Sweet & Sour Cabbage

With fall vegetables coming into the farmers’ market, we’ll be going through a head of cabbage a week – it is a big favorite with our daughter, who loves it in just about any form, but particularly just plain steamed with butter and salt – she is always happy with plate of corned beef and cabbage in front of her!

This recipe is a Chinese treatment of our western type of cabbage, but it can also be made with napa if you prefer a milder cabbage flavor – napa won’t need to cook as long. It’s a great do-ahead side dish that can be served chilled if you have a lot of last-minute work on other dishes.


  • 1 small head of cabbage, about 1 lb
  • 1 small red chile pepper, cut into rounds (more to taste) – optional
  • 1 T cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt – you may not need any, or more to taste


  • 2 T sugar, preferably light brown or raw cane
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 1 T light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch


  1. Remove the outer leaves and core of the cabbage, then cut it into 1/4″ ribbons about 2″ long.
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in the wok over high heat until it shimmers, then explode the chile pepper rounds until fragrant if you’re using them.
  4. Add the cabbage and stirfry quickly for 2-3 m, depending on how tender you like it.
  5. Stir the sauce ingredients, then add to the wok, stirring constantly for another 1-2 m until the sauce is thickened and the starchy taste is cooked out.
  6. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

do ahead:

This dish can be prepared up to a few hours in advance – cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Bring back to room temperature before serving, or the sauce will look dull. If made too far in advance, the cabbage will turn an unappealing drab color.

nutritional data:

This recipe serves 4 as part of a larger meal, nutritional information is per serving. I have included the chile pepper and the salt in the calculations. To reduce the sodium content, you could try reducing or eliminating the salt or reducing the amount of soy sauce used. To reduce the fat content, which is already minimal, you could instead prepare the sauce without thickener, “saute” the cabbage in the sauce ingredients, then thicken with the cornstarch dissolved in a bit of water. The end result will not be the same, but it will be close.

  • Total calories 87, calories from fat 32
  • Total fat 4 g, total saturated fat 1 g
  • Cholesterol 0 mg
  • Sodium 565 mg
  • Total carbs 13 g, dietary fiber 3 g, sugars 9 g
  • Protein 2 g

3 Responses

  1. Love this I’m trying this tonight. Thanks Kim

  2. Thanks for visiting – let me know how you like it!

  3. I tried this last night hoping to recreate the dish I remembered from when I was young in China. It was a good start, but I’ll try less sugar and more vinegar next time to suit my personal tastes. Thanks for the inspiration!

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