Serves a Crowd

Cara Nicoletti’s Sweet & Sour Brisket

October 18, 2018
9 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 4 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 8 to 10
Author Notes

The best part about sweet and sour brisket is that everyone (and their grandmother) has their own method for achieving the same flavor. Some people swear by dates and vinegar, while others turn to a combination of Welch’s grape jelly and powdered onion soup mix; my family's secret to brisket success is the browned bits, which comes from searing the brisket and caramelizing the onions. No matter which way you make it, all of that scraping, searing, and hours-long simmering results in the same iconic flavor: It's like a less acidic Carolina BBQ—but Jewish. It may not be the prettiest dish, but a plate of this pure-comfort brisket is perfect during the holidays no matter what you’re celebrating. —Cara Nicoletti

Test Kitchen Notes

This recipe is featured in the story, The Best Way to Make a Tender Brisket, According to a Butcher, sponsored by Bosch. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Cara Nicoletti’s Sweet & Sour Brisket
  • 8 dried prunes
  • 12 ounces orange juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 dash kosher salt
  • 1 dash black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, plus 3 tablespoons, divided (like vegetable, grapeseed, neutral coconut oil)
  • 5 pounds flat or first-cut brisket
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 12 large shallots, peeled
  • 20 ounces chicken stock
  • 12 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 4 large carrots, peeled
  • 20 fingerling potatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 300° F. Place the dried prunes, orange juice, garlic, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Pat the brisket dry and season it liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Sear the brisket until a nice crust appears, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Set brisket aside and heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the Dutch oven, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan while the oil heats. Add butter, sliced onions, and shallots, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the onions and shallots are golden brown, about 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer the shallots to a bowl and add the chicken stock to the onions, bringing it to a boil and scraping up the brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Return the brisket to the pot, fat-side up, and pour in the orange juice mixture, along with the crushed tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and stir sauce to unify.
  5. Cover the Dutch oven, transfer it to the oven, and cook for 2 hours. After 2 hours, add the shallots, carrots, and potatoes. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
  6. After 1 hour, uncover the Dutch oven and return to the oven to cook for 1 more hour, spooning sauce over brisket occasionally to keep it moist.
  7. Remove from the oven and let the brisket rest in the Dutch oven for 30 minutes before transferring to a cutting board and slicing against the grain into thin strips. Season the sauce with salt to taste and serve, layering slices of brisket with sauce, and surrounding them with potatoes carrots and shallots.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Ann Lambert
    Ann Lambert
  • Helen
  • Aime
  • jody
Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog,, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.

9 Reviews

Helen March 12, 2019
Sounds and looks incredibly delicious and I cannot wait until next New Year's Day. Especially since I am not fond of the fatty pork & black eyed peas ❣️
Aime December 31, 2018
Could this be adapted for a slow cooker? What would the timing be?
jody November 27, 2018
Do you think dates would be good instead of prunes?
Debby November 27, 2018
I think dates wouldn’t work as well. The prunes cook down a little and get soft. If you don’t like prunes, try mission figs maybe, instead of dates.
Badia November 16, 2018
Hmm in step 3 you saute the onions and shallots for 20 minutes ok. Then in step 4, you somehow only fish out the shallots into a bowl and add the chicken stock to the remaining onions in the pot? I'm assuming you dump the shallots and the onions into a bowl and then pour the stock into the pot and scrape up the brown bits. I have to chuckle thinking if someone tried to seperate the onions and shallots that would be interesting. BTW the way, the recipe sounds great and I will definately try it! Thanks Cara...
Ann M. January 1, 2019
Well, the onions are sliced but the large shallots left whole. It would be easy to lift out 12 large shallots from among the sliced onions, in my experience.
Ann L. November 15, 2018
I'm confused, In the article it is stated not to use olive oil to sear, but the recipe states
" Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Sear the brisket until a nice crust appears, about 4 minutes per side."
Otherwise, it sounds delish and will try this dish

Shawnee November 30, 2018
I was going to pony yhatvout as well. The description makes a point of how you SHOULDN’T use olive oil, but instead an oil with high smoke point. Then in the recipe it directs you to sear in olive oil. If you only read the recipe directions you’d be misdirected.
Debby November 15, 2018
Almost sounds more like a tzimmes. I season mine with a dry rub of salt, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic powder, then sear it as you wrote. I leave fat side up ad stick in 3 whole cloves, lay a bay leaf on top, pour water around it, cover it, and roast for 3 hrs. I slice it when cold and I can also get the top layer of fat off the gravy.