by Olena

Lazy Cabbage Rolls

by Olena

4.9 from 31 reviews

Lazy Cabbage Rolls

The story behind these lazy cabbage rolls follows as this. On New Year’s Eve we hosted a Ukrainian dinner party for our friends. One of the dishes I made were cabbage rolls. Everyone loved how they were big and meaty. I, on the other hand, swore that day it was last time I made cabbage rolls. Honestly, it took me hours and I was so frustrated in the process I had to take a walk in the park.

I followed others advice to freeze and thaw cabbage instead of boiling it. Well, that didn’t work well, so I ended up boiling it. It was so much mess and work! I was happy to eat them, and a glass or two of wine definitely cheered me up, but now I understand why I haven’t made cabbage rolls for years.

Some years ago, I posted a cabbage rolls casserole which is delicious but requires finely shredded cabbage. I really wanted to try the skillet with larger chunks of cabbage so it’s less mush and mess. I love cabbage but any time I shred it, my kitchen becomes a mess. This skillet cabbage rolls came out OMG! When cabbage meets tomato sauce, salt and pepper, it becomes one of the most flavourful dishes ever. Plus it adds fiber and complex carbs. Overall, these inside out cabbage rolls hit all food groups spot on.

Lazy turkey cabbage rolls are perfect for lunches and leftovers can be frozen. I know for us this is enough for 2 meals. If you like cooked cabbage, you might also like cabbage and carrots stir fry with brown rice noodles and pan fried cabbage with apples. Enjoy!

How to Make Lazy Cabbage Rolls Recipe

  1. Preheat large deep non-stick skillet on medium heat and swirl oil to coat. Add onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium – high, add turkey, oregano and thyme; cook for 10 more minutes, breaking into small pieces and stirring occasionally. Lazy Cabbage Rolls ingredientsshredded cabbage
  2. Reduce heat to low – medium, add cabbage, cover and let it cook for a few minutes so it will be easier to stir.
  3. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, rice, water, salt, pepper and stir well. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 55 – 60 minutes. Do not open!
  4. After check if rice is cooked and if not (mine was) add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes.
  5. Serve warm topped with Greek yogurt and herbs. Lazy Cabbage Rolls

Lazy Cabbage Rolls

lazy cabbage rolls skillet

4.9 from 31 reviews

Lazy Cabbage Rolls Recipe is so darn easy and flavourful, replaces my Ukrainian grandma’s labour intensive cabbage rolls. SO tasty and EASY!

  • Author: Olena of
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 75 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Casserole
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: Ukrainian


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 2 lbs ground turkey, extra lean
  • 3 lbs cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce (I used low sodium)
  • 2 x 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup brown long grain rice, uncooked
  • 1 1/4 cups water or any stock*
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs (dill, parsley, green onions) & Greek yogurt, for serving


  1. Preheat large deep non-stick skillet on medium heat and swirl oil to coat. Add onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Increase heat to medium – high, add turkey, oregano and thyme; cook for 10 more minutes, breaking into small pieces and stirring occasionally.
  3. Reduce heat to low – medium, add cabbage, cover and let it cook for a few minutes so it will be easier to stir.
  4. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, rice, water, salt, pepper and stir well. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 55 – 60 minutes. Do not open!
  5. After check if rice is cooked and if not (mine was) add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes.
  6. Serve warm topped with Greek yogurt and herbs.

Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely, and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in a refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a microwave or in the oven at 375 F for 10 minutes.


*I used water +  organic bouillon cubes.

 Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys and a wife to Alex. And this is our healthy family recipes blog. I grew up in Ukraine on real food. As an adult, I tried many diets without results. Now for over 10 years, I cook quick and easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

What You Will Find Here

Healthy family recipes with simple ingredients. Many are inspired by my Ukrainian heritage. I share mostly dinner recipes because it just never ends... I’m obsessed with healthy freezer meals. And more than in love with my Instant Pot.

A Little More About Me

Originally from Ukraine, I now reside on magic Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada with my family. I started this blog in 2012 when I ended up at home with 2 small kids unemployed and a wee bit chubby.

137 comments on “Lazy Cabbage Rolls

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  1. I have a bunch of fresh tomatoes that were delivered in my CSA box. Can I use those instead of canned diced tomatoes? Would I need to add more water/broth?

    1. I have not done that. It will also depends how juicy they are. You will definitely need to add more broth and dish will be more pale, so a bit of tomato paste would be beneficial. I also wouldn’t be checking on it too often so steam doesn’t escape. I am guessing 1 cup extra broth but it’s a guess.

    1. Hi Tara! Unfortunately, this recipe has not been tested in a crockpot. I am not sure about cook times and ingredient amounts. Sorry.

  2. Made it. It’s good stuff. Use a BIG fry pan with a lid. I made half a batch, didn’t include the chicken stock, and FILLED my 10” fry pan : ) It turned out very tasty. I liked adding the thyme and oregano with the meat. Good stuff

  3. I can’t wait to try this. I love cabbage 🥬 rolls too—and hers a recipe which includes brown rice ! Yay 😁
    Thanks Olena for your no-nonsense cooking advice.

  4. Thank you for doing this! We made it vegan with tempeh cut and cooked with onions and mushrooms instead of meat. No rice because I’m diabetic. Still fantastic.

  5. I have made this four or more times now, and I like it more each meal I have of it. I like steamed cabbage and the brown rice and tomato. It becomes quite quick and easy. Thank you elena, I look forward to my Instant Pot meals now.

  6. Made this last night – subbed beef for turkey and used a big Chinese cabbage as just got one delivered in my farm share. Turned out great, and I will definitely do it again! Thanks for great recipe. Note I am used to cooking big, and have a large high sided skillet. Started meat and onion in it and realized with all ingredients to come there was no way. Finished in my medium high sided Dutch oven pot and was right at the rim – I would use my really big oval Dutch next time. Disappointed we did not have more leftovers lol – my 3 teens all went for seconds!

  7. I make this quite often. One of my easiest and quickest recipes. I just made it about an hour ago. I cut my cabbage in half then quarters. I then cut it in strips I boil it to get it soft first. I browned my ground meat onions and fresh garlic. I boil my boil in a bag brown rice. I add a 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes and a half a jar of tomato sauce.. I put it all in a large casserole, bake it at 350for about 40 minutes then I put the broiler on and let it get a little crispy on top for about 10 minutes. So delicious!!

  8. I didn’t make this recipe yet but it sounds delicious. I am making it for dinner tonight.
    I would very much like to read your blog and see what other delicious recipes you have in store

    1. Hi Diane! Don’t be shy to leave a comment and star review once you have tried out my recipes. Lot of recipes to explore on my website. Happy cooking 🙂

  9. Excellent recipe! Delicious!
    Hi Olena, Thank you for your lazy cabbage rolls! My family loved it.
    I grew up eating my mother’s “holubtsi”. She made them every Saturday for our Sunday dinner,
    They were sooo good. When I tried making them for my family, I never had the patience, time or skill to make them. Now, thanks to you, we can have them as our Sunday (or any other day) meal.
    Next week i will try your Cabbage Rolls Casserole” recipe too.
    I am so glad I found your website while looking for instant pot chicken recipes.
    Those are great too!

  10. This recipe looks amazing and I will be trying it this weekend. I would like to add some sauerkraut to it – should anything be changed/omitted in this case? Thank you.

    1. I would reduce cabbage to 2 lbs, salt to 1 tsp and make sure you use low sodium tomato products. After I would adjust salt if necessary. Gonna be good!!!

      1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate the prompt reply. I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂

  11. 1)How long is the cook time if I don’t add the rice and stock/water?

    2)Do I follow the same cook time if I use quinoa instead of rice?

    I stumbled upon your website by chance, and I love your recipes, especially the cheeseburger quinoa casserole! I look forward to many more recipes!

    1. So happy to hear, Sharon! I would use 1 cup quinoa to 1 1/2 cups water ratio. Stir, cover and cook for 15 mins on low. Then check and see if quinoa needs another 5 – 10 mins. Enjoy!

          1. I made this last night, and it was to die for! Could you please provide me your tips on the following that I could not find online:
            1)How many of the outer leaves should I remove before cutting the cabbage?
            2)How did you successfully cut down through the middle of the cabbage without struggling?
            3) Would frozen cabbage also work with this recipe?

  12. My Ukrainian Baba would make these, but she didn’t use tomato sauce…I believe she would cook them in stock..I, however use spagetti sauce and make the lazy helupki in the crock pot…putting the meat, cabbage, rice and sauce in layers..Delish!! and Lazy!!

  13. Easy and delicious. Can be made up quickly for a week night meal and also great for making up ahead of time. A perfect healthy family meal!

  14. This is one of the best cabbage roll recipes I’ve ever tasted and so easy! I didn’t use water; I used organic chicken broth. I also didn’t use regular tomato sauce; I used a jar of Classico sauce which gave it a really great flavor. But all in all you can tweet it however you like but Olena gets all the accolades!!! Thank you, Olena for a wonderful healthy and easy recipe!

  15. I love home made cabbage rolls my grandmother and mom used to make. I’ve made them a few times and now that I’ve looked at you recipe I’m craving them again!! I think this will be dinner tonight, but, I’ll going to try making with a vegan ground meat alternative… not sure what will work yet. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  16. Hi. I love cabbage in soup. My husband and I do not like rice. So do I cut back on the liquid amount when not using rice? It sounds so Yummy. I want to make this recipe. Thank You.

  17. My husband and I both grew up eating our Grandmother’s cabbage rolls – they each had a different take on them. We made them a few times together until we found this recipe. We haven’t made traditional rolls since, and I have even made this recipe for my entire extended family. Every loved it and it is sooo much easier. I can’t wait to make these this fall as soon as the weather shifts.

    1. All cabbage rolls I tried in my life had different take on them. So happy to hear this recipe is your new family’s favorite. And thanks for taking time to comment.:)

  18. Delicious i’ve made it twice in the last two weeks . So easy ? I used the cabbage ? and roma tomatoes ? from our garden! I also added bacon ?. Highly recommend this recipe! I also live on magical Vancouver Island ?.

  19. This is not the original recipe! Where did the original one go? Very disappointed! I want the original recipe back!

    1. This one?

      Cabbage Rolls Casserole

      Print Recipe
      Healthy Cabbage Rolls Casserole that doesn’t require pre-cooking rice, boiling cabbage and wrapping the leaves. Lazy man cabbage rolls.

      Prep Time: 10 minutes
      Cook Time: 115 minutes
      Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
      Yield: 8 servings 1x
      SCALE 1x2x3x

      1 tbsp olive oil
      1 large onion, diced
      6 cloves garlic, crushed & divided
      1.5 lbs extra lean ground turkey
      2 cans (28 oz each) crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, divided
      1 cup long grain brown rice, uncooked*
      1 cup water
      2 tsp brown sugar, divided
      5 bay leaves
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp ground black pepper
      1 medium cabbage (3 lbs), thinly shredded
      1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped (for garnish)
      Greek yoghurt (for garnish)
      8 slices fresh mozzarella cheese (optional)
      Preheat large skillet on medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion and half of garlic. Saute until golden brown stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Transfer in a separate bowl and set aside.

      In the same skillet brown ground turkey, breaking into pieces with a spatula. Add onion and garlic from step 1, 1 can of crushed tomatoes, rice (see Notes), water, 1 tsp brown sugar, bay leaves, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

      In the meanwhile, remove the outer leaves from cabbage. Cut the cabbage in half and using a sharp knife or mandoline thinly slice/shred it. Place in a mixing bowl along with 1/8 tsp salt. Massage cabbage using your hands until the volume of cabbage decreases. This helps to soften the cabbage.
      Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. In a 2.5″ deep 9 x 13 casserole dish, spread evenly half of the shredded cabbage topping with half of the meat-rice sauce. Then another layer of remaining cabbage and another layer of meat-rice sauce, until all used up.
      To remaining can of crushed tomatoes, add remaining garlic, 1 tsp of brown sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper and mix together. Pour over the layered casserole, spreading evenly with spatula. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest for 10 minutes and cut with a knife into 8 pieces. Serve warm (I like hot) with a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt and a slice of rye bread. The casserole tastes even better the next day and makes great leftovers and work lunch.
      Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 3 days. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month. To defrost, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in a microwave.

      *A few readers reported that rice was still uncooked after an hour. I didn’t have this problem when creating the recipe, neither I had a chance to re-test this casserole again. Alternatively, you could pre-cook the rice with half amount of water and time as specified on the package.

  20. Loved it… it’s just perfect and my kids loved it too!!! Definitely doing this many times.. and the fact you can freeze is just perfect for busy moms.

  21. This is SO good!! First time I made it i followed the method exactly, and it took way longer because of the brown rice. Everything kind of over cooked by the time the rice was done. Second time I cooked the rice separately
    and it was awesome!
    I love your site by the way! 🙂

  22. Made this 2 nights ago – makes a lot! Which I love – if you’re going to be cutting veggies & cooking, etc. – why not do it once and have extra meals, right? My husband LOVED this – so did I 🙂 Didn’t have avocado oil, so used olive oil. The only thing I added were some spices to the tomato sauce & diced tomatoes – I whisked them together in a separate bowl and added a bit of garlic powder, onion powder, basil & oregano before adding them to the pan. Will DEFINITELY be making this again!! We had some leftovers for lunch today – quick and easy. Thank you for this recipe!

    1. Your comment makes me smile because your “a lot” is our dinner and maybe 2 people lunch. It’s so sad here LOL. Glad you liked this recipe so much!

    1. Unfortunately you can’t use white rice with this recipe. Brown and white rice require different cooking time and amount of liquid. I don’t cook white rice so I won’t know.

      1. Good to know. I did use long grain brown rice, cooked it too long and it dissolved! Guess I didn’t account for carry-over time. I don’t feel bad because the same thing has happened with long grain white rice.

        None of it mattered. It was DELICIOUS and my family wanted to take leftovers home!

  23. Hi Olena,
    Can I reheat the frozen cooked lazy cabbage rolls in a crock pot on low after defrosting then overnight in the fridge instead of reheating them in the microwave or oven?? Thanks ☺

  24. I wanted something healthy and different. I stumbled across this and decided to give it a try. Never having eaten authentic stuffed cabbage, I’m not sure what it is supposed to taste like. But it was pretty good. My husband liked it too. Although next time I think I’ll add some hot sauce, or maybe red pepper flakes.

  25. The very first iFOODreal recipe I made years ago and still am making it to this day. A definite staple in our house and likely a generations long tradition!!

  26. I had a cabbage and was planning on making cabbage rolls but just didn’t have the energy and time to do. Someone mentioned lazy cabbage rolls — i wanted them to taste like my mom’s . Mom always used beef and pork. I followed your recipe except for the turkey and was very pleased with the results!! My neighbour tasted it and loved it too so i sent her the recipe. Thank you for a simple recipe. All i had to go out and get was the meat, i had everything else, yippee !!

    1. You are welcome, Nancy Ann. My mom and grandma used pork too, ground turkey and chicken were not common. Glad you enjoyed. It is a simple recipe indeed.

  27. This recipe is absolutely wonderful. I am used to making the traditional cabbage rolls like my Baba used to. This recipe has the goodness of traditional without all the tedious time consuming work. This will be my second time making your wonderful recipe. Double batch this time so I can freeze for leftovers. I decided to try half chopped cabbage, and half shredded (food processor makes it quick and easy) I also added a can of tomato paste, some crushed garlic, and a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce. The fresh dill on top, to die for! This recipe will be written down in our family recipe book for generations to enjoy. Thank you very much for sharing!

  28. My husband does not eat meat, would it be okay to use Morning Star Farms Griller Crumbles instead? If okay, is it best to add the crumbles toward the end of the cooking time?
    Thank you for your help!

    1. Hi Karen. If crumbles are mostly cooked (I assume they are) add them towards the end. I’m sure you are more experienced with them so whatever time you think they need to get flavoured.

  29. This is AMAZING. not sure how big of a skillet you have though, I had to use a Dutch oven lol. I used beef (drained and rinsed) rather than turkey, a multigrain rice blend and found it slightly bland the first time so I use two cans of tomato sauce now. I don’t use the toppings, I use it for freezer lunches. It is incredible!! I had to share it on Facebook and I don’t do that very often! Thank you! Will definitely be a staple in my freezer from now on! Healthy, filling and super tasty!!

    1. Hi Megan. You should use deep skillet. Not the frying pancake skillet but rather with tall edges. I used wide dutch oven/skillet you see in pictures. Glad you enjoyed my lazy man cabbage rolls (man, am I ever “lazy” to stuff anything into anything these days)! You might also like the stuffed pepper casserole then. Fresh off the stove.:)

  30. This tastes just like stuffed cabbage. So much less work. I was wondering if I could make them in a crock pot. Have you tried?

    1. I know, right?! Why wouldn’t it since it has all the components and cabbage rolls become am use once on your plate anyways. At least that is how I like to eat cabbage rolls.
      No, I haven’t tried. I know meat has to be pre-browned for sure. What will happen to rice I don’t know. I just wonder if it is too big of amount of cabbage to fit in a slow cooker before it cooks down. Maybe I will test one day. Sorry I wish I had a better answer for you, Carol.

  31. Hands down the best lazy cabbage rolls I’ve tried. Forgot to pick up sour cream or greek yogurt but even without I loved it! Will get some to have with the leftovers!

  32. I can’t wait to try this. But I would love to make it in the crockpot instead. Do you have any recommendation? Could this cook all the on low for 6-8 hours? Or 4 hours on high?

    1. Hmm. I honesty don’t remember the last time I cooked rice in s crock pot how long it took. Low for 8 hours should be enough. 6 might be too short.

  33. This was a huge hit! My husband wanted stuffed cabbages and I didn’t wand to make them since it takes a lot of time. This was so easy to make and the family loved it. Thank you for a great recipe.

  34. Made this today for dinner. Only change I made was to cut the recipe in half and omit the yogurt. My fiancé and I both loved it, and he’s super picky! We’ll be having this one again, for sure. I think I just found my new go-to recipe site. ?

    1. Oh my. Comment of the week. Really? So happy to hear I helped someone to please a picky eater. Those picky eaters…I want to give them limes for dinner sometimes.

  35. Hi! Sorry if this is a silly question, but I’m just learning about “clean eating” and read that if it’s canned, it’s not clean. But, you used caned tomatoes, so is that only true for certain things? This recipe looks amazing, btw. Can’t wait to try.

    1. Hi Melissa. Nothing silly. Here is the best description of clean eating. It is more relative to canned processed meals like soup, stew etc. Again, organic Amy’s soup has only clean ingredients vs. Campbell’s ones full of chemicals, preservatives and GMOs. Canned tomato sauce, tomatoes etc. is just a form of preservation of ingredients.
      At the end of the day, the goal of clean eating is to eat real food which includes pickles and canned tomatoes, and excludes fries from a package but includes homemade baked fries.

  36. My mummo made the best cabbage rolls, but, they are a lot of work. I love the combination of all the ingredients in a one pot deal!! Such a comfort food. Since I haven’t been eating meat… I wonder how I can veganize this 🙂

  37. I’m going to cook this soon (without the rice though, I have to measure that separately).Yours is almost the only blog I read – most of them ramble on and on about stuff that has nothing to do with the recipe. I like your style.

    1. Thanks Michelle. I just really think people who never met me really want to know what my kids did or said yesterday. As cute as they are … for me. Let me know how you like this dish.

  38. This looks delicious, we’ll be making this tonight!! Have you ever tried using sour cabbage for your cabbage rolls? So much easier and no boiling/freezing required!

    1. Honestly no because I tried them once in a Croatian home and wasn’t impressed. Too sour and salty to my liking. Maybe matters the way they are prepared…

  39. I thought the idea of lazy cabbage rolls great! My mom used to make cabbage rolls all the time but I just don’t have the patience. I altered this recipe a little to make it more like my mom used to make. I added garlic, bay leaves and sugar.

  40. Olena do you have any recipes for white turnips(Japanese turnip)? Or what I could use them in or with. Thanks

  41. How would you recommend reheating this after it has been frozen & thawed? I froze some for my cousin & her husband who just had a baby!

    1. In the oven at 350 until heated through. I usually put thawed right away, no need to wait for oven to preheat. I do not use microwave however that works too.

  42. This morning I stared at the fridge….I was at a total loss of what to make for our work lunch. Then I saw that big head of cabbge and remembered this recipe….a quick check for the ingredients and a glance at the clock…could I do this and be ready and out the door for work in an hour and 10 mins.?? I was willing to give it my best shot! I cooked up the turkey and threw the ingredients together and put the lld on and set the timer…I blended up our green smoothies and was off and running…5 mins. before we walked out the door I dished up two glass containers and saved the rest for later. For lunch I had a delicious and gratifying meal. I loved this recipe for the taste and for how quickly it all came together…such an easy healthy recipe. I will be making this again! Many thanks! So yummy!

    1. Loved the story! Two thumbs up – you are a true superwoman! That’s how we eat – some simple meal like this with a green smoothie and I feel so complete. Glad you liked it! My husband’s co-worker was having it for lunch yesterday too.:)

      1. As a variation, it would be great with some grated carrots and mushrooms too (that is what I put in my vegan cabbage rolls) but I did not have time to get carried away!! I am curious to hear how my husband liked it…he loves cabbage and red sauce so I am sure he will rave about it too! By the way…the rice turned out perfect!

        1. For sure. Or even lentils with more water. I just made marinara sauce 1/3 meat and 2/3 black lentils – OMG. The size and texture were perfect meat replacement! Will post soon. Even my kids were like OMG. Good idea about vegan cabbage rolls! My rice came out very good too. Well, hope your husband liked it.:)

  43. I do believe my Russian Grandmother would have called these “Gwumpkies” (in skillet form of course) Of course, I think those are more Polish? But boy, did she make dishes like this, and I just remember gobbling them down. Now I do need to carry on the tradition and make these for my kids, and cabbage is quite nice.

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