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Healthy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This recipe for cabbage rolls uses cabbage leaves and a delicious stuffing made with ground beef, a mix of wild rice and long grain rice and vegetables, all cooked in a tomato sauce with aromatic spices and herbs. Same stuffing can be used for an assortment of colored bell peppers, a recipe perfect for clean eating diet.

Whether you call these cabbage wraps – sarmale (Romanian cabbage rolls) or galushki / golubtsi (Russian cabbage rolls) the dish uses basically the same simple ingredients. German, Greek, Turkish, Polish, Hungarian or Ukrainian stuffed cabbage rolls, they all consist of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around a variety of fillings. 

These healthy stuffed cabbage rolls make a delicious gluten free, dairy free, clean eating dinner or lunch. The cabbage leaves are stuffed with a mix of wild rice and basmati rice, seasoned grass fed ground beef, caramelized veggies and baked in the oven until moist and tender.
Cabbage rolls in a bowl.

A Healthier Recipe For Cabbage Rolls

You can tweak the cabbage roll recipe to your liking and substitute the ingredients as you please. Here I’m using healthier ingredients (without sugar or egg and more fiber), but feel free to adjust to your taste.

The best part, is that these cabbage rolls keep well in the fridge for days and can be reheated the next day. They can be served with any type of side dish you prefer, ranging from a cabbage coleslaw if you prefer something creamy and crunchy, or add some sourness with a probiotic rich red cabbage sauerkraut with beets or a fragrant lacto-fermented carrot salad.

Related: Cabbage Fritters

Essential Ingredients For Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

  • Cabbage leaves – you can use steamed or frozen cabbage leaves. This will make them more flexible for rolling.
  • Ground beef – ground pork, ground chicken or turkey will also work. Or you could combine two varieties.
  • Rice – I used basmati rice and wild rice (for more fiber), but any cooked white rice will work. For low carb stuffed cabbage rolls you could use cauliflower rice, but it will come out a little soggy.
  • Onion, garlic, carrot– for flavoring the meat.
  • Seasoning – coriander, paprika, thyme, black pepper – the use of herbs and spices will build flavor without using any sugar or dairy.
  • Crushed tomatoes – is used as tomato sauce substitution, it doesn’t have sugar. But you can also mix it with some broth if you need more liquid.

RICE PREP TIP: Soak the rice overnight, besides removing the impurities and contaminants it will also help the rice “puff up” so it could cook faster.

Related: Best Cabbage Juice Recipe For Ulcers (Blender / Juicer)

This recipe for stuffed cabbage makes a hearty and comforting meal for the whole family. The dish is absolutely delicious and inexpensive to make.

My mother used to make the sarmale recipe (Romanian cabbage rolls) and sarma (stuffed rolls made with grape leaves) in very large batches especially when we had large crowds visiting. This used to be a traditional dish served for Easter and Christmas meals in my childhood.

CABBAGE TIP: For the best tasting and healthier cabbage rolls, use the leaves of a pickled cabbage head (like sauerkraut), if you don’t have any, fresh cabbage is the best next alternative.

These healthy stuffed cabbage rolls make a delicious gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, clean eating dinner or lunch. The cabbage leaves are stuffed with a mix of wild rice and basmati rice, grass fed ground beef, fresh vegetables, aromatic spices and herbs and baked in the oven until moist and tender.

Heads up: some are affiliate links & I may receive a small commission from qualifying sales. For more info See this.

TOMATO SAUCE TIP: The key to brightening the taste of these stuffed cabbage rolls is to add acid, hence the tomatoes do a really great job. Alternatively you can use tomato juice or fresh chopped tomatoes (but you need a lot). Or you can make a flavored tomato sauce by using spices.

How To Make Healthy Cabbage Rolls

While this seems to be an easy recipe for rolled cabbage, it does take a bit of time. So make sure you have about 2 hour to prep and bake your dish.

Step 1. Prepare The Rice

  • Place the rice in a bowl and add water to soak overnight.
  • If you don’t have time, just rinse it several times until the water is clear and let it soak for at least an hour until you gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Step 2. Prepare The Cabbage

  • Boil the cabbage. Submerge the entire cabbage head into a large pot with boiling water (for about 3-4 minutes). See video below for visual help. Since I don’t have pickled cabbage (that’s what is preferred) I’m adding some vinegar to the boiling water to give it a little kick.
  • Then, peel the leaves off, one at a time.
Process shots showing how to prepare cabbage for cabbage rolls by softening cabbage leaves in boiling water.
Preparing cabbage for cabbage rolls: softening cabbage leaves by submerging in hot water.

TIP: Freezing a head of cabbage overnight then thawing it makes for a more pliable cabbage leaf.

Step 3. Prepare The Stuffing

  • In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic, carrots until lightly soft, add the spices and herbs, the beef. Add the soaked rice at the end and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  • Now you can add half of the crushed tomatoes to the mixture at this moment or add it later on top, after rolling the cabbage. Set aside to cool.
Process shots showing how to prepare a healthier stuffing for cabbage rolls or rolled cabbage recipe.
Sautéing the vegetables with ground meat and rice. finishing with diced tomatoes.

Step 4. Assemble The Cabbage Rolls

  • To stuff the cabbage leaves, lay down a single large leaf and place about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the filling in the lower third of the leave, fold the sides and roll (this way you’ll get huge rolls). 
  • If you prefer smaller rolls then cut the leaf in smaller parts, and use less filing (see video).
  • In a large deep dish (I’m using a 3-quart round glass dish) place the stuffed cabbage rolls on the bottom, and continue by adding layers.
  • Pour the remaining half of the jar of crushed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes) on top. Alternatively use water and lemon juice or vegetable broth. Some try to add a lot of liquid so they are covered, but I found that this is not necessary as the steam fill circulate inside. Just add enough liquid to help the rice puff.
  • Cover with the remaining cabbage leaves to seal moisture and cover with a lid.
Process shots showing how to roll cabbage: rolling stuffed cabbage with hands.
Rolling stuffed cabbage with my hands.

Step 5. Bake The Cabbage Rolls

  • Bake for 2 hours at 370F or 190C. Or until the wild rice has puffed and is cracked open. (It has a longer cooking time than the regular rice).
  • Remove from the oven and allow to sit covered for 30 minutes before serving. It will continue to cook and build some flavor for the next day.
Process shots showing how to cook cabbage rolls in oven.
How to cook cabbage rolls in oven. After you’re done with rolling, top the cabbage rolls with the remaining cabbage leaves to keep the steam inside, and cover tightly with a lid before transferring to the oven.

VIDEO: How To Make Cabbage Rolls & Stuffed Peppers

Tips For Making Perfect Cabbage Rolls

  • For a looser filling, sauté all of the filling ingredients in a pan until the meat is half cooked, otherwise if you use raw ingredients you’ll get a “glued” giant meatball inside.
  • If you are sensitive to nightshades skip the tomato sauce, use vegetable broth or just a little water with lemon juice.
  • Once the stuffed cabbage rolls and peppers are tender, you’ll take them from the oven and let them finish cooking at room temperature, with the lid on, for an additional 30 minute to 1 hour. They will cool slightly and the flavors will continue to meld.

TIP FOR STUFFED PEPPERS: I’m not cutting the peppers in half like other people do, because I think this way more moisture is lost and you end up with a dry mixture. I’m just filling the peppers with the same filling and baking in a tight sealed pot until rice is nice and tender.

Healthy stuffed peppers – a comforting gluten free, dairy free, clean eating recipe great for dinner or lunch. The bell peppers are stuffed with a mix of wild rice and long grain rice, organic grass fed ground beef, caramelized veggies, aromatic herbs, spices and baked in the oven until moist and tender.

How To Make The Recipe For Rolled Cabbage – Vegan

  • If you want a vegan version of these healthy stuffed cabbage rolls, sub the beef for mushrooms.
  • As the cooking liquid use vegetable broth or just a little water with lemon juice.

Storing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Freeze for up to 3 months in an airtight sealed container.

To re-heat, thaw completely in the refrigerator the night before. When ready to eat throw them in a skillet, add 2 tablespoons of water, cover and cook over low heat, until heated through (about 15 minutes). Or place in a an oven at 350F for 15-20 minutes.

More Healthy Dinner Recipes With Meat

If you tried this healthy recipe for cabbage rolls, please leave a star rating or a comment below the recipe card. It’s really helpful for me and readers. Thanks!

recipe for cabbage rolls rolled cabbage
Print Recipe

Healthy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

This recipe for healthy cabbage rolls uses cabbage leaves and a delicious stuffing made with ground beef, a mix of wild rice and long grain rice, fresh vegetables cooked in a tomato sauce with aromatic spices and herbs. Same stuffing can be used for an assortment of colored bell peppers. You can tweak the cabbage roll recipe to your liking and substitute the ingredients as you please. Here I’m using healthier ingredients, but feel free to adjust to your taste.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 25 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Clean Eating, DairyFree, Gluten Free, Mediterranean, Sugar Free
Servings: 50 rolls
Calories: 262kcal
Author: HealthyTasteOfLife
Pin Recipe Save

Ingredients
 

  • 1 large cabbage head - fresh
  • 4 fresh bell peppers - optional

Cabbage Roll Stuffing

  • 3/4 cup basmati rice - soaked
  • 3/4 cup wild rice - soaked
  • 1.5 lb ground beef - or other ground meat of your choice
  • 2 medium onions - chopped
  • 4-5 garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 crushed tomatoes - jar (18.3 oz)
  • 3 large carrots - grated

Seasonings For Stuffing

  • 2 tsp Himalayan pink salt - or 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper - ground
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp mustard powder - or paste
  • 1 tsp paprika - optional, or smoked paprika

Extra

  • 2 tbsp olive oil - for sauteing
  • 1/3 cup parsley to garnish - chopped
  • 1 cup stock or broth - as extra liquid for baking (optional)

Instructions
 

Step 1. Prepare The Rice

  • Place the rice in a bowl and add water to soak overnight. If you don’t have time, just rinse it several times until the water is clear and let it soak for at least an hour until you gather and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Step 2. Prepare The Cabbage

  • Slice out the core by cutting a deep cone-shaped incision so that the leaves could be easily detached. Submerge the entire cabbage head into a large pot with boiling water (for about 3-4 minutes). See video below for visual help.
  • Then, peel the leaves off, one at a time, while the cabbage is still submerged. Use tongs for convenience.
    Since I don’t have pickled cabbage (that’s what is preferred) I’m adding some vinegar to the boiling water to give it a little kick.
  • Prepare the bell peppers if you're using any: cut the core from the inside and strip away the seeds. Set aside.

Step 3. Prepare The Stuffing

  • In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic, carrots until lightly soft, add the spices and herbs, the beef. Add the soaked rice at the end and cook for 1-2 minutes. Leave the meat slightly uncooked.
  • Now you can add half of the crushed tomatoes to the mixture at this moment or add it later on top, after rolling the cabbage. Set aside to cool.

Step 4. Assemble The Cabbage Rolls

  • To stuff the cabbage leaves, lay down a single large leaf and place about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the filling in the lower third of the leave, fold the sides and roll (this way you’ll get huge rolls). 
  • If you prefer smaller rolls then cut the leaf in smaller parts, and use less filing (see video).In a large deep dish (I’m using a 3-quart round glass dish) place the stuffed cabbage rolls on the bottom, and continue by adding layers.
  • Pour the remaining half of the jar of crushed tomatoes on top. Alternatively use water and lemon juice or vegetable broth. Some try to add a lot of liquid so they are covered, but I found that this is not necessary as the steam fill circulate inside. Just add enough liquid to help the rice puff.
  • Cover with the remaining cabbage leaves to seal moisture and cover with a lid.

Step 5. Bake The Cabbage Rolls

  • Bake for 2 hours at 370F or 190C. Or until the wild rice has puffed and is cracked open. (It has a longer cooking time than the regular rice).
  • Remove from the oven and allow to sit covered for 30 minutes before serving. It will continue to cook and build some flavor for the next day.

Video

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Notes

Tips for Making & Storing Cabbage Rolls

  • When baking in the oven, it’s important to cover the baking dish tightly, a tight fitting lid is the best. It will not allow the vapors to escape.
  • Soak the rice overnight, besides removing the impurities and contaminants it will also “puff” the rice and make it cook faster.
  • For the best tasting and healthier cabbage rolls, use the leaves of a pickled cabbage head (like sauerkraut).
  • To soften the cabbage leaves (for easier rolling) boil the cabbage. Submerge the entire cabbage head into a large pot with boiling water (for about 3-4 minutes). Peel the leaves off, one at a time while submerged. Use tongs for convenience.
  • Freeze for up to 3 months. To re-heat, thaw completely in the refrigerator the night before. When ready to eat throw them in a skillet, add 2 tbsp of water, cover and cook over low heat, until heated through.
 
Tried this recipe?Mention @HealthyTasteOfLife or tag #healthytasteoflife!

Nutrition

Serving: 5rolls | Calories: 262kcal | Carbohydrates: 23.6g | Protein: 16.6g | Fat: 12.5g | Saturated Fat: 4.3g | Cholesterol: 38.6mg | Sodium: 398.2mg | Potassium: 553.8mg | Fiber: 5.4g | Sugar: 7.6g | Vitamin A: 3055IU | Vitamin C: 131.8mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 2.8mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.

This recipe for cabbage rolls uses cabbage leaves stuffed with ground beef, wild rice, long grain rice and vegetables, all cooked in a tomato sauce with aromatic spices and herbs. 
Whether you call these cabbage wraps - sarmale or golubtsi they all consist of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around fillings. You can tweak the cabbage roll recipe to be healthier. The cabbage rolls keep well in the fridge for days. #cabbagerolls #stuffedcabbage #healthyrecipes #rolledcabbage #stuffedcabbagerolls

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Recipe Rating




Berta

Monday 1st of April 2019

Thank you for the recipe, I just made these stuffed pepper tonight...who knew that wild rice can taste so good! Love it!

HealthyTasteOfLife

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

Yes... I said the same thing, it's unexpectedly delicious!