Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole
Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole is everything you love about a traditional cabbage roll recipe, minus the tedious work of rolling each roll. This cabbage roll casserole is made with delicious beef rice filling and tender melt in your mouth cabbage leaves. The presentation is spot-on, too!
Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole
Being born and raised in Ukraine, I know a thing or two about good cabbage rolls. Where I come from, it was custom to make rolls super tiny so that one roll would fit comfortably on a spoon for a perfect single bite. They’re cute! But, just thinking about having to roll them gave me anxiety, ha!
Having a job, kids, and keeping up with housework you sometimes have to take shortcuts. With these Unstuffed Cabbage rolls, the shortcut involves only the labor part, because the flavor is still spot on!
How to make the Cabbage Roll Casserole
- You want to start by preparing the cabbage. Soften it by either microwaving it in a covered bowl for about 8-9 minutes or boiling it in in a big pot of water and removing the leaves one by one once soft.
- Prepare the beef and rice cabbage rolls stuffing.
- Layer the cabbage roll casserole.
- Cover with foil and bake until tender perfection!
How to make the Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls stuffing:
- Parboil the rice.
- Saute vegetables.
- Grind meat.
- Combine all ingredients for the stuffing with a spoon or a mixer.
How to layer the Cabbage Roll Casserole:
- Spray a 9″x12″ baking dish with nonstick spray, or oil it. Preheat oven.
- Layer the casserole by spreading 1/4 of the softened cabbage leaves evenly, then 1/3 of the beef rice, then repeat until all ingredients are used up. Cut into squares.
- Pour the cooking liquid. Don’t be intimidated if the casserole dish is very full, most of the liquid is combined with the rice so there’s not usually any or a lot of overflows.
- Cover with foil and bake. You know the casserole is done cooking if the spoon goes through the cabbage-like butter. If you’re not able to “spoon” some of the cabbage roll casserole out because the cabbage leaves “drag”, allow baking until the spoon goes through the leaves with no resistance.
Once done baking, remove the foil and serve. Sprinkle with parsley if desired.
Make-ahead unstuffed Cabbage Roll Recipe:
To make this a make-ahead, layer the cabbage roll casserole with cabbage and beef rice. Cover with foil. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Right before baking, pour the cooking liquid, cover with foil and proceed with baking instructions.
You can also prepare the beef rice stuffing and softened cabbage several days ahead, then assemble and start baking a couple of hours before serving.
Can this recipe be made in the Slow Cooker?
Yes! Just layer the Cabbage and beef rice filling inside the slow cooker liner and bake on high for 8-9 hours.
Other great Dinner Recipes:
- Instant Pot Beef Stroganoff – this one is definitely a favorite in our family.
- Instant Pot Beef Rice Pilaf – you can make this delicious beef rice on a stovetop too!
- Chicken, Mushroom and Potato Casserole – Layer and bake!
- One-Pot Easy Beef Stew – 10 minutes of hands-on time, how quick is that?
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Casserole
This Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Casserole is made with delicious beef rice filling and tender melt in your mouth cabbage leaves.
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Casserole Ingredients
- 1 head cabbage, core removed 1 cabbage = 2.5 - 3 lbs
Unstuffed Cabbage Beef Rice Ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups round rice
- 1 cup water
- 1.5 lbs ground beef (75/100)
- 4 tbsp oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 carrot, medium, shredded
- 2 tomatoes, pureed 2 tomatoes = 1 1/3 cups pureed)
- 1 tbsp ground mustard (optional)
- 2 tsp dried garlic
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp black ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 cup stock (beef or chicken)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp tomato paste (optional, I don't always add it)
How to soften the Cabbage for Cabbage Rolls Casserole
Option 1: Core the cabbage and place it into a deep microwave-safe bowl, then cover with plastic wrap so it's not touching the cabbage. Microwave for about 8-10 minutes or until the cabbage is soft* and you can separate the leaves. Option 2: Alternatively, fill a 6-8 quart pot with water halfway, bring to a boil. Place the cabbage with the core removed and boil, rotating the cabbage until you're able to remove the leaves off, one by one.
Set aside to cool.
Separate the cabbage leaves and divide them into 4 equal amounts.
Combine rice and water in a sauce-pot and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until all water is evaporated. Watch it closely so it does not burn at the bottom. Fluff the rice and set aside to cool.
Heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until golden in color and translucent, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add carrots, turn heat to low, and cook covered, stirring often for about 5-8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Assemble the Stuffing for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls
In a large bowl thoroughly mix parboiled rice, sauteed vegetables, ground meat, and the seasoning. Add pureed tomatoes and mix again.
Assemble and Bake
Spray the baking dish with nonstick spray or lightly oil it. Line the bottom of the baking dish with 1/4 of the cabbage leaves. Spread 1/3 of the cabbage rolls stuffing into an even layer. Continue layering the cabbage leaves and stuffing in this manner, finishing with the leaves on top.
Cut the layered casserole into 3"x3" squares and pour the seasoned broth over them. Shake the baking dish slightly to allow the liquid to reach between each square. Cover with foil. Place the glass baking dish onto a bigger rimmed sheet pan, which would catch if there's any overflow when it bakes.
Bake in a preheated to 450F° oven for 30 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 325F° and cook for another 1 to 2 hours. or until the leaves are tender and the rice is cooked through.
Remove foil and transfer to the table. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with sour cream.
*If making the casserole with a large cabbage, microwave the cabbage head for about 7 minutes, remove the outer leaves, then continue microwaving until the rest of the cabbage is soft.
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Hi Marina, by dried garlic do you mean garlic powder?
Need to modify my comment. Actually used only 1 tsp. Salt and 1/2 tsp. Pepper.
Made this for dinner last night exactly as directed. Absolutely delicious! My daughter and I loved it.
Good casserole but are you really supposed to use 1 1/2 tablespoons of pepper and 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Seems like a lot.
I was a little Leary of making this recipe. My mom used to make cabbage rolls every year and for my wedding. When she went blind it was the end of cabbage rolls. I do not know where she got her recipe, but I loved it. Your recipe was not like my moms. You had carrots and mustard powder. So I gave it a try, hoping it would taste good. I add some tomato puree with the sauce, I couldn’t have cabbage rolls without tomatoe on top. Let me tell you it was so good. I am definitely making these again. It was a little too peppery for my husband but he went back for more. So the only thing I might change is the amount of pepper. He recipe said 1 1/2 tablespoons. I might cut it to teaspoons. Thank you so much for making my day! Also I found the microwave version easier then steaming the cabbage.
Thank you for this wonderful recipe. It was a huge hit for my boys and my husband. I’m not joking when I say there were no leftovers. Every since recipe from your blog has been a success. Thank you!
Thank you Marina, so much! Makes me unbelievably happy to hear that! I appreciate you following and your trust in my recipes
I just made this recipe which looks wonderful. It is currently baking. I was wondering if it was possible to make it in the instant pot? If so, do you have any recommendations for how long and on what settings? Thank you so much.
By puréed tomatoes do you mean I actually have to purée some tomatoes or can I just use tomato sauce?
You can use either one. But yes, I had fresh tomatoes on hand so I did use them.
Made it, loved it, will make it again. Just one little change for next time…I found 2 tablespoons of kosher salt way too much (hence 4 stars otherwise it would be 5). Will cut in half next time.
Thank you for your feedback Candice!
Do I need to add any liquid when heating up leftovers?
If you’re microwaving, then no.
If heating on a stovetop, add a little water, cover with lid and steam through until hot.
If heating in the oven, I probably would add a splash of water, cover with foil and heat through.
This recipe was a hit! Cabbage rolls is one of my favorite dishes but having 4 kids I don’t have the time to make them into rolls! This was perfect! I used brown rice, cooked it in the rice cooker and it turned out delicious.
That’s so awesome! Thanks for your feedback and the star rating Kristina!
1 1/2 cups of rice meaning uncooked correct? T
Thanks for your wonderful recipes Marina
Yes, uncooked rice. And you’re welcome! Thank you for visiting and commenting!
Hello Natalya , I have all the ingredients on hand except the round rice. Can I use jasmine rice? Or brown basmati rice? If so, do I use less water to prepare the rice? Thanks 🙂
Use any kind of rice and still use the same amount of liquid. I haven’t made this recipe with brown rice, so not sure how well it will work since brown rice does take longer to cook. If anything, just increase the cooking time until the rice is soft.
Can I freeze it? WOuld love to double this recipe and make one as a freezer meal
I have no frozen this dish yet, but I would think that cooking it, cooling it, then freezing it should be fine. Can’t make any guarantees though, as I haven’t done it myself.
This sounds wonderful, and I’d like to try it soon. I just have one question–do you brown the ground beef before mixing it with the rice and vegetables? Thanks!
I hope you love it when you do!
No, I do not brown the meat before adding to the stuffing. When the beef cooks together with the rice it permeates the rice with its juices making it pretty good 😉 I think if you do brown the beef before adding to the rice, the casserole might not hold up its shape as well when you try to serve it? Not sure though, because I haven’t tried it.
Thanks for your quick reply, Marina! I certainly won’t complain about having one fewer steps.
This recipe is all about simplifying, so all the “yes!” to fewer steps~!
Very good recipe as is. Nicknamed it “lazy lasagna cabbage rolls”. The next time I made it, I altered it to my personal preference and it turned out quite well. I shredded the cabbage and then chopped the shreds into roughly 1” or larger pieces and layered as in recipe. Instead of pouring broth, I poured 2 cans of tomato soup diluted with 1/2 cup water and left out the salt, soup has enough. I also fried the hamburger just until pink was gone, drained and mixed with rice and veggies.
Thank you so much for your feedback and for sharing your take on this recipe.
Also thank you for sharing the link of your ministry’s work. As someone whose family is always involved in various aspects of missionary work overseas, I thank you for doing what you do and may God bless you and your ministry!