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Vegan Cabbage Rolls

Vegan Cabbage Rolls

This vegan cabbage rolls recipe was inspired by a viewer, Alida. She wrote to me and told me about her family’s Romanian Cabbage Rolls (also known as Sarmale) which are stuffed with meat, rice and fresh herbs and then cooked in a rich tomato sauce. This is a vegan version of that traditional stuffed cabbage rolls recipe and they’ve already become a new family favorite in my house!

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

I think this is the best vegan cabbage rolls recipe because it’s hearty, filling and loaded with nutritious veggies like cabbage and mushrooms. It’s a comforting supper in the winter months and a great make ahead recipe for family gatherings.

One of the best compliments I received after serving this recipe at a dinner party was that these cabbage rolls were “Old world good” meaning they taste like a classic “old school” kind of meal; the kind that’s lovingly prepared and slowly simmered to perfection.

This “old fashioned style” of cooking gleans great flavor from simple staples and utilizes every ingredient so that absolutely nothing goes to waste. With this in mind, I made sure to do the same when creating a vegan and vegetarian version of Romanian Cabbage Rolls.

From the leftover cabbage leaves, to the center stem of each leaf to the water the cabbage cooks in, it’s all repurposed and used in the recipe so there’s minimal waste and maximum flavor.

Romanian cabbage rolls are often served around special occasions and holidays like Christmas and New Years Eve, which is ideal because cabbage is a hearty vegetable that is easy to find in the cooler winter months.

Meat-Free Cabbage Rolls loaded with Veggies!

What are Romanian Cabbage Rolls?

According to my research, Romanian cabbage are often made with sour cabbage which is pickled whole. It gives the dish a distinctly tangy flavor and according to a few Romanian bloggers it’s the ingredient sets Romanian cabbage rolls apart from the many other countries that make cabbage rolls like Turkey, Russia and Serbia.

For this vegetarian recipe, I opted not to use the sour cabbage leaves because I was veganizing Aida’s Grandma’s recipe which doesn’t call for them and I wanted to keep it as close her family’s traction as possible. Also, this way, there’s no need to order anything online or visit a specialty shop to find the pickled version. A regular green cabbage from the grocery store is all you’ll need!

Cabbage Rolls are typically made with pork or ground beef but to make this vegan and vegetarian friendly, my recipe calls for a mix of mushrooms and vegan ground meat such as Impossible Foods. The filling is made with traditional herbs and spices such as parsley, dill and paprika and it’s mixed with uncooked rice which absorbs the delicious sauce and seasonings as it cooks in the oven.

Many stuffed cabbage rolls recipes also contain bacon. It’s usually chopped and placed on top so that it slowly cooks down and enriches the tomato sauce with rich and smokey flavor. To replace the meat, I recreated the flavor with a mix of olive oil, smoked paprika and a tiny bit of sugar. The result is a flavorful thin tomato sauce that infuses the cabbage and the meaty filling with flavor.

It’s common to serve cabbage roll with a side of cool and tangy sour cream, which compliments the savory cabbage rolls. To keep this dish vegan, simply opt for vegan sour cream or use an alternative such as vegan almond milk sort or coconut yogurt. Just make sure it’s both plain and unsweetened!

Ingredients to Make Cabbage Rolls Vegan

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the filling for these plant-based cabbage rolls:

Onions, Mushrooms and Garlic – finely chopped veggies make up 1/3 of the “meaty” filling and give this dish a nutritious boost. The smaller you chop the veggies, the better the filling will be so instead of chopping by hand, I chopped both the onions and the mushrooms in this mini food processor. It makes a world of difference in the texture of the filling!

Vegan Ground “Beef” – makes up another third of the filling and creates a great texture when mixed with the veggies.

White Rice – no need to cook the rice beforehand. You’ll want to give it a quick rinse and add it straight to the vegan meat mixture. Use white Jasmin rice for best results.

Fresh Parsley + Dill – an authentic combo that adds great flavor to the filling. Opt for fresh herbs instead of dried, the flavor will be so much better!

Paprika, Smoked Paprika and Vegan Worcestershire Sauce – This combo helps to create a savory quality to this dish and create a bit of depth. You can usually find vegan Worcestershire sauce in the condiment aisle at the grocery store but if not your can find it here.

Green Cabbage – instead of using sour cabbage rolls, a simple green cabbage is all you need to make this recipe! However, if you’d like make this recipe with sour cabbage, that is delicious too and you can certainly swap the two if desired. Just reduce the salt to taste as pickled cabbage is salty.

Tomato Juice – this creates the sauce that cabbage rolls will cook in.

Tomato Paste – adds depth and a bit of umami richness to the tomato sauce.

Pinch of Sugar – just a touch of sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes and compliments this intensely savory dish.

Vegan Sour Cream – serve it on top of the cabbage rolls or on the side. I like using this dairy-free yogurt or vegan sour cream.

How to Make Vegan Cabbage Rolls

The full recipe for these Romanian Cabbage Rolls can be found on the recipe card below, but here’s a quick overview to give you an idea!

Prep the Cabbage Leaves

Trim the stem and core from the base of the cabbage and boil for about 5 minutes. Remove the leaves and cut out the rib. Then finely chop the ribs and place them in the bottom of a large dutch oven and tack the cabbage leaves for rolling.

Make the Filling

Tip: The smaller you chop the veggies, the better the filling will be so instead of chopping by hand, I chopped both the onions and the mushrooms in this mini food processor. It makes a world of difference in the texture of the filling!

Sauté the mushrooms, onion and garlic with paprika, salt and pepper. Add the rice, Worcestershire sauce, herbs and vegan ground beef and mix well.


Place 1/4 cup of the filling on the lower third of the cabbage leaves. Roll the cabbage on top of the filling, then tuck in the sides and roll forward. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling and then place the stuffed cabbage leaves in the pot on top of the chopped cabbage.

Make the Sauce

Whisk together tomato juice, water, tomato paste, smoked paprika, olive oil, salt and sugar and pour it over the cabbage rolls.


Cover and bake for one and half or one hour and forty five minutes, then serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and some vegan sour cream on the side.

Can I make cabbage rolls a head of time?

This is a great recipe to make around the holidays or before a dinner party because it can be made in advance. Simply prepare the cabbage rolls and wrap them tightly (without the sauce.) This can be stored in the fridge for 2 days before cooking. Then add the tomato sauce on top when you’re ready to bake. Cook for 2 hours.

What kind of pot do you need to cook cabbage rolls in?

A large oven-safe pot or dutch oven with a tight fitting lid is what you’ll need to make this cabbage rolls recipe. I used this one and I’ve also used this one when making it for my family at home. Both worked well.

What to Serve Cabbage Rolls With:

Boiled potatoes or polenta are traditional. I’m not Romanian but I am Norwegian and we eat a lot of boiled potatoes in my family. I think they’re entirely underrated because they’re delicious and creamy. Salt the water the potatoes boil in and then season with some salt, pepper and parsley before serving. Delicious!

Watch Me Make this Recipe Here!

Vegan Cabbage Rolls

Nicole Vranjican
Vegan stuffed cabbage rolls recipe made with plant-based meat, veggies and rice filling cooked in tomato sauce
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Romanian, Vegan


  • 2 medium green cabbages

For the Filling

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pint cremini or white button mushrooms
  • ½ large yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 12 oz ground vegan meat such as Impossible
  • ¾ cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp kosher salt I use Morton's
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley plus more for garnishing, optional
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill plus more for garnishing, optional
  • 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce such as Annies

For the Sauce

  • 32 oz tomato juice
  • 2 cups water
  • tbsp tomato paste
  • tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt I use Morton's
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp sugar

For Serving

  • vegan sour cream or plain unsweetened almond milk yogurt


Prep the Cabbage Leaves

  • Start by removing the stem and core of each cabbage. Then add 8 cups of water to a large oven-safe dutch oven (one that has a lid.) Bring the water to a boil and add one cabbage at a time.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes or until outer leaves are slightly softened and tender.
  • Using tongs, carefully remove the cabbage from the water and place it in a colander to cool. Repeat with the second cabbage.
  • When cool enough to handle, remove outer leaves and return the cabbage to the boiling water if the center of the cabbage needs to cook a little longer to become tender.
    Tip: You can save 2 cups of the water you cooked the cabbage in to use for the sauce later on if desired. If so, set it said and discard the remaining water so the pot is empty.
  • Once the leaves are softened, remove the center rib from the middle of the larger leaves so that they're easier to roll. Stack the cabbage leaves and set aside for rolling and then finely chop the ribs of leaves and place them in the bottom of the pot (off the heat.)

Make the Filling

  • Finely dice the onions and mushrooms and mince the garlic. Chop the parsley and dill and rinse the white rice. Set everything aside.
    Tip: The smaller you cut the veggies, the better the filling will be so instead of chopping by hand, I chopped both the onions and the mushrooms in this mini food processor. It makes a world of difference in the texture of the filling! 
  • Next, add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan and set the heat to medium. Once warm, add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.
  • Then add the garlic, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Then turn off the heat and add the uncooked white rice. Mix well and allow to cool slightly.
  • Then add the Worcestershire sauce, chopped parsley, chopped dill and vegan ground beef (off the heat because we're not cooking the "meat" here) and use clean hands to mix it all together.


  • First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Next, spoon ¼ cup of the filling onto the bottom third of one cabbage leaf. Then fold the base of the leaf over the filling, tuck in the sides and roll forward. Repeat with remaining cabbage leaves.
    Tip: You'll want to use a little more filling for the larger leaves and a little less for the smaller leaves. Watch this video for a helpful demo 😊
  • Place the cabbage rolls on top of the chopped cabbage in the stock pot and line them up so they're touching but not too compact. If you have extra cabbage, finely chop it up and set aside.

Make the Sauce

  • Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk well. Taste and add more salt as desired. Remember this sauce will season the cabbage you added to the pot as well as to the actual rolls so add salt and pepper as needed.
    Pour the sauce on top of the cabbage rolls, making sure each one is fully submerged. Sprinkle and additional cabbage on top so that nothing goes to waste and cover the pot with a lid.


  • Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour and 45 minutes and then serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and dill and some vegan sour cream.
    Tip: this recipe is greats served with boiled potatoes or polenta on the side.
Keyword dinner recipes

Nicole Vranjican

Hey! I’m Nicole and I make practical vegan recipes for REAL life. I cook with simple, easy to find ingredients and I’m passionate about creating delicious plant-based meals that everyone will love!

I hope you enjoy my recipes and videos :) Happy Cooking!

Find me on: Instagram


  1. Erika
    December 6, 2023 / 6:48 am

    Hi! Is there something that can replace the mushrooms and the recipe will still work? Thanks:)

    • Nicole Vranjican
      December 8, 2023 / 6:56 pm

      Hi Erika! Yes, you can add more vegan meat instead. Hope you enjoy!

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