This purple cabbage soup is chunky, nourishing and oh-so delicious. Packed with wholesome goodness and vibrant colors that will have the pickiest eaters coming back for more.
Now don't let the list of ingredients scare you away — most are everyday staples. And while the star ingredient of this recipe is purple cabbage, you can easily swap it with regular green cabbage.
And if your young ones have a liking for vibrant-colored food (like this soup), surprise them with a purple cow float — just on days they've been on their absolute best behavior 🙂. You'll also find a grown-up version on the recipe page of the float.
Purple cabbage soup
Purple cabbage (aka red cabbage) differs from green cabbage not only in color but also in nutritional content — it has more vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants. And is a little more peppery in taste.
That said, I don't make this soup for any specific dietary reasons. For me it's a delicious and simple way to enjoy bowl full of veggies.
While I've come across pureed purple cabbage soups, I prefer mine to be chunky, almost like a complete meal, filling and satisfying. Just like this Tom Yum soup.
To create the soup base I start with garlic, ginger and the classic mirepoix (mix of onion, celery and carrot). Plus few simple seasonings, including a little cayenne, to tie it all together and bring the flavors home.
Why you'll love this soup?
- Nutrient-rich — packed with purple cabbage and other veggies, dense in fiber and nutrients and low in calories. Essentially, an excellent, wholesome and comforting meal.
- Customizable — add veggies you like, switch up the beans and adjust the spiciness to your liking. Plenty of ways to personalize it.
- Vegan-friendly — use veggie bouillon instead of chicken bullion to make the soup vegan.
- Easy to prepare — while the prep may take a little time, the actual cooking process is quite simple.
Here are some helpful notes on ingredients you'll need to make this purple cabbage soup. See the recipe card below for exact quantities.
- Olive oil – or any cooking oil of choice.
- Freshly grated ginger – must be fresh, avoid store-bought paste or powder.
- Minced fresh garlic cloves – finely minced or use a garlic press.
- Mirepoix/soffritto veggie mix – onion, carrot, and celery. I prefer yellow onion, but red onion and shallots work as well. You can use purple carrot for added vibrancy and color.
- Tomato – I like fresh tomato, but you can use half of a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes.
- Chicken bouillon – I use Better Than Bouillon paste, but cubes and powder also work. Different products have varying levels of saltiness. Read the package instructions to know the amount you will need to make 3 cups of broth/stock and use that quantity. If unsure, start with less, then adjust later. Another option is to use 3 cups of chicken stock / broth (omit bouillon and 3 cups of water). You will still need 1.5 cups of water. Low-sodium options are great for easier salt adjustment.
- Canned cannellini beans (white kidney beans) – other canned white beans like great northern beans or navy beans can also be used instead. Black beans are also fine but may affect the soup's appearance. Canned chickpeas are another option.
- White vinegar – crucial for some acidity to maintain color. Apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar will be fine too.
- Purple cabbage (also known as red cabbage) – it's the star ingredient but you can also use regular green cabbage. Napa, savoy and bok choy will work too. If you want to know how to cut cabbage properly, check out this companion post I've created — it has step-by-step photos.
- Cornstarch – for making a slurry.
- Fresh lime juice – avoid bottled juice. You can substitute with an equal amount of lemon juice.
- Cilantro – or try chopped fresh parsley, dill or mint for a slightly different flavor.
- Seasonings – whole cumin, dried thyme (or substitute with oregano or Italian seasoning mix), ground white pepper, salt, cayenne pepper (or paprika for milder heat) and sugar (white or brown).
Note: You can always add more veggies but when doing so remember to adjust the quantity of seasonings and water accordingly.
Good to know: The French term "mirepoix" and the Italian term "soffritto" both refer to a mix of diced/chopped onion, celery, and carrot. This combo is commonly used as a flavor base in a wide range of dishes worldwide — including many soups and braises.
How to make purple cabbage soup
Follow these simple, photo-assisted instructions to prepare this delicious soup. Check out recipe card below for a printable version that has quantities, instructions and notes in one place.
Heat oil in big pot over medium heat. Saute ginger and garlic, stirring constantly for approx one minute.
Then add onion, carrot, celery and seasonings I've mentioned. Cook for about 10 mins or until onions become soft. Stir regularly.
Add tomatoes and cook and stir for another 4 minutes.
Next, put in chicken bouillon paste/powder, white beans and hot water. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and then simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
Pour the vinegar, stir briefly and then add purple cabbage. Allow to simmer for approx 6 minutes or until the cabbage wilts. Take care not to overcook.
Mix cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water and add this slurry to pot. Boil 2 minutes or until the soup thickens.
Turn off the heat and add chopped cilantro.
Also add fresh lime juice and give a quick stir. Serve and enjoy!
- Cut your cabbage small — you need bite-sized pieces. Don't worry if they're uneven. Just cut spoon-friendly pieces.
- Be cautious with bouillon — If not familiar with the saltiness of the product you are using, start small and then increase the quantity later after a taste-test.
- Stir frequently — in the initial steps, before you add water, make sure to stir veggies almost constantly to prevent them from burning. If it appears too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water.
- Adjust the seasonings and liquid — If you're adding more vegetables or protein, remember to increase the quantity of spices/seasonings and water/broth/stock accordingly.
- Dont skip lemon/lime juice — a bit of acidity from citrus will help balance the flavors in the soup.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
It's pretty much the same as cutting a green cabbage. First, remove any bruised/damaged outer leaves, then give a good wash. Place on cutting board and slice in half from top to bottom. Lay each half flat on the board and cut into half again. Take each quarter and make slices. I don't remove the core and work my way around it while slicing. Next, take the cabbage slices and cut through them in the opposite direction to create smaller pieces. You don't want the pieces to be too long so they're easy to spoon out.
Absolutely! Just swap out the chicken bouillon for vegetable bouillon/broth/stock.
It can! Cruciferous vegetables (including cabbage) are known for high fiber content and complex carbs that can cause gas and bloating in some folks. Cooking helps break down some of it, making digestion a bit easier. The addition of garlic is helpful too.
Wrap it tightly in plastic/cling wrap or place in resealable plastic bag with excess air squeezed out. Store in the crisper drawer of refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. You can also shred and use it in salads, stir-fries or as topping for tacos or burgers.
You sure can. I've shared a bunch of substitution ideas (including purple cabbage alternatives) in the ingredient notes section earlier.
Storing and reheating
- Storing — let the soup cool down then store in airtight container in the fridge (3 to 4 days) or freezer-safe bags/containers in the freezer (2 to 3 months).
- Thawing — leave overnight in the fridge or place the sealed soup container/bag in a bowl of cold water if in a hurry.
- Reheating on cooktop — use a pot to reheat on medium heat.
- Reheating in microwave — transfer to a microwave-safe container, heat in 1-minute intervals, stirring in between.
Variations of purple cabbage soup
- Use different types of cabbages — green, savoy, napa, and even bok choy work can be used. The soup will look different, but the taste will still be fantastic.
- Add different veggies — use up leftover vegetables or add the ones you like. Just make sure not to leave out the ones that form the flavorful base (ginger, garlic, onion, carrot, and celery). When incorporating extra veggies, remember to adjust the amount of water and seasonings accordingly to maintain a balanced flavor.
- Try other beans — I use canned white kidney (cannellini) beans, but feel free to use any canned white bean variety. Chickpeas are also a great option.
- Add carbs — for a more filling soup, add small cubed pieces of potatoes and cook them before adding the cabbage. You can also include cooked brown or white rice during the final minutes of cooking.
- Experiment with herbs — swap out dried thyme for an equal amount of oregano or dried Italian seasoning mix.
- Use leftover protein — if you have shredded chicken, pulled beef or pulled pork on hand, add it during last few minutes of cooking.
- Add ground meat — you can also put in uncooked ground beef, chicken, turkey or pork. Add it after sauteing ginger and garlic. Also add couple tablespoons of water if needed and let it cook. Once the meat is almost done, mix in onion, carrot, celery and seasonings. Proceed with the remaining steps as outlined.
- Get creative with your spices — for added heat, increase the amount of cayenne slightly or choose paprika for a milder level of spiciness. Or omit these completely and use a little chili powder (the seasoning mix, not Indian red pepper powder).
- Pair with bread — serve with crusty bread (even better with some garlic butter slathered on top). A simple toast will be great too.
- Croutons — add some on top just before serving.
- Fresh herbs — top the soup with finely chopped fresh herbs that are in season. Dill, mint and parsley are good choices.
- Sauces and condiments — try sriracha (or honey sriracha), sambal oelek or ketchup for some flavor and heat variation.
- Side salads — pair with fresh salad to complement soup's warm flavors. Go for something simple. let the soup shine.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
- 3 large garlic cloves - finely minced. Around 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
- ½ large onion - finely chopped. 1 cup chopped or around 140 grams or 5 ounces. (Note A)
- 1 thin carrot - peeled and finely diced. ½ cup chopped or around 80 grams or 3 ounces.
- 1 medium celery rib / stalk - finely chopped, ½ cup chopped or around 70 grams or 2.5 ounces
- 1 large tomato - finely chopped. 1 cup chopped or 150 grams or 5 ounces.
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon paste or powder - or vegetable bouillon. (Note B)
- 1 cup canned white kidney beans (cannellini) - drained and rinsed when measured. Around 180 grams or 6 ounces. (Note C)
- 4.5 cups water
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar - (Note D)
- 4 cups sliced purple cabbage - aka red cabbage, around ½ head or 400 grams or 14 ounces.
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch - for slurry
- 1.5 tablespoon fresh lime juice - or lemon juice. Juice of ½ lime
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro - finely chopped (Note E)
- 1.5 teaspoon whole cumin
- 1 teaspoons dried thyme - (Note F)
- ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper - or sub with paprika for mild heat
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar - white or brown
- Heat olive oil in a big pot on medium heat, then add ginger, garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir constantly.
- Next add onion, carrot, celery and all above-mentioned seasonings. Cook for 10 minutes or until the onions become soft (avoid browning) while stirring regularly.
- Add tomato and cook for another 4 minutes. Continue stirring.
- Add chicken bouillon paste/powder, white beans and water (preferably hot water for faster cooking). Let it come to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 5 mins.
- Pour in the vinegar, give a quick stir, then add purple cabbage. Simmer for 6 minutes or until the cabbage has wilted. Be careful not to overcook.
- Next prepare some slurry with cornstarch and 2 tablespoons cold water.
- Pour in this slurry and boil soup for 2 minutes or until it thickens.
- Turn off the heat then add lime juice and cilantro. Give a quick mix and serve.
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