Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup ~ simple and comforting old world soup made with beef short ribs, cabbage, allspice, brown sugar and red wine vinegar. Almost as good as Cecil's in Saint Paul, Minnesota!
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!
This recipe 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🍴🐦
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Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup
- 2 lbs beef short ribs
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- 2 tablespoon 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 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice ~ original recipe calls for ½ tsp, season to your taste
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove beef short ribs to cutting board. Cut meat off bone and into bite-sized pieces, trimming any fat. Return beef to soup pot.
- 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
Sunday 26th of March 2023
Made in the slow cooker. Did the beef and onions in the stockpot at first to brown then transfered to slow cooker. 3 hours on high. It was lacking in taste so I added 1/2 c. ketchup as one review said and added 1/2 c more red wine vinegar 1/2 tsp more grounded allspice and more salt & pepper to taste. I'd add more short-ribs as I didn't get much meat off the ones I bought. Eager to try next day as many noted that it will be more flavorful.
Monday 5th of December 2022
Growing up this was my favorite soup, my brother hated it so I would eat his portion. I couldn't find my mothers recipe but by George I think this is it. The only thing different is hers had raisins it it so I do add a few raisins to it, in memory of her ( I hate the raisins and pick them out). Since finding this recipe I've made this several times and am making it today. Thanks for sharing.
Sunday 9th of January 2022
I have a similar recipe that also includes sauerkraut with the cabbage. Oh so yummy. Even here in Texas it gets cool and love it. Freezes well. Too!
Wednesday 12th of January 2022
I bet it's delicious with sauerkraut!
Saturday 4th of December 2021
This recipe is to die for...easy and yummy...didn't have Allspice berries found substitution was ground allspice...used 1 teaspoon...couldn't find bone-in shortribs so use boneless...bet even tastier using bone in.
Saturday 19th of December 2020
This turned out amazing! Just as good as the soup I get at the deli. Thank you!
Wednesday 23rd of December 2020
Thank you, Michael. I’m making a pot tomorrow! Love this soup.