This steamed purple cabbage makes for a quick and easy side dish. And there's no need for a steamer.
You can have it ready in under 20 minutes – from start to finish.
Just put your sliced cabbage into a skillet/pot/pan with some water, let it steam a little, then mix in a simple buttery, garlicky glaze.
And there you have it – a surprisingly delicious and versatile side that'll pair well with so many dishes.
Steamed purple cabbage
Not sure you like cabbage sides? Or wondering if you should give this recipe a try?
Well let me share few things about this recipe that I like and you might too!
- Simple and easy – It's a no-fuss cooking method and you get great-tasting cabbage. Plus the vibrant color really adds some pop to the table.
- Healthy – Red cabbage is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
- No special equipment needed – You don't need a steamer insert or basket. Any pan, pot or skillet will do.
- Simple ingredients – No fancy or expensive stuff required. Plus, I've shared substitutes for your convenience.
A lil' hint for mommies out there - a friend asked for a quick purple cabbage side recipe. I shared this one with her. And she mentioned that her two little picky eaters often request the "purple spaghetti" 😀.
Here are some helpful notes on ingredients you'll need to make this tasty steamed red cabbage. See the recipe card below for exact quantities.
- Purple cabbage – Aka red cabbage. I've made the recipe with green cabbage and it turned out great. But avoid other varieties like napa or savoy; their texture doesn't hold up that well.
- Apple cider vinegar – You just need a little for some acidity as the color in purple cabbage is PH-sensitive. Plus a little tang brings out the natural sweetness in cabbage.
- Water - You need a little water for steaming but using vegetable or chicken stock/bouillon will just make it so much better.
- Butter – You'll need unsalted butter. Though salted butter can work too. Just hold off on adding any salt to the glaze. Taste the final dish, then adjust. You can use vegan butter too. Or some extra virgin olive oil.
- Garlic – I always prefer freshly peeled and minced garlic over jarred varieties. It's kind of the main aromatic here, and fresh will give you the best flavor.
- Ground white pepper – For just a hint of heat. You can use ground black pepper too. Or crushed red pepper flakes in an equal amount for a more pronounced kick.
- Caraway seeds – If you have this, great. If you don't, substitute with an equal quantity of cumin seeds.
- Salt - Any kind works – kosher salt, pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, table salt – all are fine. Use a tad less when using fine salt varieties.
Optional Stuff – I like to add some finely chopped fresh herb as a garnish – whatever I've got in my fridge. This adds a fresh dimension to the taste. And bring a lovely contrast of color.
Oh and squeeze some fresh lime or lemon juice on top – right before you serve. Also optional, but I highly recommend it.
How to make steamed purple cabbage
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to prepare this easy cabbage side. Check out recipe card below for a printable version that has quantities, instructions and notes in one place.
1. Prepare butter glaze – Melt butter in microwave for 30 seconds. Then add other glaze ingredients (garlic, white pepper, caraway seeds and salt) to the warm melted butter. Return to microwave for another 15 seconds. Take it out, mix with spoon. Microwave for 15 seconds one final time.
You can also make this glaze on stovetop by melting the butter and then heating the remaining glaze ingredients in it for a minute or two.
Set it aside.
2. Prepare for steaming – Pour water and apple cider vinegar into a pot, pan or skillet. Place your sliced purple cabbage on top of the liquid. Put the lid on and turn up heat to medium-high.
3. Steam the cabbage – Once you start to see steam forming, lower the heat to medium-low. Let it steam while covered for about 8 to 9 minutes.
4. Evaporate excess water – Remove the lid. Stir and check for excess water. If there's more than a couple tablespoons, allow to evaporate. This usually takes 1 to 2 minutes so keep a close eye. You don't want the cabbage to become too dry and stick to the pan's bottom.
5. Add the glaze – Add the prepared butter glaze to the steamed cabbage.
6. Mix and cook – Give everything a good mix. Cook on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes – with occasional stirring. Then turn the heat off.
Optional but recommended – garnish with some fresh green herbs (if you have any in your fridge). Also squeeze a little lemon or lime juice on top. Then serve it up.
- Don't slice the cabbage too thin as you would for making slaw. Cut it a bit thicker. But not too thick either.
- Set a timer so the cabbage doesn't end up drying out or burning due to excessive steaming.
- Use a non-stick pot/skillet if you have one. It's a safer option to prevent the cabbage from sticking to the bottom.
- A skillet/pot with a glass lid is preferable because it makes it easier to keep an eye on the cabbage as it steams.
- Do not leave the cabbage steaming on high heat. Gentle steaming is key.
- When heating the glaze in the microwave, using mentioned intervals is important for both even heating and safety.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
You sure can. Add water (double quantity) and vinegar and then add sliced cabbage. Close the lid and make sure the valve is set to the sealing position. Select the "manual" mode on high pressure for 6 minutes. After cooking, switch the valve to the venting position for a quick release of pressure. Once the float valve drops, open the lid. Select the "saute" mode on normal (not low), and allow any remaining water to evaporate while gently stirring. Then add the butter glaze and continue to cook and stir for an additional 3 to 4 minutes before turning it off.
Steaming cabbage for 8 to 9 minutes is usually enough. If you like it a little crunchy, steam for 6 minutes. And for more softer cabbage, you can stretch the steaming upto 10 minutes.
How to cut cabbage
The only prep you need to tackle in this recipe is cutting the cabbage. And that's a breeze if you know the right technique. Here's the method I use and find easy:
- Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Rinse under cold water and pat dry.
- Place it root-end down on a cutting board. Then slice in half lengthwise. If using only one half of the cabbage, cover the other with plastic wrap and pop in the fridge.
- Lay the half flat-side down and cut in half again – lengthwise.
- Remove the core by slicing it out diagonally from the quartered piece.
- Once it is out, hold the cabbage steady and cut thin slices (not too thin though).
- Repeat this process for other quarter piece and voilà – you're all set.
If you're looking for some visual guide with step-by-step photos on how to cut cabbage, check out this post.
Making ahead, storage and reheating
- Prepping ahead – You can prep (wash and slice) the cabbage a day in advance. Store the cut cabbage in a sealed container or plastic bag lined with kitchen paper towel in the refrigerator. However I won't recommend steaming the cabbage ahead of time. While it might hold up fine in the fridge, it won't taste as fresh.
- Storage – Allow the steamed cabbage to cool. Then transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Do not freeze, the texture will spoil.
- Reheating – To reheat, microwave in 30-second intervals until warmed through. Or reheat in a skillet/pot over medium heat – add a splash of water too.
Substitutions and variations
- Use green cabbage instead of red, or mix both. Avoid Napa and savoy cabbages as this recipe is not suited to their cooked texture.
- Want to simplify things even more? Grab store-bought shredded or chopped cabbage to cut down on prep time.
- Feel free to throw in other shredded or sliced veggies like onions and/or bell peppers.
- Use regular distilled white vinegar if you don't have apple cider vinegar.
- If using salted butter instead of unsalted, hold back on any additional salt until you have tasted the finished dish.
- Substitute regular butter with vegan butter for a vegan-friendly side. Or opt for olive oil instead. If using olive oil, it's preferable to prepare the glaze on a stovetop rather than microwave. Gently heat all the glaze ingredients in a small pot/pan and then use as instructed.
- Steam whole quarters/wedges of cabbage instead of sliced pieces. Just increase the steaming time by a few minutes.
- Use ground black pepper instead of white pepper. Or amp up the heat by using crushed red pepper.
- If you don't have caraway seeds, use an equal quantity of cumin seeds instead.
- Enhance the texture and taste by tossing in some crispy bacon or cooked sliced sausage.
- Top with chopped fresh herbs of your choice. Or sprinkle some grated parmesan, chopped scallions, crushed peanuts or toasted sesame seeds.
Remember: When you swap or change something, it will influence how long this side dish stays good. And of course, it'll affect the taste too.
What to serve with steamed purple cabbage
Steamed purple cabbage makes for an excellent side dish that pairs well with a variety of meals. While I can't list all, here are some ideas:
- Corned beef – Great pairing for St. Patrick's Day.
- Roast or rotisserie chicken
- Pork chops
- Sausages – best with European favorites like bratwurst or kielbasa
- Beef stew
- Wings or drumsticks
- Grilled steak
- Fish – especially light varieties like cod or tilapia
- Shepherd's pie
- Dumplings or pierogies
- Stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls
Just so you know
- This cabbage recipe is vegetarian-friendly plus gluten free. You can make it vegan and dairy free by using plant-based butter substitute. Or use olive oil.
- Quick clarification – boiling, sautéing and steaming are not same methods.. This recipe calls for steaming, which retains more nutrients. Boiling involves immersing food in hot water and sautéing requires cooking quickly in fat.
- While the recipe suggests using a pot, pan or skillet, you can also use a steamer.
- Cooking for more people than this recipe serves? Use the "+" sign on the recipe card below to increase the servings. The ingredient quantities will adjust automatically.
- 4 cups (400 g) sliced purple cabbage - ½ of a medium head. Or use green cabbage. (Note A)
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar - or distilled white vinegar
Seasoned Butter Glaze
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) unsalted butter - (Note B)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic, fresh - 3 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper - or use ground black pepper. (Note C)
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds - or use cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon salt - any kind
- some chopped fresh herbs - for garnish
- some fresh lime or lemon juice - to add before serving
- Melt the butter in microwave for 30 seconds. Then add all the other glaze ingredients to the warmed up melted butter.
- Return to the microwave for another 15 seconds. Take it out, mix with spoon. Microwave for 15 seconds one final time. Set it aside. See (Note D) for stovetop method.
- Now add water and apple cider vinegar to a pot, pan or skillet. Place your sliced purple cabbage on top of the liquid. Put the lid on and set the heat to medium-high.
- Once you start to see steam forming inside, lower the heat to medium-low. Let it steam covered for around 8 to 9 minutes.
- Remove the lid. Stir and check for excess water. If there's more than a couple tablespoons let it evaporate. This usually takes 1 to 2 minutes so keep a close eye. Don't let the cabbage become too dry or it will stick to the pan's bottom.
- Add the prepared butter glaze to the steamed cabbage. Give everything a good mix. Cook on low heat for 3 to 4 minutes – with occasional stirring. Then turn the heat off.
- Optional but recommended – garnish with some fresh green herbs (if you have any in your fridge). Also squeeze some lemon or lime juice on top. Serve and enjoy!
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