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Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls with Ground Turkey and Rice

Pan full of ingredients.

These Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are a simple more approachable version of the classic. Made with lean ground turkey, this is easy and quick enough for a weeknight meal.

Having an Eastern European grandmother meant growing up on cabbage rolls and pierogi. I was spoiled ;) Especially once my mum learned the tricks of the trade and started making them at home. My Dad and I would hit the roof in excitement whenever she’d announce that she’d be spending an upcoming Saturday making cabbage rolls. But! My favorite part was what she did with the scraps. Rather than trash leftover ingredients, she’d throw them into a skillet and make a delicious mess of, basically, unstuffed cabbage rolls.

What is a cabbage roll?

Cooked cabbage leaves tightly wrapped around a variety of fillings. It’s really that simple. What I’ve learned over the years, however, is that the “cabbage roll” isn’t exclusive to Eastern Europe. It’s a common dish in many areas—from Greece to West Asia—all with their own unique way to stuff’em. But in Europe, the traditional fillings consist of ground meat seasoned with garlic, onions, and spices; grains such as rice or barley; and every once in a while, vegetables. Once stuffed, the cabbage rolls are baked, simmered, or steamed in a covered pot with tomato sauce, and served warm. Preferably with a generous dollop of sour cream!

Why opt for unstuffed?

Skillet full of ingredients for unstuffed cabbage rolls, topped with rice.

Cabbage rolls in true form are magical, no doubt. But not everyone has the time or patience to spend an entire afternoon rolling meat and rice into cabbage leaves. By throwing everything into a skillet and letting it simmer for 30 minutes, you get all of those awesome flavors without the fuss, and it’s just as cozy and comforting as the real deal.

Unstuffed cabbage rolls call for very simple ingredients.

When you grow up with a grandmother that makes the best cabbage rolls, you see it as a delicacy—but there’s nothing fancy about it. In our home, we always used savoy cabbage, in all of its wrinkly glory. It has a milder flavor than regular green cabbage, but you can use them interchangeably. Other than that, you’re basically looking at:

  • ground meat
  • onions
  • rice
  • garlic
  • canned diced tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • vinegar

I used ground turkey in this recipe to keep things on the leaner side. I tend to swap out ground beef for turkey when and where I can, and it worked fabulously here.

Bowl of unstuffed cabbage rolls with dollop of sour cream.

Follow me on Instagram and tag @killing__thyme so I can see your KT creations!

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls with Ground Turkey and Rice

Unstuffed cabbage rolls are a great way to enjoy the European classic without the fuss. This recipe swaps the usual ground beef and pork for ground turkey.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Eastern European, Polish, Ukranian
Keyword cabbage rolls, easy, ground turkey, heart-healthy
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6
Author Dana Sandonato

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1.5-2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 head of savoy cabbage, roughly chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, more to taste if desired
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, more to taste if desired
  • 1 cup cooked rice I like using basmati
  • Sour cream, to serve

Instructions

  • Prepare your rice as per the instructions on the packaging; set aside when done.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and onion, and cook until the turkey is no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes; the onions will be nicely cooked at this point as well. Add the garlic, and continue to cook for another minute, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chopped cabbage, diced tomatoes and their juice, tomato sauce, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir the ingredients to mix them well. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let the ingredients simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender. When done, stir in the rice until well incorporated.
  • Taste, and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
  • Serve with sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt if you want to keep things light.

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