Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples ♥

Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples ♥ A Veggie Venture, savory not sweet, a tradition at Christmas, adding welcome color and texture to a plate. Recipe, cooking tips, nutrition, WW Weight Watchers points included.
An easy cabbage side dish, a sort of sweet 'n' sour red cabbage, just red cabbage softly cooked on the stove with onion and tart apples, adding welcome color and texture to a plate. Very pretty! Very tasty!

Fresh & Seasonal. Beautiful Color. A Scandinavian & Northern European Classic, Especially at Christmas. Great for Meal Prep. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free.

SCHOOL LUNCH IN FINLAND Helsinki, Finland is perched on the Baltic Sea. When I was a student there, the favorite school lunch was just-caught batter-fried fish with mashed potatoes and a warm cabbage slaw, a sumptuous combination. Everyone took large helpings and many went back for seconds! This skillet-cooked cabbage and apples reminds me of those lunch-time luxuries.

A WINTER DISH? OR A SUMMER DISH? Especially at Christmas, the combination of red cabbage and apple is traditional in Northern Europe, think the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway plus Germany and Austria. And yes, in some ways this is a winter-ish side dish, especially in cold-weather countries where, once upon a time, fresh vegetables and fruits had to keep throughout the long winters.

But then again? Served at room temperature or cold, Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples is perfect for summer, especially as a side to fish or grilled sausage.

Winter or summer, this simple sautéed cabbage and apple definitely brightens a plate. The color is fabulous!

EASY TO MAKE Making this dish is easy. Just cut up onion, apple and cabbage and sauté lightly. Then add a little brown sugar, some vinegar and a few spices plus, to deepen the flavors, a little red wine and some tart jelly. That's it! Serve it straight from the stove or make it a day ahead of time and gently reheat.

A FAVORITE, ESPECIALY FOR A SCANDINAVIAN CHRISTMAS DINNER I first made Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples back in 2005 in the ninth week of the first year of A Veggie Venture, when I tried a new recipe every day for a year. There were m-a-n-y duds that first year.

But more than 15 years later, I'm still surprised – moved, even – that so many recipes from that first year still stand the test of time and remain staples in my own kitchen. This is definitely one of those! It's one of my very favorites from A Veggie Venture and whenever we do a Finnish Christmas menu during the holidays, it always includes Finnish Meatballs and Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples, a fine meal for company or family or even just us, almost all made ahead of time for relaxing food preparation on the big day itself.

More Swedish Recipes

I've only visited, never lived in, Sweden. But I did live for a year Sweden's eastern neighbor Finland, at first with a Swedish-speaking Finnish family who remain close friends, even decades later. And I grew up in Minnesota, home to many Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian immigrants, families who still hew to the Nordic culture.
So no surprise, I've collected many Scandinavian recipes, many which are favorites for the Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture community. Here are a few!

Swedish Rye Bread Slightly sweet, densely delicious.
Homemade Swedish Potato Sausage A photo essay, a grandmother passing along a family tradition.
How to Make Lefse A step-by-step video by expert lefse maker LeAnne Kruger.


"This reminds me of the red cabbage we had as part of a traditional Danish Christmas Eve supper-your recipe is terrific, Alanna!" ~ Kirsten
"... this recipe is one of the most popular in my kitchen" ~ Stephen

Swedish Red Cabbage & Apples ♥ A Veggie Venture, savory not sweet, a tradition at Christmas, adding welcome color and texture to a plate. Recipe, cooking tips, nutrition, WW Weight Watchers points included.

Just updated. First published way back in 2005!


Hands-on time: 15 minutes plus regular attention throughout
Time to table: 30 minutes
Makes 10 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil (for vegan) or butter (see TIPS)
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled (or not) and chopped (see TIPS)
2 large onions, chopped
1 large (a generous 2 pounds/900g) red cabbage, core removed, roughly chopped (see TIPS)

1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon (yes, tablespoon) kosher salt (see TIPS)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/3 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tart jelly such as red currant jelly or hot pepper jelly (see ALANNA's TIPS)
Salt & pepper

SAUTÉ Heat a large Dutch oven on medium heat, add the butter or olive oil when the pot is hot. When the butter is melted or the oil is shimmery, stir in the apples and onions, coating with fat and cook just until beginning to cook. Stir in the cabbage and cook until slightly wilted, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

COOK COVERED Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, salt and spices in a small dish and stir into the cabbage. Cover and cook until the cabbage is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to gently simmer.

COOK UNCOVERED Stir in the red wine and jelly and cook for another 5 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

SERVE Serve hot (our favorite), at room temperature or cold.

MAKE-AHEAD This is definitely a make-ahead dish! Make it a day ahead of time and then gently reheat. It doesn't have to be made ahead of time but it definitely is excellent made ahead of time.

This is a flexible recipe! And I make it so often, I have lots of ideas on simple variations that may well suit your own cooking sensibility.

TEXTURE Texture is important to this dish. What you don't want is overcooked mush. The objective is to end up with fully cooked, soft cabbage that retains a bit of crunch. The texture does change from the first day (distinct pieces and flavors) to the second day (mellowed pieces and flavors). Picking a favorite would be hard!
BUTTER vs OLIVE OIL I use butter for a certain richness for holiday meals but olive oil for a vegan dish or for more heart-healthy eating.
APPLES Some times I peel the apples, but mostly I don't. When peeled, the apples tend to kind of melt into the cabbage, that's its own texture. But I also appreciate it when the apples slices retain their own distinctive place in the dish so for those times, I leave the skins on. It depends on what you're aiming for! For a really apple-y dish, I use four apples instead of two. Not into apples? I love this cabbage even without the apples!
CABBAGE I do recommend chopping the cabbage by hand, it takes just a quick chop-chop, no precision required.
RED CURRANT JELLY The red currant jelly is a "defining ingredient" that is not always easy to find so I find myself stocking up. What you want is a tart jelly with a little bite, not the usual sweet jams and jellies. I've tried chokecherry syrup and miss the tartness. I've tried a few red pepper flakes and a little white pepper with a sweet jelly, it's still not quite right. It's worth seek out, red currant jelly.
SALT A tablespoon of salt, even kosher, seems like a lot. Salt to taste, of course, but a full tablespoon seems to be what's needed. It's seasoning a lot of food, a couple of pounds of cabbage plus a couple of pounds of onion and apple. FYI we use Morton's kosher salt, if you use Diamond Chrystal, you'll want to use almost 2 tablespoons and if you prefer table salt, use a half tablespoon.

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from Kitchen Parade, my food column

Looking for healthy new ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of super-organized quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables. Join "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg to explore the exciting world of common and not-so-common vegetables, seasonal to staples, savory to sweet, salads to sides, soups to supper, simple to special.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade
2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2019 & 2020 (repub)

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. AnonymousJuly 04, 2008

    This reminds me of the red cabbage we had as part of a traditional Danish Christmas Eve supper-your recipe is terrific, Alanna! My brother's recipe? Go to the store, get a jar of red cabbage, heat and serve. Though to their credit, he and his wife made the tastiest pork with crispy salty skin.

    I didn't have any ground cloves, so I substituted 6 whole cloves. At least I picked 6 whole cloves out at the end of the cooking time ;)!

    I also threw in a dash of caraway seeds because it seemed like a good addition.

    I substituted Gala apples for half of the Granny Smiths.

    Finally, I had the opportunity to use my own homemade cranberry hot pepper jelly. I thought I'd given away all the jars but found one at the back of the pantry. Wahoo!

    I enjoyed this dish warm and cold for several meals. Thanks!

  2. I want to tell you that this recipe is one of the most popular in my kitchen...I got my version from a Time-Life Cooking series book (on Scandanavian cuisine) that my former wife had from the 60's...at some point I found that it could be made in a microwave...usually 15 minutes at full power works...
    best, Stephen

  3. What a great recipe! I grew up on sweet and sour red cabbage. My grandmother was Swedish. She made this with diced bacon, using the bacon grease instead of butter. I've never heard of using jelly, but wow that sound good. We always topped our cabbage with a dollop of sour cream. Try that next time it's really yummy.

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna