If you love cabbage rolls but don’t have the time for all the prep, these delicious unstuffed cabbage rolls are your ticket! Easy. Tasty. Meal-prep friendly. Freezer friendly. All the things!
You’ll love the combination of brown rice, seasoned ground beef and cabbage in a tangy red sauce. Make it stovetop or in the slow cooker. Read through for tips and step-by-step tutorial.
My mom makes the best cabbage rolls. She can literally roll those things in no time, and they turn out perfectly every single time!
But if you’re like me and you love cabbage rolls but don’t want to deal with the hassle, then this lazy but equally tasty version is for you.
My unstuffed cabbage rolls is a time saver option that skips all the fuss in favor of a hearty one-pot dinner with cooked brown rice, seasoned ground beef (or turkey), torn cabbage pieces and a tangy, flavor-packed tomato sauce.
What I love about this unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe?
- Freezer friendly
- Make it stovetop or in the slow cooker
- And the flavors will surprise your taste buds in the best way possible!
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Ingredients
- Green Cabbage- Cut up into chunks
- Meat- You can use lean ground beef, ground turkey, or even ground chicken if you like.
- Brown Rice- 1 1/2 cups of cooked brown rice (you can use white rice if you prefer)
- Aromatics-onions, garlic, fresh parsley and dill (if you don’t have dill, parsley alone is fine).
- Spices- ground cumin and a good pinch of allspice bring warmth and depth to the rice and cabbage. You can also use oregano if you have some.
- Canned Tomatoes- a combination of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes for the perfect flavor and texture
How to Make Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
Step 2: Brown the Meat
Wipe the same pot dry and let’s cook the meat. You can use lean ground beef or turkey. I like to start with a little extra virgin olive oil to cook the onions until golden, then add the meat and garlic. Cook until fully browned (drain any fat). Season with a little salt and pepper.
Step 3: Put everything together in the pot
To the cooked beef, add the cabbage, cooked brown rice, and loads of parsley and dill. Add spices, salt and pepper. Stir to combine everything
Now add tomatoes (diced and sauce) and some water to help everything come together. Boil, then lower heat to simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 4: Serve
Transfer unstuffed cabbage rolls to serving bowls. I like a drizzle of Private Reserve EVOO and maybe a little crushed red pepper flakes on top.
To me, the beauty of one-pot recipes like this one is that you really don’t need much else for dinner, but a big fresh salad is always great to add.
Make Ahead Tips
If you want to get a head start on the unstuffed cabbage, you can work one night in advance.
1. Prep and boil the cabbage, then drain well and store in tight-lid glass container.
2. Brown the meat. Cool completely and store in the fridge in another container
3. Cook your brown rice (according to package). Again, cool and store in the fridge
The next day, you can throw everything in your Dutch oven or pot for a quick dinner.
Make it in the Slow Cooker
Corckpot unstuffed cabbage rolls could not be easier. You can throw in the cabbage pieces without boiling and you can use uncooked brown rice. Here is how:
1. Brown the ground beef according to the recipe with onions and garlic.
2. Lightly oil the bottom of a large slow cooker. Add in cabbage pieces (uncooked), ground beef, 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice, herbs, spices, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add 2 1/4 cups water and stir everything together.
3. Set the slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 7 hours.
If you’re wondering about a meat alternative for your vegan family and friends, there is a way!
Swap the meat out for a plant-based protein. Try 2 cups of canned beans or chickpeas instead.
Storing and Freezing Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
In my book, anything you can make ahead is a winner. And these unstuffed cabbage rolls are even better the next day once all the flavors had a chance to meld.
Cool completely before storing. Store in the fridge for 3 days or so in a tight-lid shallow container.
Can you freeze unstuffed cabbage rolls? Absolutely! Once cooled, divide unstuffed cabbage rolls into freezer safe containers. Freeze for later use. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
To reheat, set stovetop to medium heat. Add a little water and heat stirring occasionally until warmed through.
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Mediterranean-Style Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
- 1 small head cabbage cored and chopped into large pieces
- Boiling Water
- Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 lb lean ground beef or ground turkey
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 cup/nearly 600 g already cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup/12.5 g chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/2 cup/6 g chopped fresh dill
- 1 tsp/1.90 g ground allspice
- 1 tsp/2 g ground cumin
- 1 15- oz/425.243 g can diced tomatoes
- 1 15- oz/425.243 g can tomato sauce
- In a large pot or Dutch oven like this one, boil plenty of water. Add cabbage and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until tender (cabbage will turn brighter in color.) Discard water and transfer cooked cabbage to a colander to drain.
- Wipe empty pot and return to heat. Add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and heat on medium until shimmering but not smoking. Add onions and cook, stirring regularly, for 3 to 4 minutes then add garlic and ground beef (or turkey.) Break the meat apart using a wooden spoon. Raise heat to medium-high. Cook until meat is fully browned, stirring occasionally. Carefully drain any fat, and return to heat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Now add cooked cabbage, cooked brown rice, chopped herbs, and spices. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Cover and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer to serving bowls and drizzle a bit more extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!
- Cook's Tip: For the brown rice, you need to use 1 1/2 cups of already cooked brown rice. Consult your package instructions for raw amount and cooking instructions. Cook the brown rice in advance of using in this recipe.
- Vegan Option: You can make a vegan version of this unstuffed cabbage recipe. Swap the meat out for 2 cups cooked chickpeas (canned chickpeas are fine here) and follow recipe as written!
- Prepare Ahead Tip: If you want to get a head start on the unstuffed cabbage, you can work one night in advance. Prep and boil the cabbage, then drain well and store in tight-lid glass container. You can also brown the meat and cook your brown rice (according to package) refrigerate each in separate glass containers for one night.
- Slow-Cooker Version: Making unstuffed cabbage rolls is the slow cooker can be even easier. You can throw in the cabbage pieces without boiling and you can use uncooked brown rice. Brown the ground beef according to the recipe with onions and garlic. Lightly oil the bottom of a large slow cooker. Add in cabbage pieces (uncooked), ground beef, 1/2 cup uncooked brown rice, herbs, spices, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Season with a little kosher salt and pepper. Add 2 1/4 cups water and stir everything together. Set the slow cooker on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 6 to 7 hours.
- Tips for Storing Leftovers: Refrigerate leftovers in shallow airtight glass containers for 3 days. You can also freeze leftovers in portions for use as needed. Thaw overnight in the fridge, heat stovetop over medium heat with a little more liquid added, stir regularly till warmed through.
- Recommended for this Recipe: Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives.) And from our all-natural spice collection: ground allspice and ground cumin.
- SAVE! Try our Greek Olive Oil Bundle! Create your own 6-pack or 3-pack from our spice collection, or try the Ultimate Spice Bundle.
*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2019 and has been updated with new information and media for readers’ benefit. Enjoy!