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Cabbage Rolls

A bit of work to make, but this cabbage roll recipe makes the most yummy cabbage rolls ever!

Early autumn is the best time to pick up fresh, sweet green cabbage. As a result, one of my favourite dishes to make this time of year is cabbage rolls. The combination of the savoury meat filling wrapped in sweet cabbage and covered in zesty tomato sauce somehow makes the chill in the air far more tolerable. But you do have to work for all that yumminess.

Peeling off whole cabbage leaves without ripping them can be a bit tricky and time consuming, but not that difficult if you follow these steps:

  1. Core the cabbage - You can do this with a knife making angled cuts carefully around the entire core, or really get creative and use a drill with a clean hole cutter bit. The drill is faster and safer. You don't have to get the core out, just sever it from the leaves so the leaves will release more easily.

  2. Clean the cabbage - Remove and dispose of any dirty outer leaves that might have been ripped and soiled.

  3. Boil the cabbage whole - Immerse the whole head of cabbage into boiling water and let it boil for at least 5 minutes. As the outer leaves soften you can take the cabbage out (careful not to scald yourself) and carefully peel off the loose leaves (obviously, reserve the peeled leaves). Every layer overlaps another, so just be patient and slow as you work the leaves off. When you reach a layer that is still stuck, returning the head of cabbage back to the boiling water until again the outer layers soften enough to peel off.

Ideally, you want 16 undamaged cabbage leaves to work with (plus a couple of spares just in case you rip one).

While you are boiling the cabbage, prepare the rice as per package instructions. To make it easier on myself, I schedule the preparation of these so that it happens the day after I have a dinner that included rice so I can use the leftovers. You only need a cup of cooked rice, so it's easy to reserve that ahead of time. When making cabbage rolls, some people just use uncooked rice. I find all the grains don't necessarily get thoroughly cooked, but it is an option.

The rice I normally use in cabbage rolls is Basmati rather than regular white rice, but the choice is up to you. If you want to make these gluten-free, you can use quinoa instead of rice. However, as we covered when we were making oatmeal pancakes, the quinoa can be contaminated with gluten from external sources. So, make sure you use products certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (a branch of the Gluten Intolerance Group). Look for the GFCO logo on packaging to ensure they meet the GFCO standards.)

Once you have the leaves ready to go, prepare the filling as per the instructions below. You want to divide the filling into 16 portions; however, if your cabbage was really small, you can use less filling and make more rolls. As long as you can roll the leaves to sufficiently encapsulate the meat, it's ok if there seems to be a lot of filling.

Also, cabbage rolls freeze well, so if you have any leftovers, store them in a dish that can go from freezer to oven or microwave. This way you won't be struggling to remove a brick of frozen cabbage rolls later. Enjoy!



(Makes 8 servings)


  • 16 green cabbage leaves, whole and peeled from the head of cabbage

  • 1 lb ground beef

  • 1 cup cooked rice (or gluten-free alternative)

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 small sweet onion, finely diced or grated

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • pinch of black pepper


  • 645ml jar plain tomato sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • generous pinch of black pepper



Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C (alternately, this can be made in a crockpot or Instant Pot).

In a mixing bowl, combine all the roll ingredients except the cabbage leaves. Mix well. Divide the meat mixture into 16 portions and roll 1 portion in each cabbage leaf, folding in the sides to fully encapsulate the meat.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the sauce ingredients. Mix until the brown sugar is dissolved and the tomato paste is incorporated.

Into an oven safe cooking dish (or in a crockpot or Instant Pot) spoon enough of the sauce to cover the bottom, then arrange the rolls, opening side down onto one layer. Cover the rolls with the remaining sauce ensuring all rolls are covered.

Cover tightly with foil or lid and cook for 1 hour. Uncover and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

Serve with salad or additional rice (or quinoa).


Nutritional Information Per Serving:

total calories = 260 | total fat = 8.06g | saturated fat = 3g | cholesterol = 75.5mg | sodium = 699.25mg | carbohydrates = 27.7g | dietary fibre = 3.4g | sugars = 17.05g | protein = 20.46g

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