This Is the Savory Cabbage Tarte Tatin You’re About to See Everywhere

This tart has a caramel-like sauce, tender cabbage, nutty Gruyère cheese, and a crispy crust for a vegetarian centerpiece that’s gorgeous and delicious. Make it for Mother’s Day or any other special occasion.

A savory cabbage tart tatin on a green plate
Serious Eats / Photographer: Robby Lozano, Food Stylist: Melissa Gray, Prop Stylist: Tucker Vines

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.

Savory Tart Tatin on a green plate with a slice on another plaate
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.

Prepare Buttery, Flaky Pie Dough according to the recipe. After rolling, folding, and dividing dough in half, roll one portion into a 10-inch round, 1/8-to 1/4-inch thick. (Save the other half for another use.) Transfer to a large, flat plate lined with parchment, or another similar arrangement. Working around circumference, fold 1/2 inch of dough over itself and pinch to create 9-inch round with raised rim. Cut three 2-inch slits in center of dough, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours. 

Four steps in rolling out dough
Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Place sugar and 2 tablespoons (30ml) of the vinegar in a 10-inch oven-safe stainless-steel skillet; heat over low, undisturbed, swirling and tilting pan occasionally, until mixture is light golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Increase heat to medium-low; swirl in butter, Dijon, thyme, salt, black pepper, and remaining 4 tablespoons (60ml) vinegar; cook, stirring often, until thick and deep golden, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove from heat, pour in even layer into bottom of a 13-by 9-inch baking dish; clean and dry skillet. Place cabbage wedges in baking dish, overlapping as needed. (They won’t fit in an even layer, but will shrink as they cook). Bake, gently turning wedges every 20 minutes, until very tender and golden brown, about 1 hour.

Four steps of preparing cabbage for savory tart tatin
Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Using a slotted spoon or slotted fish spatula, transfer cabbage to the prepared baking sheet, arranging wedges in an even layer, and allow drain. Discard remaining liquids from baking dish. Using clean paper towels, firmly press cabbage wedges to soak up any excess moisture.

Drying cabbage on a baking sheet with paper towels
Serious Eats / Robby LozanoSerious Eats / Robby Lozano

Grease cleaned skillet with softened butter; arrange roasted cabbage wedges tightly in an even layer in rose pattern: Beginning in center of skillet, place small leaves/bits, slightly overlapping as needed; working out towards sides of pan, place cabbage wedges with narrow edge facing toward center, overlapping as needed until all wedges are used. Sprinkle evenly with Gruyère.

Four steps of assembling and baking a cabbage tart tatin
Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

Carefully place pastry, rim side down, over cabbage, making sure it is centered and not touching skillet sides. Bake at 400°F until crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer skillet to wire rack set; let cool for 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife or small offset around edges to loosen; place a plate over skillet, carefully invert tarte tatin onto plate. Garnish with additional thyme; slice and serve immediately.

Savory cabbage tart on a green plate
Serious Eats / Robby Lozano

Special Equipment

13- by 9-inch baking dish

Make-Ahead and Storage

You can use 1/2 (14.1 oz.) package refrigerated pie dough, at room temperature, in place of homemade pie dough or 1 sheet frozen all-butter puff pastry, thawed.