Mix up a Traditional German Red Slaw Dish for a Holiday Meal Addition

Karen Marie Shelton

German Red Slaw SaladDimitri.Photography

German Red Slaw is also known as Rotkohl, Blaukohl, or Blaukraut. Many people enhance the recipe by using green apples to enhance all the flavors. Some skip the apples, which is optional.

Red cabbage recipes are really a staple for German cooking.

"Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education."— Mark Twain

They go particularly well with rouladen and meatloaf. It's the traditional German side dish and works with any hearty meats such as beef, pork, game, turkey — well, just about everything!

My own maternal German grandmother, Elizabeth Fennewald, often served it with Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys. She made it from scratch and insisted on chopping all of the ingredients by hand.

This dish is easy to make if you follow the instructions, yet tastes best reheated. Make the dish ahead of time if you can and then chill it. Reheat before serving.

Red cabbage recipes are a true staple of old-fashioned German cooking. It brings up fond memories of my Grandmother even many years since she's left this world.

Before You Begin, Assemble All Your Tools

Before you begin, assemble all of your ingredients, mixing bowls, measuring cups, and spoons. It's easier if you have everything ready to go before you start. It speeds your baking time.

Make sure to have a large sharp nice to cut cabbage if you decide to chop up a head instead of the bagged options.

You can take as many shortcuts as you like with pre-packaged, pre-chopped, bottled or canned items, but this dish is best with everything is hand prepared from scratch.

Beware - Red Cabbage Is Used To Dye Easter Eggs

You may want to wear protective disposable gloves to avoid staining your hands. The stains are hard to remove.

Red cabbage can be used to dye yarn and Easter eggs! It will also stain your clear plastic cutting boards or white countertops. Keep that in mind and protect everything you don't want to take on a permanent pink or red tint.

Don't wear any clothes you don't want to get stained or wear a large apron. If you're like me you make a mess and need lots of protective coverings. Although the stains may eventually come out, better safe than sorry.


  • 1 medium to large red cabbage head or 8 ounces of bagged cabbage, shredded (about 5 cups)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons bacon fat, butter, or your favorite oil
  • 1 large red onion, diced (yellow or white works too, but the red onion helps intensify the color)
  • 3 apples, peeled, cored, shredded, or diced which add sweetness
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup red cooking wine (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons of white vinegar for end of the cooking time to make the red color pop.
  • Extra vinegar as needed for taste and to bring out the color of the red cabbage.
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (a smidge more to taste if you like it sweeter)
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (you may need a pinch more to thicken)
  • 1 or more bay leaves for garnish
  • Extra water as needed during cooking

Optional Ingredients

Many people have passed on their Red Cabbage recipe down through the generations. Over time each family has developed its own traditions about which ingredients they use.

If this is your first time making this dish, experiment with some of the optional ingredients below.

Experiment until finding the taste you love.

  • juniper berries
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 medium beets, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup of carrots, shredded (from an 8-ounce bag)
  • 1/2 cups of sliced scallions
  • 1/2 cups bottled low-fat honey-dijon dressing added to the finished dish as an enhancement

Preparing The Cabbage

  • Remove any wilted cabbage leaves and dispose of them. You may wish to buy extra just in case.
  • If working with a head of cabbage use an excellent sharp cutting knife.
  • Cut off the root end of the cabbage then cut it in half through the stem.
  • Chop the cabbage into quarters. Don'tworry about being perfect.
  • Diagonally cut out the core.
  • Thinly slice the cabbage from the top end to the bottom.

Note: You can also shred the cabbage using a Mandoline-style slicer, food processor, or shredder. Or you can use a sharp knife if you prefer.


  • In a large dutch oven or pot, heat bacon fat (or other choices)
  • Lightly sauté the diced onion.
  • Add the shredded red cabbage followed by the chopped apples.
  • Continue to sauté for several minutes.
  • Add 1 cup water, optional red wine, cider vinegar, sugar, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and pepper.
  • Stir completely.
  • Bring all the ingredients to a simmer.
  • Then cover.
  • Simmer approximately 40 to 70 minutes or until cabbage is tender, almost mushy.
  • Add more water if needed to keep the cabbage moist. It's a fine line between too dry or mushy.
  • Add fresh lemon juice.
  • Taste and season with more salt, cloves, pepper, sugar, and vinegar as needed.
  • Mix about 2 tablespoons cornstarch or more with cold water.
  • Slowly stir in just enough to thicken red cabbage liquid.

Serve while warm. Garnish with one or more bay leaves.

Notes And Hints

  • For an extra quick red cabbage recipe, use canned or red cabbage in a jar
  • Add shredded or grated apples. Simmer until apples are cooked, about 10 minutes. Season and thicken with corn starch as above.
  • The traditional recipe for red cabbage is cooked until it is almost in the mush stage.
  • If you prefer, you can slice the cabbage instead of shredding it.
  • Cook it for only about ½ hour instead if you prefer a more textured cabbage dish.

These modifications are equally delicious. Have fun and create your own traditional dish.

I have but one rule at my table. You may leave your cabbage, but you'll sit still and behave until I've eaten mine." — Laurie Graham

This traditional side dish can be served all year round. It will add a vibrant pop of color to your meal and really punches up the flavors too! The vibrant red color is great for Holiday meals.

Even people who say they don't like red cabbage find this dish almost like eating candy! They take multiple helpings. It's that good. I promise.

It's German food at its best.


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Karen Marie Shelton has been writing about lifestyle content and news since the mid-1990s when she founded Hairboutique.com.The topics she covers range from hair, beauty, and fashion to shopping, travel, wellness, and food. A former editor and content developer for 101 Celebrity Hairstyles and Hairstyle Galleries for ten years, find her at @Hairboutique, You can also find her on social media, and across a variety of lifestyle, hair, and beauty locations such as Hairboutique.com, Quora, and Medium. She loves living and working in beautiful Prosper, Texas, Northwest of downtown Dallas. https://hairboutique.com

Prosper, TX

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