Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage

This is the kind of comfort food that I’m talking about when I talk about comfort food — hearty, uncomplicated, slow-cooked and pleasantly easy on your tastebuds. Only I’m not talking about any comfort food from my own sensory memory. This one belongs to Arthur Schwartz, as told in his new cookbook, Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited.

I clarify: This isn’t exactly the authentic Stuffed Cabbage dish from the cookbook. It’s authentic to the original recipe in most respects except that I swapped the ground chuck that its recipe called for for vegetables — in this case, simply mushrooms. I was very honored to sit in while Mr. Schwartz was testing a few recipes from the very cookbook I’m using today. But whenever you have mushrooms that are looking bruised, discolored and generally a little bit “old,” it’s a good time to use them as a flavorful meat substitute. The simple reason is that they yield more flavor when they’re bruised and older. A meatier mushroom like Portobello would have been nice from the get-go, or a more distinct one like Porcini — or a mixture. I would have also liked to try the original meat version of this dish, and probably will at some point. But, in the old world, meat is a luxury. It’s when the immigrants came to America that they began using meat more and more in their traditional foods. I guess I’m going back against the tide, and trying to eat less meat, in order to enjoy it more. So far it’s working out pretty well. And I’m also enjoying the fact that this mushroom version of Arthur’s recipe didn’t disappoint. It must just be a very good recipe — I’m tickled. I don’t miss having meat this time at all.

As far as peasant food goes, it doesn’t get much paler than the old head ‘o winter cabbage. In China, the stodgy old Beijingers can’t fathom a winter without it. It’s such a ubiquitous part of their cookery that this New York Times article talks about how the stuff seems immune to inflation. But it’s not just the Chinese. Obviously, cabbage is in this Yiddish recipe, and it’s found in the pots of poor folk everywhere, from the Irish to the Russian. Being an easy to grow food in harsh climates, the poor plain cabbage has gotten an unglamorous reputation perhaps only for its availability. Taste-wise, it’s exactly the same as a bloated Brussels sprout (that is to say, very bitter and slightly sulfurous), which we all know is enjoying the embrace of a new generation of foodies. Will its grandfather-like white cabbage soon follow?

has cabbage ever not been peasant food??

No idea. All I know is that they were probably the cheapest foodstuff at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket at $0.69 per pound. So, going on a hunch about the buying habits of trend-driven foodies, probably not anytime soon, unless the farmers get wise to the idea of ratcheting up the price.

coring the fresh head

just-blanched leaves

mushrooms go for a little spin

As I mentioned, I’m not Jewish, Ashkenazic, Sephardic, nope. I’m actually a teensy bit German(!). But the method of rolling up a meager amount of the “good” stuff in a plentiful (“boring” stuff) ingredient for its wrapper speaks to almost any cuisine of any nation. I imagine this dish was a practical leftover invention. I’ll have to try it next time I have anything leftover other than old mushrooms.

all lined up to bake in a covered casserole

a lemony, oniony sweet-and-sour tomato sauce goes on top

This was an awfully good supper. Not overwhelmingly tasty, but not nearly bland. It made excellent leftovers to take to work, too. I strayed from the cookbook’s recipe just a tad bit more by adding a pinch of grated Parmesan to the mushroom stuffing mixture — hey, there’s no meat, so it’s perfectly Kosher.

Now, just after I count the toll in the Cost Calculator and give the dish its Health Factor rating, I’m going to introduce a new feature I’m adding to this blog, which is the “Green Factor.” I’m pretty sure you can guess already what it means, but this rating will measure a dish’s impact on the environment. How local and seasonal was it? Can it be made or bought easily locally and seasonally ( in the Tri-state region) in the first place? Etc. It’s something that I’ve been keeping in mind when it comes to cooking for a long time, and I suppose is overdue for including in a bona fide (albeit highly guesstimated) calculator on this blog.

Upon deciding what icon I should use to portray green-ness, I chose the maple leaf, mostly for random personal reasons. While I identify and tout myself as very much an urbanite, I did grow up in a suburban town for most of my childhood. There was a large maple tree in my parents’ backyard, and the town we lived in was in fact called Maplewood. With all those leaves in my backyard — my first introduction to nature — I got to thinking early on that most leaves were as broad and tentacled as the maple leaf. They are quite beautiful, and turn a spectrum of colors in the fall, sometimes all at once on the same single leaf. Off the subject we go, but that is essentially why there is a maple leaf representing the Green Factor rating, rather than it being a salute to Canada. Oh, and contrary to the Health Factor rating, where the more brownie points there are, the less healthy the recipe is, the more maple leaves in a recipe’s Green Factor rating, the more environmentally-friendly it is. Got it? Good.

Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage
(makes 3-4 servings)

1 small head of cabbage, cored
1 lb any mushrooms, such as Portobello/Crimini, Porcini, button, wild varieties, etc., stems trimmed and roughly chopped
1 16 oz. can diced or whole peeled tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the boiling water
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 large shallot, minced

Heat up the onions and olive oil in a saucepan on low heat. In a mixing bowl, crush the tomatoes with your hands for a minute or two until the pieces have broken down to a loose pulp. Add it to the onions just after they have turned slightly transparent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the raisins, if using, and the lemon juice and let simmer, covered for another 10-15 minutes.

Put the mushrooms and shallot in a food processor and pulse a few moments until they have broken down to rough, moist pulp. Remove and turn into a mixing bowl. Add the breadcrumbs (if making from fresh bread, simply pulse the bread a few times in the food processor first). Add the egg, Parmesan, and a pinch each of salt and pepper and mix. Cover with plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 374 degrees. Bring a stockpot of salted water deep enough to submerge the cabbage in with water. Once it’s boiling, gently add the cabbage and let boil for 1 minute. Remove with tongs or a large spatula and remove 2-3 of the outer leaves. Replace into the pot and boil another minute. Remove, and tear off another 2-3 leaves. Repeat until you have at least 8 leaves big enough to use to wrap with the stuffing. Let the rest of the head cool. Cut out the tough middle fibrous stem of each leaf of cabbage and discard (these should be shaped like a thin diamond and comprise the whitest streak of each leaf). Place an inch-thick log of the mushroom stuffing mixture inside each blanched leaf and wrap, tucking in the end pieces like a burrito, until fully wrapped. You should have approximately 8 fully wrapped leaves. Slice the rest of the remaining cabbage to about 1/2″ inch thick pieces and place along the inside of a covered casserole or large cast-iron Dutch oven. Place each rolled stuffed cabbage leaf in a line on top of the shredded cabbage. Top with the tomato sauce, and cover. Bake covered for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Remove from heat, and let rest, uncovered for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Cost Calculator
(for 4 servings)

1 head of cabbage (at $0.69/lb): $0.75
1 lb mushrooms at ($3.00/lb): $3.00
1 16 oz. can tomatoes: $1.29
1 small onion (at $1/lb): $0.25
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from a homemade No-Knead loaf): $0.25
1 lemon: $0.33
1/4 cup golden raisins: $0.20
1 egg: $0.25
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil: $0.15
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan: $0.20
1 shallot (at $3/lb): $0.10
salt, pepper: $0.03


Health Factor

Four brownie points: Have no fear, or very little, to say the least. Even though they pale in comparison to most leafy greens like kale, for instance, white cabbage still offers its fair share of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A, with a healthy dose of fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. These are nothing to sneeze at. When you’re sprucing them up with only some added Vitamin C and lycopene from the lemony tomato sauce, and some mushrooms, you’ll find yourself with a low-carb, happy substitute for your meat-and-potatoes diet. (This time, it’s cabbage-rolled ‘shrooms with a side of more cabbage in tomato sauce. Dare we ask for a better substitute than that?)

Green Factor

Seven maple leaves: Let’s start out real strong, folks. This one’s especially healthy for the environment because, like I mentioned, it utilizes a major winter veggie in cabbage, as well as wintery mushrooms. Things are about to look a little different around here, what with spring vegetables beginning to sprout, and the summer just on the cusp of making its way to the markets. But for the time being, we can revel in a few cold-weather fallbacks like stuffed winter cabbage with wintery mushrooms and a little bread (and imported tomatoes — okay, not green-friendly) to bide our time well.

37 Responses

  1. Kitt

    Well, that looks pretty good! You should add an extra leaf for using up your bruised ‘shrooms instead of tossing them, too.

  2. Erin

    Love the recipe! Thanks for sharing. I grew up eating stuffed cabbage full of white rice and I think pork. Raisins and shallots and mushrooms sound way more appealing.

  3. Becky And The Beanstock

    I hated cabbage as a kid — and I’m making up for it now. Cabbage soup, coleslaw, spring rolls, sauerkraut, you name it, if it’s got the stinky-when-cooked cruciferous one in it, I’ll give it a try at the very least. I’m vegetarian, so I can’t wait to give this one a go — the tomato sauce looks great. Thanks!

  4. Yvo

    I love cabbage… it’s an unfortunate affliction… but I prefer Napa. This looks interesting, may give it a go, thanks 🙂

  5. Jennifer

    I like your new feature! It’s an important thing to keep in mind as you eat food. I HATE cabbage, but your recipe has my tummy growling… I might have to try it!

  6. Kenny

    Looks like a great recipe, I’ll be sure to try this one when my heirloom cabbages are ready this spring.

  7. CabbageSoupDiet-S

    Wow, it looks delicious. Thank you for nice pictures and recipes. Forwarded this page to my friends. 🙂

  8. Nina

    I’m such a fan of your site and I’m so pleased at the good things happening to you. When I read this post and contemplated the recipe and the way you remind us that meat used to be a special occasion food, it made me thing of my FAVORITE foodways book of all time; Hungering for America, by Hasia Diner. You will love this readable, if somewhat scholarly look at the foodways of the Irish, Italians and Jews, and how their Old World cuisines developed here. Put it on your summer reading list!

  9. Lisa

    This is the second recipe for stuffed cabbage I’ve seen today, but unlike the first one I saw, this one is vegetarian! When I saw the meaty one, I was thinking mushrooms would make a good substitute for the ground beef and a few minutes later, I stumble upon this. Sounds wonderful.

  10. […] for stuffed cabbage I??ve seen today, but unlike the first one I saw, this one is vegetarian! … Products – Golabki – Vegetarian Stuffed CabbageGolabki – vegetarian stuffed cabbage […]

  11. James2k

    Just made this recipe for my wife, who is from Poland and eating vegetarian for a while — and it was a hit!

    I’m usually not a huge fan of vegetarian dishes myself but this was great! Not only did I love the rolls, but I ended up scraping some of the cabbage that the rolls were cooked on top of which had a really great, partially crispy texture. A few squirts of tabasco, and I had a nice little side dish.

    Great recipe!

  12. LilManDP

    Could you use Kale? I might try and let you know.

  13. Leah

    This sounds like a delicious translation of the meaty version – can’t wait to try it on my family (who is used to my Polish grandmother’s classic recipe). By the way, I have an amazing bottle of porcini mushroom powder and keep hoping you’ll post a recipe using it…any ideas that don’t involve pasta?

  14. Jeanne,Virginia

    My mother-in-law was Jewish and she always made mashed potatoes with this dish. It was scrumptious!!! Enjoy!

  15. Jo

    Recipe looks delicious!! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Jeff

    What’s great about stuffed cabbage recipes is that they are always original. What sucks about them is that they NEVER taste like the ones your family made! Haven’t figured that out yet…

    I have done a very similar recipe, but instead I replaced the filling with one made of mashed sweet potato, Textured Vegetable Protein, Rice, diced onion, minced garlic, egg and plenty of worcestershire. It came out VERY close to my family’s style when you topped it with tomato juice.

    Great idea, using the mushrooms! Can’t wait to try it that way!

  17. […] leave and cooked in a tomato based sauce.  You can make this vegetarian as well.  See a recipe here. I use hamburger meat because of my kids.  You know the ones that don’t get bored of […]

  18. Paul

    So often recipes, online or in print, need tweaking–not this one. It is true to its word in every way. The cook time and temp are spot on, ingredients perfect. Dead simple and dead tasty. Thanks so very much!

  19. freddy lugo

    It is March already, and I have not been able to start my new year’s diet. Does anyone knows of a friendly diet for a man in is 30s? My problem is that I am to lazy to cook a healthy meal for a single person.

  20. […] veggie cabbage rolls out there: Wild Rice Cabbage Rolls, Seasonal Ontario Food Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls, Not Eating Out in New York Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Not Like Grandmas, Ginger Beat Vegetarian […]

  21. kme in chi

    I love this recipe! I’ve made it 3 times. My one recommendation is to double the sauce quantity. If you really like to slather the cabbages, DOUBLE the sauce!

    I have it in the oven now with some spring cabbage from a Chicago neighborhood farmer’s market. Yummyyummyyummyyummy!

  22. […] CSA share, and mushrooms as the “meat”.  The recipe is Cathy Erway’s Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage.  I  basically used all of her suggested ingredients and cooking instructions, but didn’t […]

  23. DebbieKat

    Just made this, with the only difference being that I mixed rice in with the mushroom mix. It came out SO fantastic. Thanks for posting this! 🙂

  24. […] vegetarian stuffed cabbage? You can use a meatless sausage, like I did. Or you could replace the filling with onions and mushrooms and use the same spices. Or you could use a bunch of other vegetables, like this Serbian […]

  25. […] veggie cabbage rolls out there: Wild Rice Cabbage Rolls, Seasonal Ontario Food Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls, Not Eating Out in New York Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – Not Like Grandmas, Ginger Beat Vegetarian […]

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  32. Lindsay

    My fiance and I love this dish and have made it several times with cabbage from our garden! Thank you for the recipe.

  33. Marty

    I’d like to share my vegetarian stuffed cabbage recipe. Meat eaters will never know the difference. Core and boil a large green cabbage and gently separate the leaves. Combine 2 packages of soy crumbles (Light Life brand) with 2 eggs, 1 small finely chopped onion, 2 tbsps. ketchup and 2 tbsps. olive oil. Divide the mixture among the cabbage leaves, fold sides in, roll up securely so all the mixture is inside, and fasten with toothpick. Put in 9×13\ pan and cover with sauce: 15 oz. can tomato sauce, juice from 2 lemons, handful of golden raisins, 1/4 c. brown sugar and 1/3 c. apricot preserves. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, uncovering for the last 15 minutes. Remove toothpicks and serve with rice or rice pilaf. If you use the Light Life crumbles, this dish will taste exactly like its meat counterpart. Enjoy!

  34. Meredith

    I have been eager to try out this recipe and finally got to it tonight for my very picky, native Italian + vegetarian(!) husband – who was extremely skeptical (he has no background with this ethnic dish that is so familiar to me and anyone with Eastern European heritage). Verdict: the end result was incredible insofar as the filling texture and the flavor of the sauce. However, we both felt that the filling flavor could be improved with extra salt/umami – so I would add a generous squirt of Bragg’s aminos next time to the filling mix.

    With that, I did make a couple of adjustments to the sauce while cooking that I’m happy with:
    Doubled the sauce, as per a reader’s comment (glad I did – otherwise it would have been scant for the large amount of rolls that this recipe yielded). I used POMI brand chopped tomatoes, which are excellent.
    I also substituted finely chopped, dried apricots for the raisins, and added 1 TBSP brown sugar and 1 capful Bragg’s raw apple cider vinegar to deepen the sweet/sour flavor profile that is so signature to this dish.

    What I really like about this recipe is that it uses all whole foods – no soy, grains or processed meat substitutes. It’s a very healthful dish with lots of flavor. We ate ours with sprouted whole wheat toast and baked potato, both great for sopping up extra sauce. Yeah… it was a comfort food kind of night!

  35. LD

    Sure wish you had an easy way to print out just the recipe.

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  37. tamarque

    Kind of/sort of followed the recipe but it actually got me to make some stuffed cabbage. No mushrooms in the house but dried cranberries and black beans and made some brown and Basmati rice (not enough of either) and used last years frozen tomato sauce combined with some Seeds of Change vodka tomato sauce on top of it all. And used red cabbage for stuffing and green cabbage at bottom of crock pot. But the recipe was great to do. thanx

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