Stuffed & steamed cabbage rolls

I am not sure I can confidently say this, but I am going to anyways: cabbage can be addicting.

Stuffed & steamed cabbage rolls |

Which is strange, you wouldn’t think cabbage could be addictive, but it can be. I created these rolls years and years ago back in my kitchen in my first apartment with Jake.

I started cooking a lot of different things when Jake and I moved out partly because we were dead broke and I had to be creative. And mostly because I have always adored cooking. I have no clue where I even came up with the idea. If I remember correctly, I saw some Polish stuffed cabbages in a magazine (this was B.I.=before Instagram), and I was obsessed with trying them out. At that time, I was dead set on figuring out ways to make Asian food taste great without soy. My life was changed when I discovered coconut aminos. This is basically the equivalent of fake soy sauce.

Stuffed & steamed cabbage rolls |

It makes everything taste semi-authentic, and it is actually better for you sodium wise when it comes to soy-like sauce. Not to sound too cool or anything, but this was before “healthy foods” were readily available, so I had to search high and low for stuff I can now pick up at the regular grocery store. This is the only brand I buy, and it is the BEST.  Other than that, the recipe itself is quite simple, some spices and fresh shredded carrot (to maintain moisture in the lean turkey meat), rolled in the partially cooked cabbage leaves, then steamed.

The only real work is separating the leaves and rolling them up. This part is annoying, but not as annoying as peeling chickpeas. I discovered there are two different ways to do this. Boil a large stockpot of water, enough to submerge individual leaves, or the entire head.

You can either submerge the entire head in the water and boil until softened about 15 minutes. Then let it cool and cut the bottom off of the head and carefully remove each leaf.

OR you can cut the bottom off, and carefully remove individual leaves, then boil until softened (you want them flexible enough to roll easily).

What I have found is, boiling the entire head seems to work better in keeping the leaves in tact, so I have been using this method. It just takes slightly longer to cool enough that you can touch it without burning your fingertips. Or you know, touch it repeatedly-burning your fingers like I do waiting for it to cool.

I used to cut the bottom off and separate the leaves, which has its advantages. Individual leaves cool more quickly than the entire head so you can handle them much faster. BUT, they ripped a lot easier when I was trying to remove them in order to boil them.

So really, it is completely up to you, but for my post, I am going to suggest boiling the entire head first.

Once that bright green cabbage head is nice and softened (p.s. I just use a plain old green cabbage, nothing fancy). Let it cool while you prep the meat mixture. Shred the carrots, chop the onions, and mix them together with the spices and the lean turkey. Set aside, peel your cabbage leaves (be careful!). Assemble the cabbage rolls like below:

Once you complete the rolls, tuck them into a steamer basket. 

Stuffed & steamed cabbage rolls |

Stuffed & steamed cabbage rolls |

Steam them for about 15 minutes. The cabbage leaf should be tender, and light in color. The turkey below when you push on the roll should be firm. 

Make the other two batches (or if you have a giant steamer pot, you can definitely make more in one batch). Use extra coconut aminos and red pepper for dipping! These reheat really well, but I am not sure they will last as long as you think!

Stuffed & steamed cabbage rolls |

Stuffed & steamed cabbage rolls |

Stuffed & Steamed Cabbage Rolls

Recipe by Allie Brendel

A fun way to enjoy cabbage, that actually takes little prep! Just patience. Flavorful, tender, and unique, this dish is always gobbled up in seconds. A delicious gluten-free meal, that uses cabbage as the perfect vessel. It is actually weird how addicting steamed cabbage can be.

Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Yield: 8 rolls

Calories per serving: 239


  • 1 lb ground turkey (93% lean)
  • 1 small head cabbage (you will only need 8 leaves)
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot (1 large worked well for me)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you want less heat)
  • Additional coconut aminos for dipping

Cooking Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil the entire head of cabbage for about 13-15 minutes until leaves are softened. It depends on the size of the head. Mine was rather large, and it took about 15 minutes.
  2. While the cabbage is boiling, mix the turkey, salt, ginger, shredded carrot, coconut amino, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Take the cabbage out of the boiling water after softened and let cool enough to touch safely (you can put it an ice bath for quicker results).
  4. Cut the bottom of the cabbage off, and gently peel the leaves and make sure they are in tact.
  5. On the bottom part of the leaf (the white part), put about 2 ounces of turkey on the bottom and roll 8 rolls. The rest of the cabbage you can use with soup, stir fry, etc. Pictures are in the blog post of the method.
  6. Put in a steamer and steam for about 15 minutes per 3 rolls. The cabbage should be tender and turkey underneath firm to the touch.
  7. Set aside and make the other rolls.
  8. Serve with extra coconut amino and red pepper flakes!
  9. Commence destruction of the delicious rolls!