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German Sweet and Sour Braised Red Cabbage Recipe

This sweet and sour cabbage is a vibrant tangle of red cabbage, with the sweetness of brown sugar, and a tangy bite of vinegar. It’s the perfect harmony between sweet and tart, tender, and crisp and goes with so many dishes. Vegan and gluten-free!

German sweet and sour braised cabbage recipe in a bowl on a blue table.

I’m not a huge cabbage fan. I love a good slaw but in general cooked cabbage doesn’t do much for me.

There are a couple exceptions to that rule. One is this Jamaican curried cabbage and the other is this recipe for sweet-sour red cabbage. I learned this recipe from Chef Cindy Pawlcyn when I was her Sous Chef at Mustard’s Grill in Napa Valley. She always had the knack for turning something ordinary into something special.

I’ll never forget my early days as a chef at Mustard’s Grill. The hustle of the kitchen, heady aroma of the smoker and wood-fired grill, the pressure of hundreds of orders coming in at once… it was equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.

One of the most profound lessons I learned wasn’t about fancy techniques or Michelin-star ingredients. It came from a humble side dish: German Sweet and Sour Cabbage.

This recipe for German Sweet and Sour Cabbage holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me that cooking isn’t just about following instructions; it’s about understanding the interplay of flavors and textures. And that’s exactly what I want to share with you—the skills and confidence to trust your instincts in the kitchen.

My hope is that by sharing recipes like this simple side dish, I can help you become a happier and more confident cook. Because the magic of the kitchen isn’t limited to Michelin-star restaurants—it’s waiting for you right in your own home.

The Keys to Perfect German Sweet and Sour Cabbage

A plate with sweet and sour cabbage, pork, and pasta on it.
  • Balance the Flavors: Experiment with different sweeteners (sugar, honey, maple syrup) and vinegars (white vinegar, white wine, balsamic vinegar) to find your perfect balance of sweet and sour.
  • Get Creative with Spices: Add warmth and depth. A great addition would be spices like cloves, caraway seeds, or a touch of allspice.
  • Enhance with Fruit: Sweet apple or pears are a great way to add sweetness and textural contrast.
  • Customize to Taste: This dish is highly adaptable – adjust the ingredients and ratios to perfectly suit your preferences. If you like heat, for example, add a large pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Don’t Forget the Fat: Adding a little bit of butter, crunchy bacon, or bacon grease is the best way to add richness and helps the cabbage caramelize beautifully.


All the ingredients to make braised cabbage including chopped red cabbage

See recipe card for exact amounts.

  • Olive oil or butter, but then it would no longer be vegan.
  • Red onion and garlic makes a dish that is both comforting and sophisticated.
  • Red cabbage. Green cabbage or Napa cabbage works but the color of red cabbage is way more beautiful.
  • Apple cider vinegar. The acidity and sour flavor balances out the sweetness but also cuts through the rich meats it is normally served with.
  • Brown sugar. The sweetness adds delightful complexity.
  • Cumin seeds. Add an unexpected twist of something special.
  • Kosher salt. I always use Morton kosher salt unless otherwise specified.
  • Black pepper. Freshly ground black pepper is best.

✨Love German food? Try my Authentic German Goulash Soup Recipe.✨

How To Make This Recipe

step one

Sauté onions and garlic. The first step is to heat oil (or melt butter) in a large skillet, Dutch oven, or other large pot over medium-high heat. (We used to make this in gigantic batches in huge 20 gallon pots at Mustard’s, so really any pot big enough to hold the cabbage will do). Add onions and season with salt. Sauté onion until tender then add the garlic and cook a couple minutes more.

Onions and garlic sautéing in a frying pan.

step two

Cook cabbage. Cut the cabbage into 2-inch pieces and add to the skillet. Lower to medium heat. Cook the chopped cabbage, stirring occasionally, until tender. If it looks too dry, add 1/3-1/2 cup water and lower to medium-low heat.

Cabbage cooking in a large frying pan on the stove.

step three

Make sweet and sour glaze. Add the vinegar, sugar, and cumin and stir to combine. Simmer until the juices have turned into a syrupy sauce and the cabbage is soft.

Sweet and sour cabbage cooking in a frying pan on the stove with a wood spoon in it.

step four

Serve. Taste and season with more salt and pepper or a splash more vinegar. Once it has delicious flavor, serve immediately while still hot. Any leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

German sweet and sour braised cabbage in a bowl with a spoon.

What Goes Well With Sweet and Sour Cabbage?

This is a natural accompaniment to pork roast or pork chops (like we did at Mustard’s). Other delicious recipes with main dish potential are roast chicken, my Italian porchetta roast, my friend Aida’s Sostanza Italian Butter chicken, or my best-ever salmon recipe.

Top 5 Most Popular Tasty Side Dish Recipes

  1. Miso Maple Roasted Beets and Carrots
  2. Kale and Wild Rice Salad with Tahini Dressing
  3. Super Simple Blanched Broccoli with Garlic
  4. Rosemary Fennel Focaccia
  5. Cornbread with Corn, Rosemary, and Cheddar

Does This Sweet and Sour Cabbage Recipe Deserve 5 Stars?

I certainly think this humble cabbage dish deserves a standing ovation. When you try it, let me know how it went! Share a photo and tag me on Instagram using @katesbestrecipes so that I can see. Or leave me a comment below (don’t forget to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating)! Also, sign up for my weekly recipe newsletter so you never miss a thing.

German sweet and sour braised cabbage recipe in a bowl on a blue table.

Sweet and Sour Braised Cabbage

Author: Kate
A excellent, easy side dish for pork or chicken. Red cabbage gets slowly braised with onions, cumin seeds, brown sugar, and a touch of vinegar.
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 213kcal



  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once shimmering add the sliced red onion and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the 2 cloves chopped garlic and cook a couple minutes more.
  • Add the head of chopped cabbage and season again with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Lower heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Add the 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and lower heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, until the juices are syrupy and cabbage is soft, about 10 minutes more. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary and serve.


  1. Vegetarian vs Richness: For the classic German feel, stir in a tablespoon of butter or rendered bacon fat at the end for extra richness.
  2. Leftovers: Sweet and sour cabbage makes a fantastic topping for sandwiches. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
  3. Vinegar: Experiment with different vinegar types. I like apple cider vinegar but red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar offer unique flavor profiles.
  4. Serving suggestions: This pairs beautifully with braised chicken, steak, or pork roast.


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