Vegan sweet and sour cabbage soup is a hearty bowlful of cold-weather comfort. This classic gets a bit more heft with homemade croutons nestled into each serving. Don’t be intimidated by the length of the ingredient list. Everything just gets tossed into the pot at a leisurely pace.
This soup has made its way into several cuisines — Hungarian, Jewish, and more recently, vegetarian and now vegan. Is it one of those naturally vegan recipes? Definitely not, though plant-based versions are as standard as one that aren’t.
A cozy soup for a winter day, it’s a generous pot full of inexpensive ingredients — onions, garlic, potato, carrots, and of course, cabbage, in a paprika-spiced broth.
The recommended lemon/sugar balance in the recipe yields a subtle sweet/sour flavor, so add more to keep pushing it to your please your palate, if you’d like a more assertive result.
Adapted from Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
- 3 to 4 cups cubed (about 1 inch) Italian or sourdough bread
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium yellow or red onions, quartered and thinly sliced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 cups water
- 2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 large or 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 cups firmly packed coarsely shredded green cabbage
- 1 medium green or red bell pepper, diced
- 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 3 tablespoons natural granulated sugar, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Cayenne pepper or dried hot red pepper flakes, optional
- Preheat the oven to 350º F. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden and crisp, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions and garlic and sauté over medium heat until golden, about 8 minutes.
- Add the water, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, bell pepper, tomatoes, wine, paprika, and cumin. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
- Stir in the lemon juice and sugar, as well as the optional Balsamic vinegar. Add more lemon juice and/or sugar until you get the sweet/sour balance that pleases your palate.
- Season with salt and pepper. If you’d like a spicier soup, add the cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes longer. If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or two to develop flavor. If need be, add a little more water if the soup is too crowded, adjust the seasonings and sweet-sour balance, then heat through before serving.
- Serve in one of two ways: Either divide the bread cubes among the serving bowls and ladle the stew over them; the bread will absorb much of the liquid and add a tasty, textural element to the soup. Or, simply pass around the bread cubes to use as croutons.
Feel free to substitute agave syrup for the natural granulated sugar.
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