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.

Unstuffed cabbage rolls in a large pot

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? 

  • Easy
  • Healthy
  • Freezer friendly
  • Make it stovetop or  in the slow cooker
  • And the flavors will surprise your taste buds in the best way possible!

Mediterranean-Style Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls served in bowl with drizzle of olive oil and more fresh herbs on top

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 ½ 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 1: Prepare the CabbageI like to core and cut my green cabbage into large chunks (they don't need to be of equal size or neat in any way.) Then cook the chopped cabbage in boiling water until nice and tender (it'll turn a brighter green.) Dump water out and leave the cabbage in a colander to drain.

Chopped cabbage leaves cooking in boiling water

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.

Ground beef, sauteed with onions and garlic

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

To make unstuffed cabbage rolls, a large pot with ground beef, cooked brown rice, cooked cabbage leaves, herbs and fresh herbs

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.

Diced tomato, tomato sauce and water are added to the large pot of unstuffed cabbage rolls ingredients

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.

One bowl of unstuffed cabbage rolls

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, ½ cup uncooked brown rice, herbs, spices, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add 2 ¼ 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.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls served in bowls. Large pot and a small dish or hot pepper flakes on the side

Vegetarian Option

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.

 

Need more hearty prepare-ahead meals? You'll love this collection of easy bean recipes. And here are some soups and stews to try!

 

NEVER MISS A RECIPE! JOIN MY FREE E-MAIL LIST HERE.

SHOP OUR ONLINE STORE FOR QUALITY OLIVE OILS, ALL-NATURAL SPICES AND MORE.

4.84 from 24 votes

Mediterranean-Style Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

The Mediterranean Dish
One Pot Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls, Mediterranean-Style
BEST unstaffed cabbage rolls recipe, prepared Mediterranean-style with brown rice and lean ground beef. Fresh herbs and warm spices bring it together! Gluten Free
Prep – 10 mins
Cook – 28 mins
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 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 ½ cup/nearly 600 g already cooked brown rice
  • ½ cup/12.5 g chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ½ 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

Instructions
 

  • 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 tablespoon 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!

Notes

  • Cook's Tip: For the brown rice, you need to use 1 ½ 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, ½ cup uncooked brown rice, herbs, spices, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Season with a little kosher salt and pepper. Add 2 ¼ 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.
Tried this recipe?

*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2019 and has been updated with new information and media for readers' benefit. Enjoy!

Share it with the world

I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
Learn More

Get our best recipes and all Things Mediterranean delivered to your inbox.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

How many stars would you give this recipe?




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

    1. Hi, Ruth. One option would be to omit it. I did a quick internet search, though, and saw that using equal parts of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves might be a good substitute Hope that helps a bit!

  1. This looks and sounds so yummy! My mother used to make stuffed cabbage and serve them on top of buttery Nash potatoes. so so good! I have a pound of Wagu beef and a fresh head of cabbage. I'm thinking I would like to serve this on top of some roasted new potatoes or some mashed potatoes . That way I can control how much carbs are in a serving. What adjustments should I make?

    1. Hi, Linda. You're making my mouth water :). I'm not sure I understand the question though regarding making adjustments. Are you referring to replacing the rice with potatoes?

  2. 5 stars
    One of my favorite recipes. It is easy to make and full of taste. I make it with vegetarian "ground meat" and it is delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    This was delicious. Made it in the crockpot and the only changes I did were add some chopped green pepper, used white rice and diced tomatoes with green chilies for a bit of a kick. Served with mashed potatoes. Yum!

    1. Hello! There probably is, but I have not attempted it before, so I can't really advise. If you give it a try, please stop back and let us know how it went!

    2. I adapted this recipe to my 8qt instant pot tonight. I skipped the boiling of the cabbage and cut it into 2" chunks. I then used the saute feature and did everything else in the same order except the rice. Once all the spices and liquids were mixed, I added the rice on top and pressed it down into the liquid - but DON"T STIR IT! Then I did a manual pressure for 20min. Served it with some sour cream and dill on top with rye bread - yummy!

  4. 5 stars
    Terrific recipe and easy to throw together. Thanks!

    Tips for a protein packed vegan version that worked well for me:
    1 lb of Beyond Beef and 1 can (drained) garbanzo beans in place of the real beef
    1 cup quinoa and 0.5 cup wild rice in place of the brown rice

    Delicious and great texture.