Super satisfying + easy to prepare. This hearty vegan stuffed cabbage is the ultimate comforting meal. Cabbage rolls are filled with lentils and cauliflower rice, covered in a homemade sweet and sour sauce and baked to perfection.
As a child, I loved the stuffed cabbage my grandmother made. I’ve wanted to create a vegan version for a long time…but I always thought it would be too much work and not worth the effort.
But, I was so wrong…on both counts. O.M.G. these are insanely good…and easy to make. Plus, they’re so filling and satisfying, yet I never feel sluggish after eating them. You’ve definitely gotta make them. ASAP!
Don’t worry, I’ve got tips and tricks to get this done in no time. Easy peasy frozen method for softening the cabbage. Check. And, healthy and hearty plant based filling that is super tasty. Check. Delicious sweet and sour sauce that’s mouthwatering tangy. Check.
Of course, you do need to have some patience while the heavenly aroma filters through your home and you sit and relax waiting for your stuffed cabbage rolls to bake. Who’s in?
First step to Easy Stuffed Cabbage
The first step is to choose a head of cabbage. It’s traditional to use green cabbage, red will also work. I prefer to use savoy cabbage. The variegated leaves soften beautifully.
How to prepare cabbage leaves for stuffing: FREEZER METHOD
- Why choose freezer method?
If the whole idea of putting cabbage into and out of boiling water doesn’t appeal to you….this method is much easier and safer too. Freezing breaks down the structure of the leaves making them pliable and easy to roll. When the cabbage defrosts, it naturally wilts as it rids itself of the water.
- Prep for freezing
Remove the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Rinse cabbage, then pat it dry. Sounds obvious, but it’s important. Any water residue will just turn to ice. You do not need to core the cabbage now. It will be so much easier to do once it softens.
- Place in plastic bag and freeze
Zip-top bags are the best way to freeze. Before sealing, remove as much air as possible. If you have more than one head of cabbage to freeze, place each in a separate bag.
- How long to freeze?
1-2 days, or as long as 2 weeks.
- Thaw Cabbage
Let the cabbage thaw out a few hours (or overnight) at room temperature before you plan to stuff the leaves. Place the head of cabbage on a kitchen towel, since it will release water as it wilts and softens.
Sweet & Sour Stuffed Cabbage Sauce
- Tomato Sauce. Look for organic, in glass and with only one ingredient: tomatoes.
- Pineapple juice. I always keep a bottle in my fridge so I can make sweet and sour vegan meatballs on a whim. In addition, it’s great to pour a splash into your lemon zinger smoothie if you accidently put in too much ginger (ahem…been there, done that!).
- Raisins. A great natural sweetener. I keep them around to make oatmeal raisin cookies.
- Apples: I love the way the chunks of apples taste after cooking in the sauce. Or, you can grate the apples for a more subtle effect. Can’t decide what kind of apples to use? Any baking apple will add another layer of sweetness to the sauce. Or, choose a granny smith for a more tart than sweet flavor boost.
- Red wine vinegar. If you don’t have, substitute apple cider vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar. Lemon juice would be another good choice.
Plant-based filling for cabbage rolls.
I like to use lentils as the base for this delicious filling. Another plant-based option would be beans. Cannellini or pinto beans would be a natural choice because they’re soft and would be easy to mash into the rest of the ingredients.
It takes just a couple minutes to mix together the chopped onions, green peppers, cauliflower rice, ground flax, garlic and spices with the legumes.
How to make stuffed cabbage rolls
Are you ready for some fun?
- Spread sweet and sour sauce onto the bottom of a deep baking dish.
- Lay one cabbage leaf down. Load 1-2 Tablespoons filling into leaf. Fold bottom up, sides in and roll.
- Place cabbage roll seam side down onto sauce in dish.
- Continue to roll until the baking dish is full.
- Spoon remaining sauce over cabbage rolls. Pour on water and cover tightly.
- Bake for 90 minutes, until soft.
Why do I love Vegan Stuffed Cabbage?
- Hearty plant based dinner.
- MEAL PREP FRIENDLY: Make it when you can, reheat when you need it.
- Unique and Healthy.
- Tasty, tangy, mouthwatering sauce.
- Pantry Recipe: I always have the ingredients on hand to make this.
- Fancy…and easy to make: both are true!
- Perfect for Thanksgiving or a holiday meal.
- Easy Make ahead recipe.
- Classic recipe nostalgia with a healthy twist.
If you’re wondering if these are worth the effort to make….ABSOLUTELY YES! Don’t be alarmed by the amount of time these take to make. It’s mostly passive. Make a plan so you’re not waiting for the cabbage to freeze and then defrost. Then, it’s easy to get the vegan stuffed cabbage into the oven. And, hello 90 minutes free time! Perspective my friends.
I often make these as part of my weekly meal prep. Stuffed cabbage is perfect for a busy weeknight when you just want to pop something into the oven to reheat. A classic recipe turned Healthy Comfort Food that is hearty, delicious and surprisingly easy to make.
Plus, they are impressive when you serve them. You don’t have to tell people how easy these stuffed cabbage rolls are to make. They would be an awesome dish for Thanksgiving. They’re totally holiday meal worthy. You know, people just love when they think you fussed over making something special for them! Shhh…I can keep a secret, can you?
- 1 head cabbage, green or savoy
- 2 (15-oz) cans tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 2 small apples, peeled and diced small or shredded
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar*
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils*
- 1 medium onion, grated or finely diced
- 1 small green pepper, small dice
- 1 cup cauliflower rice*
- 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 Tablespoon dried Italian spices
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- PREPARE (SOFTEN) CABBAGE: Pull off outer leaves to cabbage. Rinse and pat dry. Freezer Method: Place cleaned cabbage head in a zip-top freezer safe bag and freeze 2-3 days (or up to 2 weeks). Defrost at room temperature for a few hours, or overnight. Cabbage will release water as it defrosts (I recommend placing it on a dish towel) and naturally wilt. Carefully cut off stem. Remove leaves carefully. If necessary, trim any thick stems with kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
- Cook lentils....according to package. This recipe call for already cooked lentils. You can do this step up to 3 days in advance.
- MAKE THE FILLING: Place lentils, onions, green peppers, cauli-rice, flax seeds, garlic, spices into a bowl and mix well. If using beans, mash a bit with a fork before blending with remaining ingredients.
- MAKE THE SAUCE: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350
- Spread 3/4 cup sauce over bottom of casserole dish.
- Pull leaves of cabbage off head. Spread one leaf out and spoon 1-2 Tablespoons filling in center of leaf. Fold bottom up and around filling, then fold the sides in and finally pull the top over it all to form a tightly rolled log. Place rolled cabbage leaf, seam side down on top of sauce in casserole dish.
- Continue to roll leaves and place in casserole until dish is full. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover will remaining sauce. Pour 3/4 cup water over entire dish, cover and bake for 90 minutes.
VINEGAR: Substitutes for red wine vinegar include: lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, unseasoned white vinegar, white wine vinegar.
LENTILS: I used black baby beluga lentils. Whatever lentils you have (except not red or yellow split lentils) will work well. Green or brown or petit french green will also work well. You can also use 1 1/2 cups beans. Cannellini or pinto or kidney beans will work. Mash them a bit with a fork and incorporate into other ingredients as directed.
Cauliflower rice: 1 cup is about 1/2 (12-oz) package
ALTERNATE METHOD TO SOFTEN CABBAGE LEAVES: If you didn't plan ahead to freeze and defrost the cabbage, you can boil the cabbage to soften it. Boiling Method: Use a 4-quart pot or larger. Fill at least halfway with water (use enough water to fully cover cabbage when submerged) and bring to a boil. Cook over low heat until leaves soften, about 15 minutes. Remove from pot and remove outer leaves one by one.
MEAL PREP: Make this when you can...reheat when you need it. Baked stuffed cabbage will stay good in the fridge for 5 days. You can also make the sauce ahead, it will keep in a jar for a week in the fridge. The filling can also be made in advance and kept in an airtight container for a week. Freeze stuffed cabbage rolls for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge and then bake as directed.
Amount Per Serving Calories 231Total Fat 3gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 0mgSodium 302mgCarbohydrates 38gFiber 12gSugar 24gProtein 10g
The nutrition calculations were done using online tools. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients you used. You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information is accurate, complete and useful.
Savoy cabbage is my favorite to use for cabbage rolls. The savoy has texture that really lends itself to rolling and in my experience it softens and becomes tender with less cooking time than regular green cabbage.
You can boil or freeze the cabbage to soften it and make it pliable for rolling. I prefer the freezer method. You do have to plan ahead to have it in the freezer for 2 days and then overnight to defrost. But, that is passive time. The cabbage will release all that water as it defrosts, wilting it so it will be easy to roll.
Depending on what you put into the filling, the stuffed cabbage can be a whole meal. Vegan stuffed cabbage is filled with lentils, cauliflower rice, and green peppers. The sauce contains apples and raisins. You could served a green vegetable like broccoli on the side or a small simple salad.
Absolutely! The filling can be made with a combination of veggies, legumes and spices. Lentils or beans are a good substitute for meat.
Yes. Traditional stuffed cabbage is stuffed with meat and rice, which makes it gluten-free. You can substitute cauliflower rice for the regular rice for a grain-free version. Also, the sweet and sour sauce is naturally gluten-free.