Pickled purple cabbage is a fantabulous condiment to have in your fridge. The perfectly tangy and crunchy pizzaz it adds to dishes will have you hooked. And that vibrant purplish-red hue will make your food pop.
Pour some quick pickling liquid in a jar packed with sliced purple cabbage (aka red cabbage), let it sit for a couple hours and ta-da!
You've got yourself an amazing flavor booster to jazz up tacos, hot dogs, burritos, burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads (the list goes on).
Scale up this recipe to use your entire head of cabbage (you won't regret it). Or if you want to make something totally different then whip up this simple, yet amazing purple cabbage soup. Or this delightful purple cabbage slaw.
Comforting, nutritious and oh-so-tasty.
Side note: If you like indulging in bright-colored, delightful treats then I've also got this refreshing purple cow float to satisfy your sweet tooth and appease your eyes.
Quick pickled purple cabbage
I hardly ever manage to go through entire head of cabbage all at once. Now I do know that cabbage stays fresh for 2 to 3 weeks in fridge (if covered in plastic wrap) but I'm prime example of out of sight, out of mind mentality. So I try to not let it sit unused for long.
If I have sufficient quantity left, I'll use it in things like stir-fries, soups, salads, curries or dumplings.
But if I'm in low-effort mode or dealing with a small cabbage portion, this pickling method is my go-to lazy solution. Quick, easy and so so versatile.
Plus you can also make it with green cabbage.
Purple cabbage is more nutritionally beneficial than green one in few ways, but that's not the primary motivation behind my preference for it. I just love how it brightens up a dull-looking dish.
And when it comes to pickled purple cabbage, not only does it make food look good but also adds a delightful burst of flavor.
Why you'll love this pickle?
- Convenient prep — no need to blanch cabbage or sterilize jars.
- No canning required — no complicated water-bath or steam canning involved. Very low effort!
- Utilizing leftovers — great way to prevent food waste especially when you don't have a big enough portion of cabbage left for other uses.
- Versatility — plenty of ways for customizing and using these pickled cabbages.
- Budget friendly — very cost-effective compared to store-bought options, plus you have full control over ingredients.
- Dietary inclusivity — naturally suitable for vegan, plant-based, gluten-free, nut-free and soy-free diets.
- Great for gifting — makes a thoughtful and unique present for friends and family.
Here are some helpful notes on ingredients you'll need to make pickled purple cabbage. See the recipe card below for exact quantities.
- Purple cabbage — it's the star ingredient and my fav pick for making pickled cabbage, but you can use thinly sliced regular green or napa cabbage instead.
- Vinegar — I prefer a combo of distilled white and apple cider vinegar, but if you don't have apple cider vinegar, increase the quantity of distilled white vinegar by an equal amount. You can also pair distilled white vinegar with other varieties like red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or rice vinegar. But remember that resulting pickling liquid will have different tastes and acidities based on your choice. Avoid strongly flavored vinegars like balsamic.
- Salt — avoid iodized salts. Almost all other varieties will work, including kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, sea salt and pickling salt.
- Sugar — regular white granulated sugar is what I use but coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup will work too.
- Spices — I use mix of coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick and crushed red pepper flakes. Feel free to play with other spices in your pantry. Mustard seeds, allspice berries, cloves, bay leaf, caraway seeds and star anise are all good options; use individually or make your own spice combo.
How to make pickled purple cabbage
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to prepare quick pickled purple cabbage. Check out recipe card below for a printable version that has quantities, instructions and notes in one place.
Add water plus sugar and salt to a saucepan.
Also throw in all four mentioned spices — coriander seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick and crushed red pepper flakes. Bring this all to a simmer on medium heat, then reduce to low and maintain this gentle heat for 10 minutes (water will get infused with all the flavors this way). Give an occasional stir.
While the mixture is simmering, pack the shredded cabbage into a suitable-sized glass jar. Place jar on a kitchen paper towel or in kitchen sink (to catch any splashes from hot pickling liquid).
Add both kinds of vinegar to the saucepan once the initial 10 minutes of gentle heating is done. Then give a quick stir and increase the heat to medium. Wait for one last simmer and then turn the heat off.
Using a strainer/sieve, strain the hot pickling liquid into the jar that contains cabbage.
Then using a spoon, gently press the cabbage down so its fully submerged in pickling liquid. Put on the jar lid and leave this lovely bright jar sitting at room temperature for 30 minutes or so. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before use — it's worth the little wait.
- Adjust sugar — add more for a sweeter pickle, less for more tangier taste.
- Store properly — refrigerate pickled purple cabbage. It should not be stored in pantry.
- Immerse cabbage completely — the pickling liquid should cover all the cabbage to ensure proper pickling and prevent spoilage.
- Use food processor or mandoline — these make slicing / shredding easier and quicker.
- Avoid iodized salt — as it can make the brine cloudy. Kosher salt, Himalayan pink salt, sea salt or pickling salt are good options.
- Be careful with wooden surfaces — wood cutting boards and countertops can get stained by the cabbage's bright color.
- Salt the cabbage (if you can) — leaving salted cabbage overnight in the fridge helps extract water and maintain its crunch. Be sure to rinse off all the salt before adding pickling liquid. This whole step is totally optional. I'm almost always too lazy to do it — so you won't see this salting step in the recipe instructions.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
It can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
I'm not sure as I haven't attempted any of these methods with pickled cabbage. The quick pickling process I've shared is intended only for short-term storage in refrigerator.
You can — but it's best to let it sit in the pickling liquid for a few hours to a day to allow the flavors to develop.
That depends on the amount of cabbage you're pickling. I use a 34-ounce (2 pints / 1 liter) jar for this recipe. You might need different sizes if scaling the recipe up or down.
I wouldn't recommend freezing as it can alter the texture and crunchiness of cabbage.
Pickled cabbage vs sauerkraut
Ever wondered about the difference between these? Well, both are ways of preserving cabbage but involve different processes.
Quick pickled cabbage is made by immersing cabbage in a vinegar-based pickling liquid. You get a tangy, crunchy condiment that needs to be consumed in a couple of weeks.
Sauerkraut on the other hand is prepared by salting cabbage and allowing it to naturally ferment over several weeks (yep, weeks! But recipes may vary). This process also yields a sour condiment but the fermentation enables extended preservation.
While both options have some nutritional benefits, sauerkraut also contains probiotics.
Quick pickling vs water bath canning
If you're new to pickling, it can be helpful to understand the difference between quick pickling and canning methods of preserving food.
As I've shared earlier, quick pickling involves immersing veggies/food in a vinegar-based brine and is not intended for long-term storage.
In contrast, water bath canning, steam canning and pressure canning are all meant for long-term preservation and use.
Water bath canning and steam canning methods are suitable for high-acid foods and require submerging jars of food in boiling water (or utilizing steam processing).
Pressure canning involves using a pressure canner to heat jars at very high temperatures, ensuring safety and preservation of low-acid foods.
These canning methods are more time-and-effort-intensive than quick pickling but also work well for long-term preservation.
Variations of pickled purple cabbage
- Try other cabbage varieties — experiment with green cabbage or napa cabbage for different textures and flavors.
- Add veggies — mix in other vegetables like thinly sliced bell peppers, julienned (purple or red) carrots, sliced red onions, sliced red radish, sliced banana peppers or even sliced ginger.
- Infuse some herbs — fresh or dried ones like dill, thyme, rosemary oregano can add a fresh and aromatic twist.
- Experiment with spices — mustard seeds, allspice berries, cloves, bay leaves, caraway seeds and star anise are all good options.
- Add flavoring ingredients — jazz up the flavor of pickling brine with aromatics like garlic and ginger.
- Explore vinegar variations — white vinegar, apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar are common choices but feel free to try out other types. For less tang, use milder ones like rice vinegar or white wine vinegar. You can even combine different varieties. Just avoid balsamic vinegar as it can be too strong in taste.
- Swap sweeteners — you can replace sugar with coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup.
- Turn up the heat — add sliced serrano or jalapeno peppers for some heat.
- Tacos — sprinkle some on fish, chicken, shrimp or veggie tacos for incredible flavor.
- Hot dog or bratwurst — replace sauerkraut topping with pickled purple cabbage for a little different zing.
- Burger, burrito, sandwich, shawarma, wrap, tostadas — enhance both meat and veggie variations with a touch of pickled cabbage.
- Salads — toss some into your salads for a delightful flavor contrast.
- Grilled meats — pair with grilled meats for a refreshing touch.
- Eggs — chop some pickled cabbage and add to your scrambled eggs.
- Pickle, veggie or cheese platter — include on your platters and boards for a fun and tangy contrast of flavors and textures.
- Soups — include some to balance the acidity and add a pop of color.
- Rice bowls — use as topping for an added layer of crunch and munch-worthy goodness.
- 3 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage - aka red cabbage, around ⅓ of a medium head or 300 grams or 10.5 ounces. (Note A)
- 1.5 cups (355 ml) water
- 1 teaspoon salt - non-iodized (Note B)
- 5 teaspoons granulated white sugar - (Note C)
- 1 cup (237 ml) distilled white vinegar
- ½ cup (118 ml) apple cider vinegar - (Note D)
Spices (see Note E)
- 1.5 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
- 1 piece of cinnamon stick - piece size: around 1 inch
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Add water, spices (all 4 of them), salt and sugar to a saucepan. Bring to a simmer on "medium" heat, then turn the heat down to "low" and leave at this gentle heat for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. We want the water to get infused with flavors from the spices.
- Meanwhile, pack the cabbage into a glass jar that's the right size (see Note F below for info on jar sizes). Place the jar on kitchen paper towel or in the kitchen sink to catch any splashes of hot pickling liquid later.
- After 10 minutes of gentle heating (from step 1), add both types of vinegar to the saucepan and give a quick stir. Increase the heat to "medium" again, let the pickling liquid reach a simmer and then turn off the heat.
- Pour the hot liquid through a strainer/sieve into the jar containing the cabbage (be careful please). Gently press the cabbage down with a spoon ensuring it is completely submerged in pickling liquid.
- Cover the jar with lid. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes - so it cools a little.
- Then refrigerate for 2 hours before using. This pickled purple cabbage is at its best in the first 5 days, but will remain fine in fridge for upto 2 weeks.
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