Easy One-Pot Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

One-pot unstuffed cabbage rolls are quick and easy to make! They still deliver the classic taste of traditional stuffed cabbage, so you can enjoy the delicious flavors of stuffed cabbage rolls without all of the work, which the whole family will love.

A close up picture of unstuffed cabbage in a white dish with a fork on the side

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Stuffed cabbage is a delicious meal that is rich and savory in flavor. However, it can be time-consuming to prepare. The traditional method involves boiling cabbage leaves wrapping them around a savory beef filling and baking them.

There is a quicker way to make it with unstuffed cabbage or as I call them, lazy cabbage rolls. This easy recipe has the same flavor but takes much less time to make. This recipe not only saves in prep time, it also saves cooking time. Instead of a long process of cooking and stuffing, the meat is sautéed, mixed with flavors, and combined directly with chopped cabbage in one pot making this recipe perfect for busy weeknights.

Why you will love unstuffed cabbage rolls

  • Easy and convenient! This unstuffed cabbage roll recipe streamlines the traditional recipe into one pot for ease.
  • Flavor! These unstuffed cabbage rolls taste the same as traditional cabbage rolls.
  • Versatile! You can easily tweak this recipe to suit your taste; see suggestions below.

This is a brief summary of the ingredients needed to make this recipe and a convenient shopping list from my Instacart affiliate link. For a printable recipe card with exact measurements and detailed instructions, scroll down to the recipe card section.

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Lean ground beef
  • Onion
  • Cooked rice
  • 14.5 ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Honey
  • Cabbage
  • Apple cider vinegar

🥄Equipment

  • Large skillet

Prepare: Cook the rice, shred half a head of cabbage with a food processor, mandoline slicer, or sharp knife, and chop the onion.

A picture of step one, cook the ground beef with onions

STEP 1: Heat a heavy skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the beef and cook for a few minutes until the beef is almost cooked through. Add the onions and garlic and cook until they begin to turn soft.

STEP 2: Reduce to medium heat; add the tomato paste, tomatoes, vinegar and honey gently stir to combine the ingredients.

Process step 2 ground meat in a skillet with tomatoes and tomato paste
process 3 a picture of unstuffed cabbage in a skillet with raw cabbage

STEP 3: Stir in the shredded cabbage, reduce the heat to low heat. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes. By this time the cabbage should be wilted.

STEP 4: Add the cooked rice and stir to combine all of the ingredients. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes longer and serve.

Process step 4 a picture of unstuffed cabbage in a skillet with rice on top

Ground beef – Look for 90% lean ground beef, which offers enough flavor without excess fat. If you opt for 80% lean, you might need to drain off the excess fat before adding the tomatoes to the skillet.

Ground beef can be replaced with any type ground meat such as a mixture of ground pork and ground beef or you can use ground turkey or ground chicken for extra lean options.

Olive oil- I like to use a little bit of olive oil to keep the meat from sticking to the pan. Depending on the fat content in the meat, you may not need a full tablespoon of oil.

Cabbage – Look for firm and compact cabbage with vibrant green leaves. Avoid cabbage that appears to be wilting or has blemishes.

Honey – This adds a touch of sweetness to the dish, and can be substituted with an equal amount of maple syrup or agave nectar.

Cooked rice – This is a wonderful recipe for using up leftover rice. I prefer using cooked brown rice, but white rice will work too.

Tomato paste – This adds a little extra tomato flavor and can be left out if it’s not available.

Apple cider vinegar – Vinegar adds a bit of tartness to the meat mixture and can be replaced with white vinegar if apple cider vinegar isn’t available. You can also try adding a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce instead of vinegar.

overhead pictrure of unstuffed cabbage in a bowl with a fork on the side

This dinner is a meal all by itself, but you can add more veggies to your meal with a delicious arugula salad or kale salad.

To store leftover unstuffed cabbage, place it in an airtight container and let it cool down to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator. It will last in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Unstuffed cabbage can also be frozen for up to three months. Place it in portion sizes in the freezer. Thaw frozen unstuffed cabbage in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it in the oven over low heat or on top of the stove.

Vegetarian unstuffed cabbage – Replace the meat with a mixture of cooked quinoa and lentils or beans,

Mediterranean – Add garlic, oregano and lemon zest to the sauce. Instead of rice, use pearl couscous and add a handful of chopped kalamata olives.

Spicy – Kick up the heat with a diced jalapeno pepper or a dash or two of red pepper flakes.

Unstuffed cabbage soup – Add 3 to 4 cups of beef broth to the pan to make stuffed cabbage soup.

Low-carb unstuffed cabbage – Replace rice with an equal amount of cauliflower rice for a low-carb version.

Tips

  • If you prefer more wilted cabbage, try blanching it in boiling water for a few minutes.
  • If the dish is too dry, add more diced tomatoes or broth to adjust the consistency.
  • Use pre-shredded cabbage from the supermarket to save time!
a close up picture of unstuffed cabbge in a white bowl with a fork
What is the best type of cabbage to use to make unstuffed cabbage?

The best cabbage for unstuffed cabbage is typically green cabbage. However, you can also use savoy cabbage or napa cabbage if you prefer.

Can I make unstuffed cabbage in a slow cooker?

Yes, unstuffed cabbage can be made in a slow cooker. Follow the recipe instructions to prepare the filling and sauce then layer the shredded cabbage and filling mixture in the slow cooker, ensuring that the cabbage is evenly distributed. Cook on low for at least 3 hours until the cabbage is tender and the flavors have melded together.

Can I make unstuffed cabbage rolls ahead of time?

Follow the recipe instructions and place the unstuffed cabbage in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to cook, remove from the refrigerator and allow the dish to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes and heat in the oven at 350 degrees f or over low heat in a skillet on the stove.

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A close up picture of unstuffed cabbage in a white dish with a fork on the side

One Pot Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

A quicker way to enjoy stuffed cabbage rolls!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Click on serving size to scale this recipe

Course: Dinner Recipes
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Unstuffed cabbage rolls
Servings: 2
Calories: 738kcal
Author: Anne Lawton

Equipment

Scale this Recipe 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes canned
  • 1 cup rice cooked
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 head cabbage shredded

Instructions

  • Prepare the ingredients: chop the onion, shred the cabbage with a food processor, mandoline or sharp knife
  • Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet and heat it over medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1/2 pound lean ground beef and cook until the beef is almost cooked through. Add 1/2 cup onion; cook until they begin to turn soft.
  • Reduce the heat to medium heat; add 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar gently stir to combine.
  • Stir in the shredded cabbage, and reduce the heat to low heat. Cover the pan and cook for at least 20 minutes. By this time the cabbage should be wilted.
  • Add 1 cup rice (cooked) and cook for a few minutes longer until everything is heated through.

Notes

This recipe yields two generous portions, or three small. Nutrition information is calculated on two portions.
**NOTE: This recipe uses cooked rice; if you don’t have cooked rice on hand, allow time to cook your rice.
The cabbage will be slightly crispy after 20 minutes of cook time, if you prefer a softer texture, cook it for 30 minutes.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  Reheat leftovers in a skillet over low heat.
See above for recipe variations, tips and more.

Nutrition

Calories: 738kcal | Carbohydrates: 104g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 206mg | Potassium: 1356mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 586IU | Vitamin C: 107mg | Calcium: 210mg | Iron: 7mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and can vary based on cooking methods and ingredients used

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