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. 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.
If you don’t want to eat cabbage every day for several days, cut it into individual portions and freeze them in plastic containers.
Also, you may notice I 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. If you prefer, go ahead and use green. I think it looks prettier this way.
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
- 8-10 cabbage leaves
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 egg
- 2 T plus 1/2 tsp ketchup
- 1/4 C raw rice
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 tsp neutral oil
- 1 15 oz can. diced tomatoes
- 1 T tomato paste
- 1/4 C ketchup
- 1 tsp. sriracha
- 1 T lemon juice
- 2 T plus 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the cabbage leaves (it's easier if you cut out the core first). If it's neat, great, if not don't worry about it.
- 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 for the cabbage, and add the oil. Cook the chopped 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 an eight inch square baking pan (the kind you would use for brownies). Layer some of the cabbage leaves on the bottom.
- Add some of the filling, spreading it out to cover the cabbage.
- Now layer the sauce on top.
- Add another layer of cabbage leaves.
- Repeat this procedure, alternating filling, sauce, and cabbage layers until you run out or the pan is full (stop about an inch from the top).
- 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
Ingredients and Tools for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
Square Baking Pan
This pan is a staple for every kitchen. If you don’t have one, you should. Use it for stuffed cabbage, large batches of brownies, or cakes. It’s heavy-duty, so it won’t warp. The handles make it much easier to take the hot pan out of the oven too.
Cuisinart Mixing Bowls
I have had these bowls…forever. They stack neatly inside each other (important in a small kitchen), and the lids mean you can use them for storing leftovers, or for something that has to marinate overnight. And, the lids seal nicely so your food won’t slosh all over the inside of your fridge.
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.