Easy to make, healthy recipe for fried cabbage with bacon, the perfect cabbage side dish, or a delightful light meal on its own.
Except for tomatoes, cabbage must be the one vegetable I liked the most as a child. From simple cabbage salads or stewed cabbage with or without any meat to my favorite Romanian cabbage rolls – Sarmale, any cabbage recipe my grandmother ever cooked during my childhood was sure to please me.
I even remember my sister and I munching on the sweet and somehow spicy cabbage core that my grandmother cut away before chopping the cabbage.
What is fried cabbage?
Pan-fried cabbage is a very popular side dish in many parts of the world. The shredded cabbage is pan-fried for a short time until tender but not mushy.
It is a very basic dish made with cheap ingredients like cabbage, onions, and some spices. Bacon can be added if desired, but a vegan/vegetarian fried cabbage dish is just as delicious.
And if you like fried cabbage, check out this Simple Fried Cabbage with Sausage recipe.
This recipe for fried cabbage with bacon and balsamic vinegar is as easy as it can be. Actually, the only work involved is chopping that cabbage; after that, everything can be done in no time.
Ingredients for fried cabbage
You will only need a few cheap ingredients to make fried cabbage:
- The second cheapest vegetable there is, except potatoes.
- I give you the grams or ounce amount of cabbage because a head of cabbage can come in such different sizes. I could buy a small one weighing no more than 1 kg/ about 2 lbs, or I can buy a huge one weighing 4 kg/ 8.8 lbs.
- You will need about 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs cabbage for this fried cabbage with bacon recipe.
Onions, garlic, and 1 tomato: Regular white onions are fine.
- I use lean and already diced bacon.
- Regular streaky bacon can be used instead.
- Bacon slices or bacon pieces should be chopped rather finely.
- Turkey bacon can also be used.
How to season fried cabbage?
- Sweet paprika powder - I usually take Hungarian sweet paprika powder because I always have it in my spice cupboard. However, regular and good-quality sweet paprika powder is fine. When it comes to paprika powder, I always recommend buying the best quality you can afford; cheap paprika powder only tastes like dust.
- Caraway seeds are so great in any cabbage dish. Traditionally, people would use caraway seeds to make cabbage more digestible. For instance, caraway tea is always great when you feel bloated.
- You will also need some olive or vegetable oil, vegetable broth (a cube is fine), balsamic vinegar, sugar, fine sea salt, ground black pepper, and fresh or frozen parsley.
How to pan-fry cabbage?
- Chop the cabbage and slice the onions. Cut the bacon into cubes. Finely chop the garlic cloves. Keep everything separate.
- Fry the bacon and onions in a small amount of oil. Only use some oil if using lean bacon or turkey bacon.
- Regular bacon is fatty enough, so the fat will render.
- Drain the excess fat out of the pan before adding the rest of the ingredients, keeping only about 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat.
- Add the garlic and stir for 1 or 2 minutes. Add the cabbage to the pot, stir well, and fry for about 6-7 minutes, stirring often or until softer.
- Add the spices, tomato, and some vegetable broth. Cover and cook for another 6-7 minutes or until the cabbage is almost done. You might want to cook the cabbage for a shorter or longer period of time; depending on your taste, the cabbage can remain crunchy or get soft.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and cook the cabbage for another 4-5 minutes without the lid. Adjust the taste with more salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.
Can I freeze fried cabbage?
- The fried cabbage with bacon can be easily reheated, and it keeps well in the fridge for 2 or 3 days.
- If you have leftovers or want to make some meal planning, you can also freeze fried cabbage with bacon.
- You can either freeze the whole batch or divide the fried cabbage into portions, which can be thawed separately.
- Place the fried cabbage into freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze. It will last for at least 4-5 months, probably longer.
- It is best to thaw fried cabbage in the refrigerator.
- Reheat probably before serving.
What to serve with fried cabbage?
- Serve the fried cabbage with bacon as a side dish for roast, duck, or chicken. Corned beef is also a good dish to serve with a side of fried cabbage with or without bacon.
- The cabbage can also be served as a meal on its own with some crusty bread or boiled potatoes on the side.
Types of cabbage
Cabbage or Brassica olearacea was domesticated in Europe before 1000 BC. It is the best-known member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Cruciferous also include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, radishes, turnips, and so on.
There are three major types of cabbage: green, red, and Savoy.
The very common white cabbage we usually buy in Germany is a sort of green cabbage. The green cabbage has a more vivid color and is leafier, while a head of white cabbage is rather firmly packed and has a much lighter color.
I use green and white cabbage interchangeably; although I try to buy the greener salad (which is not as easy to find as the white cabbage around here) when making salads, I feel that green cabbage is just a little softer than white cabbage. If I don't find it, I use white cabbage. Instead, I just have to remember to “knead” the cabbage and the salt together more firmly when making the salad.
I use white cabbage for most cabbage dishes I cook; white cabbage and its firmer leaves are perfect for stir-fries, sauteed cabbage, or baked cabbage wedges. I made today's fried cabbage with bacon using white cabbage as well.
The red cabbage has a very vivid red-purple color and a similar consistency to white cabbage. Most of the time, I saute red cabbage with wine and spices and serve it as a side dish for typical German dishes like beef roulades or beef roast.
Not to forget the crunchy and delicious red cabbage slaw. Whenever I buy a head of red cabbage, I make sure to leave at least ¼ of the head left over just to make a red cabbage slaw.
Apparently, Savoy cabbage was only developed sometimes during the 16th century. The leaves of the Savoy cabbage are rather ruffled and have a wonderful green color on the outside, turning to light green and then yellow on the inside.
Its flavor is milder compared to the other cabbage sorts mentioned above. I often serve Savoy cabbage in a typical German way, which is a side dish of Savoy cabbage smothered in white sauce or sauteed with bacon as well.
And there are the famous German stuffed Savoy cabbage leaves, which are a specialty of my mother-in-law. They are amazing!
More cabbage recipes
Fried Cabbage with Bacon
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz lean bacon See note 1
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil See note 1 as well
- 2 medium onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs white or green cabbage
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds See note 2
- 1 medium tomato
- 180 ml/ 6 fl.oz/ ¾ cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar + more to taste
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- small bunch of parsley
- Chop the cabbage and set it aside. Cut the bacon into cubes and slice the onions. Finely chop the garlic cloves. Keep the garlic separated from the bacon and onions.
- Heat the oil (only if using lean bacon) in a large skillet. Saute the bacon and the onions until the fat has rendered and the onion slices are golden. Pour out most of the rendered bacon fat, keeping only about 1-2 tablespoons of the fat.
- Add the chopped garlic cloves to the pan and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage. It will seem like a lot, but the cabbage will wilt down after a few minutes of cooking time. Cover and cook for about 6-7, stirring well a few times in between.
- Add the sweet paprika powder, sugar, caraway, some salt, and pepper. Stir well and add the finely chopped tomato and the vegetable broth. Cover the pan and saute for another 6-7 minutes or until the cabbage is almost done. You might want to cook the cabbage for a shorter or longer period of time, depending on your taste, the cabbage can remain crunchy or get even softer. But it should not become mushy.
- Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Stir well and cook the cabbage for another 4-5 minutes without the lid. Adjust the taste generously with more sea salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar, and a little sugar. The cabbage should taste slightly sweet and sour.
- Stir in the chopped parsley.