How to Make Southern Bacon Fried Cabbage

Smoky, sweet and savory, this easy bacon fried cabbage is ready in less than 30 minutes and pairs well with just about any meal.

Asia food, Stir fried cabbage with fish sauce and crispy bacon on wooden tableLemon Studio/Shutterstock

I was born in the South, so let me tell you: This bacon fried cabbage is just one example of how Southerners can transform vegetables into delicious, crowd-pleasing dishes. From fried okra and bacon collard greens, to black-eyed peas with pork and of course, cabbage, the cooks of the South have cracked the vegetable code.

Quick Tips Before You Start

There are a few things to keep in mind when making Southern bacon fried cabbage. First off, stick with thick-sliced bacon that has no added flavors, like maple syrup. (See the brands our Test Kitchen recommends.) Keeping the ingredients simple allows the star of the show—cabbage—to shine.

Use thick-sliced bacon. It’s important for two reasons. One, it renders more fat, which guarantees you’ll have enough for cooking the cabbage. And two, when you get a bite with bacon it has a ton of meaty, salty flavor.

Don’t be afraid to let your bacon get crispy! It should be deep golden brown and just on the verge of making you nervous it’s going to burn. This adds flavor and ensures it doesn’t get soggy too fast once mixed in with the fried cabbage.

How to Make Southern Bacon Fried Cabbage

This recipe makes about 5 cups and takes 25 minutes, start to finish.


  • 4 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ⅛ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 6 cups coarsely chopped cabbage (half a large head)
  • 1 tablespoon water

Pro Tip: I prefer this recipe with ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, but start with ⅛ and season to your preferred spice level. Same goes for the sugar and black pepper. It’s important to season to your taste.

Step 1: Crisp the Bacon

The first step is to cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. (Here’s how to make the best-ever bacon.) Then use a slotted spoon to transfer each strip to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Reserve 2 tablespoons of the drippings in the skillet and discard the rest.

Step 2: Cook the Onion

Heat reserved grease over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes.

Stir in the sugar, salt, pepper flakes and pepper.

Step 3: Cook the Cabbage

Add the cabbage and water and cook for 5-6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer cooked cabbage to a serving dish and sprinkle with bacon. If you’re making this dish ahead, leave the bacon out until right before serving, this will help keep it from getting too soggy.

Pro Tip: If you’d prefer to skip the bacon, simply leave it out and use 2 tablespoons butter in place of the bacon grease for frying the cabbage. Find the full recipe here! Interested in incorporating cabbage to more meals? Try our best cabbage recipes!

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Lauren Grant
The veggie- and cheese-obsessed lady behind the food blog Zestful Kitchen, Lauren Grant is a trained Culinary Scientist and Journalist. She is a blogger, writer, recipe developer, and self-taught photographer.