Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls have the comforting flavor of traditional cabbage rolls but without all the work! Chopped cabbage, ground beef, and a spice-infused tomato sauce come together easily to make this a perfect one-pot weeknight meal. 

Titled Image: Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls


Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

I always looked forward to my mom’s homemade cabbage rolls when I was a kid.

There was something about the sticky rice, ground beef, and slightly sweet tomato sauce that made me gobble it up.

When I started making traditional cabbage rolls on my own, I had a newfound respect for the meal my mom effortlessly brought to the table.

unstuffed cabbage rolls ingredients

Turns out, making cabbage rolls is a lot of work! Blanching the cabbage, cooking the sauce, and assembling the rolls took hours.

My unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe turns out just as rich, flavorful, and comforting, but is made in a fraction of the time — with barely any effort!

Serve unstuffed cabbage rolls over cooked rice, or omit the rice altogether for a low carb option. Or, try this slow cooker version!

If you love classic comfort food dishes, check out other favorites such as Stuffed Pepper Soup, Beef Stroganoff, and Chicken Tetrazzini.

ground beef, onions and garlic in a skillet

Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Tips and Tricks

  • Choose a lean protein.

I prefer the flavor of ground beef in this recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls. Use a lower fat blend to ensure that there isn’t too much grease or liquid in the pan.

You could also use ground turkey or chicken for a leaner option, but you will want to increase the amount of spices.

  • Add some spice.

Replace the paprika with smoked paprika for some additional heat.

Or, add up to 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to unstuffed cabbage recipes if you like a spicy dish!

  • Save your scraps!

Leftover cabbage can be used to make coleslaw, or you can toss it into soups or fried rice as well.

  • Great for freezer meals.

Simply double this recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls and freeze half (or all!) of it for later.

You will likely need a larger pot, such as a Dutch oven, for such a large amount.

adding crushed tomatoes and spices to ground beef

Kitchen Tools You Will Need

  • A large skillet  –  A deep, large skillet is perfect for easy, one pot meals like this unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe and can go from stovetop to oven.
  • Santoku Knife – My most used knife in the kitchen! Perfect size for chopping, mincing, and dicing all kinds of foods. 
  • Silicone Spoon – From mixing, scraping to sautéing, this is my hardest working utensil in the kitchen.
adding cabbage to the skillet

Unstuffed Cabbage Recipes FAQ

What is the best cabbage to use for cabbage rolls?

Savoy cabbage is the top choice for traditional cabbage rolls recipes. It has a slight elasticity that makes it easier to work with and wrap tightly without tearing.

However, you can use whichever variety of cabbage you’d like in this recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls! It’s all getting chopped and mixed with the other ingredients anyway.

How long can unstuffed cabbage rolls stay in the fridge?

Leftovers from this unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe will keep for 3 to 4 days when stored in an airtight container.

You can also freeze unstuffed cabbage roll leftovers for up to 2 months! Cool completely, store in a freezer-safe container, and thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

What do you eat with cabbage rolls?

Unstuffed cabbage recipes are quite filling on their own. Since ours is mainly meat and veggies, I like to spoon unstuffed cabbage rolls over freshly cooked rice — you get a little bit of everything in each bite!

Potatoes are another popular choice for a side, as is a crusty loaf of bread to mop up every last drop.

unstuffed cabbage rolls over rice

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unstuffed cabbage rolls on a wooden serving spoon

Bowl of Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Donna Elick
Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls comes together easily with chopped cabbage, ground beef, and a spice-infused tomato sauce. All the flavor, less work!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Method Stovetop
Servings 6


  • 1/2 small cabbage, chopped (about 6-7 cups)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 14 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • fresh parsley and cooked rice, for serving


  • In a large 10-inch skillet cook ground beef and onion over medium heat, for about 5 minutes. When beef is cooked and onion is translucent, drain excess liquid. Add garlic to the skillet and sauté for 30 seconds more.
  • Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beef broth, paprika, thyme, brown sugar, salt, and pepper to skillet and stir. Add chopped cabbage and toss gently. Bring mixture to a boil.
  • Cover skillet, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir, recover, then simmer for 10 minutes longer, or until cabbage is tender.
  • Remove lid and add 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Stir and simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes, or until sauce reduces slightly. If you prefer a thicker sauce, add additional tomato paste and stir. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve over cooked rice.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 315cal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 1053mg | Sugar: 10g | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 81mg | Iron: 4mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
titled image (and shown): unstuffed cabbage rolls

Originally published April 2020, updated and republished September 2023

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  1. Great! I did stuffed cabbage 3 days ago, and had some cabbage left and didn't know what to do with it, and suddenly your recipe came to my phone!
    I had no ground beef anymore (used it in the stuffed ones), so I cut in small pieces the beefsteaks, some sausage and, as you can see, changed the recipe a little bit, but it was worth it. It came out great too!

  2. In the recipe you said beef stock but in the directions you said beef broth. Those are two different ingredients. Which should I use?

  3. I made this today and it looked great but it had very little flavor. I would suggest more salt, more sugar, more thyme and other Italian seasonings to give it flavor.

  4. 5 stars
    These were so good! I had leftovers to save for later in the week too! I’ll be making this a lot during the holidays

  5. Oh what a great idea! I love real Stuffed Cabbage, but as you said it is a lot of work. As a senior I still love to cook, so this is terrific to get all these flavors, thanks for sharing. I intend on making it this weekend. 🙂

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