Cabbage: Beef & Cabbage Soup – Caldo de Res

Caldo de

There are certain dishes that make me nostalgic for childhood.

You know what I’m talking about. A smell or taste that conjures vivid memories of comfort – when life was more simple and childhood dramas were easily soothed by your momma or daddy’s home-made goodies. Like, a bandage and a kiss or hug, but you could eat it. For me, these cabbage recipes have been just that:  the yeasty smell of my mom’s cabbage burgers baking, warming the house and our tummies on a cold day; and, this beef and cabbage soup from my abuela Juarez.

Grandma Juarez is no longer with us. And, I’m sure, I’m not the only one of the 37 grandkids and 46 great-grandchildren who thinks of her when I eat this soup. I remember several a Sunday afternoon visit and her never-empty pot of soup simmering in her little kitchen. Somehow it managed to feed whomever stopped by that day. That, and tortillas de harina (flour tortillas), but that’s another recipe and story.

Caldo de res is comfort soup, perfect for a dreary day or cool night. Tender bites of roast simmered in a beefy broth with winter vegetables – onion, cabbage, potatoes and carrots. It’s a standard in Mexican households and restaurants, although the ingredients may vary slightly – some adding chayote or zucchini.

The recipe below is adapted from my abuela’s recipe (I use a whole head of cabbage and more veggies, and brown the roast first). It also contains her rumoured “secret” ingredient (which, now, is no longer secret), hierba buena, spearmint used in Mexican teas and cooking. It adds a special, fresh dimension to this soothing broth.

For those who’ve never tried caldo de res, if you like Vietnamese pho, which also has a tasty beef broth, you’ll want to try this soup.

Tidbits on Cabbage:

  1. When shopping for cabbage, look for one with a shiny, crisp exterior. It should also feel solid and compact. Avoid buying those that look wilted, brown or dried-out.
  2. Don’t wash cabbage until you are ready to use it. Cabbage can be rinsed after cutting or chopping, drain well.
  3. Boiling cabbage tenderizes the leaves, causing it to release sugar and the characteristic cabbage aroma.

Cabbage Layers - In the

This caldo is hearty, so don’t overchop those veggies. The meat should be bite size but the vegetables are chunky. The recipe makes a large pot of soup and, as with most, it gets better as it sits.  You can half this recipe.

Beef & Cabbage Soup – Caldo de Res

Makes 6.5 quarts

4 pounds chuck roast, diced 1″ pieces



2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

1 medium onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

1 – 3  fresh jalapenos or other chiles, diced, optional

1 small cabbage, cored and cut into 3” chunks

5 carrots, peeled and diced 1 1/2” pieces

3 medium potatoes, skin on and cubed 2” pieces

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh hierba buena*, chopped, optional

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

3 whole ears corn, cut into smaller pieces (fresh or frozen)

*Hierba buena, also spelled yerba buena, meaning “good herb” is mint available at Mexican markets. Substitute with spearmint, if unavailable.


  1. Cut roast into 1” cubes.  Remove most thick pieces of fat and any connective tissue running through the meat. Leave a small amount of fat here and there for flavor. Generously salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven (at minimum 6.5 quarts) on high heat; add oil then brown beef until no longer pink on the outside. Add onions and garlic; stir and cook for a few minutes. Add water and bring to a boil uncovered. Use a spoon to skim off the scum (removing scum makes for a clearer broth). Cover and reduce to simmer 1 hour.
  3. While simmering, core cabbage and chop into 3” pieces. Peel carrots and dice into 1 1/2” pieces. Wash potatoes and remove any dirt from skin; dice into 2” pieces (skin on). Chop cilantro and hierba buena. Dice chiles; using more or less to your taste.
  4. After the soup has simmered 1 hour, add:  salt, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, herbs, chile and lemon juice to soup. Cover pot and simmer about 40 minutes, until potatoes are slightly underdone. Add corn pieces (no need to defrost if frozen). Continue to simmer until potatoes finish cooking and corn heated through.
  5. Serve hot with lemon wedges, fresh salsa and tortillas.


Vegetables:  add zucchini, chayotes or tomatoes

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17 Responses to Cabbage: Beef & Cabbage Soup – Caldo de Res

  1. Kathryn Juarez says:

    Wow Andrea, I definitely remember this soup! The first time I had it was at one of the luaus on the farm and I distinctly remember that we were only allowed one tortilla; but what a great tasting tortilla with an even greater tasting soup! Thank you for posting this, it will certainly be a recipe that I use often.

  2. I have been reading articles on your Fork Fingers Chopsticks web site and they have been tempting but this one got me hooked. I have printed the article on Cabbage: Beef & Cabbage Soup, this weekend I will be trying this recipe for Sunday dinner while looking at the football games. So I am looking for that never-empty pot of soup simmering in my kitchen from your Grandma Juarez recipe and invite my sons family and grand kids over for dinner!

  3. Chelby King says:

    I am ready to learn how to cook cabbage and this will be my inaugural cabbage dish. Thanks for the tips on cooking and chopping.

  4. Lil Juarez Millin says:

    I made this soup two weeks ago when we had our first snowstorm. It is just me and my husband Jim and our daughter Raina but I fill a huge pot with this Caldo. I can’t seem to make a smaller portion but I take leftovers to work and feed the crew. I think of Mom every time I make it. Glad to see it is being shared.

  5. Joanne Higa-Parton says:

    DELICIOUS! I got to try this recipe out tonight and loved it! The weather has finally gotten cold out here (in CA) and your soup made the perfect winter dinner meal–warm and hearty. I loved the way that the broth turned out–the combination of Herba Buena, lemon juice and beef broth was great–familiar, but with an exciting twist. :) Also, the beef turned out so tender that it was almost falling apart. Yum. Thumbs up on the layout too. You have fabulous pictures, great tips for buying the right produce, simple, easy to understand instructions, and of course a little bit of personal background to make it all interesting. :) It can be so hard to find “authentic ethnic” recipes, so I’m glad to have your new website as a resource. Way to go and good luck!

  6. Joanne – Happy to hear you enjoyed the soup. Hope it kept out the chill. Wish I had me a bowl now. Here in Denver, it’s a frigid 7 degrees. Yeah, I know (I thought I had escaped those Wisconsin kind of winters). Thanks for following my posts and for the kind words.

  7. Nicola Grun says:

    I made this soup but my pot was too small for the full recipe so I only added one sweet potato. I also used pork should roast in place of the beef. Tasty!

    Andrea (FFC): Thanks for reporting back. I’ve never used pork as a substitute for beef in this traditional soup. Glad you enjoyed.

  8. cat morin says:

    My husband said that looks like his mothers cabbage soup. I will make it and see what he says.

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  10. Jen says:

    I’m Filipino and this is one of my favorite comfort foods from my childhood. My mom also made it with chicken. If someone was under the weather, she would toss in some ginger and it always helped. When we still lived in the Philippines she added lemon grass with the chicken version. You can’t always find lemon grass in the grocery stores…

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