Sauteed cabbage is a simple and easy side dish that goes well with various meals like corned beef or chicken. The shreds of leaves cook with caramelized onions to naturally enhance and improve the taste.
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When you chop and cook green cabbage, a surprisingly sweet taste emerges. This fresh, crisp vegetable has a high moisture content along with bendable leaves. Sauteeing helps to soften the pieces while concentrating their delicate flavors.
To add depth to the simple dish, I start with caramelizing sliced onions in butter and oil. Gradually place the cabbage in batches to reduce the leaves’ volume. A little bit of vinegar enhances the flavor and then lightly season with salt and pepper. Serve it on the side with slices of corned beef for an Irish-inspired dinner or your favorite protein.
The cruciferous green cabbage has a mild flavor and smooth yet rubbery texture when raw. When the leaves cook, they become tender but still hold their shape, and a slightly sweet and savory taste emerges.
You can use other types of cabbage if you prefer. Red cabbage will have the most similar texture, but it’s actually purple in color with a more earthy taste. Savoy cabbage has a wrinkled surface with a delicate flavor. Choose a large head, about 3 pounds, to yield about 20 cups of shredded leaves.
Cut the cabbage
Learning how to cut cabbage is simple, don’t let the size intimidate you. The round vegetable is cut in half through the core first. It’s then cut into quarters, removing the tough inner stem.
From there, you can use a chef’s knife to shred the cabbage into ½-inch thick pieces. You want a decent thickness so it holds its shape and doesn’t become too mushy during cooking.
Caramelize the onions
Onions contain natural, simple sugars in their cell walls, mostly glucose, fructose, and sucrose. When sliced into ¼-inch thick pieces and gently cooked in olive oil and butter for several minutes, we can coax out those sugars and mellow out the sulfurous compounds.
The consistent heating will lightly brown the surface and caramelize the sugars, around 230ºF (110ºC) for fructose and 320ºF (160ºC) for sucrose and glucose. The sweet notes infuse into the dish, making the taste more complex and exciting.
Cook the cabbage
Once cut, the cabbage will be large in volume, making it difficult to add to even a large skillet. To combat this dilemma, add the shred in two batches. The moisture content is about 92%.
The heat will draw out the leaves’ moisture, shrinking them down significantly, about 3 times in size. To complete the cooking process, stir every minute, allow the surface to lightly brown for more flavor.
Seasoning the dish
Minced garlic provides an earthy aroma and only needs to cook for less than a minute to release its flavor. I also add a little apple cider vinegar to the onions and cabbage. Just a small amount of tangy acetic acid enhances the sweet and savory taste without overpowering the dish.
The vinegar only needs to cook for about 1 minute to volatilize the strong fermented aroma. After that, you can season the vegetables with salt and pepper and if you like a spicy flavor, add some red chili flakes for lingering heat.
Serve this with
Wait to salt the cabbage
The sodium ions in the salt like to draw out the moisture in the cabbage’s cell walls through osmosis. However, doing this too soon will make the dish too watery and prevent browning during the sauteing process. Adding the salt at the end will season the vegetables without compromising the taste.
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- 1 head green cabbage, red, or savoy (about 3 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup yellow onion, ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, or red/white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sliced green onions
- Remove any bruised or damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Rinse and dry the surface before cutting. Securely hold the cabbage and carefully cut it down through the stem to create two halves. Place them cut-side down on the cutting board. Then cut each half into quarters by cutting down through the stem. Carefully remove the thick cores with a knife. Cut the quarters into ½-inch thick slices. There should be about 20 cups (2 ½ pounds, 1.14kg) of shredded cabbage.
- Heat a large 12-inch skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter melts, add the onions. Saute and stir occasionally until the surface lightly browns and the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
- Add half of the cabbage, stir and cook until it begins to wilt and reduce in volume, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining cabbage and stir until wilted, 2 minutes. Continue to cook for 8 minutes, stirring every minute to allow lightly even browning.
- Add the apple cider vinegar, stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the salt and pepper, stir and cook for 1 minute. Season to taste. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve hot.
- Recipe Yield: 6 cups
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Make it Paleo, Whole30, and Vegan: Replace butter with olive oil.
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