These vegan cabbage rolls are stuffed with a savory, smoky mixture of quinoa and lentils, then baked up in tomato sauce until piping hot. A delicious and healthy meatless main dish that's perfect for special occasions!
This is kind of a funny recipe for me. See, back when I started blogging, I never expected to post a recipe for vegan cabbage rolls. I felt like nobody would want vegan recipes for things they grew up eating. Boy have I learned a lot since then!
I realize now that you guys (and myself as well) are just as into delicious vegan versions of old favorites as totally original creations.
I initially wasn't sure I'd like these cabbage rolls much. I wasn't even certain I'd be sharing the recipe for them! But I ended up LOVING them. My husband and I polished these off with a big plate of vegan mashed potatoes.
Conventional, non-vegan cabbage rolls are a Polish thing, also knows as golabki. Do these taste like them? I'm not sure. Hey, it's been a while since I had one. But they're savory, smoky and delicious. A big, hearty meal of winter comfort food, and pretty darn healthy to boot. Can't beat that!
What You'll Need
- Cabbage. The recipe calls for green cabbage, but there's no real reason you can't use purple cabbage. I recommend getting a large head of cabbage, even though you won't be able to use the whole thing. A larger head of cabbage will give you nice big cabbage leaves that are easy to roll. The leftover cabbage would be perfect in soup, such as my vegan borscht, curry cabbage soup, or vegan cabbage roll soup (which tastes just like this recipe but requires no rolling!)
- Brown lentils. Green lentils should work just fine as a substitute, though they'll take a bit longer to cook. I don't recommend using red lentils, as they have a totally different texture from brown and I'm not sure how the filling would turn out.
- Quinoa. Any color of quinoa works.
- Vegetable broth. I used Better Than Bouillon, but go with what you like!
- Olive oil.
- Red wine vinegar. White vinegar works fine if you don't have this on hand.
- Soy sauce. Gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos can be substituted if needed.
- Smoked paprika.
- Oat flour. This ingredient is optional and can be used to bind the filling together a bit. You could also use all-purpose flour, but I'm a fan of oat because it's gluten-free friendly and safe to taste-test before cooking.
- Tomato puree.
- Maple syrup. Feel free to use another sweetener if you'd like.
- Salt & pepper.
How to Make Vegan Cabbage Rolls
The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you'd like to skip right to the recipe!
- Steam your cabbage. Place it in a large pot with a few inches of water, bring the water to a simmer, and cover the pot. Let your cabbage steam until the leaves are tender. Make sure to give it plenty of time — the top leaves may soften quickly, but the lower layers will still be firm and difficult to roll.
- While the cabbage steams, make your filling. You'll need to precook your lentils and quinoa. Heat up some oil in a skillet, and sweat a diced onion for a few minutes. Add the lentils, quinoa, red wine vinegar, smoked paprika, and soy sauce. You can also add some oat flour (or all-purpose flour) at this point if you'd like. Stir everything well to fully mix up the ingredients.
- Make your sauce. To do this, simply stir your tomato puree, maple syrup, and some red wine vinegar together. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
- Roll your cabbage. Carefully remove a leaf from your steamed cabbage. Trim off any stiff areas towards the bottom that form part of the stem. Place a few tablespoons of the filling near the bottom of the leaf. Fold the bottom of the leaf over the filling, tuck in the sides, and roll it up tightly.
- Ladle some sauce into the bottom of a baking dish and arrange your cabbage rolls snugly in the dish as you roll them. Ladle the rest of the sauce on top, then bake your vegan stuffed cabbage until the sauce is bubbly.
- Dig in!
If you'd like to prep your vegan golabki in advance, assemble the rolls and arrange them in your baking dish with the sauce up. Cover and refrigerate them overnight. Then uncover and bake the rolls according to the recipe when you're ready to serve them.
Leftovers & Storage
Leftover vegan stuffed cabbage will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about 2 months.
More Vegan Comfort Food Main Dishes
Quinoa & Lentil Stuffed Vegan Cabbage Rolls
These stuffed vegan cabbage rolls are stuffed with a savory, smoky mixture of quinoa and lentils, then baked up in tomato sauce until piping hot. A delicious and healthy main dish that's perfect for special occasions!
- 1 large head of green cabbage*
For the Filling
- ¾ cup dried brown lentils**
- ½ cup uncooked quinoa***
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons oat flour, optional, for binding
For the Sauce:
- 1 (28 ounce or 800 gram) can tomato puree
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup, or sweetener of choice
- 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place about 3 inches of water into a large pot and add the entire head of cabbage stem side down.
Place the pot over high heat, bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and and cover. Allow the cabbage to steam until leaves peel off easily, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and allow the cabbage to cool for a few minutes.
While the cabbage steams, begin preparing the filling. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover them with a few inches of water. Place the pot over high heat.
Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat and allow the lentils to simmer until they're are just fully cooked (not mushy), about 25 minutes, adding water to the pot as needed. When the lentils are finished cooking, drain any excess liquid.
While the lentils simmer, place the broth into a small saucepan and add the quinoa. Place the pot over high heat and bring the broth to a boil.
Lower the heat, cover the pot and allow the liquid to simmer until all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat and allow it to sit with the lid on for 5 minutes before taking it off and fluffing the quinoa with a fork.
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the oil and place it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook it until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add 1 ½ cups of the cooked lentils and 1 cup of the cooked quinoa (you'll have just a bit of each leftover), along with red wine vinegar, soy sauce, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Add oat flour at this time if using. Flip the mixture a few times just to combine the ingredients, then remove from heat.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Stir all sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, then distribute about ½ cup of the sauce into the bottom of 9 x 9 inch (or similarly sized) baking dish.
Carefully peel a leaf off of the cabbage head and place it onto a work surface with the stem side facing you. Trim any very thick portions of the leaf near the base.
Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the leaf. Fold the base side over the filling, then wrap the sides inward over the filling. Roll the center away from you to wrap everything up. Place the roll, seam side down, into the baking dish. Repeat until all of the filling is used (you'll get about 8 rolls).
Spoon the remaining sauce over the rolls, cover and bake for 1 hour. The sauce should be bubbly when the cabbage rolls are done baking.
Remove the dish from the oven and allow the rolls to cool for a few minutes before serving.
* You only actually need about 8 cabbage leaves for this recipe. In order to get the most large, easily rollable leaves, I suggest going with a large head and only using the larger, outermost layers of leaves. You can save the rest for another use.
** Precooked lentils can be used if you've got them on hand. You'll need 1 ½ cups.
*** Precooked quinoa can be used if you've got some on hand. You'll need 1 cup. Preferably use quinoa that's been cooked in broth.