Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls


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

Looking For More One Pot Meals?

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

4 from 28 votes
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.
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.
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
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: unstuffed cabbage rolls


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Recipe Rating

    1. Miah A.
      May 24, 2022 AT 8:51 am

      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!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        May 24, 2022 AT 10:09 pm

        Woo! Love to hear this, Miah! Thank you so much for sharing, I appreciate it so much.

    2. Jessica Di
      September 24, 2021 AT 7:58 pm

      Hi! What do you recommend as a tomato substitute for this recipe? I can’t eat tomatoes.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        September 27, 2021 AT 4:47 pm

        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.

    3. Kait Cummings
      April 7, 2021 AT 3:13 pm

      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. Miah A.
        May 24, 2022 AT 8:52 am

        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?

      2. Brittany Mullins
        April 8, 2021 AT 1:06 pm

        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!

    4. Michelle Wickes
      January 10, 2021 AT 9:02 pm

      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. Brittany Mullins
        January 10, 2021 AT 11:42 pm

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

    5. Shannon
      September 2, 2020 AT 8:03 pm

      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. Brittany Mullins
        September 3, 2020 AT 11:22 pm

        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

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