This tutorial is all you need to make the BEST vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls! You'll love the Mediterranean-style rice filling with tomatoes, onions, loads of fresh herbs an a few warm spices. This recipe comes straight from my mother's kitchen; a one-pot meal that is delicious and comforting. Vegan and Gluten Free!  And you can prepare them a bit in advance, so they're ready to cook any night of the week.  

If you haven't made cabbage rolls before, don't worry. I have the step-by-step for you below along with a video for how to make stuffed cabbage rolls (toward the bottom of this post). 

Stuffed cabbage rolls with tomatoes on a plate

My quick unstuffed cabbage rolls are great for weeknights, but when I want the real deal, I turn to my mom's recipe for vegetarian cabbage rolls. It's a childhood favorite; so comforting and tasty.

These are quite different from the large, meat-heavy cabbage rolls that are most familiar to us here in the States. These cabbage rolls are prepared Mediterranean-style with a tasty vegetarian rice filling with tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs and spices.

You do not need to heat up the oven, these cabbage rolls are cooked stove-top. You can do most of the prep, including stuffing and assembling the cabbage rolls the night before (I'll tell you all about this in just a bit.)

How to Prepare Cabbage for Stuffing

This recipe uses green cabbage, which is readily available almost year-round, but especially during the fall and winter months.

To make cabbage rolls, you need to start by preparing the cabbage--softening and separating the cabbage leaves, then cutting them to the desired size.

In this recipe, we start by simply blanching the whole head of cabbage in boiling water. The first layer of leaves will begin to soften in a couple minutes or so, I use a pair of tongs to remove them. The process is simply repeated from there (be sure to watch the video below.)

Once the cabbage leaves have cooled, we cut them to the desired size from there. My mom likes to serve cabbage rolls that are bite-sized and easy to manage. They are absolutely divine!

Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls piled on a plate

What's in the cabbage rolls filling? 

The secret to these Mediterranean-style stuffed cabbage rolls is in the filling. Like I said earlier, it's a vegetarian rice filling that's big on Mediterranean flavors from fresh herbs and spices. Here's what's in it:

-Long-grain rice

-Shredded onions

-Chopped tomatoes

-Fresh herbs: lots of chopped fresh parsley and dill

- Spices: a combination of cumin, allspice and a touch of cayenne, add depth and flavor

- Extra virgin olive oil (I used Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil)

- Tomato sauce and a bit of water. The liquid here helps the rice cook properly

Let's walk through the step-by-step for how to make these Mediterranean-style stuffed cabbage rolls:

Step-by-step for Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls:

(Video and print-friendly recipe to follow)

1. Prepare the cabbage leaves. Remove and discard the first couple leaves of cabbage. Cut just a little bit of the end about ¼" inch or so and place the cabbage in boiling water. Cook for a couple of minutes until the outer layer of cabbage leaves is tender. Remove, using a pair of tongs. Repeat the process until the last layer of leaves.

Set aside to cool briefly. Once cooled, cut each cabbage leaf into halves or thirds, removing any thick veins.

Separated cabbage leaves prepped for stuffed cabbage rolls

2. Now prepare the rice stuffing mixture. In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, shredded onions, herbs, spices, oil, ½ can of tomato sauce and ¼ cup water. Mix together with a spoon.

Stuffing for vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls prepared in mixing bowl

3.  Prepare a Dutch oven or cooking pot. Lightly oil a large Dutch oven or heavy cooking pot. Line the bottom with a few cabbage leaves, sliced onions and sliced tomatoes (this serves as a nice bed for our small cabbage leaves.)

Layer of sliced onions, tomatoes and cabbage leaves on bottom of large pot

4. Now begin to roll the cabbage leaves. Take a piece of cabbage and place on a flat surface, coarse side up. Add about 1 teaspoon of the rice stuffing mixture on the end of the leaf closest to you.

A spoonful of stuffing for vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls placed on one leaf of cabbage

Roll up the cabbage leaf to completely enclose the stuffing. Fold in sides as your roll. Repeat with the remaining cabbage pieces or leaves.

Cabbage leaf rolled with vegetarian stuffing5. Arrange cabbage rolls in prepared pot. Layer the cabbage rolls, seam-side down, in the prepared Dutch oven or pot.

Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls layered in large pot

Top the cabbage rolls with with the remaining ½ can of tomato sauce, and about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of water (water should barley reach the top layer of cabbage rolls). Sprinkle a pinch more ground cumin.

Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls layered in large pot with tomato sauce

6. Get ready to cook the cabbage rolls. One helpful tip from my mom: top the cabbage rolls with a small plate, this keeps them well in place and prevents them from opening up or getting messy.

Cook on high heat for 5-7 minutes until the liquid reduces to half. Reduce the heat to low. Leaving the small plate in and cover the pot with its own lid.  Cook for 30 minutes then remove the plate, but cover again with the lid only.

Cook for another 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed completely and the rice filling is cooked through.

Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls cooking in large pot with plate setting on top7. If you're not in a hurry, leave the cabbage rolls undisturbed for about 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to serving platter or individual plates.

Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls piled on top of a plate

Can I prepare these cabbage rolls ahead of time?

It does take a bit of time to roll the cabbage leaves, so you can absolutely do this part one night in advance. Assemble the stuffed cabbage leaves in the pot you intend to cook them in but do not add the sauce or water until you are ready to cook.

Cover tightly and refrigerate. When you are ready to cook, top the cabbage rolls with tomato sauce and add water. Follow cooking instructions.

What to Serve Along?

I often serve these cabbage rolls as a vegetarian main. To start the meal, I add a big salad like Fattoush or Balela and a hearty Mediterranean dip like Baba Ganoush.

Here's the Video for How to Make these Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls

More Recipes to Try:

Mediterranean stuffed Peppers

Eggplant Parmesan

Quick Roasted Tomatoes with Thyme and Feta

Greek Boneless Leg of Lamb (slow cooker or braised)

JOIN MY FREE E-MAIL LIST HERE  FOR MORE TASTY RECIPES!

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Stuffed cabbage rolls with tomatoes on a plate

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls


Description

Mediterranean-style stuffed cabbage rolls with a vegetarian rice filling, packed with fresh herbs, tomatoes, onions and spices. Be sure to watch the video just above and review the step-by-step photos.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 medium green cabbage
  • Water
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • ½ cup shredded yellow onion
  • 1 tomato, chopped or diced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin, more for later
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper, more to taste
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (see our Greek olive oil option here)
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion sliced
  • 1-2 Roma tomato sliced

Instructions

  1. Remove and discard the first couple leaves of cabbage. Wash in cold water. Cut approx ¼" off the bottom of the head and place the whole head of cabbage in boiling water. Boil about 2 minutes. Peel off the softened leaves, using a pair of tongs. Continue the same process, peeling off the blanched layers of cabbage leaves as they soften. Set aside to cool briefly.
  2. Once cooled, cut each cabbage leaf into halves or thirds, removing any thick veins.
  3. Now prepare the rice stuffing mixture. In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice, shredded onions, chopped tomato, herbs, salt and pepper, spices, oil, ½ can of tomato sauce and ¼ cup water. Mix together with a spoon.
  4. Lightly oil a large Dutch oven or heavy cooking pot. Line the bottom with the sliced onions and sliced tomatoes.
  5. Take a piece of cabbage and place on a flat surface, coarse side up. Add 1 teaspoon (more if leaves are larger) of the rice stuffing mixture at the end of the leaf closest to you (see photo). Roll up the leaf to completely enclose the stuffing. Repeat with the remaining cabbage.
  6. Layer the cabbage rolls, seam-side down, in the prepared Dutch oven/pot. Top with the remaining ½ can of tomato sauce, and about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of water (water should barely reach the top layer of cabbage rolls). Add a pinch more ground cumin.
  7. Top the cabbage rolls with a small plate. Cook on high heat for 5-7 minutes until the liquid reduces to half. Reduce the heat to low. Leaving the small plate in, and cover the pot with its own lid. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove the plate but cover with the lid only. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the liquid has been completely absorbed and the rice stuffing mixture is cooked through.
  8. If you're not in a hurry, leave the cabbage rolls undisturbed before transferring to a serving platter or individual plates. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Cook's Tips for Preparing Ahead: It does take a bit of time to roll the cabbage leaves, so you can absolutely do this part one night in advance. Assemble the stuffed cabbage leaves in the pot you intend to cook them in but do not add the sauce or water until you are ready to cook.Cover tightly and refrigerate. When you are ready to cook, top the cabbage rolls with tomato sauce and add water. Follow cooking instructions.
  • Cook's Tip: These cabbage rolls are smaller. You will have a large pot of them to feed a small crowd as a side dish. As a vegetarian entree, you can easily feed up to 6 people with sides and salads (see suggestions above)
  • Leftovers: Store leftovers in the fridge in a tight-lid container for 3 to 4 days. Warm over medium heat, adding a little bit of liquid if needed.
  • Try our Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives)
  • Don't miss our Ultimate Mediterranean Spice Bundle (quality all-natural and organic spices). Visit our SHOP!
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 45 mins
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Stove-top
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean

Keywords: Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls, How to Make Cabbage Rolls, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

*This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit. Enjoy!

 

 

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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...
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Comments

    1. Hi Melissa, you can add about 1/2 pound of ground beef and mix it in the rice mixture then follow the recipe. You can cook the meat in a skillet and season with salt and pepper before adding it to the mixture.

  1. This was so delicious. Such an interesting and unpredictable combination of flavors that worked so well. Thank you!

  2. So yummy! We are trying to eat less meat. These were scrumptious. We enjoyed them on a cold day with mashed potatoes on the side. Next time I would try to make a little more sauce but they are very, very good as written.

  3. i made these today - probably overblanched some of the rolls, as they were falling apart by the time i rolled the rice in them, but once the dish was finished they were great, and it didn't even matter. could have used a tiny tiny bit more rice stuffing but i just added the additional cabbage on top or bottom of the rolls in the dutch oven and they turned out delicious looking as well . have plenty to enjoy throughout the week! thanks so much, Suzy! this recipe is a keeper in my book! will be revisiting.

  4. Suzy I am fairly new to your site, but I love what I see and have tried your med. salads and love them. I love chickpeas anything, so am so excited to follow and try your recipes. I have subscribed and look forward to trying your lovely healthy recipes.

    1. The video appears right above the actual recipe box. For some browsers, if you've disabled ads or pop ups, for some reason, it also disables the videos.

  5. Never mind my previous comment... it was the browser. Firefox doesn't show the video, Exlorer does. Sorry, my mistake.

  6. These cabbage rolls look so delicious. The filling has my mouth watering

  7. This looks really nice! What a great way to use cabbage. I see so many cabbage rolls with minced meat, it's nice to see a different variation. Can't wait to try this!

  8. I love the idea of making cabbage rolls! Looks so delicious and perfect for a healthy balanced dinner!

  9. What a creative recipe. I have never tried using cabbage like this. Thanks for sharing. I will try this out soon!

  10. Healthy and deliciously appetizing these vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls is just what I was looking for my party this week, this is sure to be scrumptious!

  11. Love your recipes, cabbage is one of my favorite veggies, this recipe is delicious, I have made it 3 times, thank you, all your recipes looked delicious, like to try them all, hope I can do it.

  12. This was so unique! I love your recipes because they're always fresh and different. Thank you for sharing this!!