When I saw the heads of red cabbage at the farmers market recently, images of pickled red cabbage danced in my head. It’s been eons since I’ve had pickled cabbage and I do so love making pickled veggies. (Those dilly beans!) This recipe isn’t the sweet variety of pickled cabbage (like you’d find jarred in the grocery store). It’s bold and tangy; a brilliant side dish.
Back to the farmers market. It really didn’t take much convincing. The cabbage came home with me, destined for this recipe. Pickling red cabbage is super easy, but does take some time. The slicing of the cabbage and mixing of the pickling juice isn’t the time-consuming part though. It’s the pickling. It needs about 28 to 30 hours to really work. During that time, the acidic mixture breaks down the cabbage, rendering it soft and reddish-purple throughout.
Once pickled, I love using this Pickled Red Cabbage on grain bowls, like this one. It features quinoa, baby kale, boiled carrots and Roasted Delicata Squash. Yum.
I should note though that if you’re looking for the store-bought, jarred, so-sweet pickled red cabbage, this isn’t it. My Pickled Red Cabbage is bold and tangy, robust and bright. The sugars in this take the edge off of the tang without actually making the dish sweet. It adds a lovely, bright contrast to sweet flavors in dishes like the grain bowl above.
Alright, now that you’re salivating for this, how do you make it?
How to Make Pickled Red Cabbage
Start with the red cabbage. Remove any less than spry outer layers. You’ll need about a half of a small head of cabbage for this recipe. I recommend cutting the half of the red cabbage head in half, removing the stem and then slicing it thinly. Alternatively, you can use a food processor to make quick work of it but you will still need to remove the stem.
Next, add the cabbage with garlic and bay leaves to a mixing bowl. Isn’t red cabbage pretty? The garlic and bay leaf add to the flavor of this dish, but you won’t eat them.
Your pickling solution is a mixture of water, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Stir it together. The sugars and salt will dissolve. Then, pour it over the cabbage. Mix it up a bit so that all the cabbage touches the pickling mixture at least briefly.
Transfer the cabbage to a jar or jars. I use two leftover Mason-style pasta jars for this and divide the cabbage evenly between them. Then pour the liquid into the jar or jars (again, taking care to evenly distribute it.
Then it needs to sit. Leave it at room temperature for about 4 hours and then chill for 24 hours before enjoying. As the mixture stands, the cabbage will soften, turn completely purply-red and the liquid will increase.
What to Do with Pickled Red Cabbage
Pickled Red Cabbage can be eaten on its own as a side dish. It’s tangy and bright, a nice contrast to German wurst sausages, for instance. But I really love it served on things like grain bowls, salads and burgers.
My kids and I had this as a side dish with hot dogs one night. But it’s me that’s eaten most of it. I pack a little everyday to eat with my lunch. It’s delightful!
Pickled Red Cabbage
- 4 cups (heaping and packed) finely shredded red cabbage
- 2 cloves garlic , crushed
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large bowl, stir together the red cabbage, red onion, garlic and bay leaves. Whisk together the water, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, granulated sugar and salt. Pour over the cabbage.
- Transfer the cabbage mixture to a glass jar or glass jars (I use two). Let sit at room temperature for 4-5 hours. Then transfer to the fridge. Chill for 24 hours before consuming.
- Enjoy! This should be stored in the fridge and consumed within about one week.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. Her latest cookbook is The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook, published by Rockridge Press, which focuses on quick, easy, from-scratch cooking for busy people. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.