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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls: Meat-free & Delicious

Updated on October 21, 2015
Stuffed cabbage rolls
Stuffed cabbage rolls | Source

Stuffed cabbage rolls - delicious meat free recipe

Well, this was certainly a challenge but I refused to be beaten by a cabbage. If you've read my other recipes - and there are lots of them - you'll know that he does the shopping and I do the cooking. This can result in some rather strange, but inventive, meals sometimes.

Now I don't particularly care for cabbage; he loves it. But, knowing that it's not favourite of mine, this was the first time he'd brought one home from the grocery store.

I remembered that many years ago, when I cooked for my meat-eating family, I used to cook stuffed cabbage rolls using ground beef - so I was sure that I'd be able to create a meat-free version. I used to call them 'stuffed vine leaves' (taking after my mother and trying to be posh) because they were based on the Greek recipes for dolmas.

These rolls feature in many cuisines from Polish through Hungarian to Russian but the basics are always the same. The leaves are rolled with a filling and then cooked in a tasty tomato sauce. So now we have a British-Floridian version too. The vegetarian recipe is quick and easy to make. Oh, and very inexpensive too.

Even better, these have a fraction of the calories of the meat version and use a fraction of the amount of electricity used in the traditional cabbage rolls. Win win.

Images © BritFlorida.

What you'll need for the best meat-free stuffed cabbage rolls

Stuffed cabbage rolls - ingredients
Stuffed cabbage rolls - ingredients | Source

These ingredients are what I use to make dinner for two. But these can also be served as an accompaniment, and appetizer or even cold as finger food.

Working clockwise from the cabbage:

  • 1 small, leafy cabbage
  • Black pepper and a pinch of nutmeg (just a pinch)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes - I like to use the organic ones
  • Dried apricots - about eight, there's no need to be exact
  • A handful of pine nuts
  • 1 slice good wholewheat bread
  • 1 small onion
  • Olive oil
  • A tiny touch of Marmite. I just dip the very end of a teaspoon into the jar
  • ½ cup uncooked rice. I used a mix - white, brown, wild and red

Let's go

BOIL A KETTLE OF WATER

This is the first step. Place the rice in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. This has two effects. Firstly, the rice is softened and therefore doesn't take as long to cook and secondly, it removes any starches.Leave the rice soaking while you prepare the rest of the dish and rinse it in a sieve just before you add it to the stuffing ingredients,

Cuisinart 733-30H Chef's Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan with Helper Handle and Cover
Cuisinart 733-30H Chef's Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan with Helper Handle and Cover

I have seen recipes for stuffed cabbage where the dish is cooked in the oven.There's absolutely no need to waste electricity in that way. You need a sauté pan with a lid - this is perfect because of the convenient handle at the side. This is a good safety feature.

 

ONION

Before chopping the onions, pour the olive oil into a sauté / frying pan and turn the heat to medium. When you've diced the onion, add it to the pan. You may need to turn the heat down slightly so that the onion gently sautés. They will need to be slightly golden brown.

FUN WITH CABBAGE

Remove and discard any rough outer leaves if necessary. Then gently remove the number of leaves you'll be using. I used about fourteen. There was just a tiny core left which I used to make coleslaw the following day. Clean the leaves in cold water then add them to a large pan.

BLANCH THE LEAVES

Place the pan on the stove, set to high, and pour the boiling water over. When the water comes back to a boil you'll see that the various shades of green become really defined. The outer leaves are darkest and get paler as you head towards the center. This variation makes the dish very attractive. They will need to boil for only a minute or so until they become flexible. Remove the pan from the heat, strain and pile the cabbage leaves on a board or plate to cool while you prepare the stuffing.

STUFFING

Take your teaspoon with the Marmite and stir this into the onions. This gives a slightly 'meaty' taste but not a Marmite-y taste! Remove the onions from the heat and place them into a medium sized bowl.

ADD THE OTHER INGREDIENTS

Grate the bread directly into the bowl using a cheese grater.Chop the dried apricots - add them, a handful of pine nuts and add freshly-ground black pepper and sprinkle in a pinch of nutmeg. Rinse and strain the uncooked rice, pour it into the bowl and stir the mixture.

PREPARE THE ROLLS

Take each cabbage leaf and cut away the hard spine. This will make them easier to roll. Place a dollop of stuffing onto each leaf. If you have a lot of work surface, lay the leaves out and divide the stuffing equally between them. I don't, so I have to do them one by one.Each leaf, depending on its size, will hold about a tablespoon of stuffing.

ROLL

Starting at the cut end, roll up the leaf with the stuffing inside. Just before you get to the end, tuck the two sides in towards the middle and make the final roll. Don't roll them too tightly as the rice needs room to expand when it cooks. You'll now have several lovely cabbage rolls.

COOK

Add the rolls, seam side down, to the same pan you used to sauté the onions (no need to wash it first - let's save water) and pour the contents of the can of tomatoes over the top. Sprinkle with black pepper Some people cook these in the oven but I find that is an irresponsible waste of electricity. Plus, the oven heats the kitchen too much. When used to make this dish in the UK, cabbage was in season from June to September - therefore the warmer months. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil then turn the heat down to a simmer. The type of canned tomatoes I use doesn't have much liquid so I use a lid. These are ready when the rice is cooked - about fifteen minutes.

Stuffed cabbage rolls
Stuffed cabbage rolls

SERVE

I serve these with cheese on the side. When cheese is sprinkled onto the cabbage rolls,the heat makes it delightfully gooey. This is also a good idea if you're feeding strict vegetarians, half-hearted vegetarians (me) and vegans - something that often happens here. Vegans and strict vegetarians can simply ignore the cheese (although I haven't tried it, a dairy-free cheese could be an option here).

I like to serve a simple salad with this too, plus some lovely crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Healthy and planet-friendly

I'm so pleased that I was able to convert my meaty cabbage rolls recipe of years ago to a meat-free version. Not only is it much healthier, it also uses much less electricity.

I've seen recipes for the meat-laden dish that are between 250 - 550 calories per roll The recipe above serves two - six or seven rolls per person - and each portion is just slightly over 350 calories.

That's right, the calorie count for these is just over 50 calories per roll.

The traditional recipe calls for the cabbage to be boiled whole and, depending on the recipe, for the stuffed rolls to be baked in the oven for between 25 and 45 minutes. (I have even seen a stovetop recipe that requires three hours to cook! We have a social responsibility to reduce our fuel usage as much as possible.) These cook on the stovetop in fifteen minutes. It doesn't get much better.

Further reading

The phrase 'too many cookbooks' doesn't exist, in my opinion. Here are my favorites for meat free meals. They make a great addition to your recipe book collection and are also a great gift for the veggie in your life.

These are the most popular meat-free recipe books available on Amazon. I hope you'll try them because just be eating one meat-free meal a week we are saving our planet's resources. Plus, meat free-meals are good for us ... and tasty.

I love the book below - meat-free eating with a French flair. What could be better?

Award-winning recipe

Variations

One of the great features of this recipe is that you can adjust the ingredients to suit your own personal tastes, to use the most seasonal products or to tailor it to a particular event or occasion. Enjoy!

© 2013 Jackie Jackson

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @CherylsArt - I'm pretty sure you would.I'm not at all keen on cabbage but I love this.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      I do like cooked cabbage, so I would probably like it.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ecogranny - it's a very flexible recipe. Whatever adaptions you make will surely be good. Thank you so much for Recipe of the Day! I avidly follow your Facebook page.

      I love the way that this recipe is so frugal when it comes to power usage. That is getting more and more important to us all,I think.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Woohoo! I am SO excited to find this recipe. Jumping up and down excited. Thank you! I have a cabbage in my fridge and I'm going to make these right now. I don't have that many rices in my pantry, but I do have long grain brown rice and bulgar wheat, so I'll have to substitute. I also have a big jar of homemade tomato-based vegetable soup stock I need to use, so I'll add some fresh, chopped heirloom tomatoes to that.

      I'll plan on getting more rices so I can try your recipe without the substitution next time, although I'll probably always use fresh tomatoes and homemade sauces since we don't buy canned tomatoes anymore.

      Look for this tomorrow as Recipe of the Day on a Facebook page I curate called Cooking with Whole Grains & Whole Foods. Thank you again. Jacki. I've been wanting a meatless, ovenless cabbage roll recipe for a long time.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @CheryllsArt - this recipe is incredible. The wonderful thing is that the traditional version uses so much electricity so is so planet-unfriendly. This version is so quick and easy and really tasty!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 3 years ago from West Virginia

      Nice to see that there is a meatless version of this recipe. Looks pretty good.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ecogranny: Thanks for pinning! I'm sure you'll enjoy the recipe. I really don't like cabbage much but I love this :)

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I haven't tried cabbage rolls since I was very young--decades ago! Your recipe looks delicious. I'm pinning it to my "To try" board. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Terry Boroff profile image

      Terry Boroff (flipflopnana) 3 years ago from FL

      Cabbage and pine nuts have been added to this week's grocery list, I cannot wait to cook these up!

    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 3 years ago from Minnesota

      yummmeeeeeee!!!! I cannot wait to try these cabbage rolls! of course, I won't be cooking them until this fall, when at which time, a friend and I plan to create some... but, they sound deeeelicious!!!!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 3 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Oh boy, these sound and look so good and easy! Love that they are meatless.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 3 years ago

      Oh my, your recipe for meatless cabbage rolls sounds divine! I will definitely be cooking up some cabbag your way, and yes, I will make my go green slaw with the leftover cabbage!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Margaret Schindel: It's gorgeous, truly. Inexpensive, really low in calories and fat, plus it's even planet-friendly. Perfect!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Love the idea of this meatless version cooked on the stovetop vs. the oven! Thanks for sharing.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 3 years ago from Alabama USA

      I like this recipe, look yummy.

    • profile image

      nuxa76 3 years ago

      I am always on diet so instead of pasta I use zero noodles for the filling and it turns out to be very very low in calories and yummy :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Leanne Chesser: It's gorgeous. And it's very adaptable too so gluten-free bread would be a great idea.

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 3 years ago

      Mmm. Awesome! I would change a couple of things (like I'd have to use gluten free bread), but this sounds really yummy!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @SteveKaye: Thank you for visiting, Steve. I'm glad you enjoyed the recipe - it's SO good.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Wow! Does this look delicious. Thank you for publishing this recipe.

    • KathyZ1 profile image

      KathyZ1 4 years ago

      Nice lens, Delicious!

    • profile image

      acreativethinker 4 years ago

      Your illustrations and recipes look very appetizing. You've inspired me to want tomake some soon. Great lens. Take care :)

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      I love stuffed cabbage rolls and these look so delicious.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @lesliesinclair: Enjoy! It's truly delicious.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Beautiful, really I feel like I could eat them right off the screen. I bookmarked this stunning recipe, and i have a nice little head of cabbage raring to go. Thanks a bunch for this BritFlorida recipe.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Pam Irie: Enjoy!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 4 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Stuffed cabbage rolls is something I've always wanted to make, yet never tried yet. This recipe is one I will make. Thank you!

    • yania227 profile image

      yania227 4 years ago

      This looks great to me, I don't eat meat, but love caggage, so I must try this :)

    • tok2gman profile image

      tok2gman 4 years ago

      Hello, and thanks for sharing!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GeorgeneMBramlage: Great ideas - thank you!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Diana Wenzel: When I'm rich and famous :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GrammieOlivia: I like to cook reasonably healthily when I can - but that doesn't mean we don't have treats from time to time :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @chezchazz: Thank you!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Nancy Hardin: Oh yes, it's fine without. The Marmite just gives it a slightly 'meaty' taste that some meat eaters might prefer.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Thank you!

    • GeorgeneMBramlage profile image

      Georgene Moizuk Bramlage 4 years ago from southwestern Virginia

      Very nice photos and instructions! An interesting way to fill vegetarian cabbage rolls is with buckwheat or groats ( the hulled grains of various cereals, such as oats, wheat, barley, or rye; whole grains that include the cereal germ and fiber-rich bran.)

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I'm all in for some of your stuffed cabbage rolls. Do you deliver to Colorado? ;-)

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 4 years ago

      Looks really good, and good for you. I like another way of making cabbage rolls and the meatless has me intrigued. I will definitely try this recipe. Thanks!

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 4 years ago from New York

      Looks yummy. Definitely a keeper.

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Well I think I really have to make these, but if I don't have Marmite, can I still make tasty cabbage rolls without it, since it's such a small amount? They sound so good.

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      Okay you made me hungry. I have Ukrainian in my heritage so cabbage rolls are definitely on our menu.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Wow, so yummy lookin' I love cabbage rolls, but never a huge fan of the meat, I definitely filed this in my recipes to make file!Good luck in the September Squidoo Food Club Quest

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @BritFlorida: It's a date! :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @StrongMay: Thanks for visiting!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Margaret Schindel: We'll eat out on the dock and watch the boats go by :)

    • profile image

      StrongMay 4 years ago

      You have made my mouth water!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @BritFlorida: You're on, J! :D

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Margaret Schindel: Next time you're in Florida .... :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      @BritFlorida: Wish I lived close enough to drop in as an unexpected dinner guest that night! ;)

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Margaret Schindel: Thank you so much Margaret! Guess what appeared in the groceries today? Someone is hinting that I need to make these again soon :)

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      J - I love sweet and sour cabbage rolls and it's great to have a vegan recipe for them now! Your photos are just amazing. Congrats on the well deserved purple star!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @sousababy: What a good idea. Cranberries would make this into a lovely meat free meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The nuts can be varied too - chopped walnuts are a lovely substitute for the pine nuts. That's what I love about cooking - the experimentation.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 4 years ago

      Wow, those photos are fantastic - I can't wait to try these (and I'm not the biggest fan of cabbage rolls). Pine nuts - I'd never have thought of . . I wonder if dried cranberries would be good instead of apricots?

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @sybil watson: Thank you so much Sybil. Yes, all my recipes are ones we love. 'Himself' loves being a guinea pig :)

    • profile image

      sybil watson 4 years ago

      Those cabbage pictures are beautiful! Your recipe sounds wonderful - my husband loves cabbage and would eat it every day if I made it for him. I always enjoy your recipes because it's obvious these are dishes you make and enjoy yourself.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Oh, I agree wholeheartedly.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: One needs a sense of humor when it comes to cabbages. And fans.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @JohnTannahill: I know - two of my least favourite foods! But honestly, this is good. Promise :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Haha - we have the same sense of humour!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Erin Mellor: At one time, I would have said the exact same thing. I think that's due to the fact that my mum (and school dinner ladies) felt obliged to cook cabbage for half an hour before they thought it was fit for human consumption. Removing that spiney part takes away a lot of the overly cabbage flavour though.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @David Stone1: Thank you so much, Dave!

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Cabbage AND Marmite! Putting that thought to one side though, this does sound good. I must use pine nuts more in cooking.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I refuse to be beaten by a cabbage. Or a hand fan. Beautiful. Great recipe and made me laugh.

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      Whilst I applaud your inventiveness, coleslaw is as close as I get to eating cabbage.

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 4 years ago from New York City

      What a wonderful, color-filled lens. Great design, good info.