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Turkish Cabbage Rolls – filled with ground meat, pine nuts and fragrant Turkish spices, bathed in the most flavorful Turkish Tomato Sauce. These can be made ahead and reheated for your special dinner! Low-carb and Keto Adaptable.
Looking for more? Check out our 26+ Amazing Cabbage Recipes!
There are some incredibly beautiful cabbages at the farmer’s markets right now, just longing to be stuffed with this Turkish lamb and pinenut filling. The cabbage rolls are bathed in the most fragrant tomato sauce – infused with the warming spices of cinnamon and nutmeg – flavorful, cozy and comforting, perfect for the colder months!
What I love about this recipe, is how the whole thing can be made ahead and reheated – perfect for entertaining! A delicious and beautiful addition to the holiday table. Brian and I have been eating the leftovers for several days now, and they just seem to get better and better!
This week I’ve partnered with American Lamb to create a special recipe for this holiday season. When using American lamb, you’re supporting local producers and their families. American lamb is fresher in because it can be found locally, travels less, and is available year-round. The first place to source local lamb is at your local farmers market.
American Lamb is a flavorful, nutrient-rich, and an excellent source of protein, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12, and a good source of iron and vitamin B6. American Lamb is a natural choice – it is fresher because it doesn’t have to travel as far to get to you ( compared to imported lamb) and it’s available all year-round.
The recipe starts with blanching a whole head of cabbage, to make the leaves pliable.
While you can use almost any type of cabbage, large round cabbages offer more width in their leaves making them easier to roll up like a burrito.
How to BLANCH CABBAGE for cabbage Rolls: 4 ways!
- Blanch the WHOLE Cabbage: Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cabbage and blanch until tender, truning, about 10-12 minutes. Cool.
- BLANCH THE LEAVES: Alternatively you can peel off the cabbage leaves and blanch the leaves in batches of 3 for 1-2 minutes.
- MICROWAVE: You can also microwave the whole cabbage, covered tightly, in a bowl with 1 cup water for 10 mintues.
- FREEZE: You can also freeze the whole cabbage, then thaw- which is not really “blanching”, but tenderizes the leaves enough to roll. A longer method, but very simple if planning ahead.
After blanching the cabbage, let cool, then cut out the thickest part of the vein. Usually about 2 inches.
Make the fragrant tomato sauce and the lamb filling.
Instead of adding bulgar wheat to the filling you can substitute Cauliflower Rice for a low carb version. Cooked rice, cooked farro or cooked quinoa will also work here.
The pinenuts give this the lamb filling such great texture.
Place a 1/3 cup of filling into each cabbage leaf and roll up like a burrito.
Fold the bottom end up first, then the sides.
Place them seam side down in your baking dish, with a little of the sauce on the bottom.
Then lather with the remaining sauce.
Cover and bake at 350F for 60-75 minutes.
Sprinkle with fresh herbs and a few more toasted pinenuts if you like. At this point, you could cool, refrigerate and reheat 1-3 days later for a special dinner or gathering.
Let us know how you like this recipe for Turkish Cabbage Rolls in the comments below- I’m so excited for you to try this!
More recipes you may like
- 26+ Amazing Cabbage Recipes
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Turkish Cabbage Rolls
- Prep Time: 40
- Cook Time: 75
- Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
- Yield: 5-6 1x
- Category: main, lamb recipe,
- Method: baked
- Cuisine: Turkish
Turkish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – filled with ground lamb,pine nuts and fragrant spices, bathed in the most delicious Turkish Tomato Sauce. This can be made ahead and reheated for your special gathering. Keto and low carb adaptable!
1 head cabbage (extra-large and round)
Turkish Tomato Sauce:
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves rough chopped
- 1 x 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar or alternative sweetener (maple, honey)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup broth or stock (chicken or veggie)
- 1/2 cup Turkish tomato sauce
- 2 finely minced garlic cloves
- 1 lb ground lamb (uncooked) or sub beef or turkey
- 1 cup bulgar wheat, soaked (or add 1 cup cauliflower rice (raw), or 1 cup cooked rice, or other cooked grain)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried mint (or sub dried oregano or thyme)
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (aleppo is nice)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 cup pinenuts (or slivered almonds)
- 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped (or sub dried barberries, currants or raisins) ALL OPTIONAL
Garnish: fresh Italian parsly, dill or mint, a few toasted pinenuts, and serve with optional yogurt.
- Soak Bulgar Wheat in bowl of cool water, 20 mins.
- Blanch Cabbage: Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil. Add the cabbage and blanch until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Cool. Alternatively you can peel off the cabbage leaves and blanch the leaves in batches for 1-2 minutes. You can also microwave the whole cabbage, covered tightly , in a bowl with 1 cup water for 10 mintues. You can also freeze the whole cabbage, then thaw.
- Preheat oven to 350F
- Make the Turkish Tomato Sauce. In a large saute pan, over med-high heat, saute the onion in 2 tablespoons oil until tender, 3-4 mins. Lower heat to medium, add garlic, saute 2-3 mintues until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes (and all the juices) sugar, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, salt and broth . Stir, bring to a simmer for 2 minutes, then turn heat off.
- Place 1/2 cup of this tomato sauce in the bottom of a greased 9×13-inch baking dish (just enough to lightly coat the bottom) or 11 to 12-inch round braiser.
- Make the filling. In a medium bowl, place the lamb, drained bulgar wheat, garlic, Turkish tomato sauce, salt, cumin dried mint, coriander, sumac, chili flakes, cinnamon, nutmeg, pine nuts, and dried apricots in a medium bowl and mix with a clean, damp hand, until well combined.
- Assemble the Cabbage Rolls: Place a blanched cabbage leaf on the counter. Cut 2 inches of the thick vein out of the bottom end. ( See photo). Fill with 1/3 cup lamb filling and roll up like a burrito, tucking edges in and place seam side down in the sauced, baking dish. Repeat with all. You should have 10-12 ish. See notes, for breakage.Once the baking dish is filled with the rolls, pour the remaining Tomato sauce over top. Give the pan a good shake.
- BAKE: Cover with parchment, then tightly with foil (or a lid). Bake for 1 1/4 hours. If baking in a saute pan, you could heat this up gently on the stovetop (covered) before placing in the oven and then bake for 1 hour.
- Remove from oven, garnish with fresh parsley, mint or dill, and a few pinenuts. Serve with a thick creamy yogurt if you like.
Feel free to make in stages. (Make the sauce ahead, the filling ahead or blanch the cabbage ahead). You can make them from start to finish, bake, refrigerate and reheat (covered). I have not tried freezing.
If the cabbage leaves fall apart, split, get holes, or are too small, you can layer them, or lay two side by side and roll into one roll. This is typical once you get to the inner smaller leaves.
For a LOW-Carb Version: leave out the bulgar wheat and replace with raw “cauliflower rice” or the remaining cabbage (shredded finely). Leave out the dried apricots and the sweetener.
- Serving Size: 2 rolls
- Calories: 594
- Sugar: 19.6 g
- Sodium: 726 mg
- Fat: 31.9 g
- Saturated Fat: 10.1 g
- Carbohydrates: 58.6 g
- Fiber: 12.5 g
- Protein: 26.2 g
- Cholesterol: 66.3 mg
Keywords: stuffed cabbage, cabbage rolls, lamb rolls, Turkish cabbage rolls, cabbage rolls with lamb, stuffed cabbage rolls,
Commenting again on this- I’ve been making this with half a recipe of tabouli from your site (minus the grain). Perfect match
Oh yum! Thaks Bowie!
Ok, checking back in after tasting the rolls with Impossible burger. I decided to steal just one before I reheat them for a Hanukkah dinner in a few days. Delicious! Will definitely do this again. I cut the salt by half in the filling, because the impossible burger is already seasoned. I like things highly seasoned, but still I could have cut it back even more. But will be great with latkes and sour cream!
Ok great to hear and good to know about the salt- helpful Bonnie!
I’ve made your recipe before with lamb and loved them. Making a double batch with Impossible burger right now to have with latkes for a vegetarian Hanukkah. Was able to get away using just one large cabbage. Reduced the salt in the filling because the Impossible is already a little seasoned. My mom has been a vegetarian for 35 years and cabbage rolls are one of the things she still misses. So excited to make these for her. Used rice, raisins and pine nuts. Was pleased, and a little surprised to have all the spices including alepo and sumac. I see you mentioned nutmeg in the intro, but did not see it listed in the ingredients? I imagine that would be nice addition. Will try to remember to come back and let you know how it turned out. I have high hopes! Thanks again Sylvia!
Thanks Bonnie- let us know what you think with the Impossible Burger- updated the nutmeg.:)
Wow so tasty and nourishing, perfect for a cold fall night! I’m vegetarian so I replaced the lamb with lentils and browned mushrooms. Don’t skip the pine nuts – they add such a nice texture!
Great to hear and glad you were able to make this plant-based!
I’m very interested in how you did that. My family is always looking to make a recipe vegan for a change. This recipe is one of my favorites and I would love to try it with lentils
Hi Sylvia – this is the first time I wasn’t totally thrilled with one of your recipes. The rolls themselves were delicious, but the Turkish Tomato Sauce was watery and lacked flavour. I used diced tomatoes then pureed them. Would that be the problem?
I’m not sure Julie- it maybe needed to cook down a bit more?
Another outstanding dish my first time ever making cabbage rolls and so Glade I made this one. I used one pound ground turkey and a one pound Italian chicken sausage and za atar season in the filling left the rest the same but made a double batch yummiest. Thanks
So happy you gave this a go Charlie!
Hi I love cabbage rolls and I always order them at a favourite Greek testaurant But there they have an egg and lemon Sauce which I prefer- could you please include that for me.
Hi- I’ve actually never had that before but I do like the idea of it. 🙂
What do y’all serve these with? Kale salad sounds good but we literally eat that daily. Something green would be nice but love to hear what worked for you
I like the idea of a salad, salad everyday right? How about the Turkish Cucumber Salad- kind of creamy?
I searched for lamb and cabbage and found this. The spice combination is appealing. Jane Brody has a recipe for UNstuffed cabbage, as does Beth Hensperger in one of her slow cooker books. Instead of stuffing cabbage leaves, the cabbage is shredded. The meat is prepared as directed, but made into meatballs. Just as good as stuffed, but a lot less work. It can be cooked stovetop or in a slow cooker.
That is a great idea Robert!
I have never made cabbage rolls before, but this recipe looked interesting so I decided to give it a try. These rolls are AMAZING. I used ground pork, rice, and almonds in the filling, and I seriously could have eaten half the pan in one sitting. Even better – during/after cooking the house smelled like the delicious sauce and not like cabbage lol. I appreciated the photos and extra tips about how to roll them; mine stayed together perfectly.
Awesome Nicole- glad you enjoyed this!
WOWZA! Used regular green cabbage, tofu for protein, quinoa for grains, parsley and dill for topping. Absolutely amazing!
Oh how yummy! Love this idea! Did you keep it vegan then?
Yes I did! Next time if I’m in the mood for yogurt style topping I’ll make the silken tofu based sauce, which I also learned from your site. My husband and I just both love tofu so much. 🙂
Ok Great- I love it too!
A really nice recipe which leads to lovely depth and variety of flavour. Really enjouyed making and eating this and will be making it again for sure!
Thanks Peter, glad you liked them!
Made a double batch of these cabbage rolls for our Easter dinner this year. They were fantastic. I used 1lb. beef and 1lb. lamb and also used the inner parts of the cabbage head chopped fine in place of the rice and left out the honey. Will definitely make them again.
Good and tasty, and very adaptable to your pantry
Wonderful flavors!! and surprisingly filling.
I provided fresh dill and mint on the table to choose. We tried both and liked equally, and I enjoyed mine with a dollop of the optional yogurt.
Question: I cooked the whole head of cabbage as directed but used only 11 leaves. Any suggestions for using the rest of the head that’s already cooked? Next time I’ll either double the recipe or just blanche the individual leaves needed for the recipe.
That is a good point. I wonder how it would taste chopped up finely and added to the filling- I’ll have to try that next time.
@Sylvia – great recipe I made it today exactly as you said, had a little bit of stuffing left over and put it in a tiny glass baking dish to make something resembling a Kibbeh (Syrian meatloaf) (cooking time for that was only about 40 minutes, which turned out great also. / Thanks!
@ Gina – Just chop it into chunks and make a nice cabbage and bean soup! – You can even freeze it till you are ready to make it! The soups are best with 2 or 3 or 4 different types of beans! No need to follow a specific recipe – just google bean and cabbage soup, see what types of herbs and spices people put in, then use whatever you have that is close! Always good.
Not sure it would work here, but with polish / Hungarian cabbage rolls you later bottom of pot with extra leaves to keep from sticking. A leaf on top keep from burning in oven.
I bet that would work great!
Tasty! I used Portuguese kale from a local farm, and had coarse bulgar in the pantry which worked fine.
Really want to try this but I have one question please: If using ground beef, does it need to be cooked or raw? Thank you.
I love your recipes, in fact our family requests your lamb burgers weekly! I wondered ~ instead of wrapping the lamb mixture in cabbage could I serve it over Spaghetti squash with the sauce? Would you recommend omitting the grains?
I bet that would taste good- you may need to lower the salt, or salt to taste.
Should I cook the ground lamb before stuffing?
No, leave it raw!
This recipe is so good and the spices remind me of when my
Mom would cook it. I’ve made it several times and will definitely make
this for years to come.
Perfect! Glad it worked for you! 🙌
What size bulgur is required for this recipe? #1, 2, 3, or 4?
I used a medium-sized grain- so 2-3?
These were so delicious Sylvia- thanks for another great lamb recipe!
Deeelicious! I made these for my meal prep and they came out smashing! What amazing flavor. I had extra meat so I rolled traditional balls, browned them in a cast iron pan, and them baked them. OMG! This was just too much deliciousness. This might be my favorite new sauce. Thank you for another amazing recipe!
So happy you gave this a go Michelle!
I am so excited I came across your site. I am book-marking this & other recipes to try. Can’t wait to try them out!!
Oops, meant to ask: Any thoughts about making this in a slow cooker?
You know I think it would work just fine in a slow cooker- but I’m not an expert in this department, so unsure of times.
Can ground beef be used instead of lamb?
I often combine half ground beef/half ground lamb to reduce the amount of fat.