just a quick note to say thanks for the rotkohl recipe. Koenigsberger Klopse is also a fab dish.

    Good luck


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