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Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup

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!

Overhead photo of soup pot with ladle full of 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!


Photo of ingredients.

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.

Soup in bowl with spoon.

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.

Pot of beef cabbge soup

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🍴🐦

Close up of cabbage soup in servi ng bowl with spoon.

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Soup in bowl with spoon.

Sweet-and-Sour Beef Cabbage Soup

Comforting old world sweet and sour cabbage soup made with beef short ribs, cabbage, red wine vinegar, brown sugar and allspice.
4.8 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 274kcal
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


  • 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.
Keyword: Sweet and sour beef cabbage soup, deli cabbage soup, beef cabbage soup
Did you make this recipe? Please comment, rate it and share! And mention me on Instagram @thehungrybluebird or tag #thehungrybluebird so I can see!

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

Piece of gingerbread with whipped cream on white plate.
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Recipe Rating

Michael S

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.


Friday 27th of December 2019

I was really looking for that east coast Jewish deli cabbage soup that I grew up on... AND THIS IS IT. I added a little ketchup and withheld some vinegar, and I couldn’t find all spice berries, so I added some extra ground allspice. Next time I might add a bit more cabbage (personal preference). Thank you!


Saturday 28th of December 2019

I know!! Nothing like it and it's so simple. Glad you liked it and made it your own.


Wednesday 26th of December 2018

This was so good. Everyone loved this soup. Had so many ask for the recipe. I will definitely make this again!


Tuesday 18th of September 2018

I cannot thank you enough for posting this great recipe! I live in the Minneapolis and the soup from Cecil's is on top of my list in the nation. My grandmother used to make something similar but it was never written down. Super excited to serve this to my favorite people.


Wednesday 19th of September 2018

when we moved to St. Paul and were looking for a house, our realtor took us to Cecil's for lunch. We were hooked on the cabbage soup ever since!

Cindy Gale

Thursday 19th of April 2018

Add 1/2 cup ketchup and 1/4 cup lemon juice!even better