One Pot Braised Cabbage Recipe with Bacon
Braised Cabbage recipe is comfort food at its finest that you can easily whip up at home. The cabbage is braised with smoked bacon or sausage, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and carrots over low heat until the most tender perfection.
And the best way to eat cabbage? With a dollop of sour cream and a slice of crusty bread, of course! Add protein on the side if you wish, but this braised cabbage is great on its own as well.
So what is braising?
Braising involves a two-step process of cooking where the ingredient is first browned and then cooked in some liquid, slowly, and often in a dutch oven.
In this cabbage recipe, the bacon and vegetables are first caramelized in bacon fat, then cooked slowly in the cabbage juices that the cabbage releases as it cooks down. As the cabbage cooks, the moisture evaporates and it turns the braised cabbage a beautiful dark color which intensifies the flavors.
How to chop the cabbage:
For this braised cabbage recipe, you can cut the cabbage into 1-inch squares as I did in this recipe or slice with a knife or a mandoline into 1/2 inch strips that you will then roughly chop to make pieces that are no longer than 2 inches.
I prefer cutting the cabbage into 1-inch squares using the method below as it uses minimal equipment (knife and cutting board that you’ll already be using for other steps) and is a lot quicker.
Here’s how you’ll do it –
- Cut the cabbage into quarters. Now set each wedge on its flat side and cut out the core and discard.
- Next, cut the wedges into 1-inch strips and then into 1-inch squares or bite-sized pieces.
Braised Cabbage Ingredients
- Cabbage – winter cabbage that is firm and heavy for its size is the best for braised cabbage recipe as it will retain its shape while cooking better than softer summer cabbage. This recipe uses one large (4.5 lbs) cabbage, or you can use two small to medium-sized cabbages that amount to about the same weight.
- Smoked thick-cut bacon – using smoked bacon infuses the cabbage with a beautiful smoky aroma. You’ll love it! Alternatively, for a more filling meal, you can replace it with 1-2 lbs of smoked sausage sliced into rounds.
- Tomatoes – the tomatoes will add acidity to balance out the sweetness of the cabbage. Use fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce; both will work well. If you like the flavor of sauerkraut, you can replace the tomatoes with about 1 cup of drained sauerkraut.
- Carrots & onions – both add sweetness and flavor.
- Spices – black pepper, garlic, and bay leaf will add lots of flavor to the final dish.
How to make Braised Cabbage Recipe (overview)
You can precut all your ingredients before starting this recipe, or cut them as you cook. Here’s the way I prefer to do it –
- Crisp up bacon: In a large dutch oven cook bacon until crispy.
- Caramelize onions: dice onions and add them to the bacon. Cook until golden.
- Add carrots & tomatoes: Shred carrots, dice tomatoes & add to the onions. Cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Chop cabbage and add it to the rest of the ingredients.
Tip: if you do not have a big enough pot to fit all cabbage at once, just add the cabbage in thirds or quarters, allowing the first addition to cook down before adding the next. The cabbage will reduce to only 1/3 of the original amount at the end of cooking.
- Add the spices & stir well.
- Reduce: Cover with lid and cook until reduced by 1/2, stirring several times throughout.
- Braise in the oven: Transfer to the oven and braise for 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes until the cabbage is cooked through, the liquid has mostly evaporated, and the cabbage has darkened in color.
How to serve the braised cabbage with bacon –
Serve it with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkled with chopped fresh herbs and a crusty piece of bread alongside some protein like chicken, pork, beef.
Variations of the recipe:
If you would rather have more meat with the cabbage, there are several things you can add in place of bacon or in addition to bacon.
- Sausage or Kielbasa – adding smoked sausage or kielbasa is a great way to take it from a side dish to a complete meal. Cut the smoked sausage into rounds and brown it in some oil in place of bacon (or in addition to bacon) before continuing with step 3 in the recipe as written.
- Vegetarian Braised cabbage – replace the bacon with 3-4 tablespoons of butter, then proceed with the recipe as written.
If you love cabbage you’ll love these other cabbage recipes:
- Cabbage Rolls Recipe – my mom’s recipe for the most delicious and buttery cabbage rolls.
- Lazy Cabbage Rolls – want cabbage rolls but short on time? This recipe is for you!
One-Pot Braised Cabbage with Bacon
A delicious braised cabbage recipe made with smoky bacon, onions, carrots, and tomatoes. Braised low and slow it tastes as if it was cooked in a brick oven.
- 1 large cabbage (1 cabbage = about 3.5 lbs) cut into 1 inch cubes.
- 1/2 lb thick-cut bacon cut into 1/4" pieces
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 medium carrots shredded
- 3-4 medium tomatoes diced or pureed (Note 1)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (use less if using table salt)
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsley ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup water or broth
Preheat oven to 350F, with the rack in the bottom third of the oven.
Render bacon: In a large (6 qt – 8 qt) pot or dutch oven, render about 4-5 pieces of chopped up bacon over a low-medium heat stirring frequently until the fat is well rendered and the pieces are crispy (~ 10 minutes).
The vegetables will be added in sequence, so you can chop them while the other ones are cooking.
Onions: dice the onions and add them to the bacon, and rendered fat. Continue cooking, stirring often until the onions are golden in color and translucent, ~ 10 minutes.
Shred the carrots and either chop or puree the tomatoes.
Add the carrots and tomatoes to the bacon & onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to evaporate the extra moisture, ~ 5 – 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the cabbage: cut the cabbage into 4 wedges. Place the wedges flat side down, cut out the cores and discard.
Now, cut each cabbage wedge into 1-inch strips and then into 1-inch squares.
Cook on stovetop for 15 – 30 minutes:
Add the chopped cabbage, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black ground pepper, 1 tsp of granulated garlic, 1 bay leaf , and stir with a wooden spoon combining the vegetables and bacon with the cabbage well. Cover with lid and continue cooking until the cabbage has shrunk down and has reduced by about 1/3, mixing it several times throughout, ~ 15 – 30 minutes (Note 2). Add 1/2 cup of water (or stock) if the cabbage starts to stick to the bottom of the pot.
TIP: if you do not have a big enough pot to fit all the cabbage at once, no worries, add it gradually. Fill up the pot with the cabbage, cover with a lid and allow it to cook down until you can fit more, stir and allow it to cook down once again and so on until all cabbage is added.
The braised cabbage will shrink down to only 1/3 of the initial amount when completely cooked.
Braise in the oven: Transfer to the preheated oven, with the lid partially open to allow extra moisture to evaporate.
Continue cooking at 350F for another hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the cabbage is a nice golden color, reduced to about 1/3 of the original amount and most of the moisture has evaporated from the bottom. Taste and adjust for salt, if needed.
To serve: Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and a slice of toasted bread.
To store: allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate covered up to 3 days.
- Tomatoes can be replaced with sauerkraut if you enjoy the tang of fermented cabbage. For this recipe, you can use about 1 – 2 cups of rinsed sauerkraut in place of 4 medium tomatoes.
- The braised cabbage can be cooked on the stovetop only without transferring to the oven. The advantage of cooking in the oven is that the oven uses gentle heat and doesn’t require as much oversight. To cook on the stovetop only, continue cooking on the stovetop over low heat stirring every 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated, the cabbage has darkened in color.