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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.
4.83 from 17 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 servings
Calories: 251kcal


  • 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.

Recipe Notes

 I love to serve this with a crusty bread to soak up every last drop.


Calories: 251kcal Carbohydrates: 19g Protein: 18g Fat: 12g Saturated Fat: 4g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 49mg Sodium: 298mg Potassium: 647mg Fiber: 3g Sugar: 13g Vitamin A: 235IU Vitamin C: 30mg Calcium: 89mg Iron: 4mg
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

4.83 from 17 votes (8 ratings without comment)
Recipe Rating

Lisa Malchow

Monday 15th of January 2024

Soup is wonderful. I too, added ketchup (to taste) and added more red wine vinegar and brown sugar to taste. Will definitely make again.


Wednesday 15th of November 2023

Can I substitute chuck roast for ribs?


Tuesday 28th of November 2023

@Veronica, Chuck cut into 1-2 “ Squares is what my mom used. She also used kosher rock salt for the sour and sugar for the sweet. She wound add a touch of Del monte catsup which was made with pineapple juice. She would make a roaster pot at a time. It was always consumed quickly. My college buddies would dial her up to make it and go over to the house without even telling me. Lots of Beef, Lots of cabbage and whole canned tomatoes. Back then, she preferred The large 2 inch chunks of chuck because they don’t disintegrate


Friday 17th of November 2023

That should work just fine, a good choice!


Wednesday 15th of November 2023

Yes, that should work just fine.


Monday 9th of October 2023

CECILS's is the BEST!!!! I recently moved away from St. Paul and have been CRAVING this soup -- I have a different version going in my crockpot right now... will have to make this one some day and compare. Love that I'm not the only one craving Cecil's cabbage borscht!


Tuesday 6th of June 2023

There used to be a restaurant here in Lake arrowhead, called the Chef’s Inn. Chef Walter made this amazing soup, and it was offered nightly as your choice of soup or salad with the entrée. The only thing I did differently is add one garlic clove, and bouillon, because the broth was too weak. It’s absolutely amazing and I will make it many more days to come.

Basia P

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.