Pa Dutch pepper cabbage

Pennsylvania Dutch Pepper Cabbage

Shredded or grated cabbage in a side dish will often conjour up visions of Cole slaw for many people here in the Coal Region. I am hard pressed to think of how many times I went to a diner where it was not on the menu; it’s very popular. But, as much as I love a good Cole slaw, my favorite cold cabbage side dish is Pepper Cabbage.

A sweet and sour dish, pepper cabbage (aka “pickled cabbage”) features a German, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Coal Region favorite — the ever popular cabbage — but not in a creamy dressing as in many traditional slaws.

Pepper cabbage features a tangy clear syrup. The grated cabbage salad is dotted with colorful cubes of sweet bell peppers. Some purists use only green bell pepper, I use a mix of at least red and green (sometimes yellow and orange if I have them) because I like the colorful mix and the difference in taste between the peppers. Some cooks add chopped onion, celery, or even carrot to the mix. I am an opportunist; I use the ingredients available in my fridge at the time I am making this recipe, but I personally do not add onion.

Pepper cabbage lasts a long time in the refrigerator thanks to the high vinegar content.  I love to serve it with many dishes including my Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie and Yum-a-setta.

It’s great to take to a potluck or picnic because it the dressing contains no mayonnaise. The cabbage for this dish should be grated, not shredded; the coarse holes on a box grater yields the correct texture for the cabbage. You can also use the shredding blade on a food processor; this is particularly handy when making a large quantity of pepper cabbage.

I do not care for the peppers grated so I finely chop them by hand. I never use the food processor for the peppers because they tend to produces a lot of liquid when done that way. Since I don’t care for them shredded, I don’t use the the box grater for them, either. My personal preference is to dice the peppers by hand resulting in an approximately 1/4 inch dice.

Pennsylvania Dutch Pepper Cabbage

Recipe by A Coalcracker in the KitchenCourse: Sides, SaladsCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy

A traditional sweet and sour cabbage salad dish of the Pennsylvania Dutch.


  • 1 1/2 to 2 pound head cabbage, quartered and core removed

  • 1 large sweet red bell pepper, seeded

  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded (OR use all green bell pepper)

  • OPTIONAL: grated carrot, finely diced onion/celery (to your taste)

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3/4 cup water (may adjust to your taste)

  • 1 teaspoon celery seed

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper or to taste


  • Cut the cabbage into 4 quarters, remove the core from each quarter. Grate by hand on the coarse holes of a hand grater OR cut the quarters in pieces that will fit the feed tube on your food processor. With a shredding blade, process the cabbage until completed.
  • Transfer cabbage to a large baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper and a few layers of paper towels and refrigerate for about an hour to drain OR press firmly with paper towels to remove water. Set aside
  • Dice the bell peppers into roughly 1/4 inch dice by hand. Place them on a layer of paper towel to drain while preparing the dressing.
  • In a bowl, stir together the vinegar, water, sugar, celery seed, salt and pepper. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Start with 3/4 cup water, mix then taste; add additional water if it is too tangy for your preference.
  • Place the cabbage and peppers in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and peppers and stir thoroughly.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or, preferably, overnight. Stir occasionally. Serve.