Braised Red Cabbage With Caraway Seeds

8 servings
50 min

Savory winter entrees call for zippy, zesty companions, and this braised red cabbage with caraway seeds will fit the bill. You’ll just need a handful of ingredients and some basic kitchen equipment to make this vegan, no-sugar-added recipe.


This classic European side dish is ridiculously simple to make. While the cooking time is on the longer side, it’s easy to keep it simmering on the back burner while you prepare the rest of your meal.

🥗 About this recipe

Sometimes, the secret to a great recipe is simplicity.


As I was developing the formula for my braised cabbage, I started with recipes I found online. They often called for various types of sugars or fruit preserves, sweeter varieties of vinegar, and piles of spices.


The platonic ideal of the dish that I had in my mind was something half-remembered from childhood. That red cabbage was mildly sweet with a tangy bite, but every recipe I tried was far too sweet. The internet gave me candied cabbage.


I kept finding myself in a loop of adding vinegar, then sugar, then tasting and deciding that it needed more vinegar.


This continued until I decided to try making it with no added sugar or fruit at all. And that was the revelation.


This recipe gets its sweetness from just the onion and cabbage. I find that the natural sugars in these two ingredients are enhanced by the long cooking time. The vinegar and garlic offer balance, and the end result is easy, tasty, and healthy.


I don’t know whether my German great-great-great{…}-grandmothers would recognize this braised cabbage, or whether they would try one bite and send it back to the kitchen. But it is just the way I like it.


Try it with a rich, savory side dish, like grilled vegan bratwurst or a seitan roast. It would also provide a nice contrast to my recipe for Lentils and Roasted Tomatoes.


✔️ Ingredients

Red cabbage

Also known as purple cabbage, this variety of cruciferous vegetable is a potent source of Vitamin C, antioxidants, and inflammation-fighting compounds.


It’s also incredibly versatile and tasty.


In this recipe, the red cabbage plays the starring role, contributing a mellow sweetness and satisfying texture.


You could substitute green cabbage in a pinch, but you’ll lose the show-stopping color of the red cabbage — not to mention some of those healthy compounds, which are more concentrated in the red variety than in the green.


Looking for more red cabbage ideas? Try my Red Cabbage Slaw for an easy and refreshing side.


Red onion

Many recipes for sweet-and-sour red cabbage use fruits like apple to sweeten the dish, often in addition to sugar or preserves.


Here, we’re going to rely entirely on onions to provide a savory-sweet foundation.


Sauteed red onion can take on an almost fruity character. In this recipe, it bolsters the natural sweetness of the red cabbage. Who needs apples?


Garlic

Super-traditional German red cabbage recipes tend not to include garlic at all. But I like garlic, and I think it tastes good in this recipe.


You can feel free to omit it or to use garlic powder if that’s what you’d prefer. Or if you really love garlic, go ahead and increase the amount noted in the recipe.


Oil

A small amount of oil keeps the onion and garlic from sticking to the pan while absorbing a great deal of flavor that infuses the entire dish.


In this recipe, I like to use a mild variety of olive oil or refined sunflower seed oil. Any oil with a fairly neutral flavor profile will work well here, though.


Distilled white vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is one of the more aggressive options in the vinegar aisle. But while its tart flavor may be more potent than other vinegars, it actually has about the same level of acidity.


I love using it in this recipe because it is clean and sharp in flavor. It adds an assertive tanginess without obscuring the characteristic taste of the red cabbage.


If you prefer your sweet-and-sour red cabbage on the mellower side, you may substitute white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or unseasoned rice vinegar.


Caraway seeds, salt and pepper to taste

Because the ingredient list is so short, these few seasonings do a lot of work in this recipe.


Salt and pepper enhance all of the other flavors, and the salt also helps the onions and cabbage to release their liquids as they cook.


In my mind, caraway is the flavor of rye bread, but it’s a common ingredient in recipes from many European, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines.


It has a distinctive flavor profile that includes citrusy and peppery notes. They provide a “pop” of flavor that is, to my mind, essential in this recipe.


If you don’t have caraway seeds on hand, though, you could try substituting one of its close cousins. Fennel and dill seeds share the same shape and texture, along with several of the same flavor notes.


✏️ Instructions
Slice the onions and cabbage into strips
Sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat

Cut the red cabbage lengthwise into quarters, removing the stem and the core. Then, slice crosswise into strips.*


Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut each half into slices.


Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt (optional). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and beginning to brown.

Add the cabbage to the pan with a pinch of salt
Sauté until cabbage is tender
Add the vinegar and caraway seeds

Add the red cabbage to the pot with a few more pinches of salt.* Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 – 40 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. It will become a bit darker in color and glossy in appearance.


Stir in the white vinegar and caraway seeds, then continue cooking for 5 – 10 minutes to allow the vinegar flavor to meld with the cabbage. Taste before serving and add salt and/or pepper to taste.


🧰 What you’ll need

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  • A knife and/or a mandoline
  • A cutting board
  • A large pot

📖 Recipe

Braised Red Cabbage With Caraway Seeds

Recipe details

  • 8  servings
  • Prep time: 5 Minutes Cook time: 45 Minutes Total time: 50 min
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Ingredients


  • 1 head of red cabbage
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ⅓ cup of distilled white vinegar*
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions


Cut the red cabbage lengthwise into quarters, removing the stem and the core. Then, slice crosswise into strips.*
Cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut each half into slices.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt (optional). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and beginning to brown.
Add the red cabbage to the pot with a few more pinches of salt.* Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 - 40 minutes or until the cabbage is tender. It will become a bit darker in color and glossy in appearance.
Stir in the white vinegar and caraway seeds, then continue cooking for 5 - 10 minutes to allow the vinegar flavor to meld with the cabbage. Taste before serving and add salt and/or pepper to taste.

Tips

  • I love the sharp flavor of white vinegar, but if you want to use something milder, feel free to substitute apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar instead.
  • Thicker strips of cabbage will cook more slowly, but they can also maintain a bit more firmness after cooking. Thinner slices will cook quickly and can become quite soft.
  • Adding a bit of salt to the cabbage helps it to release its liquid.

Meg Kramer | Bittertreats
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