My easy stuffed cabbage casserole has everything you love about classic stuffed cabbage rolls, reworked into a weeknight friendly meal the whole family will love.
stuffed cabbage casserole ~ delicious with less effort
Casseroles are great but, come on, it shouldn’t be a Herculean effort just to put one together (looking at you, lasagna.) I adore stuffed cabbage but by the time I’m finished making it I’m too exhausted to eat! So my mouthwatering stuffed cabbage casserole is an epic innovation for those of us who crave that comforting ground meat and rice with classic Eastern European flavors, but are too busy (or lazy!) to make it happen.
stuffed cabbage casserole fits the way we cook and eat now
There are so many wonderfully complex recipes out there, I wish I could enjoy them all, but let’s be real, most nights I’m lucky to get anything on the table, much less stuffed cabbage rolls. This casserole is a delicious mix of textures and flavors that come together to make something equally good (might I suggest even better?) than the original dish. This one is definitely worth your time. And don’t forget, unless you’re feeding a family of 10, it will last you for days!
the important flavor elements in stuffed cabbage
Cabbage rolls are beloved by so many different cultures: Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Serbia, and Greece, just to name a few!
The unique Eastern European flavor profile of this stuffed cabbage casserole is one of the most enticing parts of this dish ~ it’s a break from your regular meal rotation and a chance to sample comfort food from the perspective of a different culture. The star elements are all common to us, just put together in a different way than you might be used to.
- paprika ~ one of my favorite spices! It’s simply ground chili peppers, and can range from mild to hot. I used Hungarian sweet paprika, which you can find in most supermarkets. If you like spicy foods I recommend also using hot smoked paprika.
- dill ~ fresh has the most vibrant flavor, but use dried if that’s all you have. Contrary to what you might think, fresh dill has a milder flavor than dried, so you can afford to use more of it.
- tomato sauce ~ I use a good quality crushed tomato and also tomato sauce for a texture that’s neither too chunky or too smooth.
- vinegar ~ cider vinegar adds just the right tang to the sauce.
- sour cream ~ sour cream sauce is often served with cabbage rolls, and so I’ve incorporated it into the casserole as a thin layer. I actually whisk together creme fraiche and lemon juice instead of sour cream, and this is because creme fraiche is more stable and doesn’t curdle the way sour cream can when baked.
what’s the best cabbage for a stuffed cabbage casserole?
Normally stuffed cabbage rolls are made with standard ‘white’ cabbage. But I love to use the greener, tastier, Savoy cabbage. Choose a medium sized head with the outer leaves still attached.
how to prep cabbage for stuffed cabbage casserole
No messy vats of boiling water here! Shredding the cabbage is not only easier to prep, it’s easier to eat. Lightly steaming the cabbage in the microwave tenderizes it so that it cooks up perfectly in the casserole.
- First remove the loose outer leaves. Then cut the cabbage in half through the stem with a large sharp knife.
- Carefully cut out the cores from each half.
- Lay the halves cut-side down and cut them in half, again, through the core end.
- Shred the quarters into 1/2 inch thick slices.
- Put into a large microwave safe bowl and add a good splash of water.
- Cover and microwave for 4 minutes and then drain.
the layering process
Start with a layer of the shredded cabbage, then top with the meat sauce, then a layer of rice, then more cabbage. I press everything down gently to compact it. On top of the second layer of cabbage I dollop sour cream (or in this case I mixed creme fraiche with a little lemon juice.) Then a final layer of the meat sauce. It’s ready for the oven!
It’s not at all authentic, but I will sometimes sprinkle some mozzarella cheese over the top during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. If you’re cooking for a family and have picky eaters this can help seal the deal. Calling it a ‘hamburger casserole’ helps too 😉
vary it up!
This recipe is pretty perfect, if you ask me. But there are many reasons why you might want to change it up. Here are a few ideas…
Ground pork, or a combination of ground pork and bacon can be used in place of the beef. Ground lamb or sausage meat will also work, and will add lots of flavor, too. Use ground turkey for a leaner option.
Your favorite vegan meat or even mushrooms can stand in for the animal protein.
Other cheeses to consider: Gouda, Havarti, Gruyere, Provolone, Monterey Jack.
more cozy casseroles
- Favorite Green Bean Casserole from scratch!
- A Classic Moussaka Recipe
- Sweet Corn Spoonbread Casserole
- Ina Garten’s Cauliflower Gratin ~ Updated!
- Dublin Coddle ~ a quick cooking Irish stew!
- Baked Brats in Caramelized Sauerkraut
- Classic New England Fish Pie Recipe
Stuffed Cabbage Casserole
- 9×13 casserole
- 2 cups cooked long grain rice
- 1 1/2 ounces fresh dill, or a large bunch, chopped (fronds only, discard the stems.)
- 1 1/2-2 lbs lean ground beef
- olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 Tbsp sweet paprika, or more to taste (I added an extra teaspoon)
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1 tsp dried minced garlic
- 1 tsp dried minced onion
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium head Savoy cabbage
sour cream layer
- 7 ounces creme fraiche
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
cheese topping (optional)
- 2/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese, or more to taste
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Toss the rice with the fresh dill and set aside.
- Brown the ground beef off in a large Dutch oven or skillet. Start with a little olive oil if your meat is very lean. Break the meat apart into a coarse crumble as it cookes. Drain off excess fat and set aside on a plate.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan and sauté the onions, garlic, paprika, and cayenne for a few minutes to soften the onions.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, garlic flakes, onion flakes, and salt to the pan and stir to combine. Bring up to a bubble and then turn down and let simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the beef back into the pot, along with the green peppers and keep at a low simmer. Taste to adjust any of the seasonings.
- Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage and slice in half, through the core. Remove the core and cut the halves in half again, in the same direction. Slice the cabbage into 1/2 inch shreds.
- Put the cabbage in a large microwave safe bowl and add a splash or two of water. Microwave on high, covered, for 4 minutes. Drain well.
- Layer the casserole with half the cabbage on the bottom, followed by half the meat sauce. Sprinkle all of the rice evenly over top, then add the remaining cabbage over that and gently press down. Whisk together the creme fraiche with the lemon juice and drizzle or dollop evenly across the top. Then finish with the rest of the meat sauce.
- Lay a piece of foil loosely over the top (don't crimp) and bake for about 40 minutes, or until bubbling and hot throughout. If you want to top with cheese, remove the foil and sprinkle across the top about 10 minutes before the end of baking to give it a chance to melt.