Meatless Monday: Enlightened Braised Cabbage Rolls Recipe with Roasted Red Pepper Finishing Sauce

One of the ultimate comfort foods – slowly simmered stuffed cabbage rolls – has the power to take me back to the early 80’s  when I was a new bride learning to cook for my little family. So, I wondered if I could make a more enlightened vegetarian version that was just as tasty and comforting for Meatless Monday.

Cabbage seems like it was invented for making cabbage rolls – they have a perfect taste and texture for these. And a huge bonus: cabbage is packed with nutrients. Cabbage is one of the most versatile cruciferous veggies. We use it in so many strikingly different ways and transform it into so many different substances: raw cabbage in slaws, boiled cabbage with sausages, pickled for sauerkraut, and on and on . . . .

The secret to the success of this recipe is in the braising: I used a rich vegetable broth ( I like Kitchen Basics vegetable stock) with a little vinegar and brown sugar and My, Oh My! did my house smell yummy! These turned out glorious: sweet and tart and flavorful – they just melt in your mouth!  I promise you won’t miss the meat – not even a little bit!

Rolling stuffing into cabbage leaves

Rolling stuffing into cabbage leaves

Simmer rolls in a single layer - a Dutch oven works great!

Simmer rolls in a single layer - a Dutch oven works great!


Serves 4 to 6; Prep and cooking time 60 minutes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, diced
6 cloves garlic, divided
4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1/2 cup lentils
1 cup rice
4 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 teaspoon cumin
1 large head cabbage (I used savoy cabbage)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

Saute the shallot in 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Mince 3 cloves of garlic and add in and simmer for another minute. Add in 2 cups of broth and lentils and simmer for 5 minutes. Add rice,  2 tablespoons of soy sauce and cumin, lower heat and cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed.

While mixture is simmering, steam cabbage leaves for about 2 or 3 minutes, until softened. Remove from heat and shock leaves in cold water. Cut the tough stem out at bottom center of each leaf.

Roll 1/2 cup of mixture in each blanched leaf, jelly roll style, tucking sides in as you go. Place seam-side down in a large pan so that rolls are all in a single layer, completely filling pan. Stir vinegar and brown sugar into remaining 2 cups of vegetable stock and pour over rolls in pan so that they are almost covered, adding a little water if necessary. Simmer for about 30 minutes until leaves are soft and most of liquid has evaporated.

While rolls are simmering, cut red peppers into strips and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees at top of oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, until softened and browned. Add remaining garlic cloves to baking sheet for the last five minutes of cooking time.

Blend in blender the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, red pepper strips, garlic cloves, remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, Balsamic vinegar and tomato paste until very smooth.

Remove rolls from liquid and serve on a platter with red pepper sauce drizzled on top.

Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen inspired me on her recent Blogher post about Stuffed Cabbage. Thanks, Kalyn!

Other veggie cabbage rolls out there:
Wild Rice Cabbage Rolls, Seasonal Ontario Food
Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls, Not Eating Out in New York
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Not Like Grandmas, Ginger Beat
Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls, Where’s the Beef?

— posted by Donna


  1. says

    Yeah, I think I just used plain old green cabbage. It came in my produce co-op basket, so I’m not sure of the exact name. I think I could have ameliorated the problem by discarding the tough outer leaves and using the softer inner leaves, as well as steaming them a little longer. My husband ate all of the leftovers the next day, so that’s a keeper.

  2. says

    We enjoyed these for dinner last night. I think I will try Savoy cabbage next time, because whatever one I used wasn’t quite as soft as I would have liked. Thanks for the recipe!

    • says

      Savoy cabbage is a fabulous one – like a cross between cabbage and lettuce, soft yet sturdy like Romaine, but the flavor of cabbage.


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