This Vegan Cabbage Rolls recipe is a tasty meat-free take on a classic dish. The stuffed filling contains rice and walnuts and is made with a homemade tomato sauce. Enjoy as a comforting dinner or healthy vegetarian side. The pretty red and green colors make them perfect for Christmas (or Thanksgiving).
Stuffed cabbage is a dish that takes blanched cabbage leaves and stuffs them with a flavorful filling that’s traditionally made with tomatoes and ground meat. The cabbage rolls are cooked in tomato sauce to enhance the flavor and make them easy to eat.
This vegan option is a great option for those who want to reduce or eliminate the amount of meat they eat in their diet. It is also an alternative for vegetarians or vegans that's full of flavor.
The filing is made with cooked rice and ground walnuts that get cooked with soy sauce and herbs to create a 'meaty' texture that tastes incredible!
Serve this meal on a Sunday afternoon on its own or with your favorite comforting side dishes.
It's also perfect for a vegetarian / vegan option for Christmas dinner - the red and green color of this dish is so festive!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
This classic comfort food is suitable for a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
A great way to use up any leftover cooked rice you may have in the fridge.
There are many ways to change up the flavors and ingredients in the filling to suit your personal tastes.
You can enjoy this meal all on its own or serve it with hearty side dishes like mashed potatoes.
Cabbage is one of the healthy cruciferous vegetables.
For the tomato sauce
- Olive Oil - Adds richness and texture to the base of the tomato sauce.
- Garlic Cloves - Infuses the sauce with fresh garlic flavor.
- Spices - A mix of dried cumin and smoked paprika are used to create a light smoky flavor in the sauce.
- Crushed Tomatoes - A can of crushed tomatoes makes up the base of the red tomato sauce.
For the walnut filling
- Cooked Rice - Adds bulk and texture to the filling while soaking up the flavors of the walnut “meat”.
- Walnuts - This nut is used to create a meaty texture in the filling and is full of healthy fats, nutrients, and fiber.
- Olive Oil - Used to saute the garlic and onion to bring out their natural flavors.
- Soy Sauce - Adds an umami flavor to the filling that gives it more of a meaty taste.
- Garlic & Onion - Gives the filling an infusion of fresh garlic and onion flavor.
- Crushed Tomatoes - Helps soften the filling while giving it a tomato flavor that complements the homemade tomato sauce.
- Dried Herbs - A mix of dried thyme and oregano give the filling a bright and fresh herb taste.
- Salt & Pepper - Used to enhance and balance the earthy flavors in this vegan filling.
- Cabbage Leaves - You’ll need about 8 large cabbage leaves to make this recipe. You can use savoy or white cabbage.
Olive Oil - Used to drizzle on top of the finished cabbage rolls.
Please see the recipe card below for quantities.
Wondering how to make this vegan stuffed cabbage leaves recipe? It's easy! Just follow this step-by-step photo tutorial. Then, scroll down for the recipe card for the full ingredients list and recipe method.
Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 400F. If your rice is not already cooked, cook the rice as per the package instructions. Set aside.
Make the walnut meat base: To a food processor, add the walnuts, olive oil, and soy sauce. Process until the walnuts become crumbly but not into a fine powder. Set aside.
Prepare the tomato sauce: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic for one minute, then add the cumin, paprika, and canned tomatoes. Stir to bring everything together and bring to a boil. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.
Prepare the filling ingredients: Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and saute the onions for about 3 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the canned tomatoes and dried thyme and oregano. Bring the mixture to a boil and then back down to a simmer for 5 minutes. Add the cooked rice and crumbled walnuts and stir until fully combined.
Prepare the cabbage leaves: Cut the base of the cabbage off the stem so the leaves can easily be removed without tearing. Cut a V shape down the middle of the core to remove the thickest part of the leaf. While preparing the cabbage, boil a large pot of water. Once boiling, add the prepared cabbage leaves to the water to soften for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and rinse with cold water making sure all moisture is removed.
Stuff the cabbage rolls: Take a prepared cabbage leaf with the base facing you. Add a heaping tablespoon of the walnut filling and roll making sure to tuck in the sides similar to a burrito. Repeat until all the cabbage is stuffed.
Bake and serve: Add the tomato sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish, then layer in the cabbage rolls making sure the seam side is on the bottom of the dish. Once full, drizzle the top with olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve warm.
Already cooked and cooled rice is best for this recipe if you have it on hand. The rice will be sticky and hold the filling very well.
Remember to handle rice safely.
When choosing your cabbage, make sure you choose one with large bright leaves. As you use the cabbage leaves, they will get smaller and smaller so it’s best to start with a large one.
When draining the cabbage leaves, make sure any excess moisture is drained to prevent the filling from becoming soggy.
You can tightly pack the cabbage rolls inside the baking dish. Just make sure the seam side is down to prevent any filling from overflowing while baking.
Serve your vegan cabbage rolls as a main dish or side dish.
They're perfect for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any night of the week!
Enjoy as a vegan or vegetarian option for guests.
A few cabbage rolls on top of a bed of homemade Easy Vegan Mashed Potatoes make a well-rounded meal.
Add a side of Easy Cabbage Salad for a light side dish that has lots of texture and crunch.
Use any leftover walnut meat filling to make Mini Tacos as a fun vegan appetizer.
You can also use the filling to stuff in a batch of Vegan Stuffed Peppers to make the most out of your meal.
If you need a nut-free vegan dinner, try using cooked brown or green lentils to replace the walnuts in this
Don’t like cabbage? Try using blanched collard green leaves to roll up the filling.
Bulk up the filling by adding grated carrots, broccoli, celery, or mushrooms to the filling to make it even more nutritious.
Adding some red chili flake to the tomato sauce gives the dish a light kick of heat that pairs well with the smoky dried herbs.
Storing: You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days. Reheat using the microwave or add to an oven-safe baking dish and reheat at 325F until warmed through.
Freezing: Due to the high water content in cabbage and inside the filling, the cabbage rolls won’t thaw well if frozen. Therefore, freezing is not recommended.
Yes! Raw cabbage will likely break and not roll properly. It will also release too much water while baking. Blanching is the best option for stuffed cabbage.
Using white or savoy cabbage will give you great results as their leaves are both large and easy to roll once they are blanched and drained.
Yes! Vegan cabbage rolls can be made up to 12 hours ahead of time so they’re ready for the oven in a flash.
More cabbage recipes
Do you still have more cabbage to use up? Or are you trying to get more nutritious cabbage into your diet? Try these recipes!
Sign up for our free newsletter and never miss a recipe!
Plus, you'll get a free eBook: 15 Minute Vegan Dinners!
Vegan Cabbage Rolls
For the tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 14oz (400g) cans crushed/chopped tomatoes
For the walnut 'meat' filling
- ¾ cup (155g) cooked rice If uncooked, you will need ¼ cup dry rice
- ¾ cups (75g) walnuts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- ½ tablespoon soy sauce or tamari for gluten-free
- 1 onion finely diced
- 1 clove garlic diced
- 1 can 14oz / 400g chopped or crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
- 8 large cabbage leaves I used savoy cabbage, but white also works
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C
- If not using leftover rice, cook the rice according to packet instructions.
- For the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a pan over a medium-low heat, then add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Stir in the paprika, cumin and canned tomatoes, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the walnut meat:
- Add the walnuts, 1 tablespoon of oil and soy sauce to a food processor. Whiz until crumbly, but don’t over-process it or it will become puree.
- Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for 3 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the can of chopped tomatoes and their juice, along with the dried thyme and dried oregano. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the rice and walnut meat and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
For the cabbage leaves:
- Trim the base of the cabbage slightly so you can pull the large leaves off. Cut a slit or ‘v’ shape through the thickest part of each leaf, in order to roll them up easier. Add the cabbage leaves to a large pot of boiling water and boil for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Drain, rinse under cold water to cool and drain again.
- Place a leaf with the cut base closest to you. Add a large tablespoonful of the walnut meat filling and roll, tucking the sides in to create a parcel. Repeat with the remaining leaves.
Tip: any leftover walnut meat is great in stuffed peppers or tacos.
- Add the tomato sauce to a large oven-safe baking dish. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls in, cut seam side down. Drizzle the rolls with the oil.
- Place the dish into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and the sauce is bubbling.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors, so is not guaranteed to be accurate. Please see a registered dietician for special diet advice.