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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!
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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,
Wonderful recipe…third time making it. We are vegan so I used vegan “crumbles” the first time and soy curls for the rest. Soy curls should be browned a bit before getting mixed but other than that, i followed the recipe exactly (opted for cauliflower rice) Used extra to make stuffed peppers. Thank you!
Perfect Sue- thanks for sharing your substitutions!
It’s not clear to me whether you add the same spices in the same amount to both the tomato sauce and the mixture. Please clarify. Also, it would be nice to have instructions in the Turkish tomato sauce how it will be divided.
Hi Harry- I tried to make the recipe card more clear. Hope this helps.
In step 5 you might consider writing “add 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce .”
This was one place I got confused and messed up.
That said, I thought the flavor was delicious!
Ok! I had that at the end of step 4- but I see how it could have been overlooked. Hopefully more clear now and appreciate the feedback. 🙂
Definitely, definitely not doing lamb ever. Never in my life have I had it. Though I have only had a few meats, I am now vegan.
This can be made vegan Alysa- if you read through the comments- people have used plant-based meat and/or lentils. 🙂
In Turkey we do not cook the rice either when we make the stuffing for the cabbage rolls, but we stuff it loosely knowing the rice will puff up as it cooks with the tomato sauce.
I bet that would work here, too- with long-grain rice. That’s how I do it with stuffed grape leaves…