Although cabbage soup is not a common meal in Jamaica, it is still a favored dish to many. In fact, you can find many references to mountain cabbage dating back to the early 19 century. Although the native plant is not in the cabbage family, it bears a strong resemblance in flavor. In an 1821 monthly review by the Edinburgh quotes, “the tender shoots of this tree when boiled afford an excellent substitute for cabbage.” Mountain cabbage or areca oleracea is a stately palm that grows to the height of 100 to 150 feet. The native mountainous plant is obtained by getting rid of the green bark that is directly beneath the insertion of the leaves. Mountain cabbage taste similar to cabbage but is said to have a slight sweet almond flavor. But when mountain cabbage is unavailable, regular cabbage can be substituted.

A Jamaican cabbage soup diet is quite healthy. Generally there are many vegetables added to the pot which makes it even more nutritious. In itself, cabbage is a rich anti-oxidant and is said to lower cholesterol levels. As well, a cabbage soup diet is great for the skin, is an excellent brain food, can help detoxify the body, and regulates blood sugar and blood pressure. What is more, cabbage soup is said to be the world’s healthiest foods. There are even claims that cabbage may prevent different cancers such as prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and bladder cancer.

Vegetarian cabbage soup is an even healthier option. And with this recipe, you can add or substitute any vegetable desired. In truth, making vegetarian cabbage soup provides you the perfect opportunity to clear out the fridge or invade the garden.  As well, this recipe for cabbage soup goes well with Jamaican jerk chicken or pork.

Serves 3

  • Prep 15 min
  • Cook time 10 min
  • Total time 25 min
  • 1 cabbage, finely shredded into long ribbons (may substitute mountain cabbage
  • 3 cups water, more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, to taste
  • Fresh black pepper, to taste
  • Paprika, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1onion, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 fresh sprig of thyme
  • 1-2 small pieces of Scotch Bonnet pepper (optional)
  • 2 small tomato, diced
  • ¼ cup coconut, grated (optional)

Best Cookware to Use

  • Sharp knife
  • Strainer or colander
  • Large heavy-bottomed pot like a Dutch Pot

Preparation of the Cabbage Soup

  1. Thinly cut onion, garlic, thyme and tomato.
  2. Add the butter to and pot heat to medium high. Sauté the thyme and onion mixture until tender. Stir in water and cover the pot. Lower heat and simmer.
  3. While the seasoning is cooking, peel off the old layers of cabbage. With a sharp knife, cut in a slanted motion into the middle of the cabbage. Laying the cabbage face down, start cutting the cabbage into strips.
  4. Lay the dome flat on a clean chopping board and using one hand to tightly grip it, use the knife to cut thin ribbons starting from one edge of the cabbage that is touching the chopping board until you have cut the whole ‘dome’ into thin ribbons
  5. Place the cabbage in a strainer or colander. Wash and then add to the seasoning mixture.
  6. Add the butter, paprika, salt and pepper.
  7. Stir in the tomato, Scotch Bonnet pepper and coconut (if desired). Add more water if needed. You can also add jerk chicken or pork if preferred.
  8. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until cabbage is softened.
  9. Serve hot with bread, crackers, dumplings or a favorite side.