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This wonderful Spiced Braised Red Cabbage is a sweet and tangy side dish for your festive gathering. It tastes wonderful alongside a roast turkey but equally well with rib of beef, game or even a nut roast. Make it ahead of time and stash in the freezer as it re-heats brilliantly.
Everyone in our family has their own ideas over the one side dish that simply must be present on the festive table. My sister advocates for brussel sprouts, Luke clamours for cheesy leeks and I stamp my foot for mashed swede with caramelised onions. However, there is one thing that we can always agree on. Spiced Braised Red Cabbage. It’s a must on Christmas Day and in fact I try to cram it into as many meals as I can during the cooler months.
Table of contents
Why you'll love this Christmas Braised Red Cabbage
- Apples, red onions, red wine, balsamic vinegar and spices give a delightful full bodied sweet and sour flavour.
- Cabbage is cooked until just tender, rather than being over-softened in the braise.
- It can accompany any roasted meat, nut roast or pumpkin dish.
- Ready in just 45 minutes and is mostly hands off cooking.
- Easy to make ahead and freeze. It actually tastes better that way.
- Stunning colour – makes any table more festive.
- Red cabbage. Use organic if you possibly can for a better flavour.
- Red onion. A subtle onion flavour.
- Apples. A natural sweetness. Use dessert apples and once they are grated in they become part of the rich sauce.
- Red wine. Adds richness. You can substitute for fresh stock if you need to omit the alcohol.
- Balsamic vinegar. For our lovely tanginess.
- Brown sugar. For that sweet depth of flavour.
- Butter. Unsalted so you can control the salt content. You can swap for olive oil or a plant based alternative.
- Seasonings. Ground allspice, and star anise give this a lovely Christmas flavour. Plus salt and pepper.
- Pomegranate seeds. They elevate it once served, scattered over the top of the finished dish.
How to cook red cabbage
For more detailed instructions view the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Melt butter in a large wide bottomed pan.
- Add shredded red cabbage and cook until well coated with the butter.
- Stir in the sliced red onions, grated apple, allspice, a whole star anise and seasoning.
- Place the lid on and cook on a gentle heat for 30 minutes.
- Stir in the red wine, balsamic vinegar and sugar.
- Place lid back on and cook for a final 15 minutes.
- Serve scattered with pomegranate seeds.
- Braised cabbage with balsamic vinegar is a match made in heaven. However, you can substitute the balsamic vinegar for apple cider vinegar if you would like a sharper flavour.
- Remember to remove the whole star anise before serving.
- Christmas Braised Red Cabbage tastes amazing alongside your Glazed Christmas Ham.
The sugar balances out the sharpness of the vinegar. However, if you are avoiding refined sugar then you can substitute with honey or maple syrup. The end result won’t have the same sweetness and will take on the flavour of your substitution.
How to make vegan / dairy-free
The only ingredient you need to switch out is the initial butter. You can use a plant based butter alternative or olive oil.
How to freeze
This Spiced Braised Red Cabbage tastes better if you make it ahead and it retains its rich flavour during the freeze. Just bring it out of the freezer the night before to defrost thoroughly before re-heating for 10-15 minutes in a lidded saucepan.
You can make it about 3 days in advance which will help your Christmas organisation. Store in the fridge in an airtight container and re-heat before serving just in the saucepan. Only add the pomegranate seeds just before serving.
More Christmas dinner side dishes
If you make Spiced Braised Red Cabbage then please leave a comment below and/or give the recipe a rating. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own culinary creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.
Spiced Braised Red Cabbage
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 small red cabbage - about 700g, shredded thinly
- 1 red onion - halved and sliced thinly
- 2 dessert apples - grated
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 whole star anise
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 100 ml red wine
- 100 ml balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
- 75 g pomegranate seeds
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan then add the shredded red cabbage and coat thoroughly.
- Add the red onion, apples, ground allspice, star anise and seasoning and mix it all together. Place a lid on and cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes or until the cabbage is soft.
- Pour in the red wine, balsamic vinegar and sugar and stir together until completely combined. Place the lid back on and continue cooking for a further 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced by a third.
- Serve scattered with pomegranate seeds.
- ACCOMPANIMENTS - Spiced Braised Red Cabbage is equally excellent with Rib of Beef, Roast Turkey or even a Nut Roast.
- VEGAN – Swap the butter for olive oil.
- BALSAMIC VINEGAR – You can swap for apple cider vinegar to give a much sharper flavour.
- SUGAR-FREE – Swap the brown sugar for honey or maple syrup. Or just leave it out – the end result will have a mellow tang rather than a more even balance of sweet/sour.
- MAKE AHEAD - You can make the dish up to 3 days ahead of when you want to serve it. Don't add the pomegranate seeds until just before serving. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
- FREEZING - Make a couple of weeks ahead of time and stash in the freezer. Braised Red Cabbage defrosts and re-heats particularly well.