Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole doesn’t take even the half time of cabbage rolls but it is as scrumptious. Who bothers stuffing cabbage leaves when you can make equally delicious unstuffed cabbage rolls with the same ingredients in a much shorter time?
Can you imagine that you will have the same taste as regular cabbage rolls by spending just half of the time? This cabbage casserole recipe is definitely for those who are looking for the easiest and quickest way of making delicate dishes.
This is a lazy mom’s recipe, I know. But isn’t it great that it tastes pretty much like your favorite Turkish stuffed cabbage rolls? Oh, yes they require a lot of effort and time and it is better when we find a shortcut. Hey, I have a shortcut for that laborious dish. Use the same ingredients but change the form! Deconstruct the rolls and serve in the form of unstuffed cabbage rolls.
As a full-time teacher and part-time blogger, I don’t always have time or energy to stuff cabbage. Chopping everything and cooking them altogether is what I do mostly instead. The result is surprisingly amazing and tasty! Give the recipe a try and see it yourself! I’m not sure if you will ever bother making cabbage rolls again. Watch the video right above the recipe card below and see how easy it is!
How To Make Baked Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole
This cabbage roll casserole recipe is one of the best shortcuts in my culinary experience. It has three parts.
First, blanch the cabbage leaves. Bring a deep pot full of water to boil and leave the roughly chopped cabbage leaves in it carefully. It takes about ten minutes for the chopped cabbage to soften. Transfer them in a bowl using a slotted spoon.
Second, cook the ingredients in a pan starting with ground beef. Cook it with a little water. Water helps the ground beef to release juice, which makes it easier to get rid of any blocks. Stir and gently press over the ground beef until there aren’t any blocks left. Watch the video below to see how. Cook it covered over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. When there is little water left, add in olive oil, chopped onion and garlic. Give it a good stir. Then add in tomato paste, tomatoes, rice and the spices except cayenne pepper, stirring each time you add one. Add in the blanched cabbage, lemon juice, parsley and water. Cook covered over the lowest heat until water is absorbed and rice is tender.
Third, bake it in a casserole pan. But before doing it, add some cayenne pepper and extra tomato paste to the pan, stir well and then transfer in a casserole pan. I don’t know why I didn’t use it in the video but it’s better to use a cast iron pan when cooking the ingredients. No need for a casserole pan then. Just bake it in the same pan. I love it when it’s possible reduce the number of dirty dishes! It is sliced perfectly when serving.
About Making This Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole
- Optionally, you can just skip the baking step if you don’t have enough time for it. Serve it after everything in the pan is cooked over the stove.
- As seen in the video below, I add extra tomato paste after everything in the pan is cooked, just before transferring it into the casserole pan. It bakes better when there is some wetness in the mixture as some of you suggested in the comments below.
- No need for any toppings on this cabbage casserole with ground beef and rice as I want exactly the same taste of my favorite cabbage rolls, but you can top your casserole with some cheese if you like.
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls with Instant Rice
When updating the recipe, I made some changes with the help of your suggestions in the comments and emails. The former recipe before the update calls for cooked rice, which requires cooking rice in a separate pan before combining it with other ingredients. Some readers suggested cooking it in the same pan with other ingredients so that everything cooks together and it requires less effort. Such a wonderful and helpful suggestion! Thank YOU! That’s why, I cooked everything together in this updated version. There is one thing you need to be careful though: Add enough water to cook the rice. 3/4 cup water for 1 cup rice was enough for me. Other ingredients like tomatoes, lemon juice and cabbage helped it cook as well.
On the other hand, you can definitely use instant rice to make this recipe even easier and quicker. You don’t need to worry about how much water you will need. Also, you can easily decide how much rice you’d like in your meal. Add some, give it a stir and add more if you think it’s not enough. Unlike uncooked rice, the amount of rice will not double as it’s pre-cooked.
Can I Make Unstuffed Cabbage Recipe Without Rice?
It is possible to make this recipe either with or without rice. If you are on a diet or want to reduce the carb in your meal, make it without rice. I’ve tried it and it’s as tasty and filling as Beef and Cabbage Stew Recipe, so I’m sure you will be satisfied with it as well. Make sure there is no need to add water in the pan if you decide to leave the rice out.
Can I Make This Cabbage Casserole with Quinoa?
If you are a fan of quinoa, feel free to substitute quinoa for rice. Make sure you add enough water when cooking it though. 3/4 cup water for 1/2 cup quinoa should be fine. Also, simmer it over the lowest heat to give it enough time to cook.
Want Vegetarian Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls?
If you want a lighter version, leave the ground beef out and make it vegetarian. I love both versions. Making it meatless is better when serving it as a side dish. To make it even tastier, drizzle extra olive oil and lemon juice on it when serving. One of our readers suggested some cheese topping when baking, so I think it’s a great idea when you turn it into a vegetarian dinner.
What to Serve With Cabbage Casserole
The best thing to serve with this Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole is a bowl of plain yogurt or a fresh Turkish Ezme salad. I love it really tangy, so I squeeze extra lemon on my part when eating as you can see in the video.
We have some staple side dishes that we serve with any meal. They go perfectly with this casserole as well. So our all time favorite side dishes are as follows:
Can I Freeze Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls?
This is a freezer-friendly recipe. You can freeze it either after it is cooked over the stove or after it is baked. Just make sure it cools completely before freezing. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the oven when you need a quick meal.
THANK YOU all for helping me develop the recipes on the blog. This is what I love most about blogging! I’m still open to new ideas on this recipe. Please share them in the comments section if you have any!
Other Cabbage Recipes
- Hearty Stuffed Cabbage Soup, Give Recipe
- Easy Turkish Pickled Cabbage, Give Recipe
- Cabbage and Noodles, Spicy Southern Kitchen
- Asian Beef and Cabbage Salad, Taste and Tell Blog
Unstuffed Cabbage Casserole
The shortcut recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: American
- 2 pounds cabbage, roughly chopped
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 and tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup rice, washed and rinsed well
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 lemon, squeezed
- A handful of chopped parsley
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Chop the cabbage roughly and blanch in boiling water, for about 5-10 minutes.
- Heat a pan on medium heat and add ground beef with 1/4 cup water. Cook until it releases water, reduce the heat. Cook it stirring and pressing on the ground beef until there aren’t any blocks left. (See the video above.)
- Cover the pan and cook until there is little water left.
- Add olive oil, onion, garlic and cook stirring for 5-10 minutes.
- Add in 2 tablespoons tomato paste and 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes. Stir well.
- Add in rice and stir.
- Season with salt, black pepper and dried mint.
- Add in the chopped and blanched cabbage in the pan. Pour lemon juice over it. Stir well.
- Add chopped parsley on it, pour 3/4 cup water and cover the pan. Cook it over the lowest heat until water is absorbed and rice is cooked, for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
- Add cayenne pepper and add 1/2 cup tomato paste into the pan, stir and transfer it to a casserole pan that is lightly brushed with oil.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
Baking time is 40 minutes but you need to cook it for about 30 minutes in a pan over stove beforehand.
Keywords: unstuffed cabbage, unstuffed cabbage casserole, cabbage casserole, unstuffed cabbage rolls
This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.