Crockpot Cabbage Rolls
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Crockpot Cabbage Rolls are the perfect comfort food, made with ground beef and pork mixed with rice, onion, and spices rolled in cabbage leaves and slow cooked in a tangy tomato sauce!
The slow cooker is the perfect way to have a hot meal at the end of a busy day! For more ideas, try this Slow Cooker Chicken and Potatoes recipe, or these Slow Cooker Pork Chops.
Crockpot Cabbage Rolls are a family favorite here, and the perfect comfort food for a cold day. If you don’t have crushed tomatoes, you can also use a few cans of gluten free tomato soup or marinara sauce, then just keep the rest of the sauce ingredients as they are. You can also swap the white rice for brown rice if that’s what you have.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Cabbage. I use regular green cabbage for this recipe, but savoy cabbage will also work. You want the leaves to be big enough to wrap around the meat, so pick the cabbage head with the largest leaves. Remove the outer leaves, which can be too tough to work with.
Red cabbage works for this dish as well, but expect the color of the dish to turn out a red or purple color like the cabbage. Avoid Napa cabbage because it wilts easily.
Meat. For this dish you can use a combination of lean ground beef and ground pork. I like to use lean beef, to cut down on some of the fat.
You can also use all ground beef, if that’s what you have.
Onion. I like to use Vidalia onion because it’s a little sweeter and has a really nice flavor. You can also use yellow or white onion.
Egg. The egg acts as a binder, helping to hold everything together. The yolk also adds a small amount of fat and flavor.
Rice. You have two options for rice. You can use regular uncooked rice that you fully cook first, before using it in this recipe. This is a good way to use up leftover rice from the night before.
Or, you can add instant rice directly to the meat mixture. If you use instant rice, you don’t have to cook it first. It’ll cook along with the other ingredients.
If you’re going with regular rice instead of instant, try using jasmine rice or basmati rice. For more flavor, you can cook the rice in beef broth (just make sure the broth is gluten free).
Tomatoes. We’re using a combination of crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes. This will be the base for our tomato sauce, which cooks right in the slow cooker with the cabbage rolls.
I use a large 28 ounce can for each of them. If you want a thicker or creamier sauce, add 2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste, and whisk everything together before adding to the slow cooker.
Sugar. The sugar helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes, and brown sugar in particular helps add some flavor to the sauce.
You can use white granulated sugar if that’s what you have.
Worcestershire Sauce. This adds flavor to the sauce and to the cabbage rolls. If you don’t have Worcestershire sauce, you can use soy sauce, but Worcestershire is ideal. Just make sure the brand you buy is gluten free. Some are, and some are not.
Herbs. Add some fresh chopped parsley to the sauce and to the meat mixture for some fresh flavor. I also save some in the refrigerator to top the dish once it’s done cooking.
Spices. There’s nothing too complicated about the spices. Just a combination of garlic powder and onion powder, salt, black pepper, and paprika. Paprika is what adds a lot of the flavor to the sauce.
I also like to add cayenne pepper for some heat. You can leave this out if you don’t like spicy, or increase it if you want more spice. Try adding some red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce, too.
How to Make Crockpot Cabbage Rolls
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While that’s heating up, use a pairing knife to cut the core out of the bottom of the cabbage. Using tongs, slowly lower the cabbage down into the boiling water. Wear oven mitts and be very careful not to splash the water! Using the tongs, remove each leaf from the cabbage as it begins to pull away and place it into a strainer. This method removes each leaf is they cook, so the inner part of the cabbage isn’t too raw. Discard any pieces that are too small in the center, drain the water and set the pot aside.
- In a separate medium bowl, combine the beef, pork, rice, onion, egg, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and spices. Work the meat together until well-combined (similar to meatballs). In the pot we just drained, whisk together the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and spices. Ladle some of the sauce into the crockpot, covering the bottom.
- Lay a cabbage leaf down on a cutting board. Cut the bottom of the stem off (using a V shape, about 1-inch), so the leaf lays flat. Spoon about 3-4 tablespoons of the meat mixture onto the center of the leaf. Fold both sides inwards, then roll the leaf over the meat mixture.
- Place seam-side down into the slow cooker, making a layer of cabbage rolls. Ladle some more sauce on top of the rolls, then make another layer of cabbage rolls on top of the previous layer. Continue until all of the cabbage leaves are used up. Then pour the remaining sauce on top and place the lid on the crock pot.
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 6-7 hours, until the rolls are cooked through. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes, with parmesan cheese for topping.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use green cabbage or savoy cabbage for stuffed cabbage leaves. If I’m making this for a regular weeknight dinner, then I’ll use green cabbage. It tastes good, and we usually have some in the refrigerator. If I’m making this for company, I’ll use savoy cabbage. It has a more aesthetic presentation.
No, you can also freeze the cabbage instead of boiling it. Remove the core from the cabbage, then place it in the freezer the night before. In the morning, move the cabbage to the refrigerator, so it’s defrosted for that evening.
The freezing process breaks down the cabbage enough that it will be easy to work with. When you cook the rolls, either slow cooking or in the oven, the cabbage will cook the rest of the way along with the filling.
When I boil the head of cabbage, I like to remove the tender cabbage leaves one by one using a pair of tongs. This lets each leaf cook the perfect amount, and you don’t have to keep taking the whole head in and out of the hot water.
The trick to not breaking the leaves is to use a long pair of tongs, and grab the leaves closer to the base of the cabbage, trying to grab the more fibrous stem.
Refrigerate leftover slow cooker cabbage rolls in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Freeze leftover stuffed cabbage rolls in an airtight container for 2-3 months.
More Crockpot Recipes
- Easy Slow Cooker Potatoes
- Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Soup
- Crockpot BBQ Chicken Thighs
- Crockpot Cheeseburger Soup
- When you’re boiling the cabbage head, you’ll eventually get down to leaves that are too small to really work with. You can either save the extra cabbage for another dish later, or cut them up into smaller pieces and throw them into the meat mixture. Make sure to press them gently with a paper towel first so they’re not too wet.
- If you want an even easier process for these crockpot cabbage rolls, just use a few teaspoons of Italian seasoning instead of the seasoning blend in the recipe. Italian seasoning doesn’t usually contain paprika, so I would still add that one.
- Instead of mixing ground beef and ground pork, you can just use Italian ground sausage or spicy ground sausage as your mixture. Omit the spices in the meat mixture, because sausage is already seasoned.
- For a lighter version of these crockpot cabbage rolls, try using ground turkey or ground chicken instead of the mixture of ground beef.
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Crockpot Cabbage Rolls
For the Rolls
- 1 head green cabbage, outer leaves removed
- 1 pound ground beef, lean
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/2 medium Vidalia onion , chopped
- 1 cup white rice, cooked
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, gluten free
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
For the Sauce
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes, (1 big can)
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, (1 big can)
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley , chopped
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, gluten free
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Slow Cooker
- 1 pot to boil cabbage head
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using a pairing knife, remove the core from the bottom of the cabbage. Using tongs, slowly lower the cabbage into the boiling water, being very careful not to splash the water.
- As each leaf begins to pull away from the cabbage, remove it with the tongs and place it into a strainer. Try to grab the leaf from the bottom stem area to avoid breaking it. Once done, discard the center of the cabbage and any remaining water in the pot.
- In a separate medium bowl, combine the beef, pork, rice, onion, egg, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and spices. Work the meat together until well-combined.
- In the pot we just drained, stir together the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and sauce spices. Ladle some of the sauce into the crockpot, covering the bottom.
- Place a cabbage leaf on a cutting board. Cut the bottom of the stem off (using a V shape, about 1-inch), so the leaf lays flat. Spoon about 3-4 tablespoons of the meat mixture onto the center of the leaf.
- Fold both sides inwards, then roll the leaf over the meat mixture. Place seam-side down into the slow cooker. Repeat until you have a layer of rolls on the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Cover the cabbage rolls with sauce, then make another layer of cabbage rolls on top. Continue until all of the cabbage leaves are used up. Then pour the remaining sauce on top and place the lid on the crockpot.
- Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours, until the rolls are cooked through.
- When boiling the cabbage, wear oven mitts to lower it into the water, just in case any splashes.
- When looking for a head of cabbage, pick one with large enough leaves, about 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. This will yield about 12-14 cabbage rolls.
- When boiling the cabbage head, you’ll eventually get down to leaves that are too small. You can save the extra cabbage for another dish.
- You can also use Italian ground sausage or spicy ground sausage as your mixture. Omit the spices in the meat mixture, as these are already seasoned.
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