These easy Old-Fashioned Cabbage Rolls are stuffed with a savoury ground beef mixture, coated in tomato sauce and are oh so scrumptious! Inspired by my grandmother, it’ll be the only stuffed cabbage roll recipe you’ll need!
Today I’m sharing another family recipe with you!
I mentioned a while back that I would share this easy cabbage roll recipe with you guys one day and I couldn’t be more excited to do so!
These old-fashioned cabbage rolls are inspired by my grandmother or, as I call her, Nan.
For as long as I can remember, Nan was known in our family for her stuffed cabbage rolls.
She actually learned to make them from my grandfather (pop) when he was just a young fellow working and living in Toronto with his friend’s family, who were Polish.
When I attempted to get the recipe from Nan, I had to question some things she was telling me (or wasn’t telling me, LOL). I tease, I tease!
Did you ever watch Everybody Loves Raymond? There’s an episode where Debra gets her mother-in-law’s recipe for meatballs, but they didn’t quite turn out the same because her mother-in-law secretly (and very much intentionally) left out an ingredient.
Nan laughed when I teased her about it, but I think she’s proud of how these turned out.
In all seriousness, though, I made a couple of tweaks to put my own spin on them but, at the heart, they’re Nan’s.
And when I cook ’em? All I think about is how much the house smells like hers when she makes them. Who would have thought that stuffed cabbage leaves could be so delicious? That smell and taste just makes me happy.
Cabbage Roll Ingredients
- Cabbage (I use standard green cabbage, but you could use savoy).
- Cooked rice
- Aromatics, like onion and garlic
- Herbs, like parsley and dill
- Seasonings, like Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, onion powder, red chili flakes (chili flakes are optional)
- Tomato sauce. If you don’t have tomato sauce on hand, opt for a simple pasta sauce. Alternatively, you could use some canned tomatoes and tomato sauce (more on that later).
How to Make Cabbage Rolls
Prepare the Meat Filling
- In a bowl, combine ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, egg, cooked rice, minced onion, parsley, salt, pepper, dill, onion powder, red chili flakes (optional) and tomato sauce
- Next, simply mix to combine everything.
Prepare the Cabbage
The easiest way to prepare cabbage for stuffed cabbage rolls is to place the full head of clean cabbage in a pot of boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes (covered ajar). You can carefully flip cabbage over partway through.
Tip: Don’t fill your pot of water to the brim. When you place the head of cabbage in there, it will displace some of the water. To be sure how much water you’ll need, test it out before bringing the water to boil.
Next, remove cabbage leaves and core:
- Once cabbage is cool enough to handle, cut off leaves (one at a time).
- Then, remove core from each leaf.
Tip: As you get so far into removing the leaves, you will have to place the head of cabbage back in boiling water to soften those leaves further in the centre of the cabbage.
Stuff The Cabbage Rolls
- Place about ¼ cup of filling in the cabbage leaf (I like to shape into somewhat of a log).
- Fold over sides of cabbage.
- Roll up.
Assemble Stuffed Cabbage Rolls in Casserole Dish and Bake
- Place some cabbage leaves in the bottom of a greased baking dish.
- Top with stuffed cabbage rolls.
- Mix tomato sauce with a little reserved cabbage water and pour over top.
- Cover with more cabbage leaves. Then, tightly cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake until cooked through. That’s it! You’ve made delicious old-fashioned cabbage rolls!
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How To Know When They’re Done
As Nan says, take one out and test it!
The recommended internal cooking temperature of ground beef is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (according to the Government of Canada).
Use an instant read food thermometer to be sure by inserting into some of the cabbage rolls.
I typically cook cabbage rolls for 2 hours, 15 minutes to 2 hours, 30 minutes. Check at the former.
If they aren’t done, continue cooking.
Can I Thicken The Cabbage Roll Sauce?
If you want things a little thicker, place the tomato sauce into a pot over medium heat.
Allow it to come to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, until it has reduced to the consistency that you like.
How Long Do They Last
Properly stored in the refrigerator, use leftover cabbage rolls within 2 to 4 days.
How To Reheat Cabbage Rolls
To reheat cabbage rolls, place them in a skillet (over medium heat) with a little tomato sauce and splash of water. Cover and cook about 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.
Alternatively, you can reheat in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. Place cabbage rolls in a casserole dish (with a some tomato sauce and splash of water). Cover with aluminum foil. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes or until heated through.
These old-fashioned cabbage rolls are super hearty all on their own. However, if you want to make things even more substantial with garnish or sides, any of these work:
- Sauerkraut (and, honestly (though not traditional), I love with kimchi)
- Sour cream
- Homemade bread
- Mashed potatoes
- Skillet potatoes
- Simple side salad
- Splash of vinegar (I love a little touch of vinegar on my cabbage rolls). The little bite just works!
More Tips for Making These Old Fashioned Cabbage Rolls
Use lean or extra lean ground beef. If the beef is too fatty, it will leach out into your tomato sauce and the end result will be too greasy.
Roll the cabbage leaves tight and place in the casserole dish seam side down.
You can add a little brown or white sugar to your tomato sauce if you want less of a tomato bite.
If you opt for a ‘no salt added’ tomato sauce, you may have to add a little salt to the mix. Just add to taste.
Alternatively, you can replace some of the tomato sauce with canned tomatoes. Use diced or whole peeled tomatoes (crush whole canned tomatoes with your hands or a potato masher before using). If opting for this, use one (28 ounce) can of tomatoes, along with one (13 to 14 ounce) can of tomato sauce.
To add more richness to the tomato sauce, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste into the sauce/water mixture when pouring over the stuffed cabbage rolls.
Like this Stuffed Cabbage Roll Recipe? You May Enjoy These Too
Hope you love these easy cabbage rolls as much as we do! We think they’re the best cabbage rolls because they’re inspired by Nan.
If you make this stuffed cabbage roll recipe, be sure to leave a comment below. Love to know how you enjoyed!
Old-Fashioned Cabbage Rolls (inspired by Nan)
- 1 cup COOKED long-grain rice (or similar variety)
- 1.5 pounds lean ground beef (or 'extra lean')
- 1.5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 large egg
- 1 yellow onion , peeled and minced
- ⅓ cup parsley , roughly chopped
- 3 cloves garlic , minced
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
- 40.5 ounces tomato sauce , divided (About three 398 millilitre cans or 13.5 ounce cans (roughly 5 cups). See point 5 below in recipe 'Notes.')
- 1 medium head green cabbage (you'll need about 18 leaves for the rolls and another 8 to 10 or so for the bottom of the dish and over top.)
- ½ cup water (leftover from boiling cabbage)
- fresh dill , chopped (garnish, optional)
- Cook rice per package instructions and lay to one side. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit at this point too.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef with Worcestershire sauce, egg, cooked rice, onion, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, dill, onion powder, red chili flakes (if using) and ½ cup of tomato sauce. Mix until combined.
- To a large pot of boiling water, add head of cabbage and boil for 8 to 10 minutes (carefully turn over partway through). Carefully remove. Don't discard water because you will need to re-boil the cabbage as you start to peel off the leaves and you will need some of the water for your sauce.Note: Don't fill the pot all the way up because the cabbage will displace some of the water. Before boiling water, test how much the water will displace by placing the head of cabbage in the pot.
- Once cabbage is cool enough to handle, carefully remove leaves and cut out core from each leaf. Once you start taking leaves off, you'll likely need to add the cabbage back to the boiling water (to soften more leaves). Just boil for another bit, let cool enough to handle and continue removing leaves.
- Place some cabbage leaves on the bottom of a deep 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish or roasting pan. Taking one leaf at a time, distribute about ¼ cup of ground beef mixture on top and wrap up (fold in sides and roll up, placing in prepared dish, seam side down. Continue with remaining ground beef mixture/leaves.
- Combine remaining tomato sauce with ½ cup of cabbage water. Whisk to incorporate everything. Pour over top of cabbage rolls. Note: You could stir in about a tablespoon or so of white or brown sugar into the tomato sauce if you want less of a tomato bite. I like the brightness of tomatoes, so I skip this.
- Top with more cabbage leaves. Cover casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil. Cover and bake about 2 hours and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes or until cabbage rolls are cooked through.
- Once done, be careful removing foil covering as there will be steam. Discard top cabbage leaves. Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so before digging in. Garnish, if desired. Enjoy!Note: If you have any leftovers, properly store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 2 to 4 days, reheating when ready to enjoy.
- Use lean or extra lean ground beef. If the beef is too fatty, it will leach out into your tomato sauce and the end result will be too greasy.
- Roll the cabbage leaves tight and place in the casserole dish seam side down.
- You can add a little brown or white sugar to your tomato sauce if you want less of a tomato bite.
- If you opt for a ‘no salt added’ tomato sauce, you may have to add a little salt to the mix. Just add to taste.
- Alternatively, you can replace some of the tomato sauce with canned tomatoes. Use diced or whole peeled tomatoes (crush whole canned tomatoes with your hands or a potato masher before using). If opting for this, use one (28 ounce) can of tomatoes, along with one (13 to 14 ounce) can of tomato sauce.
- To add more richness to the tomato sauce, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste into the sauce/water mixture when pouring over the stuffed cabbage rolls.
Nutrition estimate (if provided) is based on 1 serving.
Nutrition information (if provided) is provided as a courtesy and should be considered an estimate only. Ingredients can vary and Girl Heart Food makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
A note on times provided: appliances vary, any prep and/or cook times provided are guidelines only.