Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup

Posted on Dec 8, 2016

Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup

When we lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of our favorite spots was Cecil’s Deli.  Loved that place and ALWAYS got a reuben and a cup of cabbage soup.  That soup ~ sweet and sour, with tender pieces of beef in a tomato-based broth with cabbage.  I crave that soup and recently stumbled on a recipe for cabbage soup in my local newspaper that sounded similar, the food writer says it’s based on his mom’s version.  I tried it and this sweet-and-sour beef cabbage soup is just like Cecil’s!

Sweet Sour Beef Cabbage soup

This cabbage soup uses beef short ribs, which are a favorite of mine, a little onion and stewed tomatoes.  The flavoring is primarily from allspice, both whole berries and ground.  And the sweet-and-sour comes from brown sugar and red wine vinegar.  No chicken or beef broth, just water and simmering everything until the broth has the right concentration.

Like with so many soups and stews, this soup is much better the next day.  And after overnight refrigeration, any fat still there is hardened and easier to remove.  I definitely recommend making it a day in advance.

Meathead loves this soup, and when he brought some to work for lunch, a co-worker went nuts and said he had to have the recipe.  I know the feeling, it’s that good ~ just like Cecil’s.

Best, Kelly

Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup

Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time
1 hr 45 mins

Comforting old world sweet and sour cabbage soup with beef short ribs.

Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8
Author: Kelly ~ the hungry bluebird
  • 2 lbs beef short ribs
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ head green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 12 whole allspice berries
  • 2 (14½-oz) cans stewed tomatoes, broken up by hand ~ or in a blender
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice ~ original recipe calls for ½ tsp, season to your taste
  1. In large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Season ribs with salt and pepper.  Brown ribs on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Remove to plate, keeping all fat in pot, and set aside.  To pot, add sliced onion, sprinkle with a little salt, and stir and cook until translucent, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 4 minutes.  Pour out/drain fat.   

  2. Return browned short ribs to pot and add water, cabbage and allspice berries.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming any foam that surfaces to the top.

  3. Add broken up stewed tomatoes, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, pepper, and ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground allspice (to taste).  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Bring back to boil, then lower and simmer until meat has pulled at least ½-inch from the bone, about 30 more minutes.  Skim as much surface fat as you can.

  4. Remove beef short ribs to cutting board.  Cut meat off bone and into bite-sized pieces, trimming any fat.  Return beef to soup pot.

  5. Taste soup and adjust for salt and pepper.  If broth is too weak, continue simmering until flavors are more concentrated.  Let cool and then refrigerate overnight.  Remove any hardened fat from surface.  Reheat and serve.

*Adapted from St. Louis Post Dispatch, Mom’s Cabbage Soup, November 30, 2016

4 thoughts

  1. Peggy

    May 2, 2017

    This soup sounds delicious! Question… the allspice berries … do they soften while cooking? I’ve never used them before.


    1. Kelly


      May 3, 2017

      No, not really. I think they’re kind of strong to bite into, but they definitely add to the flavor profile of this soup.


  2. This sounds a lot like my uncle Ricky’s “borscht” (not really borscht), which I have been craving for, no lie, like 5 years. Going to give this a whirl this week, with some beer bread on the side 🙂 Thanks for the recipe, take care!


    1. Kelly

      I love this soup! Hope you do, too.