This simple cabbage and vegetable soup with ground beef is a spin off the iconic weight loss cabbage soup diet recipe! With a few simple changes to make it a little heartier and a lot more flavorful. It's a nutrient-packed soup that makes a cozy and warming winter meal.
In undergrad school I had a friend whose mom was a fad diet lady. If there was a new weight loss trend, she wanted to know about it. One day she was telling us about a diet she'd learned about from the ladies in the office where she worked; she said all you eat is cabbage soup!
I was shocked. I had never heard of such a thing in my life. As my friend's mom spouted off the benefits of this supposedly magical soup, she claimed that people have been losing weight with it for decades. But all you eat is cabbage soup?!, I wondered to myself.
It reminded me of the scene from Roald Dahl's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Charlie's mother states that the family is having cabbage "water" for dinner as she's washing large, steaming hot tubs of dirty clothes by hand. Ugh, what a visual, lol!
Fast forward a few years to recently when that memory of my friend's mom popped into my head. Sheer morbid curiosity led me to Google the recipe she talked about. I love cabbage, and soup. So putting my own spin on it was a natural.
My version of this recipe starts with ground beef for added protein. We use a variety of vegetables, including cabbage, and bone broth for added nutrition. The seasonings in this cabbage soup are simple, with much of the flavor coming from a hefty amount of onion and garlic, as well as rosemary, and the humble pantry staple spice combination, salt and pepper. Just a little Worcestershire sauce adds depth, and a splash of vinegar added at the end wakes up everything.
This cabbage and vegetable soup recipe is loosely inspired by the legendary 7-day weight loss cabbage soup diet recipe, mostly to satisfy my curiosity. And I have to say, I wouldn't mind having this on repeat for dinner! But I don't know if I would do it for every meal for a week straight, lol!
What is Weight Loss Cabbage Soup?
So-called Weight Loss Cabbage Soup is the mainstay of the 7-Day Cabbage Soup Diet for Weight Loss that's been around since at least the 1980's. You'll also hear this soup called fat burning soup, fat burning cabbage soup, weight loss cabbage soup, magic soup, wonder soup, miracle soup, zero points soup, Weight Watchers zero points soup, and Weight Watchers cabbage soup, to name a few. (How is that for a soup of many names?!)
And to confuse the matter even more, the diet isn't just called the 7-Day Cabbage Soup Diet! It also goes by the following names:
- Dolly Parton Diet
- T.J.'s Miracle Soup Diet
- Military Cabbage Soup
- Spokane Diet
- Sacred Heart Hospital Diet
- Mayo Clinic Diet
- Fat Burning Cabbage Soup Diet
- Russian Peasant Diet
The interesting thing is that no one has claimed ownership of the original cabbage soup diet recipe! In fact, they all say that they didn't start this fad. Nonetheless, this trendy diet was popularized in the 1980's as a type of faxlore: essentially, urban legends that are passed around via fax.
Advocates claim that you can lose up to 10 pounds a week by following this diet. And the main principle of the diet is that you can eat as much of the cabbage soup as you want!
What Can You Eat on the Original Cabbage Soup Diet?
From Medical News Today, here is the breakdown of what you can eat each day for all 7 days on the diet:
- Day 1: Cabbage soup and raw fruit, but no bananas.
- Day 2: Cabbage soup and cooked or raw vegetables, but no potatoes.
- Day 3: Cabbage soup and raw, low-fat fruit and vegetables, but no potatoes or bananas.
- Day 4: Cabbage soup, skim milk, and no more than eight bananas.
- Day 5: Cabbage soup, six tomatoes, and 565 grams of beef (or a substitute for beef, such as pork, fish, or chicken).
- Day 6: Cabbage soup, unlimited vegetables but no potatoes, and unlimited beef (or another protein option).
- Day 7: Cabbage soup, sugar-free fruit juice, and brown rice.
Does the Cabbage Soup Diet Really Help You Lose Weight?
Similar to any short-term "crash" diet where you're restricting calories, people claim that this diet has helped them lose weight. Up to 10 pounds per week in some cases!
It's important to note that medical professionals say this weight loss is from losing water instead of fat, and that after you return to a normal meal plan you'll likely gain back the weight lost. (See WebMD to read more.)
And of course before starting this diet or any weight loss plan, you should consult with a medical doctor.
What is the Original Cabbage Soup Diet Recipe?
There are a ton of slightly different recipes that all claim to be the "original", each with varying ingredients or ingredient amounts. Here are the basic components:
- Onion or scallion
- Green bell pepper
- Fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, or V-8 juice
- Lipton Onion Soup Mix
- Water or chicken broth
- Salt and pepper
- Other varied seasonings, such as garlic powder, basil, oregano, parsley, and/or cilantro
- Occasionally bouillon cubes
- Sometimes balsamic vinegar
- And I've seen recipes that throw mushrooms, spinach, carrots, and/or green beans into the mix
How is This Recipe Different From the Original Cabbage Soup Diet Recipe?
Like I mentioned, the recipe I'm sharing is loosely inspired by that fad soup; it's really more of a hamburger cabbage soup with a variety of vegetables. There are many changes to the original, most notably:
- Omission of Lipton Onion Soup Mix and Bouillon - We use beef bone broth, a hint of Worcestershire sauce, and sea salt for flavor.
- Olive oil - No version of the original soup (that I found) contained any kind of oil. However, I include a little bit of olive oil in my recipe because some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they need fat for your body to be able to absorb them. You can read more about fat-soluble vitamins on National Library of Medicine.
- Beef - Here we add ground beef to bump up the protein and nutrition.
- Bone broth - I like using bone broth instead of beef stock or regular beef broth for the added health benefits.
- Worcestershire sauce - A little bit of this fermented sauce adds complexity to our soup.
- Apple cider vinegar - Vinegar (or acid in general) added at the end of cooking elevates the flavor of soup. I chose apple cider vinegar (added at the end of the cooking process) because it's touted as having a host of health benefits. Although it bears noting that we use such a small amount of vinegar spread over multiple servings, it may not have much of an impact other than on flavor.
Cabbage and Vegetable Soup Ingredients and Substitutions
In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.
- Extra-virgin olive oil - We use a little bit of oil to brown the ground beef, and then sauté the onion and garlic.
- Lean ground beef - I use 90% lean ground beef for this recipe, but you can use what you have on hand.
- Onion and garlic - These kitchen staple ingredients add depth of flavor to the soup.
- Carrot and celery - Carrot and celery are classic ingredients in vegetable soup.
- Tomato - Instead of using diced fresh tomato, you can use 1 (14.5-ounce) can of no-salt-added crushed or diced tomatoes.
- Green cabbage - We use basic green cabbage for this recipe; 4 cups of chopped green cabbage is about ½ of a small cabbage head.
- Tomato paste - A little bit of tomato paste gives body to our broth.
- Worcestershire sauce - This adds savory complexity to our soup, and pairs well with the umami flavor of beef. You can omit the Worcestershire sauce if you want, or use coconut aminos instead.
- Fresh rosemary - This piney herb adds another layer of flavor. If you don't have fresh rosemary on hand, you can use dried rosemary leaves instead, and lightly crush them with your fingertips before adding.
- Sea salt and black pepper - These simple seasonings elevate the flavor of our soup.
- Beef bone broth - I like to use beef bone broth to bump up the nutrition in this soup. However, regular beef broth or beef stock will also work well.
- Fresh parsley - Adding a little bit of fresh parsley at the end not only gives the soup a pretty touch of green, but it also boosts the nutrition.
- Apple cider vinegar - One of my favorite tricks to waking up the flavor of a soup or other type of simmered, braised, or slow-cooked meal is to add a splash of vinegar at the end! You only need a little bit to create the perfect well-balanced flavor profile. I like to use raw organic apple cider vinegar here, but you can also use red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar.
How to Make Cabbage Soup with Ground Beef
- Add the oil to a 5-quart Dutch oven or similar sized pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the beef cook until browned, about 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break the meat apart into small crumbles. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the carrot, celery, tomato, cabbage, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, and black pepper.
- Add the bone broth and give it a stir.
- Bring it up to a boil, and then cover the pot, turn the heat down slightly, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and vinegar.
Storage and Reheating
You can store leftover hamburger cabbage and vegetable soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. It reheats well in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Special Diet Friendly
As written, this easy cabbage soup recipe is gluten free, low carb, and with just 9 grams net carbs per serving, it's also keto friendly.
For the paleo version, use coconut aminos instead of Worcestershire sauce.
For the vegan version, omit the ground beef. You can add 1 to 2 cans of rinsed, drained beans at the end of cooking if you want to bump up the protein. Use vegetable broth or vegetable stock instead of beef bone broth. Make sure to use vegan Worcestershire sauce.
Hamburger Cabbage Soup Recipe FAQs
What are Good Cabbage Soup Spices?
If you're wondering how to spice up cabbage soup, you have a ton of options! There are many different spices, seasonings, aromatics, and herbs that pair well with cabbage. Here are a few ideas:
- Fresh herbs - In this recipe, we use rosemary and parsley. However, thyme, oregano, basil, and marjoram are also good options. If you don't have fresh herbs on hand, you can use about half the amount of dried herbs instead. Be sure to lightly crush them with your fingertips to release their oils before adding to the soup.
- Spices - You can use any number of spices to create different flavor profiles here. Try celery seed, paprika (sweet, hot, or smoked for different flavors), cumin, coriander, etc.
- Sauces - Here we use a little bit of Worcestershire, which is a fermented sauce, for savory flavor. Other options are coconut aminos, tamari sauce, soy sauce, or even miso (but if you add miso, add it at the end along with the vinegar).
- Aromatics - Think of things like ginger, onion, garlic, shallot, etc. Here we use a generous amount of onion and garlic to add a ton of flavor.
- Acid - Adding a touch of acid (in the form of vinegar or lemon juice) at the end of cooking a soup wakes up the flavor immensely. Often, this little trick is what takes a soup from ordinary to extraordinary!
Can I Make Cabbage and Vegetable Soup Without the Ground Beef?
Yes! The original cabbage soup diet recipe doesn't contain meat.
For the vegetarian version of this soup, feel free to skip the ground beef and use vegetable stock instead of beef bone broth. Or you can add ground turkey or chicken instead of ground beef.
What Other Meat Goes Well in Cabbage Soup?
One of my favorite types of meat to add to cabbage and vegetable soup is beef stew meat! I like to cut up a chuck roast into 1 to 2-inch cubes and simmer it in liquid (water, broth, or stock) until tender. The nice thing about this is that you can use the flavorful liquid that the meat boiled in to make the soup.
Another great option is chicken! You can boil a whole chicken (or chicken thighs, breasts, or whatever you have), and then cut up the meat once it's cooked and use the cooking liquid to make the soup. Or if you're in a time crunch, you can pull the meat off a rotisserie chicken and just add that.
More Healthy Soup Recipes to Try
- Heart Healthy Soup Recipe
- Homemade Chicken Soup Recipe
- Tom Kha Gai Recipe (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
Cabbage and Vegetable Soup Recipe with Ground Beef
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound 90% lean ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped (about 1 ½ cups chopped)
- 6 large cloves garlic crushed
- 2 medium-large carrots peeled and chopped (about 1 ¼ cups chopped)
- 2 medium-large stalks celery chopped (about ¾ cup chopped)
- 1 medium-large tomato diced (about ¾ cup diced)
- 4 cups chopped green cabbage about ½ of a small head of cabbage
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, lightly crushed with your fingertips
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups beef bone broth or beef stock or beef broth
- ¼ cup minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
- Add the oil to a 5-quart Dutch oven or similar sized pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the beef cook until browned, about 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break the meat apart into small crumbles.
- Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the carrot, celery, tomato, cabbage, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, salt, black pepper, and bone broth. Bring it up to a boil, and then cover the pot, turn the heat down slightly, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and vinegar.
- Net Carbs: 9g per serving
- Storage and Reheating: You can store leftover hamburger cabbage and vegetable soup in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. It reheats well in the microwave or on the stovetop.
- Paleo Version: Use coconut aminos instead of Worcestershire sauce.
- Vegan Version: Omit the ground beef. You can add 1 to 2 cans of rinsed, drained beans at the end of cooking if you want to bump up the protein. Use vegetable broth or vegetable stock instead of beef bone broth. Make sure to use vegan Worcestershire sauce.