Fermented Cabbage (Vietnamese Version)

Vietnamese Pickled Green Cabbage

This fermented cabbage is a great side dish or accompaniment for any salty Asian rice dishes, bao buns or burgers. The recipe has been passed down in the family from my great grandma which apparently made her very popular in her local district in Saigon. It is incredibly simple to make with only 6 ingredients and can be ready in 2 days. Fermented cabbage is a very convenient way to keep some veg on hand to add to a meal without having to prep. It also makes good use of the less attractive outer green cabbage leaves which are often discarded by supermarkets.

Drum Head Cabbage

The other day I was at the fresh food section of my supermarket when I saw the staff ripping off the outer leaves of all the heads of cabbage to make them look more attractive. The leaves honestly didn’t look too flash but were perfectly edible, and when I asked them if I could have them, they gave it to me for free! My mother has always said that this recipe is best done with the wilting outer green leaves and I have to agree since it gives more flavour, colour and crunch. So, for anyone wanting to save a few pennies, it is very possible to make these pickled cabbage for basically free.

Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

How to Eat Fermented Cabbage Leaves

I love this with anything that needs a little bit of tang and crunch, like the following dishes:

  1. Vietnamese braised pork and eggs (thit heo kho)
  2. Soy sauce chicken
  3. Bao buns
  4. Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches)
  5. Burgers (substitute for sauerkraut)

Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

My Tips for Fermented Cabbage Success

  1. A drum head cabbage with nice green leaves will give you the best results.
  2. Many grocers will throw away the outer cabbage leaves to make the vegetable more aesthetically pleasing. You can ask them for the discarded leaves and you may find that this dish will cost you practically nothing!
  3. Leaving the cabbage out to dry in the sunlight is crucial to making it crunchy. You want to draw out the moisture in the leaves so the cabbage can develop the crunch in the pickling process.
  4. I use cooled boiled water since tap water in my experience has a tendency to cause mould.
  5. All the cabbage must be submerged in the pickling liquid before and after opening to prevent mould forming.
  6. If you can’t make a plastic lid to keep the cabbage submerged in the pickling liquid, you can use a zip lock bag with water in it and jam it in. This will take a little time to adjust but it works just as well.
  7. If you want to slow down the fermenting process, leave the jars in the fridge.
  8. Eat within a week after 2-3 days fermenting.
Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

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Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

Vietnamese Fermented Cabbage

This simple fermented cabbage is a great side dish or accompaniment for any salty Asian rice dishes, bao buns or burgers.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Drying Leaves 1 hour
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 6
Calories 17 kcal


  • 3 cups cooled boiled water
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 6 outer green cabbage leaves (approx 300 gm), shredded
  • 10 gm Vietnamese mint, roughly chopped (Optional but recommended) (Available at Asian groceries)
  • 1 medium brown onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 L boiled water


  • Let the cabbage leaves wilt outside in the sunlight for 1 hour.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap. 
  • After drying, wash the wilted cabbage leaves and pat dry. Chop them in half and shred them with a knife so that they are approximately 0.8 of cm. (See pictures above for examples)
  • With the Vietnamese mint, pull the leaves off the stem and roughly chop. Cut the onion into small wedges and pull each layer apart. 
  • In a bowl, combine the sugar and salt with the the cooled boiled water. 
  • In a bowl, toss the cabbage, onion and Vietnamese mint
  • Before pickling, pour boiling water into your 2 – 3 clean medium sized jars and swirl the water around. Discard the water and repeat. 
  • Put cabbage mixture into the jars and squash them in. Pour the pickling liquid over the top until covered.
  • Make a plastic cut out or fill a zip lock bag with some water and put it on top of the cabbage to keep it completely submerged in the pickling liquid. (see picture above) (Note 1)
  • Place the lid on and leave it at room temperature for 2 – 3 days.
  • Refrigerate after opening.


  1. To make a plastic cut out, I use the packaging of a blueberry or strawberry box. I simply cut a corner off like in the progress picture above and then cut a slit into the center.  Then bend the cut out into a cone by pushing the two cut edges past each other and place on top of the cabbage. If you have a small zip lock bag, put a bit of water in it and place it on top of the cabbage. You may have to adjust a few times so that you are able to screw the lid on.


Calories: 17kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1176mgPotassium: 82mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 240IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 16mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Vietnamese Fermented Cabbage
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9 thoughts on “Fermented Cabbage (Vietnamese Version)

    1. Me too! Good. For your gut and immune system especially now with COVID-19. The science is there and shows countries that eat more cabbage and pickled veggies have lower death rates.

      1. Ever since I was a kid…. mum always said that veggies will make you big and STRONG!

  1. Hi, combining this recipe with others. Not sure why no vinegar. I thought vingar was part of the pickling process 😉

    1. Hi Greg! Yes, common pickle recipes you find on the internet require vinegar. However, this one is my grandma’s original recipe which requires no vinegar. I promise you it works but there is only one way to find out…😁

  2. Good post except that this is not “Pickled” cabbage. It’s fermented cabbage. Pickle is when you use vinegar. Fermented is when you use salt and sometimes sugar to allow bacteria to work. Salt blocks the bad bacteria. In the fermentation process, the bacteria breaks down nutrients and turns the brine sour. Fermentation takes time. Pickle takes no time.

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