Sauteed Cabbage with Brown Butter and Walnuts

~ This 3-ingredient Sautéed Cabbage recipe is truly special, mingled with lusciously rich browned butter and crunchy walnuts. It’s super fast and easy, too, since the cabbage is cooked very quickly, to ensure it stays lively and fresh-tasting. Great for everyday dinners, yet memorable enough for holidays! ~

This Recipe Is:     Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Vegetarian    Gluten Free  

I’ve got 2 secrets here that turn Sautéed Cabbage into something really special. (Dare I say crave-able, even?)

Overhead closeup of tan serving bowl of sauteed cabbage on light blue background and cloth, garnished with extra nuts.

I know, I know … when it comes to sautéed cabbage, “crave-able” might not be your first adjective.

It’s OK. I get it.

Not everybody’s a fan … YET.

Of course, if you’re reading this, maybe you’re already at least a little bit of a cabbage fan. Or maybe you’re just curious? Or maybe someone assigned you to bring the sautéed cabbage to Thanksgiving dinner.

Why ever you’re here … wherever you think you stand on sautéed cabbage right now: be prepared to fall in love!

Why You’ll Love This Sautéed Cabbage (The 2 Secrets!)

Secret #1

Browned Butter.

Plate-licking-worthy. Magical. Liquid gold.

Warm, toasty, nutty, rich flavor.

It transforms spaghetti squash and green beans. And it transforms this cooked cabbage, too!

Tan serving set on blue background, piled with sauteed cabbage with spoon tucked in and forks and plates nearby.

And yeah, yeah … I know you don’t expect me to be using a lot of butter here at Two Healthy Kitchens. No worries! A little bit goes a long, long way.

Secret #2

A big key here:

The cabbage is NOT OVERCOOKED.

Just like I explained in my recipe for Bacon Brussels Sprouts (Brussels sprouts are cousins of cabbage), overcooking causes these types of vegetables to release something called glucosinolates. That’s what makes them develop that stinky smell and bitter flavor lots of people don’t like.

Ever notice how raw cabbage coleslaw doesn’t smell bad or taste bitter? Yup. That’s because it’s not overcooked (or … well … not cooked at all).

Great Sautéed Cabbage is only lightly cooked!

Say it with me, friends:

DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR CABBAGE.

  • Plus, this cabbage recipe is quick and easy, with just a few basic ingredients. (3 ingredients, if you don’t count the salt, which nobody really does.)
  • It’s a no-stress side dish that’s fast enough for weeknight family dinners, but also special enough for holidays (because … you know … mmmmmmm that liquid gold).
Two hands holding serving bowl with serving spoon tucked in, with forks and plates in background below.

Who thought there could be so much to love about cabbage? Honestly, I sure didn’t.

How I {Surprisingly} Became a Sautéed Cabbage Person

I’ve got nothing against cabbage, but I never would’ve considered myself specifically a sautéed cabbage kind of person.

But …

A couple of summers ago, I was on a little working vacation with my mom and my son, Ty. We spent a week testing a lot of recipes. (Including our beloved Easy “Grape Nuts Bread” and my mom’s childhood Date Bars … yeah, it was a yummy getaway!)

And, as the week drew to a close and we tried to clean out the fridge in the vacation home … we had a bunch of shredded cabbage we needed to use up. I have no idea how I thought of it, but this recipe is what I made with dinner.

And all three of us were shocked. Shocked.

Most especially my high school son (because how many high school kids do you know who are all like, “Oh yeah … I love me some cooked cabbage”)?

It.was.sooooooo.good. We all had seconds. Maybe thirds.

Side view of right half of serving bowl filled with the cooked cabbage, with antique serving spoon at side.

And the tiny little bit that was left over after dinner?

I’m not even kidding – my mom grabbed it the next morning and had it cold for breakfast. It was that good! (Although, friends, as a public service announcement, I’m going to recommend maybe not cold and maybe not for breakfast.) But hey, my mom was happy, and Ty and I were actually a little bit jealous.

So now there’s no escaping it.

If I can actually feel jealous of my own mother because she scored a little dab of stone-cold, leftover cabbage … ummmmm … I’m now officially a Sautéed Cabbage person. Card-carrying official club member, in fact. And hey hey … you can be, too!

It’s super easy! Here’s all you have to do …

How to Make This Sautéed Cabbage

Shredded Cabbage Shortcut

A handy shortcut: grab a bag of pre-shredded cabbage, instead of taking the time to shred your own (unless you happen to find a cabbage in your CSA basket and need to do something with it).

Overhead of shredded, raw cabbage, stick butter, chopped nuts and salt on cutting board, ready for cooking.

In my photos, I’m using very finely shredded “angel hair” cabbage.

But, I’ve often made this recipe with the slightly less finely shredded kind that has a few bits of carrot shredded in, too. That also works great, although you might need to cook it just a minute or two longer than the “angel hair” kind.

Step #1: Making the Brown Butter

We get into a bit more detail on exactly how to make brown butter in our post on Roasted Green Beans with Balsamic-Browned Butter, so I’ll give you the shorthand version here.

Basically, you melt your butter and then continue cooking it for a few minutes so it gently “browns.”

As you can see in the photos below, your butter will progress from melted, to foaming.

Overhead of saute pan on stove with uncooked stick of butter at center and a wooden spoon.
Overhead of saute pan on stove as butter begins to melt.
Overhead of saute pan on stove with completely melted butter that hasn't begun to brown.

And then, the milk solids will begin to fall to the bottom of the pan and caramelize, turning golden and then gorgeously browner as they cook.

During this process, you’ll also begin to smell a lovely, nutty aroma.

That’s the perfect time to pull your butter off the heat.

Overhead of saute pan on stove as cooked butter begins to very lightly brown at center.
Overhead of saute pan on stove with butter more cooked and browned but not quite done.
Overhead of saute pan on stove with fully cooked brown butter ready for cabbage to be added.

Exactly how brown you want your butter is a bit of a personal preference. Be sure, though, not to let it get so browned that the milk solids burn.

In general, this whole process of browning your butter only takes about 5-10 minutes, depending on the type of pan, and the power of your stove. (In my photos, I’m using a fully clad pan, but I’ve also successfully tested this recipe with a nonstick pan.)

Step #2 Sautéing the Cabbage

Once you’ve got your butter browned, immediately add your cabbage, nuts, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet.

Overhead of saute pan once cabbage and nuts have been added to brown butter but aren't yet stirred and cooked.

Stir everything through really well, so the cabbage is all evenly draped in that delicious brown butter sauce you’ve created for it.

You only need to cook the cabbage mixture for 2 or 3 minutes. That’s it – so fast!

Pull it off the heat, give it a taste, and adjust the seasoning by adding a little more salt if you need to, so the flavors really pop.

And you’re done!

Overhead of saute pan full of finished, cooked cabbage on blue background with plates and utensils ready to serve.

Serve it up right away (and be prepared to issue new “Cabbage Fan Club” membership cards).

Pro Tip: Toasting Nuts

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can toast your walnuts in the skillet before you brown your butter. (Although, to be honest, I usually skip this step, since I don’t feel like it makes much difference either way in this particular recipe.)

If you want to toast ’em up, though, all you have to do is toss the walnut pieces into your skillet over medium-low heat. Stir them often for about 5-6 minutes – just until you begin to notice a “nutty” smell.

As soon as they start to smell nutty, remove them from the skillet and {carefully!} wipe the skillet out well, before browning the butter and finishing the recipe.

Reheating Cooked Cabbage

This recipe is truly at its best fresh, hot off the stove.

But, if you happen to have leftovers, they’re pretty darn good, too … as long as you remember our mantra: DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR CABBAGE.

Just very gently rewarm your leftovers, maybe at 50% power in your microwave. JUST until the cabbage is lightly warm again.

FAQs At-a-Glance

Does Cabbage Shrink When You Cook It?

It does. And, the longer you cook it, the more it shrinks. Since the cabbage in this recipe is only lightly cooked, it won’t shrink as much as if you cooked it much longer. This is handy to note, since how long you cook your cabbage will affect the precise recipe yield.

How Do You Know When Cabbage Is Done Cooking?

Because cabbage can actually be eaten raw (as with typical coleslaw recipes), there’s no precise amount of time that it needs to be cooked. It’s a matter of personal preference.

What Happens When You Overcook Cabbage? (Why Does Overcooked Cabbage Taste Bad?)

As I mentioned above, overcooking cabbage (and related vegetables like Brussels sprouts) causes it to release something called glucosinolates. That’s what makes it develop the stinky smell and bitter flavor that so many people find off-putting. (You can read more about that HERE and HERE.) To avoid this problem, I prefer to cook cabbage only slightly, so it’s warm and starting to soften, but still bright and fresh-tasting.

What Is Brown Butter?

Brown butter is simply “regular” butter that has been cooked over a moderately low heat until the milk solids fall to the bottom and caramelize. The butter takes on a browned color and toasty, rich aroma and flavor. In classical French cooking, it’s called beurre noisette. You don’t need to buy any specific or unique type of butter to make it. Simply purchase regular stick butter (you can make brown butter with either salted or unsalted butter, depending on the recipe or intended use).

Why Is Browned Butter So Good?

As The Kitchn explains, two things happen in the process of browning butter. First, the water in your butter cooks out, which helps to concentrate the butter’s flavor. In addition, the milk solids in your butter caramelize as they fall to the bottom of pan, which creates that rich, nutty, purely magical “liquid gold” flavor.

So, there you have it: the 2 secrets that make just 3 simple ingredients (plus some salt) taste soooooo darn good.

Overhead of finished recipe in serving bowl, with empty saute pan, extra nuts, and serving pieces at photo corners.

Good enough to convert the cabbage-suspicious.

Maybe even good enough to eat cold … for breakfast. It’s happened, you know. 😉

Love the Recipe? • Were My Tips Helpful?

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Please leave a star-rating in the recipe card below – I truly appreciate all your wonderful feedback!

Overhead of serving bowl full of cooked cabbage on light blue background, with serving items and extra nuts near.

Sauteed Cabbage with Browned Butter and Walnuts

Yield: 5 cups
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes

3-ingredient Sautéed Cabbage is truly special, with deliciously rich brown butter & crunchy nuts. So easy, too – it's cooked fast so the cabbage stays lively & fresh-tasting. Simple yet memorable!

  Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Vegetarian    Gluten Free  

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag "angel hair" coleslaw shredded cabbage (or you can shred your own)
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces (toasted, if desired – see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (plus an optional, additional 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon more, to taste)

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat, and cook, gently swirling the pan or stirring occasionally, until the butter has foamed and turned a deep golden-brown. (This will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on the material of your pan and how powerful your burners are.) You're looking for the butter to be a rich golden-brown color with a toasted, nutty smell, and with little specks of browned milk solids in the bottom of the pan. 
  2. Immediately add cabbage and nuts, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir so everything is coated evenly in the browned butter. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 2 1/2 - 3 minutes (depending on how finely shredded your cabbage is and how cooked you like it – we like ours still fairly crunchy – but be careful not to overcook).
  3. Remove from heat. Taste to adjust seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed so the flavors pop (stirring the salt in very thoroughly). Serve immediately.

Notes

Toasting nuts: Although toasted nuts can add a nice depth of flavor to many recipes, I often don't bother with it in this particular sautéed cabbage recipe. I just don't think it makes a very big difference. But, if you like your nuts toasted, here's what I recommend: Before beginning the steps above, cook the walnut pieces in your skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently and keeping a close watch on them. Once they begin to smell nutty (which will probably take about 5-6 minutes), remove them from the skillet before they burn, and set them aside. Carefully wipe out the skillet and then proceed with the recipe steps above.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 servings Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 85Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 72mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.

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