I tried fried cabbage for the first time a couple of months ago. I actually never knew fried cabbage was a thing! But you know how it is when you cook all the time and have been doing it for years, it sometimes feels like you hit a rut. For me, that has been in the side dish department. It feels like all of my veggie sides were just repeating each other over and over again. I needed some fresh ideas.
I bought a head of cabbage at the store and thought I would make a Brazilian-style slaw or cabbage salad. What I really wanted was a hot veggie side dish, so the planned salad felt lacking. I went to the internet and Googled cabbage dishes. Of course, there are German red cabbage, coleslaw, stuffed cabbage, etc. recipes galore. But scrolling lower through the search results, I saw a recipe for fried cabbage. Fried cabbage sounded new and intriguing.
Googling just “fried cabbage” I found a slew of recipes. And they were all different. I took what I liked from different ones, including some suggestions made in comments that sounded good, and added some little twists of my own.
My goal was to try something new and tweak it as needed until it tasted just right. But Steve and I loved it from bite one. I’ve made it 2 other times since then. My baby 23-month-old granddaughter had some of the leftovers for lunch and she ate it over the meat on her plate. I think I’m sticking with this version and thought you guys might like to try it too.
Making Balsamic Fried Cabbage with Applewood Smoked Bacon
Admittedly, this recipe makes a lot of servings. I made it this way because I had a whole head of cabbage I wanted to use. And it is nice to have a large recipe such as this in your recipe index because it is a handy side dish to take to large family gatherings, potlucks, or when you host several people at home. However, if you want to make less, the recipe scales down quite proportionately.
Note the course chop on the cabbage and onions. That’s important. A 1-inch or so chop will keep the onions and cabbage from turning to mush.
Many of the recipes I saw called for regular bacon. For this, I happen to like the Applewood smoked bacon, cut thick. I find it in the meat counter of my local grocery store.
Also, many of the recipes I saw did not call for an acid. But several comments showed those who added apple cider vinegar. One comment mentioned adding balsamic vinegar, which caught my attention. I am all about things Mediterranean.
Of course, many times in Italian cooking when you add an acid, it is common to add a sweet as well. This creates what they call an agrodolce (sweet and sour) aspect to the dish. Hence the brown sugar.
I will caution that both the balsamic and the brown sugar should be used in moderation, or it overpowers the savory aspect of this dish. You want a hint of sweet and sour, but the big tastes should come from the smoky and salty bacon, the peppery crunch of the cabbage, and the gorgeous umami flavor of the onion and garlic.
Start by browning the bacon over medium-high heat. Be sure to use a large skillet. This is a one-pan dish. You will need the room add all of the other ingredients later.
Notice the bacon is cut into thin strips. That makes it easier to get the bacon nice and dark, crispy, and crunchy.
Strain the cooked bacon and reserve it for later. DO NOT discard the fat drippings.
Use the drippings to sauté the onions and garlic until just starting to look a little cooked.
Then add half the cut cabbage, sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste. Then repeat with the second half of the cut cabbage.
Stir frequently, so that all of the cabbage gets exposed to the bottom of the pan.
Cook until the cabbage is somewhat reduced and starting to look slightly wilted. DO NOT overcook until it is completely soft. You want the rib pieces to be slightly al dente.
Add the bacon to the mix and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the brown sugar and stir very well until the flavors are well combined. Taste for seasoning. Adjust as desired.
Then pour the fried cabbage into a serving bowl, sprinkle some fresh parsley for garnish, and serve hot.
We paired ours with an amazing brined and grilled pork loin chop. People, this was an incredibly satisfying lunch! Isn’t it just beautiful? It tasted just like it looks.
So, if you are tired of the same old sides and want a quick and easy veggie to serve, this is a recipe you have to try. You won’t regret the bold and satisfying flavors, I assure you.
Balsamic Fried Cabbage with Applewood Smoked Bacon
- 12 cups Green Cabbage, 1-inch coarse chop
- 3 cups Onion, 1-inch coarse chop
- 12 ounces Applewood smoked bacon, thick strips, cut into small pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, more or less to taste
- 2-3 teaspoons brown sugar, more or less to taste
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley for garnish optional
- Brown the bacon over medium-high heat until well caramelized and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, drain the cooked bacon off excess bacon grease and transfer to a plate.
- Add the onion and garlic to the bacon grease in the pan and sauté just until starting to look a little cooked. The onion should still be firm.
- Add half the cut cabbage to the pan, and season with salt and cracked pepper. Then add the other half of the cut cabbage and season again.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is slightly reduced and starting to look wilted. Do not cook until completely soft.
- Add the cooked bacon to the cabbage. Drizzle some of the balsamic vinegar and some of the brown sugar. Stir to distribute the seasonings evenly. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and/or brown sugar as desired. The fried cabbage should taste savory with a hint of sweet and sour.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley (optional) and serve hot.