How to prepare traditional German coleslaw with white cabbage and optional bacon (aka Weisskrautsalat).
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About German Coleslaw (Krautsalat)
There is no difference between German coleslaw and German cabbage salad. One is the other.
Coleslaw and cabbage salad literally mean the same thing with the former word being rooted in the Dutch koolsla, kool=cabbage and sla=salad. The German term Krautsalat shares the same structure, kraut=cabbage and salat=salad. Traditionally white cabbage is used, therefore the name Weisskrautsalat (weiss=white). Whichever name you prefer you’ll be referring to the same salad.
In this classic German coleslaw recipe no mayo is used. Instead the bright flavors of apple cider or white wine vinegar are the accent. Krautsalat is never offensively soured, rather the goal is to achieve a pleasant savory tartness. It does not typically include carrots but always includes caraway seeds. This traditional recipe calls for the making of a quick, flavorful pickling liquid in which the thinly sliced cabbage soaks for a short time before it is dressed an served.
You Will Need
- White cabbage. You will need a small head of just over a pound or 2/3 of a medium sized head of cabbage to approximate the same weight. Always remove the tough, fibrous core at the base.
- Vegetable stock or water. For the quick pickling liquid you will make. Using vegetable stock amplifies the savory taste to be imparted to the cabbage.
- Vinegar. Use a milder variety such as apple cider, sherry of white wine.
- Sugar. Regular, fine white sugar which dissolves easily. Needed to balance the acidity of the vinegar.
- Caraway seeds. A staple seasoning in German cuisine, their unique fragrance goes so well with cabbage. You can substitute with celery seeds.
- Olive oil. Extra virgin works best as it brings about more flavor.
- Salt and black pepper. Use kosher salt and if possible white pepper.
- Parsley (optional). Flat leaf (aka Italian) is the traditionally used herb to sprinkle over the dressed cabbage.
- Bacon (optional). Thick cut, smoked bacon, cut into thin strips, pan-fried until crispy.
How to Make Classic German Cabbage Salad
- Prep. Finely slice the cabbage (shred) or use a mandoline slicer to the same end.
- Soak in vinegar mixture. In a small sauce pan combine vegetable stock (or water), vinegar, sugar and caraway seeds. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Place cabbage in a heatproof large bowl and pour the hot solution over it. Let soak for 15 minutes, use tongs to turn the cabbage over occasionally.
- Optional step. If using bacon, cut it into thin strips and render its fat in a pan over medium heat. Remove and place onto paper towel lined plate.
- Toss. Transfer the cabbage from the bowl with the vinegar liquid to a serving bowl. Discard the liquid. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and toss.
- Garnish. Scatter finely chopped parsley (if using) and bacon (if using) over the salad. You can also add a few more caraway seeds as a finishing touch.
Traditional Ways to Serve Krautsalat
White cabbage salad is equally popular on the menus of restaurants, biergartens and beer halls and is a staple side dish in German homes. It is typically served with:
- classic German roasts like Schweinebraten
- spare ribs
- fish and chicken dishes such as Half Roast Chicken
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Traditional German Coleslaw Krautsalat
How to prepare authentic German coleslaw with white cabbage, caraway seeds and optional bacon as garnish.
- 1 small white cabbage (or 2/3 medium sized, just over 1 lb)
- 2/3 cup vegetable stock or water
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar*
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp caraway seeds (plus a pinch more for garnish)
- 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt (to taste)
- white pepper (to taste)
- 3-4 slices bacon (thick-cut, lean, smoked), optional
- 2 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley, optional
1. Shred the cabbage and place in a heat proof bowl.
2. Combine vegetable stock (or water), vinegar, sugar and caraway seeds in a small saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat, stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved and pour over the cabbage. Allow 15 minutes of soaking time, occasionally turning the cabbage around using kitchen tongs.
3. Optional step. While the cabbage is soaking cut the bacon into thin strips and cook in pan over medium heat to render the fat, until crispy. Place over paper towel lined plate to absorb extra fat,
4. After 15 minutes transfer the cabbage from the bowl with the vinegar liquid to a serving bowl. Be sure to drain it and discard the vinegar liquid. Add the olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss.
5. Optional step. Sprinkle with a few extra caraway seeds, chopped parsley and bacon. Serve.
*Substitute with sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
Nutrition information does not include bacon and is based on 5 servings.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 51Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 211mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g
Sandie Lincoln says
Why not add some of the bacon grease instead of the olive oil or use both 1-1/2T total
Milena Perrine says
Absolutley – if you would be enjoying the krautsalat right away it is a great idea.It would be very flavorful. If you would refrigerate the salad the bacon fat will solidify and not be the most appetizing upon serving.
Would this be ok to prepare and then bring to a party a few hours later, or does it get soggy?
Milena Perrine says
Erin, cabbage maintains its texture really well and you should not have any problem with soggyines. If anything your krautsalat might taste better due to the extra marinating time. The only thing to watch out for is if you are using bacon bits, do not add them in advance, bring them along seperately and fold them into the krautsalat just before you serve it.
So easy and tasteful!