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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Toler

Cabbage Rolls, 2 Ways

Sweet & Savory Cabbage Rolls served with roasted delicata squash and a simple green salad.

Wow! I've eaten a lot of these in the last week. :)

When grocer & farmer's market delivery, Mother Earth Food asked for recipe ideas using their current winter harvest, cabbage rolls came to mind. I love them because they are so versatile. There are infinite versions like Jewish Holishkes, or Polish Sweet & Sour Rolls, German Rolls made with Sauerkraut, Italian Sweet & Savory Rolls, and even Asian pork and ginger rolls.

The recipe below focuses more on sweet & savory flavors. I've always loved the addition of raisins to enhance the natural sweetness of meat that you'll find in places like Puerto Rico, Morocco, and Italy and so I've included that as an optional ingredient. I loved it in my final dish.

I was so obsessed with making these that I decided to do an additional batch of rolls with Asian flavors like pork and ginger. I've included that as an option at the bottom of the page, after the initial recipe. You could even make this vegan by using tempeh instead of meat in either version.

There are a few ways to cut down on the active prep time involved in this recipe. You could freeze your cabbage head rather than boiling (see recipe notes), you can use any type of leftover grain that you have on hand rather than making fresh rice, and you could also use a jarred marinara sauce rather than making the sweet sauce in the recipe.

When serving ~ the final product is soft so I like to serve these with a crispy salad for a little extra bite in my meal.

Sweet & Savory Cabbage Rolls

(12 rolls or 4-6 servings, 2 hours)


  • 1 green cabbage *See Note

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 tsp ACV

  • 1 med yellow onion, finely diced

  • 5 cloves garlic peeled & minced

  • 1lb grass-fed beef

  • 1 cup of cooked rice

  • 1/4 tsp + 1/2 tsp salt, divided

  • 2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning, divided.

  • 2 eggs or flax eggs (see note)

  • 1/4 cup raisins (optional)


  1. Make your rice or other grain if you haven't already done so and while it's cooking, move onto the rest of this recipe and then set your rice aside with the lid off to cool.

  2. Cook cabbage in boiling water for 5 minutes. *See Notes

  3. Remove from water and place into a colander to drain and cool. Reserve the hot water and set aside. *Be very careful transferring the cabbage. Make sure you have a good grip on the cabbage with your utensils and a safe landing place nearby since the cabbage will be heavy and hot.

  4. Once cooled cut around and remove some of the core then carefully remove 12 leaves. If the inner leaves still seem to be tough or don't easily come off, you may want to throw the remaining head of the cabbage back into the hot water that you set aside in step 3 for a few more minutes.

  5. Preheat oven to 350. You can also make your flax eggs, if using. *See notes.

  6. Make the sauce. In a large pan, combine the tomatoes, 1/4 tsp salt, maple syrup, 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning, and ACV. Bring to a simmer over med-low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, reducing the liquid to make a thicker sauce since the cabbage will release water into the pan when all baked together. When it's finished. Turn of the burner and set aside for now. Meanwhile, begin assembling the rolls.

  7. In a large bowl, combine chopped onions, garlic, ground beef, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning rice, eggs, and raisins (if using). Combine ingredients with your hands until you've made a fairly homogenous mix.

  8. Pour 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a lasagna pan, enough to coat.

  9. Assemble the rolls just like little burritos and add them to pan, seam side down.

  10. Top with sauce, then used some of the unused cabbage leaves on top rather than using aluminum foil. (See photo with notes.)

  11. Bake for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes then serve.


  • The size of the cabbage doesn't matter too much. I don't personally like using a giant cabbage as the ratio of leaf to filling is a bit much so I op for a medium-size, if I can. Some people like a lot of cabbage and that's totally fine. If you have a large cabbage and don't want as much leaf, you could always trim them down.

  • Some recipes mention freezing your cabbage for 24 hours then thawing for a couple of hours, as an alternative to boiling your cabbage to tenderize the leaves. If you are planning ahead, this is could be a good way to go for you. Personally, I do not usually plan my meals that far in advance and I don't mind boiling the cabbage leaves.

  • If you have an egg sensitivity, you can use flax eggs just as easily. 1 flax egg is 1 Tbsp of ground flax combined with 2 Tbsp of water. Let sit for about 10 minutes. When mixing it into the meat mixture. Break is up into small pieces by squeezing it through your hands into the mix.

  • If you have extra cabbage at the end. Cut it into bite-sized pieces and make a quick sauté with olive oil & salt. Super easy. Store it until your next meal and have it as a side.

  • Make this vegan by using tempeh instead of meat.

How to make this with Asian flavors

1. Simply replace the above filling mix with this combination:

  • 1 med yellow onion, finely diced

  • 5 cloves garlic peeled & minced

  • 1 lb pork

  • 1 cup of cooked rice

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 Tbsp ginger

  • 2 eggs or flax eggs (see note above)

2. Use 1 cup of vegetable broth instead of tomato sauce.

3. Serve with your favorite Asian condiment like Eastern Sun's Organic Miso Tamari, sriracha, or toasted sesame oil.

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