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Home & garden.

Updated: 17 Dec 2021

How to cook red cabbage

Read our advice and tips from well-known chefs on cooking red cabbage for your Christmas dinner.
Liz Ransome-Croker
Sliced red cabbage on a chopping board next to knife

Ruby red cabbage can be a flavoursome addition to your Christmas Day meal and adds a touch of vibrant purple to your dinner plate. 

Done right, your guests will forget it’s a healthy vegetable and simply enjoy its rich taste.

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Braised red cabbage recipe

Braising red cabbage essentially involves cooking it with other flavours, such as apple, onions, sugar and/or spices, for at least an hour. Scroll down the page for details of Delia Smith’s traditional red cabbage recipe and Jamie Oliver's twist with bacon.

We’ve also seen recipes that suggest adding cranberry sauce, star anise, juniper berries, prunes, cinnamon sticks and even chillies, soy and ginger for a Chinese take on the dish. But it, in part, depends what meat or vegetarian option you're going to have it with. 

A few recipes say that you only need to cook the cabbage for around 40 minutes. The longer you cook it for though, the more the flavours will marry with it and the softer it will be. 

Pickled red cabbage recipe

Pickling cabbage involves combining it with salt, and often a mix of other flavours – such as onions or chilli – and leaving it to infuse for a few hours or overnight. 

The mix is then simmered for around 10 to 15 minutes, usually with the addition of vinegar and other spices and/or sugar. 

Once done, the cabbage needs to be rinsed and dried with kitchen towel before being stored in sealed jars. 

This is not the type of red cabbage you want to be serving with your Christmas dinner, but is a great accompaniment if you've cooked a gammon joint.

Boiled red cabbage recipe

Boiling cabbage involves cutting it into four or six chunks – again, cutting down the cabbage rather than across – and boiling it in water for around five to 10 minutes. 

Red cabbage: top cooking tips

Red cabbage is in season from November to December, making it ideal as a winter staple. When buying, look for ones that have bright and crisp or firm leaves, and that feel solid and a little heavy. 

Avoid any that have the outer leaves taken off, as this tends to only be done when a red cabbage is starting to go past its best. You can cook red cabbage in a number of ways, but the most common for your Christmas dinner is to braise it.

To prepare red cabbage, first remove any discoloured leaves, then cut it into quarters – down the length of it, not around it. Cutting it this way will make it easier to remove the stalk. You can then shred into smallish pieces by hand or using a food processor. 

If you’re looking to take the back-breaking work out of prepping it for Christmas dinner, then use our reviews to find the best food processor for you.

Why you need to add vinegar when cooking cabbage

However you cook red cabbage, using a little vinegar will help to preserve the colour of it and stop it turning blue – not as tempting when served for Christmas dinner.

For braising, you can use a variety of different vinegar types – wine, balsamic, cider – it depends on what else you’re adding to it. For Jamie's recipe, which includes bacon, he’s suggested using balsamic, while Delia’s traditional recipe uses wine vinegar. 

Red cabbage braised in vinegar

More red cabbage recipes

Braised cabbage with roast meat

How long will red cabbage keep in the fridge or freezer?

If it’s uncooked, red cabbage should last in a cool, dark place for around seven to 10 days. Once braised, it should last a few days in the fridge – so cooking it on Christmas Eve and still enjoying it on Boxing Day should be fine.

3 days
How long braised red cabbage should last in the fridge.

If it’s been pickled, it can last for up to three months, as long as you keep it in a cool, dark place, with the lid sealed. Once you open it, it will last around two weeks in the fridge.

You can also freeze cooked red cabbage, and it will last for around three months. However, with all of these, you will need to consider what it has been cooked with. 

For example, if you’re using Jamie’s recipe and adding meat, you'll need to refer to the instructions on the meat packaging to check how long it will be usable for once cooked.

2 weeks
How long pickled red cabbage should last in the fridge.

The fridge freezer you choose could make all the difference to how well your food is preserved. The quicker it’s cooled, the more nutrients will be retained and the longer it will last. But we’ve found fridge freezers that take a long time to properly chill your food and won't remain at a consistent temperature. 

Find the best fridge freezer for you with our reviews, and see our advice on keeping food fresh for longer.