Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs (Unstuffed)

Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy.
Unstuffed Sweet and Sour Cabbage is a traditional Eastern Jewish dish. Hearty and perfect for a cold winter’s day, I hope you enjoy this classic.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs

If you’ve never had sweet and sour cabbage with meatballs, I suggest it’s time you try it! This classic Eastern European dish is perfect for a cold winter day. Though I turned up my nose at the soup part when I was a wee one, I did manage to devour the meatballs. Isn’t that the best part?

As a child we never ate stuffed peppers and we never had stuffed cabbage. In fact, I don’t remember my mother stuffing anything! The funny thing about this recipe is that is that the real title is unstuffed cabbage.  I imagine that is versus stuffed cabbage.

The meatballs are what I believe would be the stuffed  inside the cabbage leaves.  Except just as a ground beef mixture. Well, I don’t know about you, but I think this is a whole lot easier than stuffing cabbage leaves  and certainly a lot faster!

Sweet and Sour cabbage with meatballs is what many consider a soup. It thickens quite fast, the softer the cabbage becomes. So the more it simmers, the thicker it gets. If you want it soupier, just add more liquid.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage

I have a hard time thinking of this as unstuffed cabbage, when it is really just cabbage and meatballs. Let’s call this what it is! There are so many versions of stuffed cabbage or cabbage soup but this sweet and sour version is simple, filling and tasty.

But what makes it sweet and sour cabbage and why is that so good?

Honey and lemon juice make this unstuffed cabbage recipe mouthwatering good. Both can be adjusted if you prefer it more sweet or more sour. I have also seen vinegar used in place of lemon juice. 

A few other tips when making this sweet and sour cabbage: I have made the meatballs with turkey but have not tried ground chicken. Ground beef holds together the best.

Use good tomatoes. They are a key component of this recipe. Spend a little more than the store brand!

And whatever paprika you choose to use, please make sure it is fresh. Smell it. It should smell good. If you can’t smell anything, it isn’t fresh!

Also, don’t forget lots of fresh ground pepper when you serve this.

Sweet and Sour Cabbage

Sweet and sour cabbage with meatballs popped into my head as something to bring to a friend of mine’s mother. She was out of town and I felt like her mom could use some company.

Being me, meant that I couldn’t go empty handed, so I brought this cabbage soup and a giant loaf of artisan bread from one of my favorite bread bakeries. Holishkes or stuffed cabbage is a popular Polish dish, and my friend’s mom is Polish.

Manservant was out of town and I knew this dish wasn’t something he would relish, so it was my time to make it and enjoy it without him picking around the cabbage for the meatballs!

This recipe makes a lot, but sweet and sour cabbage can be frozen.  Just don’t forget it is in there!

Sweet and Sour Cabbage

(This is an updated post from 2015.)

A few things I use to make this soup: Hungarian paprika is always good. And if you want to make it a bit spicier feel free to add hot paprika. A great pot is always good and you know I prefer Le Creuset.

However this one is really good, too!


Please Pin and Share and if you like this recipe I’d love if you come back and rate it!

Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs


clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs

Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Meatballs (Unstuffed)

  • Author: Abbe Odenwalder
  • Prep Time: 20 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 2:45 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 8 - 10 Servings 1x
  • Category: Soup/Stews
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Jewish


Unstuffed Sweet and Sour Cabbage is a traditional Eastern European Jewish dish. Hearty and perfect for a cold winter’s day, I hope you enjoy this classic.



1 large diced onion
2 lbs green cabbage, cored and chopped
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 28 oz can tomatoes with juice
1 c water or more depending on how soupy you want this
1/4 c honey
1/4 c lemon juice
1/3 c brown sugar
1 t Hungarian paprika
1/4 c raisins optional and added after 2 hours of cooking

1 lb ground beef or turkey
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1/2 t salt or to taste
1 egg
1/2 c grated onion
1/2 c uncooked white rice


Combine all soup ingredients, except raisins in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil.

While mixture is coming to a boil, mix the meatball ingredients together. Shape into walnut sized balls and drop into boiling soup.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for two hours. Remove cover and add raisins if desired. Continue cooking for 30 more minutes.

This is where you may want to add more water if you like a more liquid soup.

I serve this dish with lots of freshly ground black pepper and lots of bread and butter!

Keywords: sweet and sour cabbage, sweet and sour cabbage soup, sweet and sour cabbage recipe, sweet and sour cabbage soup recipes, sweet and sour unstuffed cabbage rolls, sweet and sour cabbage

More Cabbage Recipes:

Okonomiyaki (Japanese Egg Foo Yung)
Kohlrabi Cabbage Fennel Salad
Vietnamese Style Cole Slaw
My Mom’s Secret Cole Slaw

Jewish Recipes


You Might Also Like

  • sherry
    January 26, 2020 at 3:27 am

    i love cabbage and i love meatballs. yummo. turkey meatballs are always a hit with me, but i find chicken doesn’t make good ones. too sloppy, too bland…

    • Abbe
      January 29, 2020 at 11:35 am

      Whatever you use, I think you will love this comforting dish!

  • 2 Sisters Recipes
    January 10, 2020 at 8:50 pm

    We love this dish- so glad you repost it!! It’s on our list to make – thanks Abbe!! Have a great weekend!

    • Abbe
      January 13, 2020 at 7:20 pm

      It is a good one! Hope you enjoy!

  • Balvinder
    January 10, 2020 at 10:33 am

    I love cabbage balls in a curry…would love to try some with meat in it.

    • Abbe
      January 13, 2020 at 7:21 pm

      This is a good Jewish recipe which means you should like it!

  • sippitysup
    January 10, 2020 at 10:24 am

    I swear just looking at the pictures is chasing away for good the cold I’ve been fighting all week. GREG

    • Abbe
      January 13, 2020 at 7:21 pm

      Please do not send it this way. Feel better soon!

  • Karen (Back Road Journal)
    October 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I love stuffed cabbage rolls so I know that I would enjoy your sweet and sour cabbage with meatballs. Much easier than making the rolls.

  • Beth
    October 18, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Whatever you call it, it looks like the perfect cool-weather dinner!

  • Bam's Kitchen
    October 16, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Warming and comforting dish! Perfect for fall!

  • mjskit
    October 16, 2015 at 1:41 am

    Sweet and sour cabbage is something that I've acquired a taste for as I've gotten older. I still haven't made them at home, so I greatly appreciate your recipe! That big bowl of goodness is calling my name!

  • SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    October 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    There are so many wonderful things about this recipe that I'm anxious to try it! I have a large half of a green cabbage in the frig and this would be a perfect way to use it. I also have homemade tomato sauce in the freezer that would work great. I've never made meatballs with rice before so looking forward to trying something new! Thanks, Abbe!

  • La Table De Nana
    October 15, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    How thoughtful of you! Lookin' good to me:)

  • Sharon D
    October 15, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I like that you're calling it as it is, Abbe. Certainly less confusing! This is what I would call a feel-good dish – good for the soul because I know I'd feel really satisfied eating this. ^.^

  • Cheri Savory Spoon
    October 15, 2015 at 2:14 am

    Hi Abbe, I love how your mom put this dish together, sounds wonderful and comforting.

  • Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    October 15, 2015 at 1:53 am

    I am pinning this one Abbe – I just love cabbage and this sounds wonderful. It is also a very pretty dish – great shots!

  • Carol at Wild Goose Mama
    October 14, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Wow, I never never never would have thought of meatballs and cabbage. I am a heavy duty meatball lover. I love pasta, but hey pasta loves me too—-tooooooo much. The cabbage lets me enjoy my
    meatballs. Seasoning is over the top.

  • [email protected]
    October 14, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    I love that this is your mother's recipe! This looks wonderful, and it's something different to my usual too. Thank you for sharing!

  • Adri
    October 14, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    This sounds wonderful!

  • Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    October 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Pinned! This sounds wonderful Abbe.

  • Anu-My Ginger Garlic Kitchen
    October 14, 2015 at 8:56 am

    This looks and sounds absolutely delish, Abbe. Cabbage stuffed meat balls are an awesome idea.

  • Angie Schneider
    October 14, 2015 at 5:38 am

    Unstuffed cabbage sounds like a fun name for this delicious dish, Abbe. My husband is a huge fan of meatball dishes and this might even trick him to eat some cabbages. A great recipe, Abbe.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 16, 2015 at 3:06 am

      Give him the meatballs and you eat the cabbage. Thanks, Angie!

  • Holly @ abakershouse.com
    October 14, 2015 at 3:23 am

    I've not made stuffed cabbage but this un-stuffed version looks like something perfect to have on a cold day.I love that soup season is starting! Jeans and sweaters are also right around the corner which sound so cozy!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 16, 2015 at 3:06 am

      You are right Holly. This si a good one to have for those cool days.

  • Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    October 14, 2015 at 2:28 am

    I wouldn't have eaten this as a kid because I couldn't stand the smell of cooked cabbage. As an adult, this would make a nifty meal!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 16, 2015 at 3:05 am

      It did have a smell, didn't it? I think this is not so bad because of all the goodness in there!

  • Adam J. Holland
    October 14, 2015 at 1:58 am

    Wow! That's just like unstuffed cabbage! (Sorry. Couldn't resist.) This looks really good β€” and I'm not usually a sweet and sour type of guy … just mostly sour. πŸ˜‰

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 16, 2015 at 3:05 am

      Don't be sour Adam. But without sour, we wouldn't know sweet would we? Your bride will be with you soon enough!

  • Kitchen Riffs
    October 14, 2015 at 12:27 am

    I'm actually working on a recipe for deconstructed stuffed cabbage! Might just as well call it cabbage and meatballs. πŸ˜‰ This looks like a fun recipe, and certainly has loads of flavor. Too bad about your cold — hope it's past tense soon!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 16, 2015 at 3:04 am

      Can't wait to see it John! This is a pretty standard Jewish dish. Haven't had a cold in a long time and I'm ready to say good bye!

  • Liz Berg
    October 13, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    My mom made stuffed cabbage leaves as my dad seemed to enjoy them. I remember eating them, but must not have loved them since I've never felt the need to hunt down the recipe πŸ™‚ Your version sounds a bit more complex and quite tasty! Now I'm wondering what Bill would think! Hope your cold dissipates soon!!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 16, 2015 at 3:03 am

      Like I said I was never fond of things stuffed in leaves! But this is so much easier and in my opinion, so much better! It is perfect for a cool day!

  • Karen Harris
    October 13, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Mmmmmm, I remember you talking about this the other day. Looks fantastic! I love stuffed cabbage, so this is definitely going on my to make list.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 16, 2015 at 3:02 am

      You will love it Karen! if only it would start to get chilly!

  • Pam
    October 13, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    This is one great recipe, Abbe, pinned it! I love cabbage also and with meatballs, even better, never thought of doing that. It will be a hit here. That's was super nice of you to make this for your friend's mother, and bread too, nice! Hope you're over your cold shortly. Take care

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      October 13, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks Pam! I haven't had a cold in a long time so I am ready to get rid of it! It was so nice to visit with my friend's mom and even better that I could leave this for her!