These vegetarian cabbage rolls are perfect for Meatless Monday. Stuffed with tender rice and sauteed veggies, they’re both healthy & hearty!
I used to avoid making these vegetarian cabbage rolls by any means. They always felt like so much labor and you know I love crazy easy recipes. But when I learned a tip from a close friend, my views on cabbage rolls changed for good. The tip you ask? Freeze the whole head of cabbage and defrost it right before you plan to assemble. This nixes the need for you to boil the cabbage, as they leaves turn tender and easy to work with upon thawing. Here’s to skipping steps, friends!
Craving meaty cabbage rolls? Don’t blame you. Try our recipe for traditional cabbage rolls made with ground beef or chicken instead.
A Little Backstory on Cabbage Rolls
If you’ve never tried cabbage rolls before, they are a Slavic staple. They feature tender cabbage leaves (typically boiled) that are stuffed with rice, veggies, and meat and topped with a savory tomato sauce and sour cream. In this recipe, we skip the meat and keep it light and 100% vegetarian.
How to Roll Cabbage Rolls Like a Pro
The key to making amazing cabbage rolls is to nail the roll. Below, find our foolproof method for keeping the filling inside.
- Hold a cabbage leaf in your hand.
- Place a spoonful of the filling mixture on the bottom half of the cabbage leaf.
- Fold over one side of the cabbage leaf, creating somewhat of a cone shape and securing the filling inside.
- Pinch open edges of the cabbage inside the cabbage roll with your free index finger. Bam, you have a cabbage roll!
Preparing Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls
The first step to making these vegetarian cabbage rolls is to sauté the carrots and onions in olive oil until golden brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside 1/4 of the veggies for topping.
- Make the Filling: Next, stir the other 3/4 of the veggies into the cooked rice.
- Remove the Cabbage Leaves: Pull the cabbage leaves off the defrosted cabbage head, discarding any discolored or tough outer leaves. Then, remove the hard, fibrous stem from each leaf.
- Assemble the Cabbage Rolls: Next, place a cabbage leaf in your hand, add the filling, and roll it up. Repeat until you run out of cabbage and filling.
- Bake the Cabbage Rolls: Assemble the cabbage rolls tightly next to one another in a baking dish. Cover the cabbage rolls with the remaining sautéed veggies and bake them at 350°F for 30-45 minutes. Enjoy!
Hot Tip: Use a ceramic casserole dish or Dutch oven to bake the cabbage rolls. Both retain a nice, even heat and help lock moisture into the rolls.
3 Tips for the Best Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls
- Freeze the cabbage head a week in advance. Cabbage heads are extremely dense. To ensure that the entire head is frozen, pop the cabbage head in the freezer a week ahead of the day you plan to make the rolls.
- Experiment with different ingredients and spices for the filling. These rolls are super versatile, so add your favorite veggies and fillings to the mix. If you want some earthiness, add in thyme, basil, or oregano. Prefer other veggies? Add red pepper, garlic, mushrooms, or whatever other produce you love. Or, if you’d like them to be a bit more filling, add in some cooked lentils for protein. You can’t go wrong!
- Assemble the cabbage rolls seam-side down. To prevent the cabbage rolls from falling apart during baking, assemble them in the dish seam-side down.
What to Serve With Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls
Eat these cabbage rolls as-is for a light dinner or serve them alongside your favorite protein for a well-rounded meal. Pork kabobs (shashlik) or cast iron ribeye steaks are both great choices.
Can’t Live Without Sauce?
Whip up a quick vegetarian tomato sauce by combining your favorite marinara, a tablespoon of tomato paste, and 1/2 cup of sour cream (for vegan cabbage rolls, skip the sour cream). Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes and pour it over the cabbage rolls before baking. Yum!
Storing, Freezing, & Reheating Cabbage Rolls
Cabbage rolls are great for meal prep. Below, find all the tips you need to store, freeze, and reheat them.
- Refrigerator: To keep cabbage rolls on hand for up to a week, store them in an airtight container. This will keep them from turning stale and absorbing any lingering smells in your refrigerator.
- Freezer: If you plan on freezing cabbage rolls, assemble them according to the recipe instructions and stop short of baking them. Next, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and pop them into the freezer uncovered. Once completely frozen, transfer them to a freezer-safe bag for up to a month.
Reheating Tip: To reheat refrigerated or frozen cabbage rolls, pop them back in a baking dish and heat them until warmed through in the oven.
Other Tasty Cabbage Recipes
- One Pan Braised Cabbage with Rice – Chicken, cabbage, and rice dinner
- Lazy Cabbage Rolls – Cabbage rolls without the need to roll!
- Crispy Roasted Cabbage Steaks – Cabbage steaks topped with bacon bits
- Green Cabbage Cucumber Salad – Crunchy cabbage and cucumber salad
- 1 large Green Cabbage (frozen prior, read notes above)
- 6 cups cooked white rice
- 4 large onions thinly diced
- 5 large carrots grated
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp salt adjust to taste
- 1 tsp ground black pepper adjust to taste
- In a large skillet, saute the carrot and onions in olive oil until golden brown. Set aside 1/4 of the veggies for topping your cabbage rolls.
- Combine the rest of the sauteed veggies with the cooked rice and set aside.
- Remove the leaves from the defrosted cabbage head.
- Cut out the tough core from each cabbage leaf.
- Place the cabbage leaf in your hand and add a spoonful of the filling.
- Fold over one side of the cabbage leaf, securing the filling inside and creating somewhat of a cone shape.
- Push the loose leaves inside the roll. Repeat until you run out of ingredients.
- Assemble the cabbage rolls next to one another in a baking dish. Cover them with the remaining sautéed veggies. (Optional: top with sauce if desired, see notes above.)
- Bake at 350°F for 30-45 minutes. Enjoy!
This recipe is amazing, I tried it the other day and was not disappointed! Such an easy and healthy meal to make!
Thank you, Olivia! It's such a great vegetarian dish and I'm thrilled you enjoyed it as much as we do.
Great recipe - love having a meatless option for one of my favorite recipe to make.
Hi Melissa- right there with you! Thanks for commenting.
If you want to skip the boiling of the cabbage head, wrap it in plastic wrap and microwave it:)) way easier and saves time:)
I use that method as well. Sometimes that can make it mushy. So I always liked this freezer option.
Do you freeze the ready golubtsi. Like you roll them up and then freeze?
Roll them up and freeze 😉 Defrost them before backing.
Oh. Ok. That helps a lot. Thank you. I made them. Everyone absolutely loved it.
So u dont add any sauce to ur cabbage rolls? I kno usually they are cooking in sum kinda sauce,like tomatoe n sour cream? Do these still turn out good?
Hi Katya, in this case I dont use sauce, serve them with sour cream.
Here is a recipe where I use sauce, http://momsdish.com/r80
So can i still cover these with sauce??
Yes, for sure.
Do i cover them w a lid or foil??
I cover them with lid but if your dish doesn't have a lid you can use foil.
I always microwave my cabbage for cabbage rolls! My mother in-law taught me that. Boiling it takes way too long and it's messy!
I use to microwave also but usually too hot to handle the leaves. I am not very careful so get burned 🙂
For now sticking to this method, works so great 🙂
There are two varieties of cabbage: early and late. Early is usually light green, it is lighter and a little bit fluffy. It is really easy to cook and it does not take long to cook rolls. The late cabbage is a real headache. It is greener, leaves are smoother but harder. You can feel it that the heads are really hard and compact. It takes time to cook it and 45 min is not enough for rolls. Once I had a late variety that I decided that my rolls would never be ready. The cabbage above is one from early varieties. Now late in the fall you will find more late cabbage.
To save time you can put a cabbage head into an one gallon Ziploc bag, zip it and microwave it for a couple of minutes. It saves time. 🙂
I used that method before but still love freezing the cabbage ahead way better. Removing leaves from hot cabbage head is such a pain. Defrosted head is just perfect for wrapping.
and also do you know how long would i need to freeze the cabbage for? because I just freezed it for like 1 day, and the leaves were still hard to remove without breaking.
Try freezing for up to one week. I often purchase cabbage and put one in a freezer for the future.
I had a question, I really liked this recipe and they look so mouthwatering and yummy! I did everything step by step just like described but mine were not ready after 45 min in the oven and i was really upset, the cabbage was still hard and didnt cook through, so i had to replace them in a pot and simmer for like another hour on the stovetop! and after that the rice became mushy, and so it wasnt that good... so do yours really take only 30-45 min in the oven?
My ware small in size, they are done with in 45 minutes. The problem may be in freezing cabbage, it should be in a freezer for at least a few days.
no that time i just boiled the cabbage so problem was not in that. Maybe boil the cabbage for the longer time so it would almost be cooked???
Maybe just a little longer. But you dont want to make cabbage mushy so you would still be able to wrap them easily. Do you use iron cast oven?
I think they taste better when cabbage is boiled. I've known this thing since my childhood my mom used to make. What I had noticed that you don't add ground meat my mom usually do that and now when I have my own family I do that too. But about microwaving cabbage I've also heard that's what my mother in law also does, and with ground meat but she puts raw rice the taste is ok but I still like my mom's recipe better. So I guess everyone make different ways.
I also have classic cabbage rolls recipe where I do add meat. Yes, everyone has their own tricks 🙂