Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are for those of us who love traditional cabbage rolls almost as much as we hate the time it takes to roll them and bake them. Bites of juicy ground beef with fluffy rice and tangy tomato sauce are irresistible and made even better stuffed inside rolled up cabbage and baked.

But sometimes (read: most of the time), I just don’t have the time, energy or patience to put together cabbage rolls. If you’re like me, these Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls might be your newest favorite dinner.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are a favorite with kids and adults!

For nearly as long as Sean and I have been married, I’ve been making Layered Cabbage Rolls as a timesaver option for a cabbage roll dinner. My whole family loves them and they’re requested often.

I remember the first time I served that easy variation on cabbage rolls to our friend Joe. Joe was born in Hungary and he was so happy with that dish that he kept smiling and telling stories all the way through the meal.

He told us it tasted exactly as he remembered his mother’s cooking. Joe passed away last year and remembering his happiness over that meal still brings a smile to my face.

A few years ago, I was thrilled to realize that I could get the cabbage roll flavors we love in a simple skillet meal, without even turning on the oven. The ground beef is browned along with plenty of seasonings before simmering in a rich tomato sauce with fresh cabbage and rice.

From start to finish, this meal comes together in under 20 minutes, making it pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned. I like to serve the Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls with a simple salad and a crusty bread to sop up any juices on our plates. They’d also be delicious served with Homemade Pierogies for a full Polish feast!

It’s a dinner that checks all my boxes, a quick meal that manages to make everyone happy using simple and inexpensive ingredients. If you have never had the joy of tasting Cabbage Rolls before now, here is your chance.

Cabbage rolls are a classic European dish of cabbage leaves wrapped around seasoned ground meat and baked. Ground beef is a traditional filling for the cabbage but ground lamb and turkey are also popular in some areas.

These rolls make for a hearty and delicious meal that can feed a crowd inexpensively, so you can imagine that finding a way to make them without much time or effort was a huge win.

So much easier than traditional cabbage rolls, you're going to love this one pan meal!

Skillet Dinners

Skillet dinners are meals where all the ingredients (or almost all of them) come together in one pan.

They may not always be the fanciest, prettiest or most impressive dishes but they are the ones most likely to become part of your family’s meal rotation. They’re built for busy weeknights and long leisurely weekends alike.

Skillet meals like Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are the dishes our kids will have fond memories of enjoying together at the dinner table. And because recipes like this don’t require hours in the kitchen prepping dozens of ingredients in advance or cleaning up a bunch of dishes afterward, you can enjoy that time with them, too.

Some other easy skillet dinners to try are our Cabbage and Sausage Skillet, Bell Pepper and Zucchini Skillet with Spicy Sausage and this Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry that’s better than any take-out I’ve ever had.

None of these have ever served me wrong when I’m on the hunt for a fast and filling meal for my family and Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are no different.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Recipes

Cabbage shows up in so many soups, stews, and stir-fries for a good reason. It’s packed with nutrients, holds up well to many different ways of cooking and can feed an army with just pennies.

Cabbage rolls and all their variants are possibly my favorite way to enjoy this amazing vegetable but I also completely adore eating it in Mexican White Bean and Cabbage Soup, Kielbasa and Potato Skillet and in this Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew.

In this recipe, pieces of chopped cabbage are added to ground beef and tomato sauce. You get all the taste of fresh cabbage, tender meat and tangy sauce in each bite without the hassle of rolling up individual cabbage rolls!

All the flavor of traditional Cabbage Rolls in a simple skillet meal!

How To Make Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

A pan full of steaming, mouthwatering Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls begins with browning ground beef in a skillet on the stove. As the meat browns, add chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Crushed tomatoes and sauce, vinegar and brown sugar then go into the skillet right with the browned ground beef. After the whole concoction comes to a boil, add pieces of cabbage right to the pan along with cooked rice. That’s it!

If you’re looking for more quick and easy 20 minute dinners, check out One Skillet Beef Meatballs with Rice and Peas, and this Caprese Skillet Chicken. This Spinach Pasta Salad is a light meal that can be made ahead of time and eaten warm or cold.

Lebanese Beef with Green Beans is a recipe that my sister gave us and it’s a regular on our meal plan as well now.

COOK’S TIP: If you don’t have pre-cooked or leftover rice on hand, start a pan of rice cooking on the stove when you begin to brown the meat for this recipe. By the time you need to add the rice, it will be cooked and ready to add with the rest of the ingredients.

Kitchen Tip: I use this skillet to make this recipe.

All the best cabbage roll flavors in an easy one skillet meal!

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

  1. Warm the oil in a large deep sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper. Crumble the meat as it cooks. When the meat has browned, about 8 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, brown sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

  2. Stir in the cabbage, reduce to simmer, and cover with lid. Cook until the cabbage is bright green, tender, and still slightly crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the cooked rice and simmer just until heated through about 2 minutes.

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So much easier than traditional cabbage rolls, you're going to love this one pan meal!

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

4.44 from 23 votes
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Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 head green cabbage about 4-6 cups, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked rice (total amount is rice when cooked)

Instructions

  • Warm the oil in a large deep sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper. Crumble the meat as it cooks. When the meat has browned, about 8 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, brown sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
  • Stir in the cabbage, reduce to simmer, and cover with lid. Cook until the cabbage is bright green, tender, and still slightly crisp, about 4-5 minutes. Add in the cooked rice and simmer just until heated through about 2 minutes. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 438kcal · Carbohydrates: 30g · Protein: 23g · Fat: 24g · Saturated Fat: 9g · Cholesterol: 80mg · Sodium: 776mg · Potassium: 861mg · Fiber: 4g · Sugar: 14g · Vitamin A: 570IU · Vitamin C: 32.3mg · Calcium: 89mg · Iron: 4.3mg
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{originally published 2/27/18 – recipe notes and photos updated 1/16/20}

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are a family dinner that comes together in just minutes!

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. nikki says

    I make mine in the oven. Haven”t used sauerkraut before, but I will this time. Line of the bottom of a 13 x 9 roasting pan or glass dish with a layer of sauce and kraut/cabbage mixture.. Place cabbage rolls, seam side down, on top of kraut. Top cabbage rolls with remaining sauce and more then cover the whole pan with a layer of cling wrap (yes it can be used in the oven) and then aluminum foil. Bake for 2- 3 hours in a preheated 350F oven. I was told by a Polish friend, that the layer of cabbage on the bottom of the pot was to prevent the cabbage rolls from scorching. This recipe simply sounds divine Tori. And what I like best to do is double or triple the ingredients and get all the work done at one time. Then the cabbage rolls can be baked or cooked on the stove or crockpot or all three and frozen for future dinners. And do they taste even better, if that is possible, reheated. My mouth is watering.

  2. Ron Chilcutt says

    I used a lemon/garlic riced cauliflower and it gave the recipe a fresh popping flavor. A real hit with the whole family.5 stars

    • Mike Wolf says

      I like your thinking! This sounds delicious and will try this soon. Lemon garlic riced cauliflower…. Brilliant!

  3. Carolyn says

    Amazing. I adjusted a few ingredients to make them more like my own. Thank you so much. I am a widow, and cooking for myself is enough of a chore. But making stuffed cabbage is very time consuming, and frankly I just don’t have the desire to spend that much time making something just for me. This is wonderful. I can make it, & it can sit in a pot in the refrigerator. I can take out a little bit at a time; I don’t have to cook every single day and you know yourself, it’s so much better when it sits for a day or two. A couple slices of rye bread and butter and I was good to go. Thanks again for this great recipe!

    If you ever figure out, how to make deconstructed pirogi, please post immediately or send me an email. 😀5 stars

    • Beth says

      I make a pierogi casserole.
      Layer the bottom with cooked lasagna noodles.
      Cover it with mashed potatoes (instant actually works best) mixed with sautéed onions and butter and shredded cheddar. Keep layering the same way until pan is full.
      Bake at 350 until heated through an cheese is melted. Yum.

  4. Danielle says

    This was a win! I made it because I love sarma but don’t have the time for that. I added half a chopped onion to the pan just because. I only had a pound of beef and probably should have adjusted the tomato sauce to accommodate, but I didn’t and it was just fine – if you’re looking to lessen your meat consumption this is def a good option. Served leftovers with a cap of white wine vin because that flavor gets absorbed. Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Amber says

    Made this tonight and LOVED it. The only suggestion I have is to not CHOP the cabbage. I had to let it simmer for over an hour before the cabbage was tender enough to eat. Which honestly, wasn’t all that bad though, the flavors mingled more. Next time I will shred the cabbage layer by layer and then cut it up. Thanks for the recipe however. I have never cooked with cabbage before!5 stars

  6. Rose Guinn says

    My husband and brother both love, love this! This gets two thumbs up in my book! anything that makes my husband happy, makes me happy! I’ve made it both with ground chuck and ground turkey because my husband is now on I strict diet and I also substitute cauliflower rice for regular rice and he says it’s still delicious! His words! ❤️❤️5 stars

  7. Kay says

    These were ok but had a strange sweetness I never had in any similar recipe. I am sorry but will not use this recipe as is. Maybe if I cut way back on the brown sugar.3 stars

  8. Marilyn Schetz says

    I Made this recipe. I really like that sweet sour flavor. I think it adds a lot of punch to a recipe that can be kind of boring. Definitely will make this again, and will probably use that sweet and sour sauce mixture for unstuffed peppers too.

  9. Chris says

    Great recipe, So much easier than stuffing the leaves. I do the same for stuffed peppers and stuffed shells (isn’t it just baked ziti anyway?)
    My mom used 2 cans of tomato soup as a shortcut.4 stars

  10. Darla says

    Big hit with our family. We loved the sweetness. My teenage daughter made it . She used napa cabbage and it was delicious. This will be a regular “go to” in our kitchen menu rotation.5 stars

  11. Suzi says

    Truly delicious! Had to sub tomato purée for sauce as it was all I had in the cabinet. Got rave reviews from my dinner group. We like a sweeter tomato sauce rather than the acidic ones so it was perfect. Served it up with cornbread.5 stars

  12. Cara says

    Very good, but a little too sweet for my liking. Came together quickly and my family liked it. I will make it again, but will use less sugar next time.4 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      I’d recommend freezing a portion and thawing it to see how it works, Liz. I’m guessing it will be alright, but there’s a chance that the cabbage might create too much liquid as it thaws.

  13. Susan Galvan says

    I haven’t had cabbage rolls since I was a child so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I liked this recipe but knowing I don’t care for sweet sauces I only added 1 T of brn. sugar. I will make this recipe again. Thank you4 stars

  14. Tracey says

    Sadly way too sweet. I wish I had read the reviews before making. I should have trusted my instincts that 1/4 cup of sugar was too much.3 stars

  15. Julie says

    Was good and I used following substitutes for lower carb.

    Instead of brown sugar used Golden monk fruit and used a little less, I will drop to 1/8c next time.
    Used tomato purée and some water instead of sauce and tomatoes.

    Served with zero carb bread and butter.
    Think green peppers would be a great addition.

    Will make again!5 stars

  16. Wiley Weaver says

    Cook 4 to 5 minutes! Surely you jest. I let it simmer as long as it needs for the flavors to blend.