These unstuffed cabbage rolls are my lazy man version of traditional Ukrainian cabbage rolls. Everything is cooked in one pot and is healthier than the authentic version.
Deconstructed cabbage rolls are packed with basic staple ingredients such as tender cabbage, ground beef, tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
Cabbage recipes are highly requested in our family, especially this one-pot meal Ground Beef and Cabbage, which has become pretty popular among readers too. It's even more ''lazy'' than this recipe.
Why It's Yummy
- These unstuffed cabbage rolls are excellent for a low-carb diet, have lots of fiber from the cabbage, and are very fulfilling.
- Easy and quick - We like to make it whenever we don’t have much time for cooking. From start to finish, it will take you around 30 minutes for this delicious unstuffed cabbage rolls dinner.
- Simple ingredients. A great budget-friendly main dish made with minimal ingredients that are easily available in any store and won't break the bank. If you have ground beef, cabbage, and spices you can make this recipe! Super simple to customize.
We call it golubtsi (Ukrainian) and this lazy version is called ‘’lenivie golubtsi’’. Call it whatever you like but it has been our go-to lazy night dinner recipe 🙂
My few comments on the ingredients + don't forget to read the Tips section!
The full recipe and ingredients can be found in the recipe card below this post.
- Cabbage - any cabbage will work here, savoy cabbage (sweetest leaves), napa cabbage, and red cabbage as well. But the best cabbage in my opinion for unstuffed or stuffed cabbage rolls is young green cabbage. This cabbage is also great for making a rich and fulfilling unstuffed cabbage roll soup. Be careful if using red cabbage as it will likely leach color into the rest of your dish.
- Ground beef - use lean ground meat whenever possible so you don’t end up with lots of meat fat in the pot. Any meat is suitable here. For a leaner version, lean ground turkey is your best bet.
- Maple syrup - I used what I had for this post, and it turned delicious! We also love to use brown sugar or coconut sugar whenever we make these unstuffed cabbage rolls. Don’t skip the sweetener here because whenever you use a tomato product, for the best flavor I recommend adding any kind of sweetener to offset the acidity that comes from tomatoes. You'll not feel the flavor of sweetener but it will balance the dish instead.
- Garlic and onion - without these aromatics, these unstuffed cabbage rolls would not be what they are called. In Ukrainian cuisine garlic, onion and cabbage are one of the main ingredients in dishes.
- To increase your veggie intake, we also like to add some grated carrots once in a while to have a variety of cabbage roll flavors.
- Tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes - different brands vary in taste and texture. I recommend using trusted Italian brands whenever possible. Simply because of the rich flavor.
Heat up a large pot or dutch oven with some cooking oil (I like to use avocado oil spray) and one hot add in the onions.
Cook until onions have softened.
Add the ground beef and brown the meat crumbling it into small pieces until thoroughly cooked.
Add garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, and bay leaves and stir.
Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and maple syrup.
Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
Stir in the cabbage, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer with a closed lid for 15-20 minutes.
Cabbage should be soft, and tender but still a little crispy.
Stir in the cooked brown fluffy rice and stir to combine, and let heat through simmering for 3 minutes.
You can also use regular white rice for a quicker recipe, although brown rice is slightly healthier. In terms of flavor, there's no big difference.
Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves.
Serve with freshly chopped parsley and sour cream.
We like to serve it with plenty of sour creams, fresh dill or parsley, and black ground pepper.
Traditionally this dish is not served with cheese, but it doesn't mean you can't add it here.
A delicious melty cheesy topping is what will make this dish better and kid-approved.
Top it up with grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese.
Add it during the last 5 minutes of cooking time to get the cheese extra melty or serve in individual bowls.
Don’t overcook the cabbage. Although many versions recommend differently, I still stand strong on the belief that cabbage should be tender yet still crisp by the end of cooking. I don't like my cabbage being mushy.
- Lean meat - opt for a low-fat and leaner version as it will cook better and you won’t end up with lots of extra fat and liquid in the pot.
- Let it simmer enough for the flavors to blend nicely and cabbage soaks up all the sauce mixture.
Freezing And Storing Instructions
- For the best flavor and texture make as much as you'd consume right away or within 24 hours.
- Store any cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
- To freeze, the same steps and for 2-3 months.
- To reheat, thaw first if frozen and reheat in a pot over the stovetop. You may need to add some extra water or stock/broth to thin it out. I don’t recommend reheating this in the microwave as the cabbage will or may become too soggy.
The unstuffed cabbage rolls are already a meal itself. Some side portion of healthy salad, crusty bread, or a portion of steamed potatoes is our go-to serving options.
Cabbage is a healthy source of fiber, is low fat and with plenty of nutrients for your skin. It's rich in antioxidants (including vitamin C and beta-carotene).
Thinking About Dessert?
Easy Cabbage Recipes
Love more cabbage recipes? Check out this extensive roundup collection of the best cabbage recipes or one of these easy recipes below:
I would appreciate it so much if you left a comment about this recipe below! Subscribe to join the TYB newsletter and receive free recipes straight to your inbox! Let's connect via Facebook, IG & Pinterest!
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls With Rice (Lenivie Golubtsi)
- 6 cups green cabbage (chopped into 1-inch pieces)
- 2 ⅓ cups cooked brown rice
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- ½ cup warm water or beef broth
- 1 onion very finely diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
- 15 oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 2 ¾ cups can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven with some cooking oil (i like to use avocado oil spray) and one hot add in the onions. Cook until onions have softened.
- Add the ground beef and brown the meat crumbling it into small pieces until thoroughly cooked.
- Add garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, and bay leaves and stir.
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and maple syrup. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Stir in the cabbage, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Cabbage should be soft, and tender but still a little crispy.
- Stir in the cooked brown rice, stir to combine, and let heat through simmering for 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves.
- Serve with freshly chopped parsley and sour cream.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)