Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls



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These unstuffed cabbage rolls taste just like the traditional recipe with a fraction of the effort. Lightened up with ground turkey and served over cauliflower rice for a low-carb meal.

You may have heard of stuffed cabbage rolls, but what about “unstuffed cabbage rolls”?! I personally love this version because it’s lightened up and so much easier than the classic recipe. You can make this dinner in a fraction of the time it takes to make the traditional stuffed cabbage, which requires boiling the cabbage leaves and rolling the meat inside. And, trust me it is still equally delicious!

Overhead shot of unstuffed cabbage roll bowl. Cabbage and turkey are mixed with a tomato sauce are served over rice in a white ceramic bowl. Gold fork is resting inside the bowl.

Traditional Cabbage Rolls

Traditional cabbage rolls are made up of cooked cabbage leaves holding a variety of fillings. There’s typically a mixture of ground pork and ground beef, rice and some sort of tomato product. It’s a common dish in many areas of Europe, West Asia and Egypt. I’ve never actually made traditional cabbage rolls, but Isaac’s mom makes them. She’s been making them for years and if you asked her she’d probably tell you they are a breeze to whip up, however I know they are time consuming.

To make these unstuffed cabbage rolls a bit lighter, I used ground turkey instead of beef or pork. And instead of brown sugar that most recipes call for, I used apple sauce for a hint of sweetness. Last but not least, I served the unstuffed cabbage rolls over cauliflower rice, which packs in more veggies and keeps this dish low-carb.

Close up image of unstuffed cabbage roll bowl. Cabbage and turkey is mixed with a tomato sauce and served over rice. Food is served in a ceramic bowl with a gold fork resting inside the bowl.

What You Need for Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

This lightened up, easy version of cabbage rolls requires less than 15 ingredients.

  • ground turkey
  • vegetables – cabbage, garlic, yellow onion and parsley for garnish
  • cauliflower rice (or regular rice)
  • canned diced tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • unsweetened apple sauce
  • olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • seasoning and spices – cinnamon, salt and pepper

Overhead shot of cabbage and turkey mixture in a blue dutch oven pan. Wooden spoon is stirring mixture.

Cabbage 101

Okay, I have to get this off my chest. Why is cabbage such an underrated vegetable?! I personally love cabbage. Maybe the lack of color makes people think of bland, nutrient-less lettuce, but interesting enough, cabbage isn’t in the lettuce family, it’s actually a cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli and cauliflower. It’s packed with nutrients, specifically vitamin K, vitamin C and folate. It’s also high in fiber and antioxidants. It has a neutral flavor (in my opinion) and can be eaten raw or cooked. (Source)

Close up shot of unstuffed cabbage roll bowl. Cabbage and turkey are mixed with a tomato sauce and served over rice. Gold fork is resting inside white ceramic bowl.

Love Cabbage? Try These Recipes

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4.49 from 31 votes

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

These unstuffed cabbage rolls taste just like the traditional recipe with a fraction of the effort. Packed with vegetables and flavor, it’s the perfect weeknight dinner.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, I like fire-roasted
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 head, about 7 cups shredded green cabbage
  • cauliflower rice, or regular rice, for serving
  • fresh parsley, for garnish


  • Heat a Dutch oven or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and once hot add turkey, onion and garlic into the Dutch oven until browned and crumbly, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, apple cider vinegar, apple sauce, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover Dutch oven, reduce heat, and simmer until cabbage is tender, about 30 minutes.
  • Stir over warm cauliflower rice or your favorite rice. Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy.


Serving: 1/4 of recipe with cauliflower rice | Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 575mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 13g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: unstuffed cabbage rolls
Did you make this recipe?Mention @eatingbirdfood and tag #eatingbirdfood!

About Brittany

Hey there, I’m Brittany, the creator of Eating Bird Food, cookbook author, health coach and mama of two littles. Here you’ll find quick and easy recipes that make healthy fun and enjoyable for you and your family!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hello,

    I guess this will be so tasty and easy to prepare.

    Thank you very much for sharing this post.

    1. Hey Marian! I haven’t, but I’m sure this would be delicious with either tofu of tempeh as a substitute. Let me know if you try it and how it turns out!!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this for supper tonight and it was excellent! Really tasty, and we loved the addition of the applesauce /ACV/ cinnamon. It gave it a nice extra depth of flavour. I added a few shakes of coconut aminos to the brown basmati rice that I served it with, which complemented the whole dish very well. I’m excited to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow! I will be making this again for sure.

    1. Ahh that makes me so happy to hear, Julie! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I really appreciate it! <3

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious! I had a head of purple cabbage in my fridge so I used that instead of green but it turned out great – just maybe not as aesthetically pleasing lol. I love the flavors! Will definitely make this again. Thank you!

    1. So glad you enjoyed this recipe, Madison! Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. I really appreciate it. <3

  4. 5 stars
    This was so delicious! I was looking for something new-to-me to make and I’m so glad I picked this. Loved all the flavors! And, I cannot wait to eat the leftovers! Your recipes never disappoint 🙂

    1. Ahh yay! So glad you loved this recipe, Shannon. Thanks for trying it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. It means the world to me. <3

  5. 5 stars
    Very tasty! Almost everyone had seconds. We ate it with some fresh rolls. I used homegrown ground beef and homegrown garlic. This recipe did right by these precious ingredients.

    1. Woo!! So glad this recipe was a hit!! Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review. I so appreciate it. 🙂

  6. 2 stars
    I was so excited to try this recipe! I had all the ingredients on hand, not to mention that it sounded way easier than making traditional stuffed cabbage rolls but not skipping out on all the flavor! Win win right? Wrong!!! I hesitated before adding the cinnamon and that’s where it all went wrong. The flavor is not right. No one liked this dish in my house. I won’t be trying it again and it makes me hesitant to try your other recipes. It was a sad evening for the 6 of us. 🙁

    1. Hey Kait – I’m so sorry this recipe wasn’t a hit with your family. Cinnamon is a common ingredient in unstuffed cabbage rolls. It must just be a personal taste preference. I appreciate you trying this recipe and I hope you give some of my other recipes a try!

    2. I feel like you may have added way too much cinnamon because I can barely taste it when I make this dish. Maybe you added apple sauce with cinnamon in it already?

    1. Hey Jessica! The tomatoes and tomato sauce are two big components to the flavor of this dish, so I’m not quite sure what the best subs would be.

  7. This recipe is always a winner in my house. My boyfriend and I love it! Its super easy, fairly cheap to make and always goes well with left over rice. I think it tastes better the next day. We top with our favorite hot sauce!

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