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A trusty cabbage soup recipe is an invaluable cold-weather essential.

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What Is Cabbage Soup?

Cabbage soup is a family of (mostly) vegetable soups featuring different varieties of cabbage or sauerkraut as their main ingredient. The cabbage adds a textural highlight to the soup because it can retain its distinctive crunch even when cooked for longer periods. Green cabbage, white cabbage, and red cabbage will garner slightly different flavors—red is on the sweeter side, while green and white are milder. Using sauerkraut instead of raw cabbage brings a bright, tangy flavor to otherwise rich and creamy soups.

There are variations of cabbage soup across the globe: Italian cabbage soup features chicken and tomato paste while Poland has several variations, many of which highlight the sauerkraut.

6 Types of Cabbage Soup

Many cuisines worldwide feature cabbage simmered with an assortment of veggies and occasionally meatballs or tender pieces of sausage. Here’s a look at the different types of cabbage soup:

  1. Cabbage roll soup: In a nod to classic Eastern European cabbage rolls, this soup features ground beef and rice in a tomato-based sauce.
  2. Italian cabbage soup: Like ribollita, Italian-style cabbage soup features a chicken or vegetable broth base enhanced with tomato paste and Italian seasonings like dried oregano and bay leaf, and a savory collection of classic winter stew vegetables: white beans, zucchini, carrots, celery, and occasionally, Italian sausage.
  3. Polish cabbage soup: There are many versions of Polish sauerkraut soup, or kapuśniak/kwaśnica: Some that are entirely vegetarian, and others that incorporate chicken broth and slices of Polish sausage, or kielbasa.
  4. Swedish cabbage soup: Buttery, rich Swedish cabbage soup incorporates potatoes, caraway, and fresh herbs like dill into a vegetable or chicken stock base. Occasionally, the soup may feature meatballs made from ground turkey or ground beef.
  5. Russian shchi: Hailing from Russia, this traditional cabbage soup, or “shchi,” comes in many different iterations, but most feature cabbage, celery, potatoes, and diced tomatoes.
  6. Summer vegetable cabbage soup: To make the most of a late-summer garden bounty, combine canned tomatoes (use fire-roasted tomatoes for a smoky undertone) with sliced zucchini, grilled bell peppers, and halved green beans.

4 Tips for Making Cabbage Soup

Cabbage soup is an easy recipe to adapt or improvise on. Here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Experiment with texture. There’s more than one way to slice a cabbage, especially when it comes to the soup: thinly sliced, shredded cabbage will mean a thicker, juicier bite, whereas whole or roughly chopped cabbage leaves allow for more crunch and mingling with other ingredients.
  2. Incorporate leftovers. Like many vegetable soups, recipes for cabbage soup are determined by what you have in your fridge and your preferences. You can add in a handful of lentils, grains like farro or pearl barley, use sweet potatoes in place of waxy ones, or top it with last night’s leftover braised chicken.
  3. Change the cooking method. If you’re short on time or prefer a low-and-slow approach, you can make cabbage soup in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker instead of on the stovetop. Reserve some shredded cabbage, and stir it into the soup just before serving to add more crunch.
  4. Storage. Though cabbage soup tastes best fresh, it will keep for a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can store it in the freezer for up to six months before it begins to lose its flavor.