Sautéed Cabbage

4.97 from 32 votes
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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.

Sauteed cabbage in a cast iron skillet

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.

Cabbage selection

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.

sautéing caramelized onions

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

close up of cooked cabbage garnished with green onions

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.

Sautéed Cabbage

Caramelized with onions, this sautéed cabbage recipe is a simple and easy side dish that goes well with various proteins like corned beef or chicken.
4.97 from 32 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Course Side
Cuisine Irish

Ingredients 
 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Equipment

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 6 cups
  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Make it Paleo, Whole30, and Vegan: Replace butter with olive oil. 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 6 servings
Calories 88kcal (4%)Carbohydrates 12g (4%)Protein 2g (4%)Fat 4g (6%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Trans Fat 1gCholesterol 5mg (2%)Sodium 417mg (17%)Potassium 306mg (9%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 6g (7%)Vitamin A 218IU (4%)Vitamin C 58mg (70%)Calcium 71mg (7%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Cynthia says

    I make cabbage steaks a lot and always put salt on it before putting it in the oven, is the don’t salt the cabbage before cooking rule the same for the steaks?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      If you like the texture pre-salting then go for it. However salt will draw out more moisture from the cut areas, steaming as it cooks so it will be slightly less crisp and browned.

  2. Mrs. B. says

    What an uptick from my usual and blah steamed cabbage. This was delicious and so easy to make. I followed the recipe but the only thing I added was a 2 tsp sugar at the end. Probably unnecessary but just a touch I got from my mom. Will definitely make again.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’ll have to try the sugar addition, I’m sure it enhances the natural sweetness of the cabbage. Thanks, Mom!