Jewish Style Sweet and Sour Vegan Cabbage

Cabbage is one of nature’s miracle foods. You don’t have to buy exotic foods like Goji berry to have a healthy diet. Goji berries are great, and are used in Chinese medicine as food medicine and in medicinal formulas for problems of weakness and poor eyesight. But cabbage is one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet and stands up to rough treatment like pickling and salting as well as being wonderful in salads and slaws and soups and sautes. This recipe is based on my grandmother’s Jewish style sweet and sour vegan cabbage. It can also be prepared with the addition of ground meat, or as my mom used to do, sliced hot dog. Slavic people often add sausage. For more info on Cabbage as Super Food: Western Nutritional Info and a Salad Recipe

One of the characteristics of Jewish cooking from Morocco to Iran to Poland to France is the love of sweet and sour flavor combinations in cooked vegetable and meat dishes. This may be why when if you go to a store or section of a store specializing in Jewish food products, in addition to bottled gefilte fish and packages of matzo ball soup mix, you will usually see a sweet and sour sauce for “Chinese” sweet and sour chicken. This is a variation on the theme of the sweet and sour cabbage I grew up with. I hope you will enjoy it, experiment with it, and make it your own.

 Ayurvedic Analysis of Sweet and Sour Vegan Cabbage

In Ayurvedic terms this recipe is an excellent example for how you can adapt a foodstuff for your dosha by preparing it a particular sort of way. In this case we take a mildly Vata elevating substance like cabbage, and prepare it in a way that reduces, dramatically, its elevating characteristics. This is why just following an Ayurvedic list of foods that does not elevate your dosha is simplistic.  (It also does not take into account your secondary dosha). Its very important how foods are prepared and combined and of course how much, how often, and how you eat them. A veggie like cabbage elevates Vata mildly, so that does not mean you can never have it if you are a Vata dominant type. It means you should have it less often and in smaller quantities and rarely ever raw, but even then, with a warming, unctuous dressing.

In this case, because this dish is cooked,  sweet, sour, salty, unctuous, and warming, it has all the characteristics Vata needs. In fact, in Chinese Medicine cabbage is considered very easy to digest, compared with, for example, collard green or kale, which suggests that it is not much elevating to Vata so long as its cooked.  It has a sweet flavor, a neutral temperature (neither heating nor cooling) and when Chinese Medicine says is “nourishes the Spleen” this is code for “it is easy to digest and relatively neutral, bland, and light.” In Chinese medicine cabbage also “regulates the stomach” which also indicates its easy digestability, but also the fact that its boilded liquid or cooked juice is used as Kitchen Medicine to treat gastric and duodenal ulcer.  It turns out that cabbage is rich in Vitamin U like substances that help heal ulcerations in the gut.

Eating nicely cooked mildly spiced vegetables with some fat such as the olive oil in this dish is an excellent way to maintain bowel regularity, and is especially critical when consuming flesh foods. Chinese Medicine says, “eat rice for energy, meat for strength, and vegetables to keep everything moving and clean.”

As this dish is not very sour or salty, so, as a fundamentally light vegetable dish it is also excellent for Pitta and Kapha. We can, therefore, say that this cabbage preparation style is Tri Doshic, and suitable for all three doshas. Still, if you are Vata type who is sensitive to cabbage this might not be for you, but again, there is a huge difference between this recipe and eating steamed plain cabbage.

Modify for the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha

To reduce the chance of Vata elevation, you might substitute pear for apple, although, again, in cooked form like this apple is much less likely to elevate Vata than in raw form.

To reduce the chance of elevating Pitta, you can make it less sour, perhaps leave out the tomato, or just use less, leave out the pepper, or make it more on the sweet side. Again, all of this is relative to whether the Pitta person is elevated or not, for example, if they have a hot type skin disorder then you might modify. On its own, in moderation, this is a perfectly balanced dish for a pitta, because cabbage like all leafy veggies has the bitter taste, and cabbage, as a veggie is light, not heavy.

To make more Kapha pacifying, you could use less oil, and make the dish less sweet and less sour, and increase the pungency. Perhaps leave out the raisins. But, once again, in moderation this dish is fundamentally tri-doshic in will not elevate Kapha much, also because it is a vegetable dish and fundamentally light. Add cayenne pepper and or paprika if you like.


1 small head of green cabbage, sliced

1 small red onion, chopped into slices

1 medium carrot, sliced in small rounds

1-2 tsp golden raisin

½ cup chopped apple. Granny smith is classic, gives more sour taste. But I prefer Fuji, sweeter, less Vata elevating

1 tbsp chopped Walnut

1-2 tbsp Olive Oil

1/4 cup chopped or pureed tomato, or even tomato juice

1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar, more or less to taste

1 tsp coconut sugar or some mild raw sugar like raw sugar cane powder like sucanat brand

1 tsp coriander powder

3 whole cloves

1 large bay leaf

½ tsp white pepper

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp water may be needed


Saute the onion, carrot, walnut, clove, and bay leaf in the olive oil on a medium to medium high heat. When the onions are half cooked and a little brown, add the coriander and stir a minute, then add the cabbage, apple and raisins.

Stir for 5 minutes, add all the other ingredients, stir well, cover, and reduce to simmer. Every 3 minutes or so, stir. You may need to add a little water, so that it cooks nicely and becomes a little more soft than crunchy.

I like to cook till the carrots are soft, but still bright in color. The cabbage should be soft, but not overcooked, unless you are my grandmother, by whose standards overcooked was the right amount of cooked.

Serve With

This is a great cold weather vegetable side dish with steamed buckwheat groats (Kasha) and brown lentils. Its a great side dish with a flesh food dish. And can also be made as a soup, in which case more water and tomato are used, or tomato juice. As a soup serve with a dollop of high quality plain yogurt, like Pavels, or my current favorite is Whole Foods own brand non-fat Greek Yogurt, or go all the way and serve with sour cream and dill.

Ways to modify this dish for Vegans and Carnivores/Paleos


I like to use coriander in this dish because its fragrant, sweet, and helps Vata types digest cabbage well. I am also very used to using coriander in vegetables from my experience living in India. But a more Slavic spice style would be to omit coriander and instead use fresh or dried dill. When I use dill I often go with red cabbage, but I can’t say why, maybe I like the green dill with the red color of the red cabbage more. Dried dill add with the tomato, fresh dill add at the end and stirr in

Vegans who want more protein and fat can also used pumpkin seeds in this dish. You can roast them in the toaster oven and sprinkle on top, or grind them and cook them in with the onions, or do both. Experiment. Let a thousand flowers bloom! I have even added a tablespoon of tahina to this recipe. Chopped tofu or tempeh are great in this dish

Meat eaters will find chopped grass fed beef or chicken hot dogs excellent in this dish, and give more of the authentic Eastern European feel. Vata dosha benefits from the warming, stregnthening, and grounding effects of small amounts of meat, and hot dogs are easy to digest because of the spices and also texture. Alternatively,  some small amount of ground grass fed beef or buffalo gives  a warming and savory flavor and in small amounts is also excellent for its grounding affect on Vata. When I made this dish I used 2 grass fed beef hot dogs, chopped.


Copyright eyton j. shalom, l.ac. san diego, ca march 2016 all rights reserved use with permission

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