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Vegan Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce

  • Author: Maša Ofei
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 Rolls


These vegan cabbage rolls in tomato sauce are hearty, wholesome, and flavourful. They’re the perfect dish for the cooler months that the whole family can enjoy. Serve on their own, with bread or mashed potatoes.


  • 1 large green cabbage head


  • 1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 can / 425g / 15 ounces brown lentils, (or 1 ⅓ cup cooked lentils)
  • ½ cup / 45g rolled oats
  • ⅓ cup / 70g medium-grain white rice, washed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cans / 400g / 14.10 ounces x2 diced tomatoes
  • 24 cups / 500ml-1 litre vegetable stock, or cabbage water*
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Salt (optional)


  1. Prepare the cabbage: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Using a paring knife, cut on an angle around the base of the cabbage head and remove as much of the core as you can.
  3. Gently remove 8 leaves from the base by peeling back each leaf by the rib. As you do so, make sure that the leaf you’re peeling back is the outermost leaf so that it comes away easily. Set the rest of the cabbage aside for later.
  4. Place the leaves in the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.* (I place my tongs open in the pot to keep the leaves completely submerged in the water.)
  5. Using tongs, remove the leaves from water and let them sit in a colander to drain excess water and cool. Set aside.
  6. Prepare the filling: While the cabbage leaves cook, place the onion, bell pepper and carrots in a food processor with the S blade and pulse until you have a finely chopped consistency. 
  7. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add in the veggies and saute until all the water has evaporated. 
  8. Add in the olive oil and saute for a further couple of minutes.
  9. Then add in the rest of the filling ingredients and mix well. Take off the heat and set aside.
  10. Prepare the sauce: In a large pot on medium-high heat (and one that will fit 8 cabbage rolls, I use my cast iron pot), add in the olive oil and onion, saute for a few minutes until translucent and fragrant. 
  11. Pour in the cans of tomatoes, stir well and let it simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes while rolling your cabbage rolls. Stir occasionally.
  12. Make the rolls: Take one leaf, and with a pairing knife, cut the rib off. Place the leaf on a flat surface with the rib side facing you. 
  13. Scoop ⅓-½ cup (depending on the size of your cabbage leaf) of the filling mixture and place it at the end closest to you with a couple of inches left so you can roll it. Make the filling nice and compact and roll the rib side of the leaf over the filling and slightly tug it towards yourself to make it nice and compact. Bring in the sides of the leaf over the middle, and then roll it tightly. Think about how you would roll a burrito; it’s the same method. 
  14. Repeat this process for the rest of the cabbage and filling. 
  15. With the remainder of the cabbage head we set aside earlier, cut it in half and shred it nice and fine. I chop it very thinly. This step is totally optional but adds a lovely texture to the sauce. 
  16. Cook the rolls: Once the tomato sauce is done, scoop out half of it and add a generous layer of shredded cabbage to the pot. Now place the cabbage rolls in nice and snug and add the rest of the tomato sauce on top. 
  17. Pour enough vegetable stock or cabbage water just to cover the cabbage rolls and add in the bay leaves. If you’re not using stock, season with salt to taste. Slightly push a couple of the cabbage rolls to the side so that some of the stock reaches the bottom of the pot and doesn’t burn when cooking. 
  18. Cook on low for 1 hour with the lid on and then for another 30 minutes on medium with the lid off. Check on it every now and then to make sure that the liquid hasn’t completely evaporated. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
  19. Serve with bread, mashed potatoes or on its own. Two cabbage rolls are ideal per serve.


Water: Save the cabbage water from cooking the leaves. If you’re not using stock, make sure to season with salt.

Cooking cabbage leaves: My biggest pot can only fit 2-3 leaves at a time, so I do it in four separate batches. 

Please see tips earlier in the post for some helpful information.

Note: This recipe has been updated in April 2021 from the original recipe that was posted in May 2015. If you’d like the original recipe, please find it here

  • Diet: Vegan

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