Skip to Content

Hot and Sour Cabbage

February 12, 2024

Hot and sour cabbage makes our taste buds tingle: it’s crunchy, it’s spicy, it’s a little tangy, and above all, it’s absolutely delicious!


homemade hot and sour cabbage on a serving plate made with soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Spice it Up with Sichuan-Style Hot-and-Sour Cabbage

Inspired by traditional Hot and Sour Chinese Cabbage, this restaurant-quality dish will keep you coming back for more! It’s the tastiest way to prepare the cabbage you’ve been wondering how to put to use. Plus, it’s made from ten commonly found ingredients, and ready in about 15 minutes – it couldn’t be more simple! Complex in flavor, this saucy, spicy hot and sour cabbage recipe will give you a good reason to enjoy cabbage all year round. Since this Chinese cabbage recipe is vegetarian, it’s a great way to add more variety to your diet and introduce a new vegetable-forward dish to the entire family.

ingredients for homemade hot and sour cabbage in bowls on the counter including soy sauce, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns

What Kind of Cabbage is Used in Chinese Food?

There are all kinds of cabbage – such as green cabbage and napa cabbage – and all different styles of Chinese food – like Cantonese and Sichuan! So, what is napa cabbage used for? Napa Cabbage, also known as Chinese cabbage, is common in traditional Chinese dishes and is pale green with tightly packed, crinkly leaves growing in the shape of an oval – when cooked, it becomes juicy and slightly sweet, and mild in flavor. It’s commonly used in Chinese hot and sour cabbage. Other traditional Chinese leafy greens, such as bok choy, are sometimes also referred to by the same name. On the other hand, green cabbage has thicker, rounder leaves growing inward and is, well, green. Both are inexpensive, nutritious, and have a long shelf life (although with this hot and sour cabbage recipe, it won’t be around for too long!). For our hot and sour cabbage, we’ll be making a Sichuan-style which uses a head of green cabbage instead of napa, which you can find at your local grocery store or farmers market.

soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl
vegetable oil, sesame oil, garlic, chili peppers and peppercorn being heated together in a skillet

Create the Best Hot and Sour Flavor

Although hot and sour cabbage is easy enough to make on weeknights, the hot and sour flavor is surprisingly complex! We start by creating the base flavor with garlic, chilis, and peppercorn and gently frying them in a mixture of vegetable and sesame oil to bring out their spiciness and richness. Next, we layer on the flavor with the sauce, made from white vinegar, white sugar, salt, and soy sauce contributing a pop of tang and brightness. The cabbage absorbs all the flavors to give the final dish a dynamic, multi-layered, umami, spicy and sour kick! Make it your own by adding or removing chilis to adjust the spice level, just like our Dan Dan Noodles.

sauced being poured over cabbage in a skillet to make hot and sour cabbage
homemade hot and sour cabbage on a serving platter next to bowls of chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns

How to Stir-Fry Hot and Sour Cabbage

Follow these easy steps for delicious hot and sour cabbage:

  1. Prep the cabbage! Choose a cabbage that has bright green, thick leaves. Avoid ones with dark spots or with leaves that might be wilted. Cabbage does last a decent amount of time in a cold area, so, if you’re using one you may have forgotten about and there is a brown or discolored spot, simply cut it off. After selecting your cabbage, rinse with cold water, remove the core, and rip it into 2-inch pieces.

  2. Make the sauce! This sauce is sooo addicting with its well balanced sweet and sour flavor from the vinegar, sugar, salt, and soy (or tamari!)

  3. Bloom the spices! Frying the spices over low heat with a little bit of fat is called blooming. It’ll allow for the deepest flavor of your spices to come alive! You’ll know when the spices are ready by your nose: they’re extremely aromatic! Pro Tip: start with the oil and spices at room temperature and heat them together. This will reduce the chances of burning the garlic.

  4. Stir fry! The secret to stir fry is a hot pan and a short amount of time! Cook the cabbage just until it starts to soften a little and turn bright green. Once the leaves start to wilt, add the sauce. The cabbage will slowly start to absorb the sauce and become slightly thicker in consistency. Caution: don’t overcook the cabbage!

  5. Serve! Grab your favorite large serving platter and pile it on!

hot and sour cabbage on a serving platter next to bowls of chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns

Tools You’ll Need For Chinese-Inspired Hot and Sour Cabbage

What to Serve With Hot and Sour Chinese Cabbage

While this spicy cabbage recipe can be served as a side to almost any dish, some of our favorites include:

homemade hot and sour cabbage on a serving plate made with soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns

Now You’re a Hot and Sour Cabbage Pro

We love this crunchy, delicious side and hope you do, too! Snap a photo of your hot and sour cabbage and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you feed it to. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

💌 Let's Stay Together

There are so many great ways to receive all of our latest recipes, meal tips, and inspiration.

Hot and Sour Cabbage

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  10 min
  • Calories: 163


  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • ½ tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 10 dried chili peppers
  • 1 teaspoon szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 medium green cabbage, core removed, cut into 2-inch pieces


  1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and salt.

  2. In a large skillet, add vegetable oil, sesame oil, garlic, chili peppers, and peppercorns. Heat over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until fragrant. 2-3 minutes. *

  3. Add the cabbage to the skillet and toss to coat. Cook, stirring often, until cabbage turns bright green and begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the sauce and until combined. Cook until sauce is absorbed, 2-3 more minutes more.

  4. Serve immediately.

*Note: Starting with room temperature oil will help keep the garlic and chillies from burning since both can burn quickly if added to hot oil.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories163
  • Protein5 g
  • Carbohydrates11 g
  • Total Fat11 g
  • Dietary Fiber6 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium676 mg
  • Total Sugars10 g

Hot and Sour Cabbage

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Vickie

    I bought red cabbage- would that work?
    And the store had dried chilis that are bigger. Would 2-3 of those work?

    Sure! Both those subs should work fine. Hope you enjoy Vickie!

  • Kaitlin

    Hi, just wondering if there is a reason other than aesthetics that the recipe calls for “torn” cabbage instead of cut? Also, where would one find dried chilies like the ones in this recipe? Thank you!

    Feel free to cut the cabbage instead if you prefer. You can find the peppers at target, Walmart, Safeway, amazon. Most grocery stores should carry them.

  • Kay

    Restaurant Quality and so easy.

    Thanks Kay, glad you loved it!