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Savory Cabbage Tarte Tatin Recipe

When Serious Eats’ social media editor and trend watcher, Kelli Solomon, told the team that cabbage is having a moment, we listened. OK, we listened after she told us for the tenth time, and only after the New Yorker beat us to the punch. (Sorry, Kelli—next time, we’ll listen the first time.) This got us thinking about creative ways to showcase cabbage beyond what we’ve already published. It’s a versatile vegetable, and we already have creative cabbage recipes for turning it into savory pancakes, various salads and slaws, pickles, kimchi, stir fries, and more. Then the moment of inspiration struck: It should star in a savory tarte tatin. 

Drawing inspiration from Sasha Marx’s French onion soup tarte tatin, we asked our test kitchen colleague, expert recipe developer Melissa Gray, to figure out how to turn a humble head of cabbage into a centerpiece-worthy savory tart. I’m not gonna lie: There were some false starts. In the first couple of attempts, the cabbage released what Melissa called a “swimming pool of liquid,” which resulted in a soggy, unpleasant crust. But that’s why we test our recipes, and keep testing until they not only work but shine.

We arrived at that shiny moment with this tart—a deeply flavorful combination of tender roasted cabbage with a tang from white balsamic vinegar, nutty Gruyère cheese, and a buttery crust that can be made with homemade or store-bought dough. And as you can see from the photos here, it looks gorgeous too. Read on for details on the steps Melissa took to make this tart a champion and for the full recipe.

Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

4 Tips for Making This Show-Stopping Cabbage Tarte Tatin

  1. Start with a flavorful sweet-tart syrup. Rather than just flinging cabbage into a pan and tossing pie dough on top, this recipe starts with a flavorful, caramel-like base of sugar, butter, white balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and thyme, all cooked down until it’s thick and deep golden brown, and then poured into the bottom of the baking dish in which the cabbage will be cooked.

    The vinegar is an important element of this sauce, adding a bright note to balance the caramel sweetness and bend it away from the dessert realm of a classic apple tarte tatin towards the more savory zone of cabbage. If you want to mix up the vinegar flavor, you can use Champagne vinegar or another white wine vinegar instead of the white balsamic. Just stick to a white vinegar since dark colored vinegars will give the tart a muddy appearance. 

  2. Precook the cabbage and dry it well. Cabbage contains a lot of moisture, so to avoid a soupy tart with a soggy crust, it’s critical to cook it before assembling the tart. For this recipe, we bake the cabbage until tender and golden brown, which builds flavor and removes excess water, then press it dry with paper towels before assembling the dish. 
  3. Use a flavorful cheese. A layer of nutty Gruyère scattered over the cabbage adds richness to the tart, as well as saltiness that complements the sweet cabbage and vinegar syrup. 
  4. Make it pretty. While you can certainly just place the cabbage in a single layer in the pan, we like the way the rose pattern we’ve outlined below looks, plus it has the added benefit of creating a tart with no big gaps. To further enhance the looks of your tart, try to set the side of the cabbage wedges with the most browning against the bottom of the pan, as that will be the visible side once the tart is flipped out for serving.

Editor’s Note

This recipe was developed by Melissa Gray; the headnote was written by Megan O. Steintrager.

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