These meat or vegan cabbage rolls may make you do a happy dance

Cabbage rolls recipe

I love food from all parts of the world. I’m hampered by my food allergies and restrictions, mainly seafood, gluten and dairy, but I make the most of it. One of my favorite things to eat, and apparently one of the best things I make, are cabbage rolls. My mom even requests them when I’m making dinners for the family. Eating them makes me bust into my happy dance. And it all started with my dear friend Joanna’s mom. The first time her mom made them for me, I was hooked.

Quick trip down memory lane for the origin of my recipe


Joanna and I went on a two-month trip to Europe, and we met up with our friend around the halfway mark in Poland. We all stayed with Joanna’s family in Kraków and Gdynia, where she was born. I had the opportunity to have lots of cabbage rolls and borscht (which I also make and love; I’ll post the recipe soon). I think that almost right after the trip, I asked Joanna’s mom to make me more cabbage rolls. She made a batch for me a couple of times a year. I would freeze and defrost them as needed.

But as the saying goes “all good things must come to an end.” We moved kind of far away from each other, so I decided to learn how to make cabbage rolls myself. By then, I already had some of my food restrictions, so I had to improvise.

My version will never compare to Joanna’s moms, but it is still yummy. Full disclosure, this recipe takes a long time to make. But it’s worth it.

Some of the health benefits of this recipe include intestinal and eye health, weight loss and anti-aging properties.

Cabbage rolls with ground beef, chicken or tofu


  • This recipe is inspired by traditional Polish cabbage rolls but modified for allergens and calories.
  • It’s time-consuming to make so it is worth it to make a large batch, it won’t cut down on your cooking and prep time to half or quarter the recipe.

Makes: 8-10 servings

Total Time: 3 hours, cook time: 2 hours, prep time: 1 hour



  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 3 pounds extra lean ground beef or chicken, or tofu
  • 2 cups of cooked rice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped very fine
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups of strained tomatoes
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, diced very fine
  • 2 tablespoons of aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of hot sauce,  I use Portugallo Sauces, omit if you don’t want any spice
  • 3 chilis, diced, omit if you don’t want any spice
  • 8-10 green onions for wrapping, cut off the ends



  1. Prep:
    • Beef or chicken: Marinate for a minimum of 1 hour ahead of time with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, ½ cup of the strained tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of basil, ¼ of the onion and if using: 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
    • Tofu: Marinate for a minimum of 1 hour ahead of time with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, ½ cup of the strained tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons of basil, ¼ of the onion and if using: 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
  2. Cook rice according to the package and set aside for it to cool down (cooking time will be in-between 15 minutes to 45 minutes depending on the rice used).
  3. Thoroughly mix the rice and meat or tofu together and set aside.
  4. Sauté the remaining garlic and onion 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a deep pan or pot until onions are brown. Add in the strained tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, remaining salt, pepper and the majority of the basil.
  5. Remove from heat and let cool to near room temperature.
  6. Core the cabbage.
  7. Blanche cabbage leaves in boiling water, peeling them off as they become limp. (I’ve also heard that you can put the cabbage in the freezer and after it’s frozen, let it thaw, and the leaves will be limp so you can just pull them off.  I haven’t tried this method but if you want to go this route, do it the night before since it will take a few hours for it to thaw).
  8. Once you’ve separated all the leaves, take a paring knife and cut off any thick stems preventing the limp leaf from bending/rolling.
  9. Put about 2 tablespoons of the meat or tofu and rice mixture in the center of each leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf in and roll it up into a little package. Put each roll face-down into a casserole dish.
  10. Once you’ve used up all the cabbage leaves or meat/tofu filling, take your sauce and pour it over the cabbage rolls.
  11. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the cabbage rolls.
  12. Bake covered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes-1 hour (depending on your oven, 30 minutes for tofu).

Stuffed cabbage rolls

After baking, wrap with the spring onion for presentation.

Approximate nutritional information for 1 serving (Based on brands and amounts used in the recipe)


  • Calories per serving: 296
  • Fat: 10 g
  • Carbs: 37 g
  • Protein: 19 g


  • Calories per serving: 279
  • Fat: 10 g
  • Carbs: 37 g
  • Protein: 19 g


  • Calories per serving: 199
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Carbs: 37 g
  • Protein: 9 g


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