Sweet and sour cabbage soup is loaded with fresh vegetables including cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions. This meatless soup does use beef broth as a base but could be easily tweaked to be vegetarian-friendly.
During the winter soup season, we are always experimenting with new recipes because as much as I love chicken noodle soup, I love to have variety in my life.
This sweet and sour cabbage soup might be my favorite soup I've made all winter. The unusual sweet and sour tang is a delicious twist from our classic soup recipes.
The meatless soup features loads of fresh vegetables including cabbage, carrots, celery, onions, and tomatoes.
The sweet and sour flavor comes from a mixture of brown sugar and lemon juice.
The recipe makes a huge batch so thankfully it is freezer-friendly. You could simmer a pot this weekend and save the leftovers for an easy weeknight dinner down the road.
Why This is the Best Recipe
Our house smelled like heaven on the day I cooked this cabbage soup. I seriously couldn't wait for dinner.
This is the best sweet and sour cabbage soup recipe because:
- Affordable: Anything that uses budget-friendly cabbage as a base is a big win in my book these days.
- Healthy: Tons of veggies and no meat make this a perfect choice for Meatless Monday or a Friday during Lent.
- Big Flavor: The sweet and sour broth is one of my new favorite things. I absolutely loved this flavorful soup.
- Big Batch & Freezer Friendly: The recipe makes a nice big batch but is freezer friendly so you can save your leftovers for an easy dinner later.
- Super Unique: If you're tired of eating chicken noodle soup over and over, this is a wildly different soup to add to your routine.
This easy vegetable soup requires a few fresh things from the grocery store along with pantry staples you probably already have on hand:
- Fresh Dill
- Olive Oil
- Beef Bouillon or Beef Stock
- Canned Tomatoes
- V8 Tomato Juice
- Golden Raisins
- Brown Sugar
- Maple Syrup
- Caraway Seeds
The Best Soup Pot to Use
The cabbage does cook down as the soup simmers but be warned before you start:
You're going to need a large soup pot to make this recipe.
As you'll see in the photos below, I started cooking it in my dutch oven which has a pretty large capacity.
But once I added the chopped cabbage, it was clear I wasn't going to have much room to add the beef broth or stir the soup very well.
I simply poured all the veggies into the largest soup pot I have and there was plenty of room to finish the soup.
Soften the Veggies
The first step is to add the chopped carrots, onions, and celery to the olive oil in your soup pot over medium-high heat.
Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and pepper to season and cook until the onions have softened.
Add the Cabbage
I preferred to chop my cabbage into small square-shaped chunks. If you prefer, you could also shred the cabbage into strips.
Either way, just make sure the cabbage pieces are bite-sized friendly so that you don't feel like you're eating a bowl of spaghetti when you eat the soup.
It is going to look like a LOT of cabbage when you add it to the pot, but cabbage really cooks down and reduces in volume pretty quickly.
This is the cabbage when I first added it to the pot:
This is how the cabbage cooked down after just 5 minutes.
It is still a large quantity but continued to reduce in volume the longer I simmered the soup.
Make the Sweet and Sour Broth
Once you've got the veggies softened and the cabbage reduced, it is time to build the sweet and sour soup broth.
The big flavor comes from a few fun ingredients:
First we'll add some V8 vegetable juice. This is a great way to boost the tomato flavor.
To give the sweetness to the sweet and sour broth, we add a mixture of brown sugar, maple syrup, and sweet golden raisins:
To help cut the sweetness and boost the sour flavor, fresh squeezed lemon juice is added to the broth:
The rest of the broth is made up of water plus some beef bouillon OR you could just go for a few boxes of beef stock if you prefer.
Cook the Soup
Once you've stirred together the broth, add the entire can of diced tomatoes and the caraway seeds and stir.
Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low.
Simmer for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring it occasionally.
When you're simmering soup for a long time and you want to let it work while you do other things, I have the greatest trick for making sure your soup doesn't boil over!
Simply place a wooden spoon across the top of your soup pot like this, it will prevent the soup from boiling over. It's crazy but it works!
Adjust the Seasonings
Once the soup has simmered for an hour, be sure to sample the broth because you may need to adjust the seasonings.
If the soup isn't sweet enough: add just a little bit more brown sugar, a tablespoon or so at a time.
If the soup isn't sour enough: squeeze more lemon juice into the broth. I definitely liked my serving on the sour side of things.
If the soup doesn't have enough "punch": you might actually need a hefty pinch of kosher salt to bring out the flavor.
If you want to turn this into a slowcooker soup, you just need an easy tweak.
Start by softening the vegetables in a large pot on the stovetop. Then pour them into the bowl of your Crockpot.
Add all the broth ingredients to the bowl and stir.
Cover and cook for 6 - 7 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH.
Make Ahead Tips
This sweet and sour cabbage soup makes such a big batch and the leftovers reheat perfectly.
You can easily store the soup in your fridge for up to one week and reheat it over the stove top or in the microwave.
You can freeze this soup for up to 12 months.
Simply thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in a pot on the stove.
I served our sweet and sour cabbage soup with homemade buttermilk cornbread and they were a wonderful pairing!
You could also serve it with buttermilk biscuits, Italian bread, or slices of challah.
Easy Flavor Variation:
My husband and I both LOVE sweet and spicy foods. Add a dash or two of cayenne pepper to your bowl at the table for another fun way to eat the soup.
Leftover Cabbage Recipes
If you prefer to cut this recipe in half and want to use half of your cabbage head in a different way, you could also make fried cabbage or add it to my homemade Irish beef hand pies recipe.
Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 large or 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 1 head of green cabbage, cored and chopped
- 2 cups V8 juice
- 16 cups water
- 4 heaping tablespoons of Better Than Beef Bouillon OR Substitute 16 cups beef stock for the water above
- 1 (12 oz) can diced tomatoes
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- 1 ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 3 lemons, juiced
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- ¼ cup fresh dill, minced
- In a very large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped cabbage to the pot. It will seem like a LOT, but it will cook down. Stir and cook for 5 - 10 minutes or until the volume of cabbage has reduced.
- Add the V8 juice to the pot and stir. Then add either the water & bouillon OR beef stock. Add the entire can of tomatoes, raisins, brown sugar, maple syrup, lemon juice and caraway seeds to the pot and stir. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the soup for 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings as needed to get the right balance between sweet and sour.
- Stir in the chopped dill right before serving.
Crockpot InstructionsIf you want to turn this into a slowcooker soup, you just need an easy tweak.
Start by softening the vegetables in a large pot on the stovetop. Then pour them into the bowl of your Crockpot. Add all the broth ingredients to the bowl and stir.
Cover and cook for 6 - 7 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH.
Freezer-FriendlyYou can make this sweet and sour cabbage soup and freeze it in smaller containers for easy lunches or dinners another time. Simply thaw in the fridge overnight and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
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