Recipe: red cabbage with apples

I hardly share any traditional Dutch recipes on here. That’s because I ate traditional food for such a long time. By the time I lived on my own and had to prepare my own meals, I was so fed up with it, that I all but banned it from my life. There are a few childhood favorites though, that I still make. Apart from rhubarb, I also asked my mom for her red cabbage recipe.

Recipe: red cabbage with apples

Doesn’t look too appealing, but it is oh-so delicious, even if you don’t like cabbage.

The best part about this dish is that you can have it hot or cold. I prefer to eat it cold myself. It contains a mixture of savory and sweet, which is why this makes for a great side dish alongside heavy meats with gravy. The reason why this is a mostly Dutch recipe is because the flavor of the dish is mainly due to some Dutch style gingerbread as well as Dutch apples: a nice but unexpected twist.

Total cooking time: max. 45 minutes. Prep time: 10 – 15 minutes. Cooking time: 20 – 30 minutes. Serves: 6 – 8.


  • 1 red cabbage
  • 2 dessert or Golden Rennet apples
  • 2 slices of soft, plain gingerbread
  • 1 shot of vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons sugar (added last, after boiling)

Golden Rennet (Dutch: goudreinet) is a type of apple that is sold mostly in Holland and Belgium. It is a seasonal apple that has its peak between January and April. So right now is the best time for making this dish! If you cannot get your hands onto Golden Rennet, dessert apples or any type of firm, mostly sour apple that isn’t very good on its own but that is lovely when used in cooking and baking.

Dutch gingerbread (Dutch: peperkoek) is a soft, almost sponge like ‘bread’ that is traditionally made with a range of spices. It at least mixes ginger, cloves and allspice as well as an array of other flavors. There are many different flavors on the market, such as candied sugar, candied ginger and more. For this recipe you’d need the plain variety. If you cannot get hold of this product, then making your own spice mix and adding that will work just fine. The gingerbread is mostly added for flavor, but also adds a firmer texture.

This recipe is about the easiest thing in the world too. It pretty much involves cutting everything into pieces. The you add a generous layer of water and bring it to a boil. Boil the mixture until the apples fall apart (20 – 30 minutes). The ingredients do not have to be covered with water, that might over do things.

The idea is that you have enough water in your pan to boil your dish, but you will not drain the liquid, so it’s better to start with a little water and adding more if you see the mixture becoming too dry. Once the cabbage boils until tender, you will see the water turning purple, which will taint the apples and soon, they will no longer be recognizable as such.

The sugar is not added until the end. As the vinegar might give the dish a bitter taste, a few tablespoons are added for flavor. Start with 2 tablespoons and give it a stir, then taste! If it’s not sweet enough, then add some more, but no more than 4 tablespoons should be enough.

This recipe is for a much larger amount than what I made here. I usually half this recipe (but keep the 2 slices of gingerbread) when I make it as a full cabbage is usually a tad too much for me. I also subbed the vinegar for apple cider vinegar as I didn’t have any plain vinegar in my cupboards at the time and it worked just fine. You can easily freeze this and save some for a rainy day. But I like mine best when it’s fresh. So usually I make a batch and have red cabbage every day.

Like I said: this is not the best looking dish, but it is packed with flavor. I generally make this one or twice a year as it does contain sugar and is therefore not the healthiest of dishes. But this instantly takes me back to family dinners and my childhood. And you can imagine my joy when my mom brought this out for Christmas dinner this year. She always stocks some in her freezer and as she knows how much I love it, so whenever I am staying for dinner she will have some for me, ready to go.

What are your childhood favorite dishes?

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