Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

Vietnamese Pickled Green Cabbage

This simple pickled 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. Pickled 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.

In the days where it was just me and Steph, we had a few possessions in the house we truly cherished. One of these was our expensive white leather couch. This couch was truly a thing of great beauty and for a fleeting moment in our lives it was the center of our universe.

Drum Head Cabbage

Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

That is until we got our cat Bongos (aka Christopher). We instantly fell in love with Bongos… and he instantly fell in love with the couch. Yep, it literally took a week for that little $#&! to rip my beloved couch to shreds.

Any reasonably sane person at this point would have taken counter measures to protect the future of our furniture. I decided to throw caution to the wind and thought “outside the box.” My brilliant idea was to get Bongos a new friend so they would tire each other out and not bother with our things. Unfortunately, I got two like minded cats who love to spend quality time trying to extend the family and destroying the couch. By the end of it all, I have come to the conclusion that there is simply no point trying to control a cat. Let alone two.

Often when things no longer look good we go to throw them away, and while I’m yet to  find a way to revamp my couch I have found a way to repurpose some cabbage leaves that nearly ended up in the bin!

You see, 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 to 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.

How to Eat it

I honestly love this with anything that needs a little bit of tang and crunch.  I personally have it with the following dishes:

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

Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

My Tips for 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 mold.
  5. All the cabbage must be submerged in the pickling liquid before and after opening or it will likely go moldy at the top.
  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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– Scruff

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Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

Simple Asian Pickled Cabbage

This simple pickled cabbage is a great side dish or accompaniment for any salty Asian rice dishes, bao buns or burgers.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Vietnamese
Keyword Pickled Cabbage
Prep Time 15 minutes
Drying Leaves 1 hour
Servings 6
Author Scruff


  • 3 cups cooled boiled water
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 5 - 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


  1. Let the cabbage leaves wilt outside in the sunlight for 1 hour.

  2. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap. 

  3. 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)

  4. With the Vietnamese mint, pull the leaves off the stem and roughly chop. Cut the onion into small wedges and pull each layer apart. 

  5. In a bowl, combine the sugar and salt with the the cooled boiled water. 

  6. In a bowl, toss the cabbage, onion and Vietnamese mint
  7. Before pickling, pour boiling water into your 2 - 3 clean medium sized jars and swirl the water around. Discard the water and repeat. 

  8. Put cabbage mixture into the jars and squash them in. Pour the pickling liquid over the top until covered.

  9. 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)

  10. Place the lid on and leave it at room temperature for 2 - 3 days.

  11. Refrigerate after opening.

Recipe Notes

  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.

7 thoughts on “Vietnamese Pickled Cabbage

  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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