Slow Cooked Red Cabbage has an incredible soft texture, which is why it’s also called Melting Cabbage. In this recipe, braised with a tomato-y red wine sauce, fresh herbs, spices, lentils and carrots, it’s such a satisfying vegetarian stew.
When you slow cook raw red cabbage, the crunchy leaves transform into a super soft, melt-in-your mouth texture. It's amazing vegetarian comfort food, and can easily be made vegan.)
And as soft as the cabbage becomes, the leaves still hold their shape, which makes for a beautiful presentation.
- olive oil - Regular or extra virgin.
- red cabbage - Choose heads of cabbage that are heavy with firm outer leaves.
- tomato paste - Tomato paste will help thicken the sauce and it adds a deep tomato flavor.
- fresh thyme - Look for perky bunches and avoid any brown, bruised or yellow leaves.
- garlic - Look for firm heads of garlic without any soft spots or green shoots, which is an indication of old garlic. (Raw garlic cloves should be firm without any dark spots.)
- lemon zest - Lemon zest give the dish a very subtle zing.
- paprika (sweet or smoked) - These will add a touch of chile flavor without heat.
- onion - Choose onions that are heavy for their size with the skin intact.
- lentils - I use brown lentils, but you can use another variety/color if you'd like. They do differ in terms of texture and cooking times so read this lentil information first if you choose something different.
- carrots - Look for firm, plump carrots, preferably without little roots on the bottom.
- vegetable stock - Sodium free or low-sodium stocks are best for this recipe. (This way you can better control the amount of salt in the final product.)
- red wine - A drier red wine is best, like Cabernet, Merlot or Shiraz. And be sure you like it — the alcohol cooks off, not the flavor.
- butter (optional) - Unsalted!
- salt - I cook with Kosher salt. I prefer it over other salts for a few reasons: it's larger flake size makes it easy to pick up and sprinkle over food, it's less refined and usually doesn't contain additives, and it does a great job enhancing the flavor of foods without making them taste salty. If you use table salt, use half the amount.
- black pepper - Preferably freshly ground.
(See recipe card below for quantities.)
- You can use green cabbage instead of the red if you prefer. And if you do, I would suggest a dry white wine rather than red.
- The red wine can be substituted with ¼ cup of red wine vinegar if you prefer.
- Feel free to substitute the fresh thyme with other herbs like oregano or rosemary. If you use rosemary, use about half of the amount, as the flavor is much stronger. (You can also use a mix.)
- To save time, you can use dry thyme instead of the fresh. Use half the amount.
- You can also save a bit of time by substituting jarred, minced garlic for fresh.
- If keeping it vegetarian is not important to you, you can substitute the vegetable stock with chicken stock.
- Skip the butter all together if you want your slow cooked red cabbage to be vegan. (No need to substitute it with anything.)
- This recipe wasn't designed for a slow cooker and hasn't been tested in one -- however, you can use one. For the best results, you would still need to sear the cabbage first.
- When you trim the root end of the cabbage, be sure to just cut a tiny bit off so the pieces stay intact as they cook.
- I recommend a 14-inch oven-safe skillet for this recipe — cast iron is ideal. However, if your largest pan is 12-inch, you will likely need to sear the wedges of cabbage in two batches. They shrink and soften a bit when you sear them, so they’ll all fit together before the pan goes in the oven.
- If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, after all of the ingredients are combined on the stove-top, you can transfer everything to an approximately 10 x 15-inch baking dish and continue in the oven from there.
- Be sure to mix the lentils into the carrots and onions well, before adding the cabbage back to the pan — this will ensure they’ll all get covered with the liquid and cook evenly.
- Don’t worry when the tomato paste mixture sticks to the bottom of the pan — that’s what we want.
How to Make it
- If the cabbage is without any bruising, wash and dry it. If the outside leaves are bruised or wilted, remove them, then rinse and dry. Cut off the part of the root end, just enough to clean it up, but not so much that the cabbage won’t stay intact. Then cut it in half, and then cut each half into 4 wedges. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and paprika. Mix to blend and set aside.
- Over high heat, add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil to a 12 to 14-inch oven-safe skillet and sprinkle it evenly with salt, about ½ teaspoon. Once it’s very hot, add the cabbage wedges. You should hear a sizzling sound when they hit the oil — if you don’t, wait until you do. Sear for about 3 minutes on each side. (You might need to do this in 2 batches.) Remove them from the pan and set them aside.
- Turn the heat to medium-high and add the tomato mixture. Use a spatula to move it around the pan. Once it begins to brown and stick to the bottom, add the onions. Cook just until they begin to soften and then mix in the carrots and lentils.
- Move the onion mixture to the sides of the pan and return the seared cabbage. Then move the onion mixture between and around the cabbage wedges. Pour the stock over everything, cover and place in the preheated 325°F oven for 1 hour. Remove and stir a bit between the cabbage to be sure the lentils and carrots are in the liquid, then spoon some of the liquid over the cabbage.
- Add the wine and butter to the skillet. Cover and return to the oven for 1 more hour.
- Season generously with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
(More detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)
- Like many stews, this slow cooked red cabbage is ideal for fall and winter, when the weather is cooler, as it has such a warm, cozy, comfort food vibe.
- As a main course, it’s perfect served over rice or a creamy polenta dish. It’s also lovely to serve with a warm, rustic bread and a side salad.
- If you’d like to serve the braised red cabbage as a side dish, it would be delicious with roasted chicken or pork tenderloin. And to keep the whole meal vegetarian, it’s great with cauliflower steak too.
More Delectable Cooked Cabbage Recipes
- Salmon Cabbage Rolls
- Spicy Cabbage Potato Pancakes
- Cabbage Stew with Turmeric
- Stuffed Cabbage with Tomato
Making it Ahead and Storing it
- This slow cooked red cabbage only gets better with time, so you can make it up to 4 days ahead. That said, it’s prettiest when it comes out of the oven while still in the pan.
- It can be reheated in the oven at 350°F for about 20 minutes, or on the stove-top until it's hot and begins to sizzle along the edges.
- You can freeze it for up to 3 months in an airtight container or freezer bags. Be sure there is a bit of extra room as the liquid will expand a bit. To thaw, place it in the refrigerator a day ahead and heat it in the oven or on the stove-top as directed above to serve.
I hope you enjoy this warm and cozy slow cooked red cabbage stew as much as my family and I do!
Slow Cooked Red Cabbage Stew Recipe
- 1 (approximately 2-pound) head of red cabbage
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more for the pan and seasoning at the end
- 6 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, removed from the stems
- 1½ tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
- 2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
- 1½ cups peeled, sliced carrots (slices should be about ¼-inch)
- ½ cup uncooked lentils (brown or green)
- 3 cups vegetable stock, ideally sodium free or low-sodium
- ½ cup dry red wine like Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz
- 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and adjust a rack to the center.
- Prepare the cabbage. If the cabbage is without any bruising, wash and dry it. If the couple of outermost leaves are bruised or wilted, remove them, then rinse and dry. On a clean dry surface, cut off the part of the root end, just enough to clean it up, but not so much that the cabbage won’t stay intact. Cut it in half, and then cut each half into 4 even wedges. Set aside.
- Make tomato base. In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and paprika. Mix to blend and set aside.
- Sear the cabbage. Over high heat, add the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil to a 12 to 14-inch oven safe skillet and sprinkle it evenly with salt, about ½ teaspoon. Once it’s very hot, add the cabbage wedges. You should hear a sizzling sound when they hit the oil — if you don’t, wait until you do, otherwise you won’t get the beautiful brown caramelization. Sear for about 3 minutes on each side. (Depending on the size of the of your skillet, you might need to do this in 2 batches.) Remove them from the pan and set them aside on a plate.
- Add tomato base, onions, carrots and lentils. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the tomato mixture. Use a spatula to move it around the pan. Once it begins to brown and stick to the bottom, add the onions. Cook just until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes, and then mix in the carrots and lentils.
- Add the cabbage, remaining ingredients and braise. Move the onion mixture to the sides of the pan and return the seared cabbage wedges. Then move the onion mixture between and around them. Pour the stock evenly over everything, cover and place in the preheated 325°F oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and pour in the wine evenly over everything. Spoon some of the liquid over the cabbage and be sure all or most of the carrots and lentils are in the liquid. Add butter to the pan evenly in small pieces. Cover and return to the oven for 1 more hour.
- Season and serve. Season generously to taste with salt and pepper. (Here's how.)