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Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls – Barefeet in the Kitchen


Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are for those of us who love traditional cabbage rolls almost as much as we hate the time it takes to roll and bake them. Bites of juicy ground beef with fluffy rice and tangy tomato sauce are made even better in this simple one-skillet meal.

Sometimes (read: most of the time), as much as I love cabbage rolls, I just don’t have the time, energy, or patience to make them on a weeknight. If you’re like me, these Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls might be your newest favorite dinner.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are a favorite with kids and adults!

Unstuffed Cabbage

For nearly as long as Sean and I have been married, I’ve been making Layered Cabbage Rolls as a timesaver option for a cabbage roll dinner. My whole family loves them and they’re requested often.

I remember the first time I served that easy variation on cabbage rolls to our friend Joe. Joe was born in Hungary and he was so happy with that dish that he kept smiling and telling stories all the way through the meal.

He told us it tasted exactly as he remembered his mother’s cooking. Joe passed away last year and remembering his happiness over that meal still brings a smile to my face.

A few years ago, I was thrilled to realize that I could get the cabbage roll flavors we love in a simple skillet meal, without even turning on the oven. The ground beef is browned along with plenty of seasonings before simmering in a rich tomato sauce with fresh cabbage and rice.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

From start to finish, this meal comes together in under 20 minutes, making it pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned. I like to serve the Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls with a simple salad and a crusty bread to sop up any juices on our plates. This would also be delicious served with Homemade Pierogies for a full Polish feast!

This is a dinner that checks all my boxes, a quick meal that manages to make everyone happy using simple and inexpensive ingredients. If you have never had the joy of tasting Cabbage Rolls before now, here is your chance.

Cabbage rolls are a classic European dish of cabbage leaves wrapped around seasoned ground meat and baked. Ground beef is a traditional filling for the cabbage but ground lamb and turkey are also popular in some areas.

These rolls make for a hearty and delicious meal that can feed a crowd inexpensively, so you can imagine that finding a way to make them without much time or effort was a huge win.

So much easier than traditional cabbage rolls, you're going to love this one pan meal!

Skillet dinners are meals where all the ingredients (or almost all of them) come together in one pan.

They may not always be the fanciest, prettiest, or most impressive dishes but they are the ones most likely to become part of your family’s meal rotation. They’re built for busy weeknights and long leisurely weekends alike.

Skillet meals like Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are the dishes our kids will have fond memories of enjoying together at the dinner table. And because recipes like this don’t require hours in the kitchen prepping dozens of ingredients in advance or cleaning up a bunch of dishes afterward, you can enjoy that time with them, too.

Some other easy skillet dinners to try are our Cabbage and Sausage Skillet, Bell Pepper and Zucchini Skillet with Spicy Sausage and this Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry that’s better than any take-out I’ve ever had.

None of these have ever served me wrong when I’m on the hunt for a fast and filling meal for my family and this recipe is no different.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage shows up in so many soups, stews, and stir-fries for a good reason. It’s packed with nutrients, holds up well to many different ways of cooking, and can feed an army with just pennies.

Cabbage rolls and all their variants are possibly my favorite way to enjoy this amazing vegetable but I also completely adore eating it in Mexican White Bean and Cabbage Soup, Kielbasa and Potato Skillet, and in this Corned Beef and Cabbage Stew.

In this recipe, pieces of chopped cabbage are added to ground beef and tomato sauce. You get all the taste of fresh cabbage, tender meat, and tangy sauce in each bite without the hassle of rolling up individual cabbage rolls!

All the flavor of traditional Cabbage Rolls in a simple skillet meal!

COOK’S TIP: If you don’t have pre-cooked or leftover rice on hand, start a pan of rice cooking on the stove when you begin to brown the meat for this recipe. By the time you need to add the rice, it will be cooked and ready to add with the rest of the ingredients.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

A pan full of steaming, mouthwatering Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls begins with browning ground beef in a skillet on the stove. (I use this skillet to make this recipe.) As the meat browns, add chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Crushed tomatoes and sauce, vinegar, and brown sugar then go into the skillet right with the browned ground beef. After the whole concoction comes to a boil, add pieces of cabbage right to the pan along with cooked rice. That’s it!

All the best cabbage roll flavors in an easy one skillet meal!

If you’re looking for more quick and easy 20 minute dinners, check out One Skillet Beef Meatballs with Rice and Peas, and this Caprese Skillet Chicken.

This Spinach Pasta Salad is a light meal that can be made ahead of time and eaten warm or cold. Lebanese Beef with Green Beans is a recipe that my sister made for us many years ago and it’s a regular on our meal plan as well now.

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Servings: 8 servings

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  • Warm the oil in a large deep sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the beef, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper. Crumble the meat as it cooks.

  • When the meat has browned, about 8 minutes, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, brown sugar. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

  • Stir in the cabbage, reduce to simmer, and cover with lid. Cook until the cabbage is bright green, tender, and still slightly crisp, about 4-5 minutes.

  • Add in the cooked rice and simmer just until heated through about 2 minutes. Serve warm.

Calories: 438kcal · Carbohydrates: 30g · Protein: 23g · Fat: 24g · Saturated Fat: 9g · Cholesterol: 80mg · Sodium: 776mg · Potassium: 861mg · Fiber: 4g · Sugar: 14g · Vitamin A: 570IU · Vitamin C: 32.3mg · Calcium: 89mg · Iron: 4.3mg

{originally published 2/27/18 – recipe notes and photos updated 11/25/22}

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls are a family dinner that comes together in just minutes!


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