Christmas Winter

Traditional Braised Red Cabbage

Braised red cabbage is an easy no-faff side dish that will elevate your Sunday roast or Christmas dinner above all others.


Forget roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, Brussels sprouts, bread sauce, and stuffing. You can even forget your grandmother’s Yorkshire puddings. Braised red cabbage is the ultimate roast dinner side dish, and it is absolutely essential at Christmas.

For me, braised red cabbage just adds something different to the plate. It’s a little sweet and sticky, but also rich and full of wonderful whole spices that only add to the warmth of a roast.

This isn’t a delicate dish, it’s true comfort food. Don’t finely slice (Delia!), it’s so much better with thick and roughly cut chunks of red cabbage that have a presence on your plate and haven’t been rendered limp through cooking.


There appears to be some debate over the best vinegar to use when braising red cabbage, and they all contribute something different. Apple cider vinegar lends the cabbage sweetness and a lighter flavour than balsamic vinegar – my personal choice – does.

For me, a good balsamic vinegar also contributes an element of sweetness, while having the body and richness to match the red cabbage. That said, there’s no need to go out and buy a bottle of fancy vinegar for this recipe – you could even use white wine vinegar.


Staying on a similar topic, some like to add red wine to their braised red cabbage. And if you have some wine that needs using up then go for it. But don’t reach for the nearest bottle of plonk on my account – it tends to get lost in everything else going on.

Finally, if you’re after a little more Christmas cheer and inspiration for your own family meal this year, don’t miss my recipes for Hazelnut and Parsnip Nut Roast, Traditional Gluhwein, Marzipan Mince Pies, and Stollen.


Traditional Braised Red Cabbage

Serves 4-6


  • 50g butter
  • 1 large red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 large red cabbage (~1.5kg), very roughly chopped
  • 1 Bramley apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 150ml balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cranberry sauce
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • ¼ of nutmeg, grated


  1. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onion. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Tip in the garlic and whole spices and cook gently for a further minute.
  3. Add the red cabbage, apple, vinegar, sugar, cranberry sauce, salt and nutmeg. Combine everything thoroughly, pop the lid on and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove the lid, stir and cook for a further 15 minutes before serving. If you need to wait a while, turn the heat right down and replace the lid.
  5. If you’re making this in advance, turn the heat off, allow it to cool and pop it in the fridge for reheating later. Braised red cabbage will last for several days.

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