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 and bake them. Bites of juicy ground beef with fluffy rice and tangy tomato sauce are made even better in this simple one-skillet meal.

Sometimes (read: most of the time), as much as I love cabbage rolls, I just don’t have the time, energy, or patience to make them on a weeknight. 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!

Unstuffed Cabbage

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

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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.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

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. This would also be delicious served with Homemade Pierogies for a full Polish feast!

This is 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 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 this recipe is no different.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

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!

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.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

A pan full of steaming, mouthwatering Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls begins with browning ground beef in a skillet on the stove. (I use this skillet to make this recipe.) 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!

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

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 made for us many years ago and it’s a regular on our meal plan as well now.

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

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

4.65 from 42 votes
Bites of juicy ground beef with fluffy rice and tangy tomato sauce are made even better layered into these Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ head green cabbage about 4-6 cups, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked rice (total amount is rice when cooked)


  • 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. Serve warm.


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
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 2/27/18 – recipe notes and photos updated 11/25/22}

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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108 Comments Leave a comment or review

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    • Mary Younkin says

      Hi, Sharon. There is a “Jump to Recipe” button at the very top of the page, just underneath the title, for readers who don’t want to read through the notes/instructions/etc. I give before the recipe card. Click that button, and it’ll take you straight to the recipe.

    • Kelly says

      This was amazing!!! I always make recipes my own, for my family’s tastebuds. I’m not sure why more people don’t taste & add to what you like. I added more seasoning, to include jalapeños & cayenne pepper & lots of salt. I also did a little tomato sauce & lots of garlic! I have a house full of Italian! Anyway, it was delicious.
      Anyone complaining about the recipe should have just used this as a base & added additional ingredients to suit their likes.

      Thanks so much for posting!! It is much appreciated.5 stars

  1. Carmen Muniz says

    I love the simplicity and I’ve never used brown sugar but I love the subtle sweetness it adds. Thank you for sharing and for sharing your tips before the recipe.5 stars

  2. Dawn says

    My mother always taught me if you don’t have something nice to say better off saying nothing. Use the jump to recipe button. Made this today . Very good.

  3. Carol says

    This is a delicious recipe. It’s even better than baked cabbage rolls by a large margin!
    Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I’ve made it per the recipe, and I’ve made it with chopped medium onion cooked with the beef and the whole head of cabbage. Delicious both ways.5 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Hi, Amy. A serving is about an eighth of a standard batch, so maybe a few cups? I’d have to double-check. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying the cabbage rolls!

  4. Janet Nelson says

    As a purist I was not sure but since I am suffering from cancer but still love to cook although my taste buds have dastricly changed (my spelling too) I tried it and loved it. Changed some things 🌿. Spices and making it again. I am of Hungarian descent on my mom ‘s side eastern European. So Ashkenazi Jew love ❤️ the food.My friend who has never eaten this loves it. Pure southern. HA. KEEP THE RECIPES COMING I WILL TRY AND DO THE SAME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. THANKS

  5. Jennie says

    For a little extra savory flavor I did add in some low sodium soy sauce. I didn’t have white wine vinegar, so that probably would have helped with flavor if I’d had that. Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. Mary Ellen Frias says

    SOOO much better than the oven recipe I have tried in the past.I added a ton of garlic, S&P, and more rice than called for. Next time I will use a bigger cabbage. Loved the stovetop method! Thank you for sharing!4 stars

  7. Lisa says

    We loved this! The touch of sweetness from the brown sugar was so good…will definitely be making again. Thanks Mary!5 stars

  8. Diane Mongognia says

    Really about good! Don’t forget to chop the cabbage… I missed that.
    Thanks for an easy meal!!!5 stars

  9. John johnson says

    Hey Sharon Collins you talk too much. This was excellent and I enjoyed reading everything. I feel like it helps me to understand the recipe better. Thank you Mary we tried it and loved it. Never going back to stuffed cabbage again.5 stars