Easy Pickled Red Cabbage Recipe

Pickled red cabbage is more than just a vibrant addition to your plate; it’s a gateway to an array of health benefits and culinary delights. The process of pickling, especially with vegetables like red cabbage, is an ancient technique that not only preserves the food but also enhances its nutritional value. The fermentation introduces probiotics that are beneficial for gut health, while the use of vinegar in quick pickling can help balance blood sugar levels. Additionally, the high levels of vitamin C and iron in red cabbage are maintained and sometimes even amplified through the pickling process.

My journey to appreciating pickled red cabbage began unexpectedly during a brief stay in San Antonio. Initially skeptical of anything pickled due to a lifelong aversion, my perspective shifted dramatically when I tasted the local cuisine. San Antonio’s vibrant food scene, particularly its tacos, often featured pickled red cabbage as a staple ingredient. The crunch and zest it added to each bite were transformative, turning a simple meal into a symphony of flavors.

This experience taught me the power of pickling to not only preserve food but to elevate it. It was in these small, bustling eateries that I learned how pickled red cabbage could add not just color and crunch but a tangy zest that complements a wide array of dishes. From vegan sloppy joes to tofu banh mi, the versatility of this pickled delight became clear.

Embracing pickled red cabbage opened up a new realm of culinary possibilities for me. It inspired me to experiment with my own recipes and share the joy of this simple, yet profound ingredient with others. Whether you’re a pickle lover or a skeptic like I was, the charm of pickled red cabbage is undeniable, and its benefits extend far beyond the plate. It’s a testament to the transformative power of food and an invitation to explore the rich tapestry of flavors that pickling can offer.

Health BenefitsIntroduces probiotics for gut health, uses vinegar to balance blood sugar levels, maintains high levels of vitamin C and iron.
Culinary ImpactAdds crunch and zest to dishes, complements a wide array of flavors. Common in tacos, vegan sloppy joes, and tofu banh mi.
Personal ExperienceInitial skepticism turned to appreciation during a stay in San Antonio; influenced by the local food scene.
Inspirational AspectInspired to experiment with recipes and share the culinary benefits of pickled red cabbage.
Overall SignificanceDemonstrates the transformative power of food and encourages exploring pickling’s rich tapestry of flavors.

Recipe Snapshot

Recipe Name: Easy Pickled Red Cabbage
Rating: 4.76 from 277 votes
Author: Sarah Bond
Updated: May 13, 2023
Comments: 158 Comments
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you.

Pickling red cabbage is an art that transforms this humble vegetable into a vibrant, crunchy, and flavorful addition to any meal. This recipe by Sarah Bond has clearly won the hearts of many, as evidenced by its impressive rating and numerous comments. Updated recently, it offers a fresh take on a classic pickling process, ensuring that even those new to pickling can achieve great results.

Recipe NameEasy Pickled Red Cabbage
Rating4.76 from 277 votes
AuthorSarah Bond
Last UpdatedMay 13, 2023
Comments158 Comments
NoteThis post contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links, at no additional cost to you.


When crafting a batch of Easy Pickled Red Cabbage, each ingredient plays a critical role in creating the final product’s texture, flavor, and nutritional value.

Red Cabbage: The star of this recipe is undoubtedly the red cabbage, chosen for its striking deep purple hue that adds an eye-catching element to any dish. More than just a beautiful color, red cabbage is loaded with vitamin C and iron, making it an excellent choice for boosting immunity and maintaining healthy blood iron levels. The natural crunch of cabbage is preserved and enhanced through the pickling process, offering a satisfying texture in every bite.

Vinegar: The choice of vinegar can significantly influence the flavor profile of the pickled cabbage.

Apple Cider Vinegar: This vinegar is a popular choice due to its mild acidity and slightly fruity undertone. It complements the natural sweetness of the cabbage without overpowering it, making it ideal for those who prefer a gentler tang.

Red Wine Vinegar: For a richer and more robust flavor, red wine vinegar is an excellent option. It brings a depth of flavor that pairs well with the boldness of the cabbage, ideal for those who enjoy a more pronounced vinegar taste.

Rice Vinegar: A lighter and sweeter option, rice vinegar is perfect for adding a subtle acidity that enhances the natural flavors of the cabbage without dominating the palate. It’s particularly well-suited for Asian-inspired dishes or when you want the other ingredients to shine through.

Seasonings: The combination of seasonings in this recipe creates a harmonious balance that elevates the cabbage to new heights.

Sugar: A touch of sugar counteracts the vinegar’s acidity, introducing a hint of sweetness that rounds out the flavor. This addition creates a pleasant contrast, ensuring that the pickled cabbage is not overly sour.

Garlic: Minced garlic adds a warm, aromatic depth to the pickle, infusing each slice of cabbage with a subtle but unmistakable garlicky flavor. This ingredient is key to giving the pickle its savory character.

Salt: Salt not only seasons the cabbage but also plays a crucial role in the pickling process, drawing out moisture and helping to preserve the vegetable. It enhances the overall flavor profile, making the cabbage moreish and addictive.

Black Pepper: A dash of ground black pepper introduces a slight heat and complexity, rounding out the seasoning blend with its pungent notes.

Optional Spices: For those looking to customize their pickled cabbage, adding mustard seeds can introduce a slight bitterness and complexity, while red pepper flakes offer a kick of heat that can transform the dish. These optional spices allow for personalization, catering to individual palates and making each batch of pickled cabbage unique.

Together, these ingredients meld over time to create a condiment that is not just a side but a standout addition to any meal. Whether layered on a sandwich, tossed into a salad, or served alongside a main course, Easy Pickled Red Cabbage brings color, crunch, and a burst of flavor that can elevate the simplest dishes to something special.

Red CabbageThe primary ingredient, selected for its vibrant color and health benefits like high vitamin C and iron content. It provides a crunchy texture enhanced by pickling.
Apple Cider VinegarOffers mild acidity with a slightly fruity undertone, enhancing the cabbage’s natural sweetness without overwhelming it.
Red Wine VinegarDelivers a rich, robust flavor, pairing well with the boldness of the cabbage for those who prefer a stronger vinegar taste.
Rice VinegarProvides a lighter, sweeter touch, ideal for adding subtle acidity that complements other flavors in the dish.
SugarBalances the acidity of the vinegar, adding a subtle sweetness to the overall flavor profile.
GarlicInfuses the cabbage with a warm, aromatic depth, enhancing its savory character.
SaltCrucial for seasoning and preserving the cabbage, it helps draw out moisture and intensifies flavors.
Black PepperAdds a slight heat and complexity, contributing to the seasoning blend’s depth.
Optional Spices (Mustard Seeds, Red Pepper Flakes)Allow for customization of the pickle, adding either a slight bitterness (mustard seeds) or a spicy kick (red pepper flakes) to suit individual tastes.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Making Easy Pickled Red Cabbage is a simple process that requires minimal effort but yields delicious results. Here’s how you can create this tangy, crunchy condiment right in your kitchen.

Cut: Begin by preparing your red cabbage. First, remove the tough outer leaves and rinse the cabbage under cold water. Using a sharp knife, cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the hard core from each piece. For uniform, thin slices, a mandolin slicer is highly recommended. Set the mandolin to a thin setting and carefully slide the cabbage across the blade, using the safety guard to protect your fingers. If you don’t have a mandolin, you can use a sharp knife to slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. The thinner the slices, the more quickly they will pickle and the more consistent the texture will be.

Assemble: Choose a large glass jar or a non-reactive bowl for the pickling process. Add the sliced cabbage into the container. In a separate bowl, mix your chosen vinegar (apple cider, red wine, or rice vinegar) with water, sugar, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper. If you’re adding optional spices like mustard seeds or red pepper flakes, include them in this brine. Stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Pour this mixture over the cabbage, ensuring that all pieces are submerged. If necessary, you can add a bit more water or vinegar to cover the cabbage completely.

Pickle: Once the cabbage is covered in brine, allow the jar or bowl to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. This resting period lets the flavors meld and the cabbage soften slightly while retaining its crunch. For a deeper flavor, you can let it sit longer, but be aware that the texture will continue to soften over time. After the initial pickling time, seal the jar or cover the bowl and transfer it to the refrigerator. The cold temperature slows the pickling process, allowing flavors to develop more gradually and preserving the crisp texture.

CutPrepare the Red CabbageRemove tough outer leaves and rinse under cold water. Quarter the cabbage and remove the core. Use a mandolin slicer for thin, uniform slices or a sharp knife if a mandolin is not available.
AssembleMix IngredientsIn a non-reactive container, add sliced cabbage. Mix vinegar (choice of apple cider, red wine, or rice), water, sugar, minced garlic, salt, and black pepper in a separate bowl. Add optional spices like mustard seeds or red pepper flakes if desired. Ensure sugar and salt dissolve completely before pouring over cabbage.
PicklePickling ProcessAllow the cabbage to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, covered in brine. For deeper flavor, extend sitting time. Then, seal or cover and refrigerate to slow pickling, enhance flavors, and maintain crunch.

Storage Tips

Proper storage is key to maintaining the quality and extending the shelf life of your pickled red cabbage. Here are some tips to ensure your pickles stay fresh and flavorful:

Optimal Storage Methods: Glass jars are the ideal storage container for pickled red cabbage. Glass is non-porous, meaning it won’t absorb flavors or odors, and it doesn’t react with the acidic brine, ensuring the taste remains consistent. Ensure the jar has a tight-fitting lid to minimize exposure to air, which can degrade the quality of the pickles. Plastic containers are not recommended as they can absorb flavors and may impart an undesirable taste over time.

Shelf Life: When stored properly in the refrigerator, your pickled red cabbage can last for 2-3 weeks. Ensure the cabbage remains submerged in the brine to prevent any parts from drying out or becoming exposed to air, which can lead to spoilage. Each time you remove some of the cabbage, use clean utensils to avoid introducing bacteria into the jar.

Impact of Raw Ingredients: Adding raw ingredients like garlic enhances the flavor of pickled red cabbage but can also affect its shelf life. Raw garlic can introduce microorganisms that may shorten the longevity of your pickles. To mitigate this, ensure your garlic is fresh and properly minced, and always keep the pickled cabbage refrigerated. Avoid leaving the jar out at room temperature for extended periods, especially after opening, to maintain its freshness.

By following these steps and storage tips, you can enjoy your homemade Easy Pickled Red Cabbage as a zesty addition to meals, bringing a pop of color and a tangy crunch that enhances a variety of dishes.

Optimal Storage MethodsUse glass jars for storing pickled red cabbage. Glass does not absorb flavors or odors and is non-reactive with acidic brine. Ensure the jar has a tight-fitting lid to minimize air exposure, which can degrade quality.
Shelf LifeProperly stored in the refrigerator, pickled red cabbage lasts for 2-3 weeks. Keep the cabbage submerged in brine to prevent drying out or exposure to air, which can cause spoilage.
Handling TipsUse clean utensils each time you remove cabbage from the jar to prevent introducing bacteria. Raw ingredients like garlic, while enhancing flavor, can introduce microorganisms; ensure garlic is fresh and properly minced.
Temperature RecommendationsAlways refrigerate the pickled cabbage. Avoid leaving it at room temperature for extended periods, especially after opening, to maintain freshness.

Serving Suggestions

Easy Pickled Red Cabbage isn’t just a side dish; it’s a versatile condiment that can elevate the flavors of numerous meals. Its tangy crunch and vibrant color make it an irresistible addition to a variety of dishes. Here are some creative ways to incorporate pickled red cabbage into your meals:

Chickpea Cauliflower Tacos: Transform your tacos with a healthy twist by adding pickled red cabbage. The soft textures of chickpeas and roasted cauliflower are perfectly complemented by the crunch and zest of the cabbage. Spread a warm corn tortilla with a layer of smashed avocado, top with a mixture of spiced chickpeas and roasted cauliflower, and finish with a generous helping of pickled red cabbage. The contrast in textures and the burst of tangy flavor will make these tacos a memorable meal.

Veggie Buddha Bowls: Buddha bowls are all about balance and variety, and pickled red cabbage adds just the right touch of acidity to harmonize the flavors. Start with a base of quinoa or brown rice, add steamed or raw vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, and spinach, and then top with a handful of pickled red cabbage. Drizzle with a tahini or soy sauce-based dressing for a nourishing and colorful meal that’s as pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate.

Spring Rolls: Fresh spring rolls are a delightful way to enjoy a variety of textures and flavors in one bite. Soak rice paper wrappers in warm water until pliable, then lay flat and fill with a combination of rice noodles, fresh herbs (like mint or basil), cucumber strips, and a few slices of pickled red cabbage. Roll tightly and serve with a peanut or hoisin dipping sauce. The pickled cabbage will add a refreshing zing that cuts through the creaminess of the sauce.

Soyrizo Tacos: For a spicy and satisfying vegan taco, soyrizo (a plant-based chorizo) is an excellent choice. Cook the soyrizo according to package instructions, then pile it onto warm tortillas. Top with pickled red cabbage, diced tomatoes, and a sprinkle of cilantro. The spiciness of the soyrizo pairs beautifully with the sweet and sour notes of the cabbage, creating a taco that’s bursting with flavors and textures.

Chickpea Cauliflower TacosAdd a healthy twist to tacos with pickled red cabbage for crunch and zest. Layer a warm corn tortilla with smashed avocado, spiced chickpeas, roasted cauliflower, and top with pickled red cabbage for a memorable meal with a contrast in textures.
Veggie Buddha BowlsEnhance Buddha bowls with pickled red cabbage for acidity, balancing the flavors. Start with quinoa or brown rice, add vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, spinach, and top with pickled cabbage. Drizzle with tahini or soy sauce-based dressing for a colorful and nourishing meal.
Spring RollsIncorporate pickled red cabbage in fresh spring rolls for a burst of flavor. Fill softened rice paper wrappers with rice noodles, fresh herbs, cucumber, and pickled cabbage. Serve with peanut or hoisin sauce for a refreshing, flavor-packed bite.
Soyrizo TacosMake spicy and vegan-friendly tacos using soyrizo topped with pickled red cabbage, diced tomatoes, and cilantro. The tangy cabbage complements the spicy soyrizo, creating a taco with rich flavors and diverse textures.

Additional Pickling Recipes

Once you’ve mastered the art of making Easy Pickled Red Cabbage, why stop there? Quick pickling is a simple and effective way to add excitement to your meals with minimal effort. Here are some additional quick pickling recipes to try:

Pickled Onions: A staple in many kitchens, pickled onions are incredibly versatile and add a bright pop of flavor and color to any dish. Slice red onions thinly, then immerse them in a brine of vinegar (apple cider or red wine works well), water, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Let them sit for a few hours, and you’ll have a condiment that’s perfect for sandwiches, salads, and tacos.

Refrigerator (Cucumber) Pickles: For those who love classic pickles, making your own refrigerator pickles is a fun and easy process. Slice cucumbers and place them in a jar with dill, garlic, and a basic brine of vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. These pickles will be ready to enjoy in just a day or two and are perfect for snacking or adding to burgers and sandwiches.

Pickled Radishes: Radishes provide a peppery bite that is mellowed and enhanced by pickling. Slice radishes and pickle them in a mixture of vinegar, water, sugar, and salt, with optional spices like mustard seeds or peppercorns. They make a great addition to salads, tacos, or as a garnish for rich dishes.

Spiced Pickled Grapes: For something a little different, try pickling grapes with warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise. This creates a sweet and tangy snack that pairs wonderfully with cheese, charcuterie, or even as a unique side to roasted meats.

Pickled Jalapeños: If you enjoy a bit of heat, pickled jalapeños are a must-try. Slice the jalapeños and pickle them with vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, and salt. They are an excellent way to spice up nachos, pizzas, or even scrambled eggs.

These quick pickling recipes are not only a way to preserve the bounty of the season but also a method to inject new life into your meals with bright flavors and textures. Happy pickling!

Pickled OnionsRed onions, vinegar (apple cider or red wine), water, sugar, salt.Perfect for enhancing sandwiches, salads, and tacos with a bright pop of flavor and color.
Refrigerator (Cucumber) PicklesCucumbers, dill, garlic, vinegar, water, sugar, salt.Ideal for snacking or adding to burgers and sandwiches; ready in just a day or two.
Pickled RadishesRadishes, vinegar, water, sugar, salt, optional spices (mustard seeds, peppercorns).Adds a peppery, tangy touch to salads, tacos, or as a garnish for rich dishes.
Spiced Pickled GrapesGrapes, vinegar, water, sugar, salt, warm spices (cinnamon, cloves, star anise).A sweet and tangy snack that complements cheese, charcuterie, or as a side to roasted meats.
Pickled JalapeñosJalapeños, vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, salt.Brings heat to nachos, pizzas, or scrambled eggs, enhancing these dishes with a spicy flavor.

The journey through the world of pickling, especially with the vibrant and zesty Easy Pickled Red Cabbage, reveals just how transformative this simple culinary technique can be. This recipe doesn’t just preserve a humble vegetable; it elevates it into a multifaceted condiment that can brighten and enhance an array of dishes. From the tangy crunch in Chickpea Cauliflower Tacos to the refreshing zing in Spring Rolls, pickled red cabbage introduces a spectrum of flavors and textures that can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The beauty of pickled red cabbage lies not only in its striking color and robust health benefits, rich in vitamin C and iron, but also in its sheer adaptability. Whether it’s adding a layer of complexity to Veggie Buddha Bowls or providing a spicy counterpoint to Soyrizo Tacos, this pickled delight proves time and again that it’s more than just a side dish. It’s a testament to the power of pickling in unlocking new dimensions of flavor and making every meal an adventure in taste.

Beyond its culinary uses, the process of making pickled red cabbage is a gateway to exploring the broader world of quick pickling. As you delve into recipes for Pickled Onions, Refrigerator Cucumber Pickles, Pickled Radishes, Spiced Pickled Grapes, and Pickled Jalapeños, you embark on a journey that enhances your kitchen repertoire and invites creativity. Each recipe offers a new way to enjoy the freshness of produce, balanced with the perfect mix of sweet, sour, and spicy notes.

The allure of Easy Pickled Red Cabbage and its pickled counterparts is not just in the immediate burst of flavor they provide but also in the ease and satisfaction of creating something uniquely delicious in your own kitchen. These recipes are a celebration of both tradition and innovation, bridging the gap between the familiar and the unexpected.

As we conclude this exploration of pickled red cabbage and the vibrant world of pickling, I encourage you not to let this culinary adventure end here. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a curious beginner, there’s immense joy and satisfaction in bringing these flavors into your meals. To keep this journey of taste exploration alive, I invite you to save this recipe and others by entering your email below. By doing so, you’ll not only have these recipes at your fingertips but also receive new, exciting culinary ideas to inspire your next meal.

Embrace the versatility, savor the zest, and let pickled red cabbage transform your cooking into a celebration of flavors. Happy pickling, and here’s to many more delightful meals enriched by the tangy charm of pickled vegetables!