I just love stuffed cabbage, but making all those individual rolls is just a big pain in the neck. It looks good, but it’s labor-intensive and all that work is just not worth it (unless you want to impress company). And, most recipes make enough to feed a small army. Great for a crowd, but not so great when you’re cooking for one. What I really wanted was a small batch unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe. Something easy to put together.
I decided there must be an easier way. I saw a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls, made with meatballs and shredded cabbage. Make the meatballs, shred the cabbage, and pile the meatballs on the cabbage. It sounded good (and more of a savory, than sweet/sour recipe). That’s still quite a bit of work.
Then, I hit on an easier method. Instead of making individual rolls, or shredding cabbage, I would layer it instead. Like lasagna!
So, that’s what I did. It’s easiest if you cut the core of the cabbage off first. Then the leaves will come off more easily.
I started with Joan Nathan’s Chosen Stuffed Cabbage Recipe, eliminated the raisins, reduced the quantities, and added sriracha for a bit of a punch.
I cut off a few cabbage leaves, made the filling and the sauce, and then put the whole thing in a square baking pan.
The first time I made this, I just cut the recipe in half. It was enough for several meals, and proved to be a life-saver as I got sick a few days later. Since I had all that unstuffed cabbage, I didn’t have to cook much.
I also used red cabbage instead of green. I bought the red to make no mayo healthy cole slaw. I figured I might as well use it for this too.
However, when I wasn’t sick, I decided that I wanted to cut the recipe even further (because not being sick, I didn’t want to eat the same thing over several days). And, I decided I preferred the green cabbage (tradition!) So here’s the updated version.
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
Rolling up cabbage rolls is just too much work. So, I layered my cabbage and sauce and made unstuffed cabbage instead. It's much easier, faster, and still tastes great.
1 hour, 20 minutes
- 4-5 cabbage leaves
- 2 quarts water
- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 egg
- 1 T plus 1/4 tsp ketchup
- 2 T raw rice
- 1/4 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 small onion, sliced
- 1 tsp neutral oil
- 1/2 can (approx 7 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 T ketchup
- 1/2 tsp. sriracha
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 T plus 1/4 tsp brown sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove 4 or 5 leaves from the head of cabbage
- Set a medium saucepan on high heat and fill with water. Add the cabbage leaves and bring to a boil. Parboil the cabbage for 10-15 minutes, then drain and set aside.
- Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a medium-size bowl and set aside.
- Take the saucepan you used to parboil the cabbage, and add the oil. Cook the sliced onion for five minutes until it softens. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, ketchup, sriracha, lemon juice, and brown sugar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, covered.
- Take a six inch square baking pan and layer some of the cabbage leaves on the bottom.
- Add some of the filling, spreading it out to cover the cabbage, then layer the sauce on top, then another layer of cabbage leaves.
- If you have room in the pan, repeat the procedure.
- Cover the pan with foil, put it in the oven, and bake for one hour.
Substitutions and Variations for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
- use ground turkey instead of beef
- try a combination of ground pork and beef
- try adding 1/4 C raisins
More Cabbage Recipes
Quick Creole Cabbage and Sausage
Hungry? How about dinner in fifteen minutes? This New Orleans inspired dish gets a kick from creole seasoning and mustard. If you don’t have them, don’t worry, you can easily mix them from common pantry spices.
One Pot Polish Sausage and Cabbage with Potatoes
Another great one-pot fridge stable/shelf stable meal, with only a few simple ingredients. The cabbage mellows as it cooks, and the potatoes make it a filling, hearty meal.
Kielbasa with Sauerkraut and Apples
Spicy kielbasa, sharp sauerkraut, and crispy sweet apples blend together for a festival of flavor. The mustard sauce adds an extra sweet/tangy kick. All in one pot!
Bibimbap Rice Bowl with Meat and Vegetables
Earthy cabbage, sweet carrots, and a spicy sauce build lots of flavor into one little bowl. Add ground beef, rice, and top with a crispy fried egg.