These Ukrainian lazy cabbage rolls are incredibly fulfilling and easy to make. These are nothing but deconstructed cabbage rolls aka ‘’Lenivie Golubtsi’’ where everything is cooked in one pot and is healthier than the authentic version. Lazy man cabbage rolls are packed with basic staple ingredients such as tender cabbage, ground beef, tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
We like to make it whenever we don’t have a lot of time for cooking. Plus, it requires minimal ingredients that are easily available in any store and will not break the bank.
These unstuffed cabbage rolls are perfect for a low-carb diet, have lots of fiber from the cabbage, and are very fulfilling. From start to finish, it will take you around 30 minutes for this delicious unstuffed cabbage rolls dinner.
The ingredients are simple:
- Cabbage - any cabbage will work here, savoy cabbage (sweetest leaves), napa cabbage, and red cabbage as well. But the best cabbage in my opinion for unstuffed or stuffed cabbage rolls is young green cabbage. Be careful if using red cabbage as it will likely leach color into the rest of your dish. This cabbage is also great for making a rich and fulfilling unstuffed cabbage roll soup
- Garlic and onion - without these aromatics, these unstuffed cabbage rolls would not be what they are called. Because in Ukrainian cuisine garlic, onion and well, cabbage is one of the main ingredients in most dishes. People cook with what they have on hand 🙂
- Ground beef- or any ground meat or sausage. If you can, use lean ground meat whenever possible so you don’t end up with lots of meat fat in the pot. Any meat is suitable here. For a leaner version, lean ground turkey is your best bet.
- Maple syrup - or sweetener of choice. I used what I had for this post, and it turned out delicious! We also love to use brown sugar or coconut sugar whenever we make these unstuffed cabbage rolls. Don’t skip the sweetener here because just like with my Cabbage Roll Soup, whenever you use a tomato product, for the best flavor I recommend adding any kind of sweetener to offset the acidity that comes from tomatoes. You'll not feel the flavor of sweetener but it will balance the dish instead.
- Tomato sauce and fire roasted tomatoes - different brands vary in taste and texture. I recommend using trusted Italian brands whenever possible. Simply because of the rich flavor.
For the full list of ingredients, please scroll down where you'll find the recipe card.
Prep your cabbage by cutting it into 2-3 inch cubes.
Heat up a large pot or dutch oven with some cooking oil (any neutral oil will do) and one hot add in the onions. Cook until onions have softened.
Add the ground beef and brown the meat crumbling it into small pieces until thoroughly cooked.
Add garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, bay leaves and stir.
Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water or broth, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
Stir in the cabbage, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer with closed lid for 15-20 minutes. Cabbage should be soft, tender but still a little crispy.
Stir in the cooked brown fluffy rice (or regular rice), stir to combine and let heat through simmering for 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves.
Serve with freshly chopped parsley and sour cream.
We like to serve it with plenty of sour cream, fresh dill or parsley and black ground pepper.
A delicious melty cheesy topping is what will make this dish better and kid-approved. Top it up with grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese. Add it during the last 5 minutes of cooking time to get the cheese extra melty or serve in individual bowls.
- Let it simmer enough for the flavors to blend nicely and cabbage soaks up all the sauce mixture.
- Just like in my recipe for Fried Cabbage, don’t overcook the cabbage. Although many versions recommend differently, I still stand strong on the belief that cabbage should be tender yet still crunchy by the end of cooking. I don't like my cabbage being mushy.
- Lean meat - opt for low-fat and leaner version as it will cook better and you won’t end up with lots of extra fat and liquid in the pot.
Freezing and Storing Instructions
Store any cooled leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
To freeze, the same way and for 2-3 months.
To reheat, thaw first if frozen and reheat in a pot over stove top. You may needs to add some extra water or stock/broth to thin it out. I don’t recommend reheating this in the microwave as the cabbage will or may become too soggy.
Anyways, try to make it and consume it fresh or within 24 hours for the best flavor and texture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cabbage is a healthy source of fiber, is low fat, and with plenty of nutrients for your skin. It's rich in antioxidants (including vitamin C and beta-carotene).
The unstuffed cabbage rolls are already a meal itself. Some side portion of healthy salad, crusty bread, or a portion of steamed or mashed potatoes is our go-to serving options.
Thank you so much for reading about these delicious Ukrainian lazy cabbage rolls. Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have! I love reading your feedback.
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Ukrainian Lazy Cabbage Rolls
- 6 cups green cabbage chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 ⅓ cups cooked brown rice
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- ½ cup warm water or beef broth
- 1 onion very finely diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste
- 15 oz can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 2 ¾ cups can tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven with some cooking oil (i like to use avocado oil spray) and one hot add in the onions. Cook until onions have softened.
- Add the ground beef and brown the meat crumbling it into small pieces until thoroughly cooked.
- Add garlic, paprika, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, and bay leaves and stir.
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, water or broth, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and maple syrup. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Stir in the cabbage, and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer with a closed lid for 15-20 minutes. Cabbage should be soft, and tender but still a little crispy.
- Stir in the cooked brown fluffy rice (or regular rice), stir to combine, and let heat through simmering for 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Discard the bay leaves.
- Serve with freshly chopped parsley and sour cream.