This Keto stuffed cabbage rolls recipe is perfect for low-carb diets and it also makes a great dinner for holidays such as Easter or Christmas. It is inspired from a traditional Romanian cabbage rolls recipe that my grandma used to make and updated by yours truly to make it low-carb.
Stuffed cabbage rolls are actually a very popular dish throughout Eastern Europe and many countries such as Poland, Ukraine or Russia have their own versions of it.
In fact, even regions in those countries have their own versions so don’t be surprised if you’ll find hundreds of variations of these amazing stuffed cabbage rolls.
Now, as much as I love the traditional Romanian cabbage rolls, I just couldn’t help myself from tweaking the recipe and updating it to the more current times, trends and diets.
So I added it a bit of cheddar and heavy cream for extra flavor, and replaced the regular rice with cauliflower rice which is healthier since it’s low-carb.
Now, before showing you my updated ‘sarmale’ recipe I must tell you a few super useful tips and tricks that will help you make the most amazing stuffed cabbage rolls ever.
So stick around to find out:
– how to remove the cabbage leaves.
– what is the best cabbage and rice for this recipe.
– how to prepare and cook the cabbage.
– what is the best sauce for Keto cabbage rolls.
– how to make Keto stuffed cabbage rolls in a slow cooker and in an Instant Pot.
– how to freeze the rolls, and more…
So stick around if you want to make the best cabbage rolls recipe ever.
How to make these amazing stuffed cabbage rolls – Best Tips & Tricks
1. What is the best cabbage for cabbage rolls
You can make these Keto cabbage rolls recipe with red, green, savoy, napa or Chinese cabbage.
It’s worth mentioning that they all have slightly different tastes and textures and some will cook faster than others. Savoy and Chinese will cook faster and peel easier than white or red cabbage.
2. How to remove the cabbage leaves for cabbage rolls
One of the most important steps when making these easy stuffed cabbage rolls is separating and preparing the cabbage leaves.
And there are 2 ways of separating the leaves:
1. Boil the cabbage head in water with salt and vinegar. Place the head into a large pot and fill it halfway with water. You should have enough water to cover the head but leave some free space at the top so it won’t overflow when boiling.
When the leaves begin to soften and turn their color into yellowish, remove the pot from the heat and carefully reserve 2 cups of water from the pot. We’ll use this later when cooking the rolls.
Drain and let the cabbage cool down until it’s safe to handle. Then pull the leaves off and stack them on a plate for later use.
2. Freeze the cabbage. If the first step seems a bit complicated, then you’ll be happy to know that this method is much easier.
Just remove the tough outer leaves, rinse and remove the core, then wrap it in cling film or Ziploc bags. Repeat this process if you have more than one cabbage heads, then freeze them.
When you’re ready to cook the Keto stuffed cabbage rolls, defrost the heads and the leaves will come off super easy.
This method is safer and easier than the first, but it takes more time as you’ll have to freeze the cabbage head for at least 6 hours (usually overnight) and then allow it a few hours to defrost.
Now that you know how to remove the cabbage leaves, let’s see which rice works best in this recipe, just in case you’re not a fan of cauliflower rice.
3. What is the best rice for cabbage rolls
The traditional stuffed cabbage rolls are made with long-grain white rice, like Basmati or Jasmine, because it’s fluffier and less sticky which makes it great in stuffings.
So if you want them with rice, then this is what you should go for.
But it’s worth mentioning that rice contains carbs and if you want them low-carb then your only option is cauliflower rice.
4. What is the best way to make stuffed cabbage rolls
There are 4 ways to make them:
- In the oven, as explained in the recipe at the bottom of the article.
- On the stovetop. Follow the recipe up until the part where it says to cook the stuffed cabbage rolls in the oven and instead of doing this, boil them on the stovetop. You’d have to bring them to a light boil, then cover and simmer for about 1 hour on medium heat.
- In a slow cooker.
- In an Instant Pot.
Making these amazing stuffed cabbage rolls in the oven is definitely my preferred method and it’s also the traditional way. Actually, the real traditional way is in a clay dish but that’s not very common anymore.
The stovetop method is pretty similar to the oven, and I will explain the last two in the next tips.
5. How to make stuffed cabbage rolls in a slow cooker
Making these amazing stuffed cabbage rolls in a slow cooker couldn’t be easier. Just follow these steps and you’re good to go:
- Follow the recipe until you have all the rolls ready for cooking.
- Add half of the tomato sauce in the slow cooker and layer the rolls with the seam side down.
- Then add the remaining sauce and water, cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.
6. How to make Keto cabbage rolls in an Instant Pot
- Follow the recipe until you have all the rolls ready for cooking.
- In an Instant Pot, combine the reserved water with the sauce, then layer the rolls.
- Close and lock the lid.
- Press MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK and set the timer to 7 minutes. When the time is up, wait 5 minutes before releasing the pressure manually.
Now let’s move on to the next tip on our list.
7. Can you freeze them?
Yes, these amazing stuffed cabbage rolls are suitable for freezing. And there are 2 ways to do that:
1. Freeze them uncooked. Keto stuffed cabbage rolls are best frozen uncooked, otherwise, the freezer can alter the taste and texture.
So prepare them as in the recipe until you have all the rolls ready for cooking, but instead of cooking place them in a freezer-friendly casserole and freeze them for up to 1 month.
When ready to serve, defrost in the fridge, transfer to a baking dish and cook the stuffed cabbage rolls in the oven as explained in the recipe. Or, cook them on the stovetop as explained at Tip 4.
Now here’s the second way of freezing the rolls.
2. Freeze them cooked. This alternative is best if you have leftovers and don’t want to waste them. It is pretty easy, all you have to do is place the leftover rolls in freezer-friendly casseroles and freeze them for up to 1 month.
Bear in mind that this method will affect their taste and texture (they will get softer) so they won’t be quite as delish as they were when cooked the first time.
Now let’s move forward and see what is the best sauce for stuffed cabbage rolls.
8. Best sauce for stuffed cabbage rolls
Traditional cabbage rolls are made with plain tomato sauce but you can also make them with marinara sauce*, or tomato puree.
Alternatively, you can use plum tomatoes or fire-roasted diced tomatoes blended in a food processor* or blender*.
As you can see in the recipe, I made them with a crushed tomato sauce but any of the above will work great in this easy stuffed cabbage rolls recipe. I honestly couldn’t say which one’s the best sauce for stuffed cabbage rolls as they are very similar.
But I guess it all comes down to each and everyone’s taste, so I’ll let you decide. Make them with all of these sauces and let me know which one you think it’s best 🙂
If you use marinara sauce make sure this is Keto-friendly if you want to make them low-carb and Keto-compliant, as many of these sauces aren’t.
9. Best sides for cabbage rolls
Stuffed cabbage rolls are excellent with roasted smashed potatoes, French fries, and even rice. It’s worth noting here that these are not Keto-friendly.
I also like to serve them with pickles such as pickled cucumber, cauliflower, mushrooms, or watermelon.
In Romania, they usually serve them with polenta and sour cream, and you really gotta try this combo!
10. Which ingredients can be changed in this easy cabbage rolls recipe
The great thing about this easy stuffed cabbage rolls recipe is that it’s versatile and can be adjusted to each and everyone’s taste.
And by that I mean that you can change the main ingredients. Instead of ground pork, you can make these amazing stuffed cabbage rolls with ground turkey, chicken, or beef.
Or, you can use a mix of ground turkey with pork or beef.
Furthermore, you can make these easy stuffed cabbage rolls with regular rice instead of cauliflower rice. But keep in mind that rice has carbs and it will make this recipe uncompliant with the Ketogenic diet.
That’s about it for today foodies. It’s now time to make this easy stuffed cabbage rolls recipe so let’s get cooking.
For the cabbage:
- ▢1 medium cabbage – about 2.5 lb (1.1kg)
- ▢1/4 cup (60ml) wine vinegar
- ▢1 tbsp sea salt
For the sauce:
- ▢1 1/2 tbsp olive oil – divided
- ▢1 small onion – finely chopped
- ▢1 medium carrot – shredded
- ▢1 1/2 cups (337g) crushed tomatoes
- ▢1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
- ▢2 tsp dried oregano
- ▢1/2 tsp sea salt – or to your taste
For the stuffing:
- ▢1/2 small cauliflower head – should yield about 1 3/4 cups (210g) of cauliflower rice
- ▢1.5 lb (680g) ground pork – (or a mix of pork and turkey/beef)
- ▢1 cup (113g) cheddar cheese – shredded
- ▢1 large egg
- ▢1 1/2 tsp sea salt – or to your taste
- ▢1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- ▢1/2 cup (120ml) sauce
To prepare the cabbage for the rolls:
- Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Fill 2/3 with water, and stir in salt and vinegar.
- Remove the outer 2 leaves of the cabbage.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut out the cabbage core.
- Once the water is boiling, carefully place the cabbage in water, cork side down. Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, then flip the cabbage over and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes more.
- While the cabbage is cooking, use a pair of tongs to loosen the leaves as they begin to soften.
- Reserve 2 cups of water from the pot, then drain and allow it to cool in a bowl.
- Once the cabbage is safe to handle, pull off the leaves and arrange them one on top of the other.
To prepare the sauce:
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat (or use the same pot you’ve cooked the cabbage in).
- Add oil, then stir in the onion and carrot. Sauté until soften, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, double cream, oregano and salt. Continue to cook for a few minutes more, until bubbly.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
To prepare the cauliflower rice:
- Wash and pat-dry the cauliflower with a paper towel, then remove all green leaves.
- Cut the cauliflower into small florets and place them into your food processor. Pulse a few times, until the cauliflower resembles ‘rice grains’. Alternatively, cut the cauliflower into large chunks and using a grater with medium-sized holes, grate them into ‘rice’.
o prepare the stuffing:
- Into a large bowl, combine the meat and cauliflower rice.
- Add the egg, salt, pepper, shredded cheese and 1/2 cup of sauce. Mix thoroughly to combine.
To prepare the cabbage rolls:
- Using a sharp knife, carefully slice off the raised surface of the tough center stem to flatten the leaves. This process will make them easier to roll.
- Place about 2 tbsp of meat mixture just over the stem portion of the cabbage leaf. Roll it like a burrito and stuff both ends in. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves and meat mixture.Arrange the stuffed cabbage rolls in a Dutch oven or pot.
- Pour the remaining sauce over the rolls and add in about 1 cup of the reserved water (from the cabbage).
To cook the Keto stuffed cabbage rolls:
- Cover your Dutch oven/pot and place it in the preheated oven at 350°F (180°C). Bake for 1 hour and 15 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.
- Check the rolls at half time and watch the liquid level. If there is not much liquid left, add in some more reserved water.
Please read the Tips & Tricks in the article before making this easy stuffed cabbage rolls recipe. Below is a summary:
- See what is the best cabbage for cabbage rolls at Tip 1.
- See how to remove the cabbage leaves for cabbage rolls at Tip 2.
- If you want to make them with regular rice, check out Tip 3 to see which one’s best for this recipe.
- See how to make stuffed cabbage rolls in a slow cooker at Tip 5.
- At Tip 6, you’ll see how to make Keto cabbage rolls in an Instant Pot.
- If you want to freeze them, check out Tip 7.
- Check out Tip 8 to see what is the best sauce for Keto stuffed cabbage rolls.
- See Tip 7 for a few side dish ideas.
- If you want to change any ingredients in this easy cabbage rolls recipe, check out Tip #10.
Here is the step-by-step process of making a Keto stuffed cabbage roll:
Calories: 479kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 119mg | Sodium: 1806mg | Potassium: 731mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1275IU | Vitamin C: 65mg | Calcium: 215mg | Iron: 3mg