The first time I heard of German stuffed cabbage rolls, I have to admit I wasn’t very excited at the prospect of making or eating them. But Cookbook club was doing a German Christmas using The German Cookbook and I felt compelled to try it. Surprisingly, it was one of my favorite ever recipes I’ve had from Cookbook Club!
The original recipe called for ground meat and rice cooked inside of cabbage leaves. After experimenting, I think it’s best to add some additional vegetables to the mix and slow cook them in bone broth. Not only is it more nutritious, but it also creates a more hydrating texture and experience. Or in other words, I think it tastes better with some additional veggies mixed in.
You might also like the Christmas Goose Stew made from the aftermath of this same meal.
These cabbage rolls are the result of experimenting on and adjusting that original recipe from the cookbook club dinner. The modified veggie-laden rolls have become a staple in our house. The stuffed cabbage rolls also freeze well and serve as a great meal prep recipe.
Stuffing and Cooking Cabbage Rolls
Prepping the Cabbage
Cabbage acts as the wrap for these rolls. You can think of it as a cabbage tortilla around a burrito.
Delicately remove each leaf of cabbage from the two heads of cabbage until the leaves are too small for rolls. You will want to use the large, firm leaves to make cabbage rolls. The inner circle of the cabbage heads will be used for the filling or, depending on the size of your cabbage heads, reserved for future use.
In order to wrap the cabbage leaves around the filling without breaking, you have to soften them. Raw cabbage is likely to snap or tear. To prevent this, boil the cabbage in salted water for about 7 minutes to slightly soften and hydrate the cabbage leaves. While the cabbage is parboiling, you can mix the stuffed cabbage roll filling.
Before making the rolls, drain the cabbage leaves.
Beef, Rice, and Vegetable Stuffing
These cabbage rolls are stuffed with grass-fed beef, ground heritage pork, raw rice, and vegetables.
Grass-fed Ground Beef and Heritage Pork
Quality matters when choosing your meat for these rolls. Use a mix of 100% grass-fed and grass-finished ground beef with ground heritage pork. If you can find organic, go for it. Grass-fed beef can sequester carbon, helping combat climate change. It also is healthier as cows are meant to eat grass and the grains conventional cows eat can lead to systemic inflammation that passes to you when you eat it.
Use Raw Rice, for Real
Do not cook the rice before adding to the filling. Use raw rice mixed in with the meat and vegetables.
After stuffing and searing the rolls, they will be submerged in bone broth before cooking. The broth, along with excess water from the vegetables and cabbage leaves, will cook and hydrate the rice.
Finely Diced Mixed Vegetables
Mix in a combination of diced cabbage, cauliflower, celery, onion, and parsley.
The key to these rolls is consistently sized vegetables. Make sure all of the vegetables are diced to similar sized pieces These should be 1/4 inch or smaller pieces.
The soft small leaves at the center of the cabbage head that aren’t large enough for making rolls will be added to the filling. Dice the extra cabbage and mix one and a half cups into the ground meat and rice along with all of the other vegetables, herbs, and spices.
Stuffing Cabbage Rolls
Take one parboiled cabbage leaf at a time and fill it with one to two tablespoons of filling. Fold one edge of the cabbage leaf on top of the filling and then roll the cabbage leaf until all of the filling is contained inside. This is exactly like rolling a tortilla around the burrito filling. Fill all cabbage leaves until the filling is gone and set aside on a platter.
Next, you’ll want to heat bacon grease, ghee or coconut oil in a large dutch oven on the stove. Sear each cabbage roll, seam side down, in the pan for about 15-20 seconds.
After all rolls are seared and in the pan, cover with bone broth. Peel your white onion and stick the cloves into the onion before placing the clove-studded onion into the pan with the cabbage rolls. Make sure the onion is submerged at least partially in broth.
Note that the cabbage rolls are stuffed, seared, and sitting in their broth bath, bake at 375 for an hour or until firm. Then you can make the final sauce, serve and enjoy!
Coconut Cream Tomato Sauce with Bone Broth
The final step in German Cabbage Rolls is to make a delicious tomato cream sauce to spoon on top of the rolls when serving.
Pour off the remaining bone broth into a skillet on medium-low heat on the stove. Add in tomato paste and some coconut cream and then simmer until the sauce thickens slightly.
Spoon over the warm cabbage rolls, serve and enjoy!
Prepping the cabbage rolls ahead of time
These stuffed cabbage rolls can be made ahead of time, up to 2 days.
If you want to prep these rolls before serving them, you can make and cook both the rolls and sauce in advance. Just store in the refrigerator until the day of serving.
Right before serving, you’ll want to heat up the cabbage rolls in the dutch oven in the oven. Make sure to reserve a little bone broth in the pan to prevent burning the rolls.
Heat the sauce on low heat until warm. Pour over the cabbage rolls, serve and enjoy!
German Cabbage Rolls
- 2 large heads of cabbage heads or 3 medium heads of cabbage
- 1/2 lb grass-fed ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground heritage pork
- 1/2 cup white rice
- 1/2 cup dice white onion about 1 small onion
- 3 tbsp minced fresh parsley
- 2 cups finely diced cauliflower
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 tsp real salt
- 2 tbsp ghee or bacon grease
Cabbage Roll Tomato Cream Sauce
- 3 cups bone broth
- 1 small onion
- 10-15 cloves
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup coconut cream
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Peel off the large outer layers of the cabbage, being careful not to let them tear or rip. When you get to the inside of the cabbage, you can stop peeling the leaves. You will use the inner cabbage for the filling and likely have some leftover for future use.
- Cover the cabbage leaves in water and boil for 6-7 minutes. This will make the cabbage leaves soft enough to wrap around the filling. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
- Finely dice the inner cabbage until you have about 1 1/2 cups of minced cabbage.
- Add the minced cabbage and all other cabbage roll ingredients except the bacon grease to a mixing bowl and mix until well combined. The rice should be raw at this point.
- Fill each cabbage leave with an equal amount of the prepared filling. Wrap the soft side of the cabbage leaf around the filling first, then roll the rest of the cabbage leaf around like you are wrapping a mini burrito.
- Heat the ghee or bacon grease in medium-high on the stovetop and sear the cabbage rolls. Then place them face down into a large casserole dish.
- Pour the bone broth over the cabbage rolls in the casserole dish, making sure the rolls are fully submerged.
- Peel the skin off of the small onion and then stud the cloves into the onion flesh. Set in the bone broth with the cabbage rolls, making sure it is submerged int he broth.
- Bake in the oven at 375 for about an hour or until the rolls are firm.
- Once cooked, remove from the oven. Compost clove-studded onion. Pour the broth into a skillet and simmer until reduced to 2/3 the original volume.
- Stir tomato paste and coconut cream into the reduced bone broth.
- Using tongs, plate the cabbage rolls and the generously spoon the tomato cream sauce on top of the cabbage rolls. Serve and enjoy!