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Miracle Cabbage Stir-Fry

cabbage stirfry in a white bowl on a blue fabric surface
Photograph by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Emilie Fosnocht

Chinese home cooking is full of vegetarian fare that requires a quick toss in a hot wok, just like this sweet, savory, and slightly tart cabbage stir-fry. Green cabbage retains its crunch, while earthy black vinegar—a must-get for this recipe and a pantry all-star for those who love Chinese cooking—does the heavy lifting for flavor.

Chinese cabbage stir-fry is best-known in the US as a Sichuanese dish, packed with heat and tingle. But this is a simpler, more pared down version that my mother cooked for me shortly after I gave birth to my daughter, when I desperately needed fiber to deal with postpartum constipation. Though my pregnancy acid reflux had tamed, I needed a dish I could eat over and over again without overwhelming my digestive system.

If you’re not nursing a tender tummy, feel free to increase the number of chiles, and/or add crushed garlic along with it. The high-heat technique means it cooks in less than 10 minutes, so even if you’re not in need of more fiber, this cabbage is ready to be a weeknight staple. Eat it with white rice.

Stir-fries depend on a wide cooking surface and constant high heat to guarantee charred edges and a crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside texture. If you find that your cabbage is turning brown too quickly, lower the heat accordingly.

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What you’ll need

Recipe information

  • Total Time

    10 minutes

  • Yield

    2 main-course servings or 4 side-dish servings


¼ cup vegetable oil
1 dried red chile (such as er jing tiao, bird chile, or chile de árbol)
½ medium head of cabbage (about 1 lb.), cored, cut into 1"–2" long strips, leaves separated
1½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt
1½ tsp. sugar
4–5 tsp. black (Chinkiang) vinegar


  1. Step 1

    Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a large wok or high-sided skillet over medium-high, swirling to coat bottom of pan, until glistening, about 1 minute. Crack 1 dried red chile (such as er jing tiao, bird chile, or chile de árbol) in half, add to wok, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to high.

    Step 2

    Add ½ medium head of cabbage (about 1 lb.), cored, cut into 1"–2"-long pieces, leaves separated, and cook, tossing constantly, until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in 1½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt and 1½ tsp. sugar and cook, tossing constantly and adjusting heat as needed if browning too quickly, until about a quarter of cabbage leaves are browned in spots, 2–3 minutes.

    Step 3

    Reduce heat to medium, add 4 tsp. black (Chinkiang) vinegar and toss to combine. Taste and add up to another 1 tsp. vinegar if needed. Divide among plates to serve.

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