This deeply spiced slow braised red cabbage with apple and balsamic vinegar is a great easy vegan and gluten-free side dish to have up your culinary sleeve. Perfect for cold winter days with a cosy vegetable pot pie and a potato bake or alongside your Christmas dinner. You can also make it in advance and freeze or refrigerate it until you need it, then just warm it up on the day. Now that’s my kind of delicious, stress-free entertaining!
This has got to be one of my favourite Christmas sides! It’s so delicious and adds a wonderful deep purple colour to the plate and it fills the house with the scent of Christmas when you’re making it!
Braised red cabbage originates from Germany and is often called German braised red cabbage. It is now eaten everywhere and is commonly served at Christmas in the UK.
The red cabbage soaks up all the wonderful flavours of the spices, red onion, apple, red wine and balsamic vinegar, to give a wonderfully complex flavour. This version is also refined sugar free as I find the touch of sweetness from the balsamic vinegar is just enough!
- Red cabbage – you need to finely shred the cabbage (see Knife Skills section below for more detailed instructions on how to do this). Please don't substitute the red cabbage with green cabbage as this would give a very different result!
- Apples – you need to peel and core the apple (either with a corer or cut in quarters and then slice off the core section), then use a coarse grater to grate it (like the one you would use for carrots or cheddar cheese). I’m sure you could just chop the apple into small chunks if you can’t be bothered to grate it but I’ve just always done it this way!
- Red onion – red onion goes well because the colour goes with the red cabbage but you could also substitute with regular brown onion if that’s all you have.
- Red wine – this is optional so feel free to omit if you don’t like to cook with wine (or substitute with apple juice for an alcohol-free version). However, it does add a good depth of flavour and all the alcohol is boiled off during the cooking process so there’s no need to worry about that.
- Date syrup – I like to use date syrup because it is local to the Middle East where I’m living, but you could easily substitute for maple syrup or brown sugar instead.
- Balsamic vinegar – this adds a sweetness as well as the sour vinegar touch.
- Spices – nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves – these are what make this braised red cabbage sing! And it makes your house smell of Christmas while you’re cooking too!
- Olive oil – add this at the end to enrich the dish and give it a lovely glossy look. Feel free to leave this out if you prefer an oil-free version instead.
This is a dish to make when you have a day pottering around at home. It doesn’t require much supervision but does require time!
- Heat the red cabbage, apple, red onion, red wine and water in a saucepan over a low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (You could also do this in the oven or a slow cooker).
- Add the date syrup, balsamic vinegar and spices and stir well. Put the lid on and continue to cook for another 30 minutes over the same low heat, stirring occasionally to stop it catching.
- Add the olive oil and stir well. Serve.
The deep spiced flavours of this braised red cabbage are especially good with really rich meals like Christmas dinner! Serve with a luxurious forest mushrooms nut roast with mushroom and red wine jus and roast potatoes plus all the accompaniments!
Click here for a full vegan and gluten-free Christmas menu which gives lots more ideas!
You can make this braised red cabbage up to a month in advance and then store it in the freezer until you need it. Just defrost it in the fridge overnight and cover with foil, then re-heat in the oven for ½ hour (at 180°C/350°F or whatever temperature you happen to have your oven at, if you’re cooking other things at the same time). Just test whether the middle is hot before serving and give it a good stir.
If you don’t want to prepare so far ahead, you can make it up to 4 days in advance and it will happily keep in the fridge. You might want to make it a little closer to the day though so that if you have any leftovers, you have time to use them within the 4 day window.
It's easy to use up leftovers of this braised red cabbage. You can throw it in a stir fry or sauté together with leftover potatoes and some chilli powder to cook a sort of cabbage hash. It would also taste good thrown into a spiced grain salad, like this Spiced Millet Salad. I’ve read that it can also be made into red cabbage chutney but I haven’t tried that! (See this guardian article for more details)
Braised Red Cabbage FAQs
To shred the red cabbage, first cut it in half through the middle and then in half again (into quarters). Next, cut out the hard stem and lay each quarter flat on the side that you just cut the stem from. Then, finely slice the cabbage along from one side to the other.
Red cabbage is like a wonder vegetable! In its raw state, it keeps in the fridge for weeks and then, once cooked, this braised red cabbage will happily keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to a month.
If you made your braised red cabbage in advance and froze it, then just take it out of the freezer the day before you need it and leave it in the fridge to defrost overnight. On the day, cover the dish with foil and re-heat for half an hour at 180°C/350°F. Check that it is piping hot in the middle and then stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil to enrich it.
📖 Recipe 📖
Braised Red Cabbage with Balsamic and Apple
- ½ red cabbage (220g)
- 1 ½ apples (100g)
- 1 red onions (70g)
- 40 ml red wine (optional)
- ½ cup water (120ml)
- 1 tablespoon date syrup
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- First shred the red cabbage, grate the apple and dice the red onion.
- Place the red cabbage, apples, red onion, red wine and water in a saucepan and stir well. Put the lid on and cook for 1 hour over a low heat, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Top up with a little more water each time it gets too dry. If it catches on the bottom a little, just add more water and stir to get the burnt bits off. It’ll be fine.½ red cabbage (220g), 1 ½ apples (100g), 1 red onions (70g), 40 ml red wine, ½ cup water (120ml)
- After an hour, when the cabbage is soft, add the syrup, vinegar and spices and season well. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep topping up with a little water each time you find it too dry or catching on the bottom.1 tablespoon date syrup, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg, ½ teaspoon ground allspice, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- After 30 minutes it should be very soft and the flavours combined well. Season to taste and stir in the olive oil (if using) so that it is glossy and rich.2 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper
- See blogpost for notes about how to shred the cabbage.
- If making ahead, refrigerate (up to 5 days) or freeze (up to 1 month) before stirring in the olive oil at the end. Defrost overnight in the fridge and warm up in the oven for 30 minutes at 180°C/350°F (or whatever temperature your oven is at if cooking with other food). Cover the dish with foil when re-heating to avoid the top burning. Then stir in the olive oil when hot. Remember to taste and season with salt and pepper as required!
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