This flavorful, quick-cooking dish will turn cabbage haters into lovers
Cabbage doesn’t get much respect, we know. But that’s because so many people abuse it with overcooking.
Fortunately, this dish cooks quickly. So its flavors are allowed to dance (and there’s no cabbagey smell in the kitchen). Plus, we add extra zest with bacon and sweet potatoes. Enough flavor, in fact, to entice the most determined cabbage hater in your household.
So the cabbage might be smothered. But your appetite won’t be.
Recipe: Smothered Cabbage with Bacon and Sweet Potatoes
Why “smothered”? Well, in this case, it means that the cabbage is covered as it cooks, allowing it to soften in its own moisture. One classic recipe for this dish developed in Venice, where it is known as sofegao (which means – you guessed it – smothered).
This dish typically is served as a side. But it’s hearty enough for a main course (we’d serve some cornbread with it if we were going that route).
We’re using ordinary green cabbage in this dish, but Savoy or red cabbage would also work well. We like our cabbage just barely on the crisp side, so we cook it minimally. But when it’s cooked for an hour or two at a low temperature (to minimize the odor problem), it becomes very tender, with an almost melting texture. So if you prefer tenderness in your cabbage, cook it longer than we suggest.
Prep time for this dish is 10 to 15 minutes. Cooking time adds half an hour (or less).
This recipe yields about 6 side-dish servings or 3 main-course servings.
- ~8 ounces bacon, cut into pieces of about ½ inch
- 1 medium onion, cut into thin slices or ½-inch dice (we like to use red onion in this dish, but any type of onion works)
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into ½-inch dice
- salt to taste (½ to ¾ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or more to taste)
- ½ head cabbage, cored and shredded (about 1 pound)
- ~1 cooked sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- ½ cup chicken stock (can substitute water)
- Add the bacon to a frying pan (use one that’s large and fairly deep, or substitute a Dutch oven). Place the pan on medium stovetop heat, then sauté the bacon, stirring occasionally, until it’s browned (about 5 minutes). Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain it on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Add the onion and red bell pepper to the hot bacon grease in the frying pan. Sauté until the onion is becoming translucent (5 to 8 minutes). Add the salt, red pepper flakes, and thyme, then stir to combine.
- Add the cabbage, then sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, cider vinegar, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Cover the pan and turn the heat to medium low. Cook for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pan, turn the heat up to medium, and add the cooked bacon (from Step 1). Stir to combine, then cook until the cabbage is just tender (another minute or two). Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.
- Exact quantities are not critical in this recipe. And feel free to substitute at will – this dish is perfect for that. You may see versions of this dish that use only onion and cabbage, for example. Sweet potatoes aren’t a common addition, but white potatoes are. You may want to add some canned tomatoes. Or frozen peas. Or add some sliced apples when you brown the onion. And maybe a garlic clove or two. The variations are endless.
- We’ve chopped the cabbage roughly for this dish, but you could shred it finely if you prefer.
- We use leftover cooked sweet potatoes in this dish. If you don’t have leftovers on hand, just peel a sweet potato, cut it into dice, and microwave it in a covered dish with a tablespoon or two of water for 4 to 5 minutes.
- Many recipes use diced ham or sliced sausage in place of bacon. You could also use a combo of bacon and sausage. If you’re going the sausage route, andouille or kielbasa would be our choices.
- Speaking of andouille sausage: It’s of course very popular in Louisiana, where versions of this dish often add some Cajun/Creole seasoning for extra flavor. Plus hot sauce.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always salt to your taste, not ours.
“Nice,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Of all the cabbage dishes we’ve been eating lately, this is one of the best.”
“Cabbage stores well, which is a real plus in these COVID times,” I said. “When we’re only getting our groceries delivered once a week.”
“Not the usual for foodies like us,” said Mrs K R. “Who knew we’d become such cabbage heads?”
“Yeah, that’s a change I never slaw coming,” I said.
“You slaw-dered that pun,” said Mrs K R. “Hope you don’t try any attacks on the sweet potatoes.”
What can I say? I yam what I yam.
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Good winter dish with long-lasting vegetables that theoretically could be from last summer. Though they probably are from a warmer climate if from the supermarket these days.
be safe... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
It’s really too bad cabbage is under used and under appreciated. But, more for us, right?!! I love this dish. Even without the bacon it would be wonderful, but of course you really need the bacon and its fat in there. It could be a meal for me. Perfect!
Hi Mae, you're right about these not being local veggies. Way too cold here! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mimi, this was a meal for us. :-) This would also be good with a fair amount of olive oil or butter instead of bacon. Thanks for the comment.
This might be COVID food at its best. I think I've got everything (except the bell pepper) for this. I have half a head of cabbage in the fridge that I need to use so thanks!
I rarely cook with cabbage- I guess its big size that is a bit of a turn-off. But I might give this recipe a try! I know a lot of people are getting their groceries delivered, but I still go into the supermarket 4-5 times a week- I love wandering the aisles and picking out what I need!
Hi Debra, easy to skip the bell pepper. In fact we sometimes do. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Fran, we haven't been in a grocery store since March! Perhaps we're too cautious, but now that we've experienced delivery, we really enjoy it. Really miss picking out my own veggies and meat, though, and always liked planning my meals while in the store and seeing what looked best that day. Good thing about cabbage is you can cut it in half or quarters, use what you want, and wrap the rest in shrink wrap -- it'll keep for quite a while. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Nice combination of flavors and textures in this tasty dish.
Hi Pam, isn't this nice? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I don't cook cabbage often enough. This is great inspiration and perfect as a winter dish
Hi Pat and Dahn, we've really gotten into cabbage over the last few years. Loads of flavor and nutrition, and so versatile! Thanks for the comment.
If you have bacon in it, the boys are going to love it. They feel bacon belongs in it's own food category. Maybe they are right! Delicious recipe John!
So appetizing and delicious with all the beautiful colours and combo of flavours, John.
Hi Bobbi, bacon really does belong in its own food category. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Angie, we do like colorful food. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is my kind of dish John, i can just tell it will be delicious, and so versatile. Bacon flavours beautifully, but yes sausage would be good. Love your clever repartee as well. Thanks for the recipe idea, stay well. Pauline.
Hi Pauline, this is a great recipe when you're looking in your refrigerator and pantry, seeing what you have, and trying to figure out what to make from it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
"Mon petit chou," just what my mother used to call me! This recipe sounds so good. I will make it this week and add the apples that you suggest.
Hi Dani, apples are great with cabbage. And bacon. :-) Thanks for the comment.
When one happens to have been born in northern Europe one learns to enjoy cabbage straight after mother's milk and never stops ! Have never prepared it in thus manner but as autumn is showing its first signs here this seems a welcome newbie to try. Would surely be a full meal for me . . . hmm - I love Chinese cabbage . . and garlic and apples sound like 'me' also !
mm yes we love cabbage! and all the brassicas really:-) ooh yes anything with bacon ...
Hi Eha, garlic is pretty "us" too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Sherry, we're pretty much on the brassica bandwagon too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yes I see this as a main dish. All I need is the cornbread. GREG
Hi Greg, we'll take any excuse to serve cornbread. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I have to agree with Sippity Sup - all I need now is some cornbread. :) Great idea to use sweet potatoes with the cabbage. Normally I would grab a yukon gold.
Hi MJ, that's the potato we often use, but sweet potatoes and cabbage are rather nice together. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Bacon and cabbage are such a great match, and along with the other ingredients in this dish, it looks amazing. Sounds great to serve it with cornbread -- or maybe garlic bread. Either way, I'm in. :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, you can never go wrong with garlic bread! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I like cabbage, especially when it's tender and sweet, and not overcooked. I like the addition of the sweet potatoes in this recipe too. Time to make some cabbage!
Hi Judy, we're serving a cabbage dish at least once a week these days! Such good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is making my mind change about cabbage! Of course, bacon is always a good idea! :D
Hi Michelle, always hard to resist bacon, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love cabbage and your dish looks good. Cabbage is a German thing.
Hi Gerlinde, we love cabbage too! And it's the perfect COVID veggie -- keeps for quite some time. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Cabbage and bacon are a heavenly pairing! Looks delicious!!!
This sounds and looks so tasty John. I grew up eating stuffed cabbage and have always loved it. I’ve never tried your version but will add it to my list to try. Looks delicious!
Always looking for a sweet potato recipe. This time of the year, the idea of cooking cabbage is very appealing.
Hi Liz, that's a great combo, isn't it? Love it! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Vicki, we like this because you get that great cabbage flavor and it's not fussy to make. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi NCR, we love sneaking sweet potatoes into recipes! Such a versatile veggie, and plays nicely with cabbage. And bacon. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Peas and apples sound like a tasty addition for vegetarians like me. Its been a while since I cooked with cabbage and your post is a nice reminder. thanks for sharing :)
Hi Taruna, it's pretty easy to turn this dish into a vegetarian, or vegan, dish. Just replace the bacon with either butter or olive oil -- either of those add loads of flavor. Thanks for the comment.
John - we have just "rediscovered" plain ol' green cabbage recently. I have been ignoring it for years, going for Napa or Savoy. But my loss, for sure. We had it the other night with brined and seared pork chops, and it was just amazing. Next time, your dish!
Hi David, green cabbage seems kinda ordinary, but boy is it good! Really plays so well with other flavorings, too. Thanks for the comment.
The platter is indeed looking so flavorful and colorful. Thanks for sharing your recipes.
Hi Sonia, we LOVE color in our food. And flavor. Of course. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John. this looks soooo good! I do something similar with ham and potatoes, but I love bacon and sweet potatoes so am eager to try this version! Those items are going in my next online grocery order. (Like you, I miss picking out my own produce and meat and planning meals on the spot based on what looks good.)
Hi Jean, we've done a ham and potato version of this too. Such a versatile dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Cabbage is such an unsung hero, especially during a pandemic. It keeps for weeks and is so versatile. Thanks for showing us another delicious way to use it.
Hi Carolyn, during the cold weather months cabbage has become our favorite "fresh" green. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Cabbage and bacon is a perfect combo, yum!
I actually like cabbage, so I need no convincing... A dish like this is right up my alley!
This sounds delicious, John. And the variations and substitutions you suggest = every one of them sounds like a must-try!
Hi Natalia, it's such a great pairing, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Frank, we've come to love cabbage, but when we were younger? Not so much. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Jeff, one of the better things about this dish is how versatile it is. You can make it a dozen times, and it'll never be exactly the same recipe! Thanks for the comment.
Ottima preparazione, adoro le patate dolci!
Hi Speedy, sweet potatoes are wonderful, aren't they? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I really do love all of the heartwarming flavors you've combined here. For me, the bacon is your secret ingredient. It really elevates the flavors of the whole dish so beautifully!
I happened to have all the ingredients for this recipe. That must be a sign that I should try out. Looks delicious!
Hi Heidi, hard to go wrong with bacon! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Holly, it's definitely a sign. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, it's really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Textures, colours, flavours, I guess you nailed everyting on this dish
Hi Raymund, this dish as got it all! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love cabbage. This dish is one for me!! Thanks for sharing!
Hi Dawn, wait until you try this -- SO good! :-) Thanks for the comment.
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