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Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage - A Family Feast

Over the last month or so, as Jack and I started to plan out our holiday recipes to share here on A Family Feast, we spent a lot of time talking about old family recipes!

On Jack’s side of the family – Italian fare was the standard, so recipes like beef braciole and lasagna were part of many holiday meals!  On my side of the family – I clearly remember making classic spritz cookies and peanut goodies with my mom, and being Polish, we always served kielbasa, pierogi and golumpki (pronounced (gaw-WOHMP-kee) – or what is more commonly known in the United States as stuffed cabbage rolls.

This recipe for Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage is a different variation of the golumpki I grew up with (we’ll share my family recipe soon!) – and credit for today’s recipe goes to our daughter Courtney.  Making stuffed cabbage rolls can be somewhat time consuming – and working with the large cabbage leaves can be tricky – but our deconstructed stuffed cabbage is a quick and easier version that even a novice cook can easily make!

Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage - A Family Feast

This recipe uses brown rice – making it a healthier version – and a mixture of ground beef, pork and veal (if you prefer not to use veal, just replace that with additional ground pork), as well as chopped cabbage and sauerkraut.  The flavorful sauce is a combination of tomato juice, tomato paste, vinegar, and seasonings – and all of the ingredients come together as a wonderful one-pot meal!

This deconstructed stuffed cabbage is a great option for feeding a crowd at a holiday meal – as well as a quick dinner option any day of the week!

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Deconstructed Stuffed Cabbage

  • Prep Time: 40 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 10-12 servings


  • 1 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice (or any rice of your choice)
  • 1 ½ pounds green cabbage, cleaned, cored and cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces raw bacon diced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons tart red wine such as merlot
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90/10)
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • ½ pound ground veal (if you can’t get ground veal, increase ground pork to one pound)
  • 2 cups tomato juice (or for a more intense flavor, our daughter Courtney suggests using V-8)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup drained sauerkraut


  1. Cook rice according to package directions. Try to time rice so that it finishes cooking as the preparation of the dish nears the end. If rice is cooked to soon, fluff and leave at room temperature to cool.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch cabbage chunks for five minutes. Drain, cool and set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, place olive oil and bacon and cook until bacon is almost browned, about 4 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and add onions and sauté for three minutes. Add garlic and sauté for one more minute. Add red wine and deglaze the pan.
  4. Move the cooked onion mixture to the edges of the pan and place all three meats into the center. Keep moving the meat around to brown and slowly work in onion mixture until the meat is fully browned.
  5. Add tomato juice, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper. Reduce to medium and simmer for five minutes.
  6. Add in sauerkraut, cooked rice and cooked cabbage. Bring back up to heat and simmer for five more minutes.
  7. Adjust seasoning and serve.

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  • Penny Sandora wrote:

    I admit to tweaking the recipe a bit – used less meat and added diced bell pepper, broccoli and extra rice as we don’t eat much meat. Added in a generous tsp. of Garlicious Grind Tuscan Seasoning to perk it up a bit. Also found it easier to simply simmer the cabbage chunks in the V8 until tender then stir it all together.
    My husband was dubious ( he LOVES golumpkis!) but he was quick to ask for “seconds” on this recipe.
    All the flavor – so much less work.
    Thank you for sharing!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Penny – glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  • Barbara J. S. wrote:

    Considering Whole 30-aren’t rice and sugar no-nos? Or are these for next stage of re-introducing. Thanks!

  • cheryl gibbs wrote:

    GREAT TASTE!…loved this version of stuffed cabbage…it is now my go to, followed the recipe and my husband and I enjoyed it more than the one I have been cooking for years…its not as heavy as mine was…and we had two dinners and one lunch from it, served with applesauce and rolls. Thank you, really enjoying your site.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you Cheryl! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • cheryl gibbs wrote:

    Great great taste…so much better than the one I have been using, my husband loved it to. Delicious taste, followed the recipe as printed. Had it for dinner two nights and had a small bowl left over. Love your site and I have saved a couple other recipes to try after the Holidays. Thank you very much!

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome Cheryl! We’re glad you found us and are enjoying the recipes!

  • Marlene Stabin wrote:

    Funny to read your menu. I use to similar things for Christmas. My side is Italian and the husband’s side had Polish/Russian and English/Scottish. I would make something Italian, like our Family Antipasta my grandmother’s way. Then make Stuffed Cabbage using his grandmother’s recipe and then Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding. Covered them all.
    I found my boys were not thrilled with the cabbage rolls so I started making it simpler like you decided. I still make the meat and rice balls, though. His grandmother used Honey insteady of sugar. Thanks for sharing.

    • Marlene Stabin wrote:

      I didnt see you used brown rice and sauerkraut. Interesting change

      • Martha wrote:

        Thank you!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank YOU for sharing Marlene – what a nice memory. (Hope your boys will come around one of these days and grow to love Polish food!) 🙂

  • Dani wrote:

    Wow!!! I made this last night and it was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! I wasn’t too sure about the brown rice and sauerkraut but I love stuffed cabbage, I had some cabbage that needed to used, and I wanted a healthy meal. I had bought some short grain organic brown rice awhile back and although we like to eat heathy, the rice we really don’t care for. However, it was awesome in this dish! I didn’t have any bacon but I had some bacon fat in the fridge and only used that with no olive oil to cook up the onions and garlic. Thank you so much! It is really good!

    • Martha wrote:

      You’re very welcome Dani! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Billie wrote:

    My mother in law would make this easier version of her time consuming cabbage rolls- she would make a large batch & freeze it in smaller portions. Reheating in the oven was always just as good as freshly made. Can’t wait to do this recipe myself soon! Thanks for sharing!

    • Martha wrote:

      We hope our version is as delicious as your mother in law’s version Billie! Thanks for writing to us today!

  • Jennifer wrote:

    I’ve never had stuffed cabbage but this looked good so I gave it a try. Definitely yummy! A little greasy though – I might need to drain part of the fat next time. Also might try with a little bit more rice. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Jennifer!

  • Sue wrote:

    Could you use red/purple cabbage instead of the green?

    • Martha wrote:

      Sure Sue – The color of the dish will be different, but the flavor should be very similar!

  • Theresa Steingard wrote:

    Love your page and I can’t wait to try this recipe. Unfortunately, my Baci passed away before she could teach me how to make golumpki’s. Thank you for sharing. :O)

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you Theresa! I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  • Caroline wrote:

    I love your traditional, warm and flavorful recipes.
    Could you scale this one down for me to 4-6 servings.
    Many thanks.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Caroline! I would just use half the amount of each ingredient in the list to reduce to 4-6 portions!

  • Shirley wrote:

    this looks fantastic! Does it freeze well? Thanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Shirley! We haven’t tried freezing it ourselves so I can’t say for sure. If you try freezing it, please let us know how it comes out!

  • jeninga75 wrote:

    I’m so trying this this weekend. I’m Polish and Ukranian and grew up on stuffed cabbage. My mom taught me to make it and I have a few times but, as I’m sure you know, it’s a lot of work. This sounds so good!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Jen! I hope you enjoy it!

  • Kathy wrote:

    I love easier recipes like this! Sounds delicious!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Kathy!

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