These unstuffed cabbage rolls pack all the flavour of normal stuffed cabbage rolls, but with none of the fuss. Just ground beef browned with onions and cooked with cabbage in a tangy tomato sauce. And I’ve even added some rice to make this a complete one-pan meal.
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More than just a cabbage stew!
I’m sure a lot of people are going to say ‘but this is just a cabbage stew‘! Well, it is and it isn’t. It’s a cabbage stew in the sense that it’s all cooked in one pan, but what elevates it to something special is the combination of spices and ingredients.
Cabbage rolls are one of my favourite comfort meals to eat, but let’s be honest, how many of us have the time to make meatballs, and then steam cabbage leaves to soften them before wrapping them around the meatballs? And then you have to make the tomato sauce and bake the whole thing in the oven. By the time you are done, you’re looking at 2 hours minimum, and how many of us have time to spend that amount of time making a mid-week meal?
This recipe takes all the ingredients that go into stuffed cabbage rolls, and the result is a meal that tastes as though you’ve spent hours, but in reality, it takes less than an hour, and most of that time is hands-off.
And what you end up with is a delicious tomato-flavoured cabbage casserole which is packed with ground beef, rice and plenty of spices – just like deconstructed cabbage rolls!
What you will need
You won’t need much by way of equipment for making these unstuffed cabbage rolls – just a large saucepan or saute pan and a sharp knife for cutting up the vegetables. The pan should be large enough to hold all of the uncooked cabbage, but this will wilt down as it cooks.
This recipe will easily feed 4 people.
**You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions on the printable recipe card at the end of this post**
- Beef mince – If possible get your mince with the lowest fat content. If you use meat with a higher fat content you may find that you need to drain some of the excess fat away once you’ve browned your meat.
- Cabbage – I like to use either firm white cabbage or savoy cabbage. It should be coarsely shredded.
- Tomatoes – there are a lot of tomatoes in this unstuffed cabbage roll recipe. I use fresh tomatoes, tomato passata and also a tablespoon of tomato paste (which I forgot to include in the photo).
- Onions – you can use either white or red onions – it doesn’t matter.
- Rice – this is uncooked, long-grained rice – I like to use Basmati which I normally pick up at Lidl or Aldi.
- Garlic – either freshly garlic, or minced garlic from a jar.
- Brown sugar – helps sweeten the dish, and also cuts through the tartness of the tomatoes.
- Red wine vinegar – to counteract some of the sweetness of the sugar, and adds a level of acidity. If you decide to leave out the vinegar you should halve the amount of brown sugar you use.
- Worcestershire sauce – for more flavour.
- Stock cube – I use a good quality beef stock cube, but you can use fresh beef stock if you have it.
- Salt and pepper – to taste. I normally add half the amount of salt when I’m browning the meat, and then taste the finished dish and add more if I think it needs it. Sometimes stock cubes can be a bit salty and you don’t want to oversalt the dish.
- Chilli paste (optional and not pictured) – if you want more of a bite in your cabbage stew you can add this to taste.
- You will also need one or two tablespoons of sunflower oil for frying the meat and onions.
What to do
I like to gather my ingredients and prepare everything before I start cooking. That way I know I won’t leave anything out.
- Chop the cabbage – I normally just cut it into 1-cm slices and then cut the strips in half.
- Peel and coarsely chop the onions, and crush the garlic if you are using fresh.
- Cut the tomatoes into 1-cm dice.
- Dissolve the stock cube in 1 cup of boiling water in a large jug, and once it has dissolved, stir in the passata, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and chilli paste (if using).
- Measure the rice into a cup.
Cook the unstuffed cabbage rolls
Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and fry the onions and garlic over a medium heat until they start to soften.
Push the onions to the side of the pan and add the meat and season with half the salt. Stir with a spatula to break up any lumps, and continue to fry the meat until it is brown and crumbly.
Mix the browned meat and onions back together.
Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to fry until the tomatoes start to break down.
Add the uncooked rice.
Stir in the prepared stock.
Add the cabbage and stir again. Let the stock come to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer.
Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is cooked and the cabbage is soft.
Keep your eye on it and add a splash of water (or extra stock) if it seems to be drying out before the rice has cooked.
Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper if needed.
Garnish with chopped parsley (optional)
Note on liquid amount
The amount of liquid you use will depend on the type of rice you are using. Some brands require more liquid than others.
When cooking rice the standard rice-to-liquid ratio is 2 to 1, ie 2 cups of liquid to one cup of uncooked rice. In this dish, we have one cup of stock and one cup of passata, which should be sufficient to cook one cup of rice.
Most of the liquid should have been absorbed by the rice and the final texture should be moist but not runny. There should be no liquid in the bottom of the pan if you draw a spatula through the mixture.
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Yes, this recipe freezes well. Allow it to come to room temperature and then pack it into a suitable freezer container. Freeze for up to 4 months.
To use, defrost in the refrigerator (or microwave if you are in a hurry) and reheat in a saucepan on the stove until piping hot, and serve immediately. Do not refreeze.
Yes, you can make this recipe and then store the cooled mince and cabbage mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reheat in a saucepan on the stove.
Save for later
If you would like to try this unstuffed cabbage balls recipe for yourself, why not save it to one of your Pinterest boards so you can find it easily. Just click on the image below.
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If you enjoyed these unstuffed cabbage rolls, perhaps you’d like to try some of my other easy supper recipes:
- Deconstructed cottage pie – savoury mince and vegetables served on a bed of crispy potato ‘roof tiles’.
- Slow cooker bolognese sauce – a delicious meaty sauce, flavoured with herbs and garlic, slow-cooked to develop all the delicious Italian flavours and served on a bed of tender pasta.
- Best barbeque sauce served with meatballs – spicy meatballs on a bed of linguine, smothered with a tasty homemade barbeque sauce.
- Cheesy lasagne – everyone’s favourite meal – tender lasagne sheets layered with flavourful meaty sauce, covered with cheese.
- Minced beef hotpot – savoury minced beef and vegetables covered in a layer of crispy potatoes.
- Thai pork mince stirfry with green beans – my version of a Thai-flavoured bolognese. Try something different tonight.
Unstuffed cabbage rolls
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- Wok OR
- 1 pound / 450 grams ground beef / beef mince
- ½ medium white or savoy cabbage (shredded) approx 4 cups
- 4 medium tomatoes (diced) approx 2 cups
- 2 medium onions (diced) approx 2 cups
- 1 cup / 200 grams long-grain white rice Basmati or similar
- 1 cup / 240 ml passata
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree / tomato paste not ketchup
- 1 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves minced garlic or use 1 teaspoon from a jar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup / 240 ml beef stock make with a stock cube
- 1 teaspoon chilli paste optional
- 1 – 2 tablespoons sunflower oil for frying
- Chop the cabbage – I normally just cut it into 1-cm slices and then cut the strips in half.½ medium white or savoy cabbage (shredded)
- Peel and coarsely chop the onions, and crush the garlic if you are using fresh.2 medium onions (diced), 2 cloves minced garlic
- Cut the tomatoes into 1-cm dice.4 medium tomatoes (diced)
- Dissolve the stock cube in 1 cup of boiling water in a large jug, and once it has dissolved, stir in the passata, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and chilli paste (if using).1 cup / 240 ml passata, 1 tablespoon tomato puree / tomato paste, 1 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 cup / 240 ml beef stock, 1 teaspoon chilli paste
- Measure the rice into a cup1 cup / 200 grams long-grain white rice
Unstuffed cabbage rolls
- Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and fry the onions and garlic over a medium heat until they start to soften.1 – 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- Push the onions to the side of the pan and add the meat and season with half the salt. Stir with a spatula to break up any lumps, and continue to fry the meat until it is brown and crumbly. Mix the browned meat and onions back together.1 pound / 450 grams ground beef / beef mince, salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Add the chopped tomatoes and continue to fry until the tomatoes start to break down.
- Add the uncooked rice and stir in the prepared stock.
- Add the cabbage and stir again. Let the stock come to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the rice is cooked and the cabbage is soft.
- Keep your eye on it and add a splash of water (or extra stock) if it seems to be drying out before the rice has cooked.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper if needed.
To use, defrost in the refrigerator (or microwave if you are in a hurry) and reheat in a saucepan on the stove until piping hot, and serve immediately. Do not refreeze. Make in advance – store the cooled mince and cabbage mixture in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Reheat in a saucepan on the stove. Nutrition assumes that 4 people will eat the entire dish with no leftovers.
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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