Red cabbage rolls stuffed with a flavorful mixture of onions, lentils, brown rice, and Italian seasonings. This is one of our favorite healthy and inexpensive dinners! Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free.
*This recipe was originally published on 9/29/15 but I updated it with better instructions on 3/21/19.
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I was recently looking through a box of my German grandmother’s handwritten recipes and I came across a recipe for polish cabbage rolls (aka Golumpkis (pronounced goy-yump-kees)). I bet my grandma used to make it for my polish grandpa to remind him of home. I wish they were still here for me to ask. The recipe looked absolutely delicious except it was made with pork/beef and bacon fat. I knew I could put my own twist on them and make the cabbage rolls vegetarian.
Traditionally, stuffed cabbage rolls are made with green cabbage. Why? I don’t know for sure but I’m going to guess that red cabbage wasn’t as accessible as green cabbage. The red cabbage was probably more expensive too. However, I can get red cabbage for the same price as green cabbage at my local market. If I ever have a choice between colors, I always go for the brighter option. Especially, if it’s purple! Any fruits or vegetables that are naturally bright purple tend to be loaded with antioxidants.
I made my version of stuffed cabbage rolls recipe with red cabbage leaves, lentils, onions, garlic, brown rice, and Ragu tomato sauce. It’s super flavorful and easy to make! I bet that your family will love them as much as we do! I think my grandma would be proud of my take on her recipe!
How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
It’s surprisingly simple to make these easy stuffed cabbage rolls. First, cook the rice and lentils (or use 1 1/2 cans of cooked lentils) in separate pots and then set them aside. Next, use a knife to cut out the cabbage stem and then boil the cabbage head for 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove at least 10-12 large leaves and then lay them on a dish towel to dry.
In a large saute pan, cook the diced onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, tomato paste, and dry seasonings. Cook for 2 minutes to let the flavors meld. Add the cooked lentils and rice to the pan and mix everything together. Let the mixture cook for 5 minutes.
Pour 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Lay a cabbage leaf flat on a cutting board and put 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the filling (depending on how large your cabbage leaves are) in the center of the cabbage leaf. Fold both sides of the leaf in and then fold the bottom up and roll it up until it’s sealed. Place the stuffed cabbage roll seam side down into the casserole dish. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the top of the cabbage rolls.
Note – Do your best to roll the cabbage rolls up pretty tight to keep the filling in. If the leaf tears or some filling falls out one side, it’s okay, don’t panic. Just tuck the ends in the best you can, and place them in the casserole dish. While the cabbage rolls are baking, everything magically melds together!
Cover the casserole and bake it at 350 degrees for one hour.
What Side Dish Goes With Cabbage Rolls?
Since the filling for these basic cabbage rolls is rice and lentils, I usually serve a roasted vegetable dish on the side. I love a vibrant plate of food so the red cabbage rolls paired with bright green oven roasted asparagus or roasted brussel sprouts with garlic are two of my favorite options. If you’re not a fan of either of those vegetables then a big green salad would be delish too.
How Do You Remove Cabbage Leaves Without Tearing?
You need to prep the cabbage head first by using a sharp knife to carefully cut out the stem. Then, boil the whole head of cabbage for 5 minutes or until the leaves start to easily peel off. Use tongs to gently peel each cabbage leaf off and then lay the leaf on a dish towel to cool and dry. Leave the cabbage in the boiling water and repeat this step until you have 10-12 large cabbage leaves.
Do You Have To Bake The Cabbage Rolls?
I baked the cabbage rolls casserole in the oven because I think that’s the easiest method but you can also make the cabbage rolls in a dutch oven on the stovetop too.
To keep the delicate cabbage leaves from sticking to the bottom of the dutch oven and burning, use 2-3 cabbage leaves to line the bottom of the pot! It acts as a barrier between the cabbage rolls and the hot pan. You definitely don’t want to have to stand over the stovetop constantly moving the cabbage rolls to make sure they don’t stick.
How Long Can You Keep Cooked Cabbage Rolls in the Fridge?
You can keep the leftover cabbage rolls in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. If you don’t plan on using them within that time period then you can freeze the rest for a meal in the future.
If you want to switch up your leftovers, try chopping up the leftover cabbage rolls and adding some vegetable broth to turn it into cabbage roll soup!
What’s The Best Way to Freeze Cabbage Rolls?
The best way to store leftover rolls is to put them into a glass snapware container and then freeze it.
How Do You Reheat Frozen Cabbage Rolls?
Take the container of frozen cabbage rolls out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees, transfer the rolls to an oven-safe casserole dish, spoon extra tomato sauce over the rolls, and then bake it for 1 hour or until it’s hot all the way through.
Are These Cabbage Rolls Keto Friendly?
No, but you can easily swap a few ingredients to make them keto friendly. First, swap out the brown rice for cauliflower rice. Second, don’t use a store-bought tomato sauce because they usually have a lot of sugar. Make your own tomato sauce so you can control the amount of sugar (if any) that’s in it.
More Vegan Lentil Recipes That You’ll Love!
If you try this best homemade cabbage rolls recipe, please share your picture on Instagram and tag @Stacey_Homemaker so I can see your delicious creation!
Lentil Stuffed Red Cabbage Rolls
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice
- 1 cup uncooked french lentils (Or 1 1/2 cans of cooked lentils)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp Italian seasonings
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste, I love this paste because it's in a jar, so no BPA!
- 1/4 tsp Pink sea salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1 large head red cabbage
- 26 oz jar of tomato sauce
- Parsley for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Cook the lentils and brown rice (separately) according to package directions, set aside until later.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully cut out and remove the stem from the bottom of the cabbage head.
- In a large pot, boil the water and season it with salt. Add the whole cabbage head to the water and let it boil for 5 minutes or until the outer leaf starts to pull away from the head. Use tongs to carefully remove the outer leaves until you have 10-12 large leaves. Let them cool and dry on a dish towel.
- Sauté the onions in olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until translucent. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and dry seasonings. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add the cooked lentils and rice to the pan. Stir to combine and let the mixture cook for 4-5 minutes to let the flavors to meld.
- Spread 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish.
- Spoon 1/4-1/2 cup of filling into each cabbage leaf (depending on how big the leaf is). Fold the sides in, and then roll the bottom up. Place the cabbage roll seam side down in the casserole dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls.
- Cover the casserole dish with foil or parchment paper and bake for 1 hour. Garnish with parsley.
- You can use green or brown lentils instead of french lentils.
- You can use green cabbage instead of red cabbage.
- If you don't want to roast the cabbage rolls there are instructions to cook them on the stovetop in the post.
- If you don't want to cook the lentils, canned lentils will work too. Sub 1 1/2 cans of cooked lentils for 1 cup of dry lentils.