Vegan Chopped Cabbage Roll Skillet

Created by Laura Wright
4.98 from 68 votes

This vegan chopped cabbage roll skillet is a hearty winter meal that comes together simply, mostly on the stovetop and in about 1 hour. Cabbage is roasted in spices and then combined with a tangy tomato sauce, lentils, rice, and meaty finely chopped walnuts.

An up close, overhead shot shows a finished vegan cabbage roll skillet with french lentils, chopped tomatoes, rice, walnuts, and spices. The skillet is topped with fresh dill and a jar of vegan sour cream is seen nearby.
An overhead shot of a serving of vegan cabbage roll skillet, featuring french lentils, rice and roasted cabbage, in a bowl with a dollop of vegan sour cream on top. The serving is garnished with fresh dill.
An overhead shot of ingredients used in a chopped vegan casserole skillet recipe. All ingredients are on top of a worn wooden cutting board or to the side of it.
AN overhead shot shows dried lentils, white rice, and finely minced walnuts added to a pot with seasoned sautéed onions.

We love a pantry-friendly vegan comfort meal! As I’ve shared in my cookbook, I find cabbage to be an underrated ingredient. This cabbage roll skillet with rice, lentils, finely ground walnuts, and a tangy, spiced tomato sauce is so satisfying. I roast chopped cabbage with spices until caramelized while I get the sauce base going on the stove. This method for unstuffed cabbage rolls is definitely taken up a notch by the roasting step.

The inspiration for this recipe:

  • I was inspired by traditional, rolled up and self-contained stuffed cabbage leaves, also known as cabbage rolls, here.
  • According to some sources, variations of cabbage rolls have been part of Jewish cooking traditions for over 2000 years. Other research places the recipe’s origin in Turkey. From there, they made their way across Europe, finding versions in Romania, Ukraine, Croatia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, and Sweden among other nations. To read more, see this from Tasting Table.
  • The unifying aspect of many of the recipes seems to be a combination of meat, sometimes a grain, and other seasonings stuffed into a cabbage leaf. As well, a tangy/acidic component is typically involved (tomato sauce, sour cream on top, lingonberries, pickling the cabbage itself).
  • All of this is to say:  my version is not traditional in any way, but the flavour cues and overall recipe components take notes from all of these cooking traditions.

To make these lazy cabbage rolls extra flavourful, I roast the cabbage with olive oil, garlic powder, and paprika. We caramelize the pieces until tender–no tough cabbage here! The sauce base has tomato paste, diced tomatoes, and vegetable stock as well as onions, garlic, dried thyme, and some little finishing touches of vinegar, a hint of sugar, and Tamari for more depth. 

French lentils and finely chopped walnuts make up our totally vegan protein base. I know walnuts sound a bit different, but they soften up well alongside the lentils and white long grain rice. Plus their flavour is quite complimentary. Cooking the rice in the skillet with everything else makes for one less pot to clean, which I am always down for. I serve mine with vegan sour cream and chopped fresh dill.

Fans of this hearty and simple vegan dinner recipe might also like my Smoky Chickpea, Cabbage & Lentil Soup with Kale.

An overhead shot shows chopped cabbage that's been roasted on a sheet pan with slightly brown edges.
An overhead shot shows a finished vegan cabbage roll skillet with french lentils, chopped tomatoes, rice, walnuts, and spices. The skillet is topped with fresh dill and a jar of vegan sour cream is seen nearby.
An up close, overhead shot of a serving of vegan cabbage roll skillet, featuring french lentils, rice and roasted cabbage, in a bowl with a dollop of vegan sour cream on top. The serving is garnished with fresh dill.

Vegan Chopped Cabbage Roll Skillet

This vegan chopped cabbage roll skillet is a hearty winter meal that comes together simply, mostly on the stovetop and in about 1 hour. Cabbage is roasted in spices and then combined with a tangy tomato sauce, lentils, rice, and meaty finely ground walnuts.
4.98 from 68 votes
An up close, overhead shot shows a finished vegan cabbage roll skillet with french lentils, chopped tomatoes, rice, walnuts, and spices. The skillet is topped with fresh dill and a jar of vegan sour cream is seen nearby.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small head of cabbage, cored and chopped (about 6 cups chopped cabbage)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika, divided
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¾ cup French lentils, uncooked
  • ½ cup white long grain rice, uncooked
  • cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 5.5 oz (162 ml) can tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz (428 ml) can diced tomatoes
  • 5 cups vegetable stock, plus extra
  • 2 teaspoons cane sugar, or other sweetener of choice
  • 1 tablespoon Tamari soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • vegan sour cream, for serving
  • chopped dill or parsley (or both) for serving

Notes

  • I prefer French lentils and white long grain rice for this recipe because their cooking times are fairly close and it all works out in the end. If you want to substitute brown rice, you’ll need to increase the amount of vegetable stock and the simmering time will need to go longer.
  • Brown lentils will substitute fine for French as their cooking time is similar.
  • My vegan sour cream recipe can be found here.
  • I preheated my baking sheet with the oven so that I got a little extra sizzle and browning action when the cabbage hit the sheet. Not 100% necessary, but nice to do if you can.
  • Start checking on the roasted cabbage at the 15 minute point and give it a flip and toss. In my oven it takes up to 45 minutes, but others have pulled theirs at 20 minutes.

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Place the chopped cabbage on a large baking sheet. Drizzle the cabbage with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of the paprika, and some salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat. Roast in the oven until tender and browning on the edges. Start checking on the cabbage at the 15 minute point and give it a flip and toss. In my oven it takes up to 40 minutes, but others have pulled theirs at 15 minutes.
  • Heat a heavy bottomed pot or braiser over medium heat. Once the pot is hot, add the remaining olive oil and swirl it around. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. If the onions start browning too fast, lower the heat. Add the garlic, dried thyme, and remaining paprika. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the lentils, rice, and walnuts, and give it a stir. Add the tomato paste to the pot. Keep stirring and cooking this out for 1 minute, just to get rid of some of the raw “tin” flavour. Add the diced tomatoes and vegetable stock to the pot and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place a lid on top of the pot, slightly askew. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are tender and the rice is cooked, about 35-40 minutes. Keep checking in to stir it often, scraping the bottom of the pot. If you find that you need to add more vegetable stock, add it by the ½ cup.
  • Once the lentils and rice are cooked, stir in the sugar, Tamari, and apple cider vinegar. Check the sauce base for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Stir in the roasted cabbage to combine.
  • Serve the cabbage roll skillet with vegan sour cream and chopped dill/parsley. Enjoy!
A 3/4 angle shot of a serving of vegan cabbage roll skillet, featuring french lentils, rice and roasted cabbage, in a bowl with a dollop of vegan sour cream on top. The serving is garnished with fresh dill.
11/01/2023 (Last Updated 09/08/2023)
Posted in: autumn, gluten free, lentils, main course, roasted, side dish, sour, sweet, tomatoes, umami, vegan, winter

45 comments

Recipe Rating




  • Andrea

    Hi. I want to try this, very excited. What would happen if i sub rice with buckwheat? Or any lower carb option for the rice?

    thanks!

  • Ken

    5 stars
    Great flavor. Since our daughters went away to school, it’s just the two of us and I usually halve recipes. I made this one as is and it makes a lot. I was able to freeze it in two containers for two future meals. I’ll add some more roasted cabbage when we have it again. The only thing I would change is to roast more cabbage initially. I thought I had about 6 cups but I either miscounted or roasted it too long. What we ended up with could have definitely benefited from more cabbage and my finished product didn’t look like the picture here.

  • Amelia

    This looks good! Could you suggest a sub for folks who can’t have nuts?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Amelia,
      Finely chopped toasted pumpkin seeds would be a nice substitute here.
      -L

  • Jacky

    5 stars
    Very tasty dish and leftovers worked perfectly as a sauce for pasta!

  • Anja

    5 stars
    I made this during the height of summer, since I had a lot of leftover cabbage that I didn’t want to let go to waste (and had quite enough of cole slaw). Loved the spicy, intense taste of the roasted cabbage!

  • Tracy D.

    5 stars
    Made this the other day and loved it! So flavorful and filling. Delicious even without the ‘sour cream.’ Will definitely make again.

  • Lisa

    5 stars
    This was soooo delicious!! I made it several weeks ago for myself and my husband. We had enough leftover for another meal so I froze it. It was just as good out of the freezer! It will definitely be in my dinner rotation. Thank you Laura.

  • Sandy

    This looks so good! Do you think you could freeze the leftovers?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Sandy,
      I think leftovers of this would freeze really well! I haven’t tried it myself though.
      -L

  • Evelyne

    5 stars
    Perfect!

  • Kelsey Shipley

    5 stars
    Great recipe! I added a little worcestershire sauce to it as well. Don’t skip the sour cream for serving!

  • Jess

    Do you think I could use shredded cabbage that was meant for coleslaw? I bought too much for fish tacos and this would be a great way to use 1.5 bags but it may burn before it gets roasty and delicious!

    • Laura Wright

      Hey Jess,
      I think you could definitely use shredded cabbage here. I would just start checking in on it at the 10 minute mark. If the shreds are really long, I’d recommend giving them a rough chop, just to make the end product easier to eat.
      -L

  • Joanna

    5 stars
    Laura,
    this recipe is absolutely brilliant!!!
    Having grown up in a country where cabbage rolls are a popular staple I’ve been looking for a vegan version that would not require the special kind of cabbage with leaves big enough to make a roll. Your approach takes the cabbage problem out of the equation and the final product is phenomenal. I love the crunchiness of cabbage leaves and the texture of lentils, rice, and walnuts. This recipe is a winner!
    Thank you for all the other recipes you posted so far. So many of them got incorporated into my household repertoire.

  • Heike

    5 stars
    Hi Laura,

    This is another fabulous recipe to feed a hungry crowd. I only had Napa cabbage at home but it worked fine with a shorter cooking time. We served this cozy and satisfying meal with coconut yogurt. Luckily we had leftovers (as a party of two) and froze two yummy portions for an „emergency“ dinner.

    Best Heike

  • Tania

    5 stars
    Yum yum! I’ve had this saved in my phone for awhile and this Artic blast was the perfect excuse to finally make it. So glad I did! I’m not vegan, but my favorite kind of food is vegetables made delicious and deeply flavorful. Check check check! I put parmesan cheese on top and used Savoy cabbage, oregano for thyme since that’s what I had, and a half smoked half regular paprika. Gobbled it up — perfect WFH lunch! Thank you :)

  • Suzanna

    5 stars
    A wonderful mujadara variation – used black lentils it gave a great texture. Plus lots of smoked paprika – very cozy meal!

  • Vicky

    5 stars
    I made this for supper last night and it was so so good. I just had the leftovers for lunch and it was still so so good. I used 2 packs of the Yves veg ground instead of the lentils and walnuts because of laziness, and it worked perfectly. Laura, you are crushing it with the winter comfort food recipes lately, and I feel like I haven’t cooked from anywhere besides your blog in weeks. I love it. Thank you.

  • Aimee

    5 stars
    Heck yes! I grew up eating cabbage rolls with my family and this is hitting it for me. Way more weeknight friendly than my grandma’s recipe but still has that cozy vibe. (I used flourist french lentils which I super recommend.)

  • Nicole

    5 stars
    So delicious for a cold winter night! Made a few slight changes by subbing green lentils and basmati rice as it was what I had on had. Decreased the stock a bit to make up for the shorter grains. Only had to simmer for about 15-20 minutes which made it perfect for a weeknight meal! Will be adding this to our winter menu rotation.

  • Christina

    5 stars
    I made this a few nights ago and it’s absolutely delicious. It was even better the next day for an easy take-to-work lunch with a dollop of vegan sour cream and a slice of sprouted pumpernickel bread. I will definitely make this over and over again. It’s a perfect cozy meal for winter in Vermont!

  • Karen

    5 stars
    So good! I also added some extra cabbage and I’m glad I did. It’s so delicious that it’s hard not to keep snacking on it when it comes out of the oven. I used brown lentils and I only have brown rice so I just parboiled it first and it turned out fine. The fresh dill makes such a difference! We will definitely be making this again. So tasty. Thanks so much for this recipe!

  • Steff

    5 stars
    This was soooo good. I’d been missing cabbage rolls and so was excited to see this recipe, and it did not disappoint. I used a larger cabbage and it took 45 minutes to roast. I also used an entire 28oz can of fire roasted tomatoes because I was too lazy to put the other half away, and I would make it like that next time too (didn’t need any extra stock that way).

  • Chantal

    4 stars
    This is super tasty. Thank you! And thank you for using a whole can of tomato paste.

  • Candice

    5 stars
    Loved this dish! So flavourful, a great winter meal. My walnuts ended up being stale so I omitted them and added a bit extra of the lentils and rice and it seemed to work great. My cabbage definitely took the full 40 minutes. I had a big can of diced tomatoes so I only used the recipe amount but I’d probably add the whole can next time. Also agree more cabbage would be great! I didn’t have enough room though on my baking sheet.

  • Tamara

    5 stars
    Delicious! Great flavor and texture and the roasted cabbage with some bits of char really complements it. I would definitely do a larger cabbage next time.

  • Kate

    4 stars
    This was delicious. Very hearty and comforting. Roasting cabbage at 425 for 40 minutes was too long. I pulled mine out nearly burnt at 25 minutes. Otherwise we were licking out bowls!

    • Kat

      5 stars
      Same issue for me! I checked on my cabbage halfway through at 20 minutes and it was already nearly done with some burnt bits. 25 mins was just right. Made a note for next time I make this!

      • Laura Wright

        I think my oven has some wildly varying temperatures and weird hot spots unfortunately. I’ll make a note on the recipe.
        Thanks!
        -L

        • Kathryn Greenfield

          5 stars
          40 minutes at 425° worked for my cabbage ‍♀️
          Whole thing was delicious!

  • Kristina

    This looks delicious! Any thoughts on how to sub in brown rice?

    • Laura Wright

      It will probably take longer! Upwards of 50 minutes I’m guessing? And you may have to add more liquid. I haven’t tested this so can’t guarantee anything unfortunately.
      -L

      • Jen

        Do you think we could make the brown rice separately and add it already cooked? I never use white rice.

  • Claudia

    5 stars
    Made this & couldn’t be happier with the outcome. Like Kimmy Q I would have used a larger green cabbage to add a bit more to the dish but also it was impossible not snatching more than a few of these morsels of goodness before they went into the pan. Thanks once again Laura for an amazing meal.

  • Allison

    5 stars
    This was outstanding. Super filling and comforting. Recipes like this are why I love cooking.

  • Lea

    5 stars
    Wow… this recipe truly exceeded my expectations! Definitely one of the most delicious meals ever. I didn’t have walnuts so I substituted pecans… and I also added smoked paprika. Phenomenal!

  • Sarah

    Do you have any suggestions for substituting the lentils here? My partner can’t eat them (sadly for me!)….Is there another bean / pulse / protein that you think could work? I LOVE cabbage rolls so much and this looks super tasty!! :-D

  • Lesli

    5 stars
    What a perfect recipe for a cold, snowy night! This recipe is delicious and it will be become a cold weather staple in my kitchen. Very pantry friendly and such a great use for cabbage beyond my usual coleslaw. In fact, the seasoned roasted cabbage is so good that I would make that on it’s own as a side dish. I had to stop myself from snacking on it before adding it to the rest of the dish! Thank you Laura !

  • Joanell Storm

    5 stars
    Made this tonight and it was the ultimate delicious comfort food.
    Didn’t have tomato paste, so chopped up about 1/3 cup of sundried tomatoes. And instead of sugar and cider vinegar, I threw in a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Definitely will make again.

  • Kimmy Q

    5 stars
    Another hit! Next time I’ll go for a bigger cabbage to get a true six cups of raw cabbage. I used a small one and wished I had more by the time I was adding it. Marvelous flavor though!

  • Kara Keith

    5 stars
    This looks amazing! Is it possible to make this with precooked lentils? Would I just add them at the end? Or earlier?

    • Tanya

      I’m sure you could use canned (rinsed) or pre-cooked lentils but you’d need to reduce the liquid to account for this. I’d personally add them earlier than the end so they can absorb some of the flavour. Let us know how it turns out!

  • Emily

    5 stars
    Looks delicious!! I might be really reaching here, but do you think it’d be possible to omit the tomato or replace it with something else?

    • Laura Wright

      Hi Emily,
      Honestly I’m not sure how I would approach substituting the tomato paste and the diced tomatoes in this recipe, since they make up a lot of the flavour and body of the dish itself. You could probably just cook everything in vegetable stock and finish with a bit more of the vinegar for the tang, but then it’s kind of another dish at that point. I know that folks with tomato allergies do have success substituting canned tomato products with what they call “no-mato” or “not-mato” sauce/paste. There’s an example here: http://savorynature.com/2014/02/14/notmato-paste-nightshade-free/. I have to say that even with a substitution like this, the resulting dish will be quite different.
      -L