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Quick festive red cabbage

Updated: Tue, 9 January, 2024

Red cabbage sauteed with raisins and apples, festively seasoned with nutmeg and cloves, it’s a surprisingly quick and easy dish that is decidedly not only reserved for Christmas dinner.

quick festive red cabbage

Red cabbage in five minutes

Guess what: red cabbage does not really need that red-wine-cook-for-hours treatment that is traditionally believed to be required. I’ve only discovered it having grown about six handsome heads in my garden plot.

All of them turned out rock hard, the size of a football (or even a football pitch, nearly) each, unblemished, healthy and begging to be stored until Christmas, for serving with that goose, duck or the three bird roast.

Red cabbage goes beautifully with each of the above but the secret is it will go just as well with a pork chop on a weeknight. Why? Because it takes all of just about five minutes to cook. No kidding.

True – you have to shred the brute. But red cabbages are compact and tight so if you’re a lucky owner of a food processor, a mandolin or a strong pair of an assistant sous-chef’s hands, you’ll not be taking an awfully long time with it.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve braised red cabbage slow and low in the oven before, with the fragrant red wine and spices, but since the generous crop this year I’ve had to look for quicker ways.

This method is dead easy. You can whip (or stir) it up in no time at all while your goose, or indeed your pork chop if it’s not Christmas, is resting.

sauteed red cabbage

Cabbage and its mates

Red cabbage is a sweeter variety than green cabbage and so its sweetness should be further boosted in cooking.

I like apples and raisins for this purpose, plus a generous scoop of redcurrant jelly which is a preserve hardly ever used in a dessert environment. Redcurrant jelly belongs with lamb and all kinds of gravy. Spread it on toast at your own risk. Just kidding – it’s actually gorgeous on a buttered slice or teacake.

Sweetness sorted, now for the spices the festive cabbage requires. But I remind you it’s not just for Christmas – so if cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves outside December are not your thing, cut them down or swap with grated orange zest.

red cabbage ingredients

How to quickly cook red cabbage?

If the cabbage is shredded finely, it will only take minutes to soften. And so start with the apples, raisins and the spices, if using, cooked rather gently in butter.

cooking apples

Once the apples have wilted and the raisins plumped up, turn up the heat. Add the cabbage in all at once and apply your tossing/sautéing skills! Spatulas allowed too.

Season with salt, pepper and stir in the jelly, toss and turn for three or four minutes and check if it’s done. It should be pleasantly al dente.

adding red cabbage

Because once you add the vinegar, be it balsamic or good wine or apple cider stuff, it will magically sweat the cabbage down to the point of doneness. Hence, it should have a good bite just before you add the acid.

And that’s it, ready to serve. But more good news is that it will taste as excellent when reheated, in the oven or even microwave.

stir fried red cabbage with apples

More cabbage recipes

Stir fried cabbage, easy and tasty. For the cabbage stir fry the spring green is the best but you can stir fry savoy, Chinese leaf or white cabbage as well.
Kalpudding, Swedish brown cabbage meatloaf, served with boiled or mashed potatoes and a sweet and spicy preserve, is best homemade – and one more reason NOT to go to IKEA!

Cabbage lasagne, a vegetarian dish of pasta layered with a filling of lightly cooked cabbage with tomatoes. Surprisingly flavourful and delicious!

More festive side dish recipes

Carrots and parsnips roasted with garlic cloves, harissa, herbs and honey, that's a classic trimming for a Christmas dinner. But a tray of fragrant roast vegetables is far too good to only have once a year!

Green bean casserole is so good when homemade and cooked from scratch! Creamy mushroom sauce is easy to make, while blanching then drying fresh green beans stops them from being soggy.

Best Brussels sprouts recipe, perfect for Christmas dinner. Brussels sprouts with bacon, Parmesan and crushed walnuts - that's Brussels sprouts with three kinds of crumbs.

spiced red cabbage with apples and raisins

Quick festive red cabbage

Servings: 4-6Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 small head of red cabbage
  • 2 small apples
  • a handful of raisins
  • 30g (1 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic or good white wine vinegar


1. Clean the cabbage and remove the outer leaves, if blemished. Quarter it and cut out the core. Shred it quite finely by hand or using a food processor with a shredding or slicing attachment. Peel and core the apples and dice them finely.

2. In a large saute pan or a wok heat up the butter, add the diced apple, the raisins and the spices. Cook over medium heat for a minute until wilted.

3. Turn the heat up to high and add the cabbage.

4. Season generously with salt and pepper and cook, tossing it around well so the apple chunks and the raisins mix in. Add the redcurrant jelly and stir in.

5. Stir fry it for 3 or 4 minutes, taste for seasoning and for doneness: it should still have a bite to it but not be tough. Drizzle with the vinegar, give it a good stir and serve immediately or transfer to an ovenproof dish to keep warm until ready. It is also great re-heated, even on the next day.

Originally published: Mon, 7 December, 2015

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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