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Southern Cabbage Recipe (Boiled Cabbage)

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This Southern cabbage recipe features boiled cabbage in a smoky, meaty broth with seasonings and spices. A savory and succulent Southern side dish that is a staple on our Sunday dinner table!

southern cabbage recipe with smoked turkey

Cabbage in Southern and soul food cuisine isn’t just about healthy greens; it’s about a flavorful transformation. Marrekus, who grew up in Tennessee, says this Southern cabbage recipe was on a weekly rotation at his house. It’s now one of our family’s favorite recipes, along with mixed greens and collard greens. Everyone always goes back for seconds and even thirds.

I especially love how the boiled cabbage with smoked turkey comes out tender and buttery with a kick of spice. The secret to achieving perfectly tender cabbage is to simmer it in a flavorful broth. The longer it boils, the more tender it becomes. The broth is sooo delicious, perfect for slurping. It’s one of those dishes that exemplify the saying, “Good things come to those who wait.”

What is Boiled Cabbage?

Boiled cabbage is a classic Southern side dish. It’s often simmered with flavorful ingredients such as smoked turkey, ham hocks, or bacon for added richness and depth of flavor. The cabbage is typically chopped or sliced and cooked until tender, soaking up the seasonings and smokiness of the meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 quarts water
  • 1 smoked turkey leg (or 1 pound turkey wings, or 2 tails, or 2 hocks)
  • 2 teaspoons chicken base (or 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Tip: Smoked turkey is found in most major grocery stores. It is most commonly sold as legs (drumsticks), either whole or chopped in half. You can also use necks, wings, or tails, or hocks.

Recipe Variations

  • Collard Greens and Cabbage are mixed greens cooked together and simmered in a flavorful smoky broth, with seasonings, onions, ham hocks, and red pepper flakes.
  • Fried Cabbage is another Southern favorite. Sliced cabbage is sautéed with onions, garlic, and often bacon or smoked meat until it becomes tender and slightly caramelized. It’s a simple and flavorful side dish.

Boiled Cabbage with Ham Hocks or Neck Bones

Another way to make this southern cabbage recipe is to use pork. Smoked hocks are pork shanks that come from the shoulder. Neck bones are another popular type of meat used in southern soul food. Both enhance the broth’s flavor and are often used in soups and stews, lending a smoky and rich flavor.

How to Pick Cabbage

Make sure to select a firm head of cabbage with no wilted leaves. This is especially important when shopping at the grocery store because oftentimes the produce will be days old. If you can find a local farmer’s market that sells it, that’s even better.

How to Cook

Step 1: Make the broth. Cook turkey in a pot of water, about 3-4 quarts, or enough to cover the entire leg. Add chicken-flavored bouillon, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon pepper, chili powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Marrekus also adds Worcestershire sauce and a little apple cider vinegar.

Step 2: Pull meat from the bone. After one hour, remove the meat from the pot and separate it from the bone. The broth should be very flavorful and the meat should be tender by this point. Discard the bones and set the pulled meat aside.

Step 3: Cut and clean cabbage. Cut cabbage wedges then do a rough chop; rinse to remove any grit. Properly washing and cutting the cabbage is important and can affect the final taste and texture.

Step 4: Finish cooking. Add cabbage to the pot of broth and simmer for about 45 minutes, (cook times vary) or until it’s fork-tender. The last step is to add the pulled meat back to the pot before serving.

What to Serve with Southern Cabbage

Complementary side dishes to southern cabbage include pinto beans, collard greens, and cornbread. It also pairs well with pork chops, turkey necks, Mississippi roast, fried chicken, and catfish.

southern cabbage recipe

Storage and Reheating

Boiled cabbage tastes even better the next day! The seasonings have time to penetrate and the cabbage becomes more tender and infused with the rich flavors of the broth.

Storage

  • After preparing this Southern cabbage recipe, allow it to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, transfer it to an airtight container or a covered bowl. Make sure to store it in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking.
  • Boiled cabbage can be safely refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.

Reheating

  • Stovetop: To reheat on the stovetop, place it in a saucepan and add a little broth to prevent sticking. Gently heat it over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Microwave: If you’re short on time, reheating in the microwave is a quick option. Place your boiled cabbage in a microwave-safe dish, cover it, and heat in short intervals, stirring in between to ensure even heating.
boiled cabbage with smoked turkey

Commonly Asked Questions

Is this boiled cabbage recipe spicy?

This recipe has a kick to it from the red pepper flakes. You can omit this ingredient if you’d like.

Can I use chicken broth instead of water?

Sure! We recommend low-sodium chicken broth if you plan to go that route.

I can’t find smoked turkey or ham hocks, etc. Help!

If you can’t find any of the smoked meats mentioned above in this post, you can substitute them with bacon. We suggest 1/2 pound thick-cut hardwood or hickory smoked bacon.

What is the final texture of southern cabbage?

This boiled cabbage recipe yields soft and tender cabbage. If you want the cabbage to be slightly crunchy, cook it for less time.

Have you tried our delicious Southern Cabbage recipe? Share your thoughts in the comments below! If you’re snapping pics or shooting videos of your culinary masterpiece, be sure to tag us at @cookswithsoul on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok! We can’t wait to see and share your incredible creations with our community.

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Southern Cabbage Recipe (Boiled Cabbage)

  • Author: cooks with soul
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: american, southern

Description

This Southern cabbage recipe features boiled cabbage in a smoky, meaty broth with seasonings and spices. A savory and succulent Southern side dish that is a staple on our Sunday dinner table!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 34 quarts water
  • 1 smoked turkey leg (or 1 pound turkey wings, or 2 tails, or 2 hocks)
  • 2 teaspoons chicken base (or 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 head of cabbage, roughly chopped


Instructions

  1. Set turkey leg (or wings, tail, or ham hocks) in a stainless steel stock pot and cover with water, about 2 inches above the meat.
  2. Add chicken bouillon granules, salt, pepper, garlic, lemon pepper, chili powder, paprika, and red pepper flakes to the pot.
  3. Pour in apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Cover pot and bring seasoned water to a boil.
  5. Cook meat until it is tender and can be easily pulled from the bone, about 1 hour.
  6. Carefully remove the turkey (or ham, if using) from the pot and pull the meat from the bones; set the meat aside.
  7. Add cabbage to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes, or until cabbage is fork tender.
  8. Remove cabbage from heat and add the pulled meat to the pot and stir.
  9. Serve warm as a side dish. 

Keywords: southern cabbage recipe, boiled cabbage

18 Comments

  1. Easy, delicious, and healthy recipe to make.
    This is a perfect meal for me for tonight’s dinner.

    1. This cabbage recipe sounds delicious I used turkey tails with greens and cabbages they are the best you two are good good cooks thank you

  2. I am so happy I came across your site. It’s been so long since I have ate any of these recipes. My grandmother used to make a lot of these recipes growing up. The smell wafted all though the house. It was delicious. Thank you so much for bringing these back. I can’t wait till I make a lot of these recipes.

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