Quick and Colorful Sauteed Red Cabbage A Simple Side Dish

Sauteed red cabbage stands out not only for its vibrant color but also for its versatility and array of health benefits. This simple yet delightful side dish, brought to life through a recipe updated by Martha Stewart on June 14, 2023, introduces a burst of color and a unique blend of sweet-and-sour flavors to any meal. Known for its sturdy nature, red cabbage is a robust addition to a myriad of dishes, making it an excellent choice for health-conscious individuals seeking to enrich their diet with nutrient-packed vegetables.

Red cabbage, available year-round, peaks in freshness during the fall and winter months. It’s a powerhouse of nutrients, including vitamins C and K, and is especially rich in anthocyanins—a type of phytonutrient known for its antioxidant properties. These natural compounds not only give the cabbage its distinctive color but also contribute to reducing inflammation and protecting against chronic diseases.

The preparation of sauteed red cabbage is straightforward and quick, requiring just 20 minutes from start to finish. With only a few ingredients such as a small head of red cabbage, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, coarse salt, ground pepper, and light-brown sugar, this recipe is perfect for busy weeknights. Martha Stewart’s approach emphasizes the cabbage’s natural flavors, enhanced subtly by the tang of the vinegar and the sweetness of the sugar, creating a balance that complements a variety of main dishes.

This dish is not only appealing to the eye but also supports a healthy lifestyle. Its ability to retain its crisp texture and rich color when cooked briefly makes it an ideal side for heavier proteins or as an addition to vegetarian meals. Whether served alongside pork chops, smoked sausages, or a vegetarian casserole, sauteed red cabbage adds a flavorful and nutritious element to any dining occasion.

DescriptionSautéed red cabbage, a vibrant, sweet-and-sour side dish updated by Martha Stewart on June 14, 2023.
Health BenefitsRich in vitamins C and K, anthocyanins with antioxidant properties, reduces inflammation, and protects against chronic diseases.
SeasonalityAvailable year-round, but peaks in fall and winter.
Preparation Time20 minutes from start to finish.
IngredientsRed cabbage, olive oil, red-wine vinegar, coarse salt, ground pepper, light-brown sugar.
Cooking StyleEmphasizes natural flavors, enhanced by vinegar and sugar, retains crisp texture and rich color when briefly cooked.
Serving SuggestionsComplements heavy proteins and vegetarian meals, ideal with pork chops, smoked sausages, or vegetarian casseroles.

Overview of Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is a resilient and vibrant vegetable that graces grocery store shelves all year round, yet it shines brightest during its peak season from fall through winter. This timing coincides with when it’s most commonly found at farm stands and farmers’ markets, where its rich, deep colors make it stand out among seasonal produce. The robust nature of red cabbage not only adds a splash of color to a variety of dishes but also brings substantial nutritional benefits, making it a popular choice for health-conscious consumers.

The longevity of red cabbage is another remarkable feature. When stored properly, a whole head of red cabbage can last up to two months, making it a staple that you can keep on hand without frequent trips to the market. To maximize its shelf life, it is important not to wash or cut the cabbage until you are ready to use it. Store the whole head in a produce bag or wrap it in plastic and place it in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. This environment helps maintain its freshness and crispness for an extended period. If you have already cut into the cabbage, wrap the remaining portion tightly in plastic wrap. These pieces will last about three days when stored properly in the crisper drawer.

These storage tips not only help in reducing food waste but also ensure that the cabbage retains its nutritional quality and taste. Preparing for its use is straightforward: just ensure that the head feels heavy for its size when purchasing, and look for tightly packed leaves that are shiny and crisp, without signs of wilting. This indicates a fresh cabbage, ripe for cooking and inclusion in nutritious meals.

AvailabilityAvailable year-round; peak season during fall through winter.
PopularityStands out at farm stands and farmers’ markets due to its rich, deep colors. Popular for its nutritional benefits.
Storage LongevityCan last up to two months when stored properly; cut pieces last about three days.
Storage InstructionsDo not wash or cut until ready to use. Store whole head in a produce bag or wrapped in plastic in the crisper drawer. Wrap cut portions tightly in plastic wrap.
Preparation TipsSelect heads that are heavy for their size, with tightly packed, shiny, and crisp leaves without wilting.


Creating a delicious side dish of sautéed red cabbage involves just a handful of ingredients that work together to enhance the natural flavors of the cabbage while introducing a delightful mix of tangy and sweet elements. Here’s what you’ll need for this easy and quick recipe by Martha Stewart:

1 small head of red cabbage (about 1 ½ pounds): The star of the dish, red cabbage is thinly sliced to ensure it cooks evenly and absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients.

1 tablespoon of olive oil: Olive oil is used for sautéing the cabbage. It’s a healthier fat option that adds a subtle flavor and helps in caramelizing the cabbage.

3 tablespoons of red-wine vinegar: This adds a tangy flavor that brightens the dish and helps maintain the cabbage’s vibrant color during cooking.

Coarse salt and ground pepper: These seasonings are simple but essential for enhancing the natural flavors of the cabbage and balancing the sweetness of the added sugar.

2 tablespoons of light-brown sugar: The sugar introduces a mild sweetness that complements the sharpness of the vinegar, resulting in a perfect balance of sweet and sour.

With these ingredients, you can create a side dish that not only tastes great but also brings a visual appeal to your meal with its striking red-purple hue. The combination of flavors and ease of preparation make sautéed red cabbage a wonderful addition to any meal, especially during the colder months when its quality and availability are at their peak.

Red cabbage1 small head (about 1 ½ pounds)The main ingredient, thinly sliced for even cooking and flavor absorption.
Olive oil1 tablespoonUsed for sautéing; a healthier fat that adds subtle flavor and aids in caramelizing.
Red-wine vinegar3 tablespoonsAdds a tangy flavor that brightens the dish and helps maintain the vibrant color of the cabbage.
Coarse saltTo tasteEnhances the natural flavors of the cabbage.
Ground pepperTo tasteUsed to balance the flavors and add a touch of spice.
Light-brown sugar2 tablespoonsIntroduces a mild sweetness that complements the sharpness of the vinegar.

Preparation Steps

Preparing and cooking sautéed red cabbage is a straightforward process that can be accomplished in about 20 minutes, making it an ideal choice for a quick, nutritious side dish. Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to ensure your cabbage is perfectly cooked every time:

Preparing the Cabbage

Halving and Coring: Start by placing your red cabbage on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the cabbage in half through the stem. Once halved, lay each section cut side down and slice at an angle around the core to remove it. The core is tougher and takes longer to cook, so it’s best removed.

Slicing: After coring, thinly slice the cabbage halves. Thin slices will cook more evenly and provide a better texture in the finished dish.

Time estimate: 5 minutes

Sautéing with Olive Oil and Red-Wine Vinegar

Heating the Oil: In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. The oil should shimmer slightly, indicating it is hot enough to start sautéing.

Adding Cabbage and Vinegar: Add the thinly sliced cabbage to the skillet. Toss it in the oil to coat evenly. Then, pour three tablespoons of red-wine vinegar over the cabbage. The vinegar will help to deglaze the pan and infuse the cabbage with a tangy flavor.

Time estimate: 2 minutes

Cooking the Cabbage

Seasoning: Season the cabbage with coarse salt and ground pepper according to your taste preferences. The seasoning not only enhances the flavor but also helps to draw out moisture from the cabbage, aiding in the cooking process.

Continual Tossing: Continue to cook the cabbage, tossing frequently with tongs or a spatula. This ensures that all the cabbage cooks evenly and absorbs the flavors of the vinegar and seasonings.

Checking for Doneness: Cook until the cabbage is crisp-tender, which should take about 15 minutes. If the pan becomes too dry during cooking, add a splash of water to prevent sticking.

Time estimate: 15 minutes

Adding Light-Brown Sugar

Final Seasoning: Once the cabbage is nearly done, sprinkle two tablespoons of light-brown sugar over it. Toss the cabbage to evenly distribute the sugar, which will melt and create a glossy, slightly sticky coating. This step adds a touch of sweetness that balances the acidity of the vinegar.

Final Adjustments: Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, adding more salt or pepper as desired.

Time estimate: 2 minutes

StepProcessTime Estimate
Preparing the Cabbage
  • Halve and core the cabbage, then thinly slice the halves.
5 minutes
Sautéing with Olive Oil and Red-Wine Vinegar
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  • Add sliced cabbage and red-wine vinegar, toss to coat.
2 minutes
Cooking the Cabbage
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Continue cooking, tossing frequently, until crisp-tender.
  • Add a splash of water if needed to prevent sticking.
15 minutes
Adding Light-Brown Sugar
  • Sprinkle light-brown sugar over nearly done cabbage, toss to distribute.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
2 minutes

Serving Suggestions

Sautéed red cabbage is a versatile side dish that pairs wonderfully with a variety of main courses. Its sweet and sour flavor profile complements rich, hearty meats as well as vegetarian options:

Pork Dishes: The classic pairing of pork and cabbage is unbeatable. Try sautéed red cabbage alongside pork chops, roast pork, or smoked sausages. The acidity of the cabbage cuts through the fat of the pork, making for a balanced bite.

Roast Chicken and Duck: The sweetness of red cabbage makes it a great side for poultry, especially with darker, richer meats like duck.

Hearty Vegetarian Options: For a vegetarian meal, serve the sautéed red cabbage with dishes like lentils, beans, or chickpeas. It also complements boldly flavored fish such as salmon, adding a fresh twist to the meal.

Comfort Foods: Incorporate this sautéed cabbage into comfort food meals like shepherd’s pie or casseroles, where its vivid color and tangy flavor can brighten up the dish.

These serving suggestions ensure that your sautéed red cabbage not only enhances the meal visually but also elevates the overall flavor profile, making your dish a memorable one.

Main Course TypePairing Suggestions
Pork DishesPork chops, roast pork, smoked sausages. The acidity of the cabbage complements the fat in pork.
PoultryRoast chicken, duck. The sweetness of the cabbage pairs well with darker, richer meats.
Vegetarian OptionsLentils, beans, chickpeas. Ideal for complementing hearty vegetarian dishes.
FishEspecially good with boldly flavored fish like salmon, adding a fresh twist.
Comfort FoodsShepherd’s pie, casseroles. Adds color and tangy flavor to comfort food dishes.

Nutritional Benefits

Red cabbage is not only a vibrant addition to meals but also a powerhouse of nutritional benefits, especially when compared to its cousin, the green cabbage. While both types of cabbage offer significant health advantages, red cabbage stands out due to its higher concentration of certain nutrients and phytochemicals.

Vitamin Content: Both red and green cabbage are excellent sources of vitamin C, but red cabbage contains about 30% more, which makes it even more effective in boosting the immune system and enhancing skin health. Additionally, red cabbage provides a good amount of vitamin K, essential for bone health and wound healing.

Fiber: Like green cabbage, red cabbage is a great source of dietary fiber, which helps maintain bowel health, lowers cholesterol levels, and aids in weight management.

Antioxidants: The most notable difference comes in the form of antioxidant levels. Red cabbage contains significantly more antioxidants than green cabbage, primarily due to the presence of anthocyanins.

Significance of Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins are what give red cabbage its distinctive color. These powerful antioxidants have been studied for their potential health benefits, which include:

Reducing Inflammation: Anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and arthritis.

Enhancing Heart Health: Studies suggest that anthocyanins can improve heart health by reducing arterial stiffness and lowering blood pressure.

Cancer Prevention: There is also evidence to suggest that anthocyanins have anticancer properties, helping to slow the proliferation of cancer cells.

Brain Health: These compounds may aid in improving brain function and reducing the risk of cognitive decline.

Nutrient/PropertyRed CabbageGreen CabbageBenefits of Red Cabbage
Vitamin CHigher concentrationExcellent sourceBoosts immune system, enhances skin health.
Vitamin KGood amountGood amountEssential for bone health and wound healing.
FiberGreat sourceGreat sourceHelps maintain bowel health, lowers cholesterol, aids weight management.
AntioxidantsSignificantly more, especially anthocyaninsLessHigher antioxidant levels contribute to numerous health benefits.
Significance of AnthocyaninsHigh in anthocyaninsLacks anthocyanins
  • Reduces inflammation.
  • Enhances heart health by reducing arterial stiffness and lowering blood pressure.
  • Has anticancer properties, slows cancer cell proliferation.
  • Improves brain function, reduces risk of cognitive decline.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

Creating the perfect sautéed red cabbage involves more than just following the recipe—it’s about mastering a few key techniques that enhance both the flavor and color of the dish.

Why Adding Vinegar is Essential

Color Preservation: Red cabbage can turn an unappetizing blue when cooked in alkaline conditions. The addition of an acid, such as vinegar, stabilizes its vibrant purple hue. Vinegar helps maintain the pH balance, ensuring the cabbage retains its appealing color throughout the cooking process.

Flavor Enhancement: Vinegar not only preserves color but also enhances the natural flavors of the cabbage, adding a tangy note that complements the sweetness of the light-brown sugar. It brings a bright, acidic contrast that elevates the overall taste of the dish.

Tips for Achieving Perfect Texture and Flavor Balance

Cooking Duration: To achieve crisp-tender texture, it’s crucial not to overcook the cabbage. Keep the cooking time to around 15 minutes, and use medium heat to avoid burning while still allowing the cabbage to soften slightly.

Tossing Frequency: Regularly tossing the cabbage during sautéing ensures even cooking and flavor distribution. This prevents some pieces from becoming too soft while others remain too crunchy.

Seasoning Adjustments: Start with a moderate amount of salt and pepper, then adjust seasoning towards the end of cooking. This allows the flavors to meld together, and you can better gauge how much more seasoning is needed after the sugar and vinegar have been absorbed.

Sugar Addition: The timing of adding sugar is critical. Add it towards the end of the cooking process to avoid burning it. The sugar should just melt into the cabbage, providing a gentle sweetness that balances the sharpness of the vinegar.

Splash of Water: If the pan gets too dry, don’t hesitate to add a splash of water. This helps to deglaze the pan and prevents the cabbage from sticking and burning, ensuring a moist and evenly cooked dish.

By understanding these nuances, you can elevate your sautéed red cabbage from a simple side dish to a standout part of any meal, maximizing both its health benefits and its culinary appeal.

Adding VinegarStabilizes the pH balance to maintain the vibrant purple color of the cabbage and adds a tangy flavor.Preserves color and enhances the dish’s flavor profile.
Cooking DurationCook on medium heat for about 15 minutes to achieve a crisp-tender texture without overcooking.Ensures perfect texture and prevents burning.
Tossing FrequencyRegularly toss the cabbage during sautéing to ensure even cooking and flavor distribution.Avoids uneven texture and enhances flavor absorption.
Seasoning AdjustmentsStart with moderate seasoning and adjust towards the end of cooking after other flavors have melded.Allows for precise flavor balance, enhancing overall taste.
Sugar AdditionAdd sugar towards the end of the cooking process to prevent burning and ensure it melts properly.Provides a balance between sweetness and acidity.
Splash of WaterAdd a splash of water if the pan gets too dry, helping to deglaze the pan and prevent sticking.Keeps the dish moist and prevents burning.

Storage and Leftovers

Proper storage of sautéed red cabbage is essential to maintaining its flavor and nutritional value. Handling leftovers correctly ensures that you can enjoy this delicious side dish for several days after preparation.

Storing Leftovers

Cooling Down: Allow the sautéed red cabbage to cool to room temperature after cooking. This prevents condensation from forming inside the storage container, which could make the cabbage soggy.

Airtight Containers: Transfer the cooled cabbage into an airtight container. This minimizes exposure to air and moisture, which can lead to spoilage.

Refrigeration: Store the container in the refrigerator. Properly stored, sautéed red cabbage can last for up to three days without losing its quality.


Consistency: To best preserve the texture, gently reheat the cabbage over medium heat in a skillet. You can add a few drops of water to help it moisten and prevent it from drying out.

Microwave: If using a microwave, cover the cabbage and heat it on high for about one to two minutes, or until it is heated through.

Following these storage and reheating tips will help ensure that your sautéed red cabbage remains just as appetizing and nutritious as when it was freshly made.

Storing Leftovers
  • Cooling Down
  • Using Airtight Containers
  • Refrigeration
  • Allow to cool to room temperature to avoid condensation.
  • Transfer to an airtight container to minimize air exposure.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to three days.
  • Skillet Reheating
  • Microwave Reheating
  • Gently reheat over medium heat in a skillet, add a few drops of water if needed.
  • Cover and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes until heated through.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is the effect of vinegar on red cabbage?

Vinegar plays a crucial role in the cooking process of red cabbage by helping maintain its vibrant color and adding a tangy flavor that enhances the overall taste of the dish. When red cabbage is cooked in alkaline conditions, it can turn a blueish color, which might be unappealing. Vinegar, being acidic, stabilizes the red pigment (anthocyanins) in the cabbage, ensuring it retains its attractive purple hue. Moreover, the sharpness of the vinegar balances the natural sweetness of the cabbage and the added sugar, creating a delightful sweet-and-sour flavor profile.

2. Is red cabbage better for you than green cabbage?

Both red and green cabbage are highly nutritious, but they have some differences in their nutritional makeup. Red cabbage contains more antioxidants, particularly anthocyanins, which give it its characteristic purple color. These anthocyanins are linked with numerous health benefits, including improved heart health and reduced inflammation. On the other hand, green cabbage typically has more fiber. However, both types are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals and have low calorie counts, making them great additions to a healthy diet. Thus, the choice between red and green cabbage can depend on your nutritional goals or simply your preference for taste or color in dishes.

3. How can you keep red cabbage from turning blue while cooking?

As mentioned, red cabbage can sometimes turn an unappealing blue when exposed to alkaline cooking environments. To prevent this color change, it’s important to add an acidic component, such as vinegar or lemon juice, during cooking. This not only preserves the cabbage’s rich purple color but also adds a dimension of flavor that complements the natural taste of the cabbage.

4. Can you eat red cabbage raw?

Yes, red cabbage can be consumed raw and is often used in salads and slaws. Eating it raw preserves all of its vitamins and antioxidants. When preparing red cabbage raw, it is recommended to slice it thinly to enhance its texture and flavor absorption in dressings.

By addressing these common questions, this guide aims to enhance your cooking and eating experience with red cabbage, ensuring you can fully enjoy both its health benefits and its culinary versatility.

What is the effect of vinegar on red cabbage?Vinegar helps maintain the vibrant color of red cabbage and adds a tangy flavor, enhancing the dish’s taste by balancing sweetness and sourness.
Is red cabbage better for you than green cabbage?Both are nutritious, but red cabbage has more antioxidants like anthocyanins, which offer additional health benefits. Green cabbage has more fiber.
How can you keep red cabbage from turning blue while cooking?To prevent color change to blue, add acidic components like vinegar or lemon juice during cooking, which preserves the purple color and enhances flavor.
Can you eat red cabbage raw?Yes, red cabbage can be eaten raw, often used in salads and slaws. Consuming it raw preserves its vitamins and antioxidants.

The preparation of sautéed red cabbage, as detailed in this guide, underscores both the simplicity and the myriad benefits of incorporating this vibrant vegetable into your regular meal rotation. This dish not only stands out for its striking color and delicious sweet-and-sour flavor profile but also for its nutritional richness, making it an excellent choice for those looking to enhance their diet.

One of the most compelling aspects of this sautéed red cabbage recipe is its simplicity. With a total prep and cook time of about 20 minutes and requiring just a handful of readily available ingredients, it is accessible to cooks of all skill levels. Whether you are a novice in the kitchen or an experienced chef, this dish is straightforward to master. The steps involved, from slicing the cabbage to sautéing it with vinegar and seasoning, are easy to follow. The process not only yields a delicious side dish but also offers a satisfying cooking experience.

Red cabbage is a powerhouse of nutrition. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it contributes to a healthy diet in significant ways. The anthocyanins that give red cabbage its color are not just visually appealing; they are also potent antioxidants that offer protective benefits against heart disease, inflammation, and certain cancers. Additionally, the fiber content in red cabbage aids in digestion and maintains good gut health. By regularly including red cabbage in your meals, you’re not only enjoying a delicious vegetable but also boosting your overall health.

Sautéed red cabbage is exceptionally versatile, making it an excellent complement to a wide range of main dishes. Its robust flavor balances well with rich meats like pork chops, roast pork, and smoked sausages, making it a perfect side for hearty meals. It also pairs beautifully with poultry and even bold fish like salmon, adding a burst of color and flavor that enhances these proteins. For vegetarians, this cabbage goes well with lentils, beans, and chickpeas, providing a satisfying and complete meal. The adaptability of sautéed red cabbage ensures it can find a place in any meal, regardless of the dietary preferences of those at the table.

If you haven’t yet tried making sautéed red cabbage, I strongly encourage you to give this recipe a shot. Its ease of preparation, health benefits, and delicious taste are sure to make it a favorite in your kitchen. Experiment with it alongside your favorite dishes, and you might find it becoming a regular part of your culinary repertoire. Whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight side dish or something unique to serve at a gathering, sautéed red cabbage is sure to impress.

In conclusion, the humble red cabbage, transformed through simple culinary techniques, can elevate your meals both nutritionally and aesthetically. Its ability to blend with various dishes while offering significant health benefits makes it an invaluable addition to your diet. So, take this opportunity to explore the flavors and benefits of red cabbage and see how a simple side dish can enhance your dining experience.