How To Cook Boiled Cabbage

Boiled cabbage doesn’t need to be boring. You can prepare delicious cabbage with the addition of a couple of ingredients. Learn how to make flavorful cooked cabbage and your family will request this again and again. You are going to love just how good this cabbage will taste.

boiled cabbage with bacon on a serving platter.

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Southern Boiled Cabbage

Admittedly, there are a lot of jokes when it comes to boiled chopped cabbage. Boiling cabbage is one of the easiest ways to prepare this vegetable. But if cooked correctly, cabbage is a versatile accompaniment for a wide range of entrees from roasted pork to sausages.

It is cheap, and you can enjoy a wedge of cooked cabbage with just a pat of butter straight from the pot. Don’t be intimidated, you can make delicious southern cabbage with this easy recipe.

Traditionally cabbage is served on New Year’s Day and St. Patrick’s day, but you can cook a head of cabbage any night of the week.

If this is your first time cooking this leafy vegetable, I will walk you through the steps, so you can master boiled cabbage

Choose the Right Head of Cabbage

Cabbage is hearty, but it is not indestructible. To get the best results from this recipe, you need to choose the right head of cabbage.

When selecting a cabbage, you want to buy one which has tightly compacted green leaves. If you can find the ones with the outer dark green leaves, that tends to mean the cabbage is a little fresher.

Avoid heads with limp leaves or those which appear light for their size. A cabbage the size of a softball should weigh about one pound.

Ideally, for this recipe, you want a cabbage roughly twice the size of a softball.

There are several different types of cabbage; there is green cabbage, red cabbage, napa cabbage, and Chinese cabbage just to name a few.

How to Store Cabbage

An unblemished firm whole head of cabbage can be stored inside the refrigerator for several weeks. It can be stored at room temperature for 10 to 14 days.

You should pick off the outer dark green leaves when you store them. But those large leaves can indicate how healthy the cabbage was when it was picked.

How to Cut Cabbage

Half the secret of cooking fantastic boiled cabbage is knowing how to prepare it for the pot.

  1. First, remove any loose outer leaves from the cabbage, discard the cabbage leaves you remove, and then give the head a good rinse under the faucet. Be sure to dry the cabbage completely.
  2. With a sharp knife, cut the cabbage in half, and then in half again. Be careful to cut through the core.
  3. Lay each of the cabbage wedges a flat side down on a cutting board. Then cut away the core, but leave enough of the root end to keep the leaves together.
  4. Now cut the cabbage into bite-sized pieces.
a bowl of cut cabbage

How to Boil Cabbage

It’s easy to prepare boiled cabbage. You can simply immerse the cut cabbage into salted water and remove it when it becomes fork-tender. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes.

But we want to show how to add more flavor to your cabbage. So keep reading…

How Long to Boil Cabbage

When you overcook cabbage, it not only turns into mush, but it can develop that classic unpleasant smell most people associate with the food. No one wants to eat or smell that.

Avoid making a stink by boiling your cabbage just until it is for fork-tender. The exact time depends on how large you cut your pieces but should take about 8 to 10 minutes, uncovered.

Cooking Cabbage Tips

  • Keep the cabbage steady when making the initial cut by using a towel circle. The last thing you need is to cut yourself. A simple solution is to roll up a towel and form a circle with it on your cutting board. To prevent your cabbage from rolling away, place it in the center of the towel ring when cutting the head in half.
  • There are lots of types of cabbage, use the right one for this recipe. Green or Savoy cabbage works best in this recipe. You should avoid boiling Red and Napa varieties of cabbage.

Boiled Cabbage with Bacon

If you have never tried boiling cabbage with bacon, you are in for a real treat. The smokiness of the bacon and the addition of salt compliment the flavor of cabbage.

Boiled Cabbage with Bacon Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage – preferably green cabbage
  • Slices of bacon
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
boiled cabbage with bacon ingredients.

How to Make Boiled Cabbage with Bacon

  1. Wash the cabbage and remove any wilted outer leaves.
  2. Cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core from the quarters.
  3. Cut the quarters into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Cut the bacon into ½-inch pieces.
  5. Cook the bacon in a large pot, large Dutch oven, or a really large skillet over medium-high heat until the bacon is browned and crispy. Do not drain the bacon.
  6. Add the cold water to the pot then add the cut cabbage.
  7. Simmer the cabbage uncovered until the cabbage pieces have softened and can be pierced with a fork.
  8. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use a slotted spoon to spoon out the cabbage and place it into a serving dish if desired. This will help remove a lot of the liquid that it makes.
boiled cabbage with bacon on a white serving platter.

Recipe Variations

  • Chop up a large onion and place it into the pot when you add the bacon.
  • Add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes during the last five minutes of cooking.
  • Instead of cooking with plain water, use some chicken broth or stock.

How to serve boiled cabbage

I like to serve my boiled cabbage with a beef roast, or even some roasted chicken thighs. It’s a great side dish to serve. Now many people love to serve this up with some hot sauce like Tobasco, or Krystal.

overhead view of southern boiled cabbage with bacon.

How to store leftover cabbage

After the cabbage has cooled store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. To reheat I recommend reheating in a pot on low heat to medium heat in a saucepan on the stove until it is warm.

You can freeze leftover boiled cabbage for up to three months, simply store it in a vacuum-sealed bag or an air-tight container. Thaw completely before reheating.

Love cabbage? Try these cabbage recipes!

More Budget-Friendly Side Dishes

Be sure to take a look at more of my great side dish recipes and budget meals.

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boiled cabbage with bacon on a serving platter.

Boiled Cabbage

Boiled Cabbage is a simple and healthy side dish perfect for pork, chicken, and ham. Learn how to make classic boiled cabbage with this easy recipe.
5 from 5 votes
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Boiled cabbage
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 136kcal


  • 3 pounds cabbage
  • 1/4 pound bacon
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper


  • Wash cabbage and remove any wilted leaves.
  • Use a heavy knife to quarter the cabbage.
  • Cut out the core of the cabbage and slice the quarters into bite-sized pieces.
  • Cut the bacon into ½ inch slices.
  • Place bacon in a large pot and cook over medium-high heat until the bacon browns. Do not drain the bacon.
  • Add the water to the pot.
  • Add the cut cabbage to the pot.
  • Cook uncovered until the cabbage pieces can be pierced with a fork.
  • Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.



If desired you can add a chopped white onion to the cabbage when cooking for additional flavor. 


Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 958mg | Potassium: 423mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 222IU | Vitamin C: 83mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 1mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Pat

    My Mom swears, from her 20’s, that she had boiled cabbage and canned corn beef. I got the boiled part but how to add the corn beef? Can you help me with that?

  2. Joe R

    Absolutely delicious. I’m a single man and live alone but entertain quite regularly. When my friends heard that cabbage was to be featured at my latest get together 2 of them upon arrival said that they had “snacked before they came” in an attempt to lessen their obligation to eat much… when this dish was served up EVERYONE was astonished! The two who said they snacked earlier ended up taking home leftovers (which are just as delicious on day 2 if cooked to fork tenderness) xoxo thanks a million and keep em comin 🙂

  3. Cat

    5 stars
    Instead of bacon i use fat back, much better flavor i cook the fat back first drain then cut up
    I slice up the cabbage put it in a fry pan, when it cooks down some then i add the cut up fat back. cook till done. I some times add onions to it.

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