This unstuffed cabbage roll soup is so tasty and packed with rich flavors. Ground beef, cabbage, rice and tomato sauce come together to make the best hearty soup EVER! It is very quick to prepare, super simple and freezer friendly.
This recipe is a delicious twist on our readers’ favorite vegetarian cabbage rolls. Instead of following the classic method of rolling cabbage leaves, we have made a deconstructed soup version and the entire process gets much easier and quicker.
Unrolled cabbage is as tasty as cabbage rolls! That’s why we love unstuffed cabbage casserole and beef cabbage stew too. If you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen, this lazy stuffed cabbage soup recipe with ground beef and rice is perfect for you. You can even make it in an instant pot or slow cooker.
Why should you make this recipe?
This unstuffed cabbage rolls soup is an incredibly quick and easy recipe. You will love it because as much as we do because:
- It tastes like your favorite meaty cabbage rolls.
- The ingredients are very well balanced and have the perfect mix of sweetness, spice, and tanginess.
- It is extremely versatile. You can add more vegetables like green peppers, carrots, celery and corn and turn it into a vegetable hamburger soup!
- It is freezer friendly. You can make a big batch and freeze it for up to 3 months!
About the ingredients
- Cabbage: We use white cabbage as it adds a subtle sweetness to the soup. You can also use some green cabbage varieties like savoy cabbage, cannonball cabbage or napa cabbage.
- Rice: It is the other fantastic addition that makes this cabbage roll soup much more filling. You can use any type of medium or long-grain rice that you’d like. We use uncooked rice. If you want to use cooked rice, add it in the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.
- Ground beef: Use 90% lean ground beef. You always want a little bit of fat in the mixture to help add richness to the meal. However, too much fat will cause an oily mess that doesn’t have a very good mouthfeel.
- Spices: This cabbage ground beef soup is spicy and aromatic. We use Turkish or Greek seasoning, which is a mixture of cumin, mint, paprika, salt, and pepper. All these make your soup extremely well-balanced.
- Tomato sauce: The final secret ingredient that makes this cabbage roll soup recipe so incredibly flavorful is the tomato sauce. We combine pureed tomatoes and tomato paste for the best flavor of tomatoes.
- Lemon juice: Never skip this. It is the ingredient that balances all the other flavors and adds a little refreshing feeling. We even squeeze extra lemon in our bowls when eating.
- Liquid: We use just plain water, but you can use beef broth or chicken broth.
Substitutes and Variations
- Meat: Instead of ground beef, you can use ground pork or a combination of these to make a piggy soup with cabbage and rice. Ground turkey or chicken is another fantastic non-red meat alternative to try. But, if you are looking for a richer substitute, try Italian sausage.
- Vegetarian: To make this beef cabbage soup vegetarian, simply remove or substitute the ground meat. A great substitute is kidney beans or green lentils. Both have a very umami flavor that will work well with this recipe.
- More vegetables: You can of course add a ton more vegetables including potatoes, celery, zucchini, carrots, and green peppers. By changing the type of veggies you use, you can virtually make a different type of rice and cabbage soup every time!
- Low Carb: For a low-carb version, you can prefer brown rice, bulgur wheat, quinoa, barley or cauliflower rice. If you want, you can leave the rice out just like we do in our vegan weight watchers cabbage soup.
- Sweetness: We find the sweetness of white cabbage enough for this soup. But you can add extra sweetness by adding a teaspoon or two of brown sugar, maple syrup or even honey.
How to make
This recipe for unstuffed cabbage soup is incredibly easy to make in one pot and is extremely versatile. And, what makes it even better is that you can freeze it for later!
- Make the base of your soup. Heat your olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Then, add your onions and sauté them until they become translucent, about 5 minutes. Next, add in the ground beef.
When adding the ground beef, break the large block of meat apart using a spatula. Make sure there are no big chunks left. Cook the meat covered for 5 minutes.
- Then, add in the garlic, tomato paste, and tomato puree. Continue cooking the ingredients, uncovered, for another 5-10 minutes.
- Once your ingredients sweat a bit, add in the chopped cabbage. Sprinkle it evenly throughout the pan.
- Pour the hot water over the cabbage, add the rice, and give the ingredients a good stir. Make sure they are all covered with water.
- Finally, add the lemon juice and parsley, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and allow the soup to simmer for 20-25 minutes with the lid ajar or until cabbage and rice are tender.
- Your unique stuffed cabbage soup is ready to be served. We always allow it to cool for about 5 minutes before serving it.
How to cook in an instant pot
You can also make this dish in an instant pot instead of on a stove-top. An instant pot will help slowly cook the food while allowing the flavors to develop.
To make this stuffed cabbage soup recipe in an instant pot:
- Turn the sauté function on and simply sauté onions and ground beef, stirring frequently.
- Add in garlic, tomato paste and pureed tomato, cabbage, spices and rice.
- Finally pour water (or stock) and lemon juice.
- Sprinkle parsley and mix.
- Put the lid on and set the pot for 15 minutes on a high pressure.
- When the cooking time is over, use the quick release function to release the steam.
Note: Check the progress of your cabbage before removing it from the pot. If it needs to cook a little more, only do so in 3-minute batches. Cabbage can very easily overcook.
Our air fried grilled cheese sandwiches pair wonderfully with this soup too.
The following breads are all great to pair with a bowl of this hearty cabbage roll soup:
How to freeze
To freeze this unrolled cabbage soup, simply allow it to cool completely at room temperature. Then, place the soup in airtight containers. For extra protection, wrap the entire container in plastic wrap to prevent it from leaking.
Then, finally, wrap the entire container in foil. This will help protect it from freezer burn. We recommend placing a label on the foil to write the date and describe what is inside. This cabbage roll soup recipe will last about 3 months in the freezer.
To thaw it, simply place it in the fridge to defrost overnight. You don’t want to use any method that applies heat, as it will make the cabbage soggy.
- When adding and breaking apart the ground beef, make sure that there aren’t any large chunks left. Break it into equally small pieces to ensure that all of the meat cooks evenly.
- If the ground beef doesn't release its juice easily, add a splash of water and continue the cooking process.
- You can save yourself even more time by buying store-bought tomato sauce. We prefer choosing artisanal brands as their flavor is often deeper.
- We like to use plain water for this stuffed cabbage soup. However, you can also use beef broth or chicken broth to give it a meatier flavor.
- We like this soup without any sweeteners. But, you can add a tablespoon of white or brown sugar, like they traditionally do when making cabbage roll soup.
- When simmering the cabbage soup, make sure to leave the lid slightly ajar. This will help the soup retain its moisture, but prevent it from boiling over.
- This cabbage beef soup will thicken as it is allowed to set. So, when you reheat it you might have to add some additional water, chicken, or beef stock. First, start with only ½ cup and add more if you think it should be runnier.
Cabbage doesn’t get soggy in soup, but you can very easily overcook it. This is usually what makes cabbage soggy in any recipe, not only in soup. So cook the soup just until the cabbage is tender.
This stuffed cabbage soup is extremely filling thanks to the delicious cabbage, ground beef, and rice. All of these ingredients add a ton of value to the recipe. And, what’s even better is that you can add more ingredients if you’d like.
Yes you can. After it completely cools down, put the soup in airtight containers or in freezer bags and keep in the freezer for 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
As always: If you make this recipe, let us know what you think by rating it and leaving a comment below. And post a pic on Instagram too—tag @give_recipe so we can see!Print
Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Soup Recipe
This cabbage roll soup is the easy version of cabbage rolls. Cabbage, ground beef, tomato sauce and rice come together and make this amazing hearty and filling soup.
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 35 min
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Soup
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: American
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 250 g/0.5 lbs ground beef (90% lean)
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup pureed tomato
- 4 cups white cabbage, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried mint
- 4 cups hot water
- ½ cup rice
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
- Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
- Add in onions and cook until translucent.
- Add in ground beef. Cook it by pressing on the large blocks of meat with a spatula until no blocks are left. Continue cooking it covered for 5 minutes.
- Add in garlic, tomato paste and pureed tomato. Keep cooking it covered for 5-10 minutes.
- Add in chopped cabbage. Sprinkle spices over it.
- Pour hot water over them, add in rice and give it a good stir.
- Finally add in lemon juice and parsley. Bring it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and let it simmer (with the lid ajar) for 20-25 minutes or until the rice is tender.
- Serve with yogurt and more parsley on the top.
- Make sure there is no large block of ground beef when cooking.
If the ground beef doesn’t release its juice easily, add a splash of water and continue cooking.
To make the soup even easier, use store-bought tomato sauce.
We use uncooked rice, but you can use cooked rice.
We use plain water, but you can use chicken stock or beef stock.
We don’t use any sweetener in the soup as we are more on the side of tangy flavor. But you can add a tablespoon white or brown sugar, which is traditional when making cabbage roll soup.
Make sure you leave the lid ajar when it is simmering. Otherwise the soup might overflow.
To store: After it has completely cooled, put the soup in an airtight container and store in the fridge for 3 days.
To freeze: Place the soup in an airtight container after it completely cools down. For extra protection, wrap the entire container in plastic wrap to prevent it from leaking. Place a label on the foil to write the date and describe what is inside. Keep it in the freezer for about 3 months.
To Reheat: Simply place it in the fridge to defrost overnight and then reheat in a dutch oven or another pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
This soup thickens as it sits, so when reheating you might need to add ½ or 1 cup water or chicken or beef stock.
- Serving Size: 1 cup
- Calories: 134
- Sugar: 4.9 g
- Sodium: 447.5 mg
- Fat: 3.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 14.5 g
- Protein: 11.5 g
- Cholesterol: 25 mg
Keywords: cabbage roll soup, stuffed cabbage soup, unstuffed cabbage soup