Paleo Cabbage Rolls (Paleo, Whole30)

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Nothing says celebration more than a hot pan of cabbage rolls! Wait… cabbage rolls? Yep, cabbage rolls.  They are one of the most wide-spread celebration foods in Eastern Europe. Weddings, birthdays and holidays all have a steaming pile of these delicious morsels on the table. These are Paleo Cabbage Rolls!

Every family has their own recipe for cabbage rolls but traditionally, the rolls are stuffed with a ground meat mixture, rice or potatoes wrapped in a sauerkraut or cabbage leaf.  To make this recipe Paleo, I removed the rice and stuffed par-boiled savoy cabbage leaves with ground pork and a quick pickled cabbage. So yummy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1 large head of savoy cabbage
  • 1 can of plain tomato sauce (or a jar of homemade)
  • 1/4 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced or chopped (or 1 jar of sauerkraut)
  • 1/2 white or red onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced, divided
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley, choppped
  • 1 Tbsp of dried thyme
  • 3 Tbsp of smoked paprika, divided
  • 1 Tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 2 Tbsp of red pepper flake
  • 1 Tbsp of cayenne, divided
  • 5 Tbsp of kosher salt, divided
  • 3 Tbsp of crushed black pepper, divided
  • 1 Tbsp of white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp of fennel seed
  • 1 Tbsp of oregano
  • 1 Tbsp of white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

Directions

Quick Pickled Cabbage

  1. Put sliced or diced green cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of kosher salt.
  2. Smash the wooden spoon or potato masher for 2-3 minutes. (This helps to release the sugar and juices from the cabbage).
  3. Add 1 Tbsp of vinegar, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. The longer the better.

Steamed Cabbage Leaves

  1. Boil 6-8 cups of water.
  2. Wash and core the head of savoy cabbage. Keep any leaves that fall off during the coring. 
  3. Place individual leaves and cored head of cabbage in a bowl close to the same size as the head.
  4. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of kosher salt. And pour boiling (yes, it has to be boiling) water over the cabbage to submerge the leaves. It will float a little, so it is easier if your bowl is roughly the same size as your cabbage head to keep it submerged.
  5. Let is stand for 15-20 minutes. The leaves should get pliable enough to fold or roll. Don’t be alarmed if the color of the leaves change slightly, it is part of the steaming process.
  6. Once the leaves are soft, carefully discard the hot water and remove each individual cabbage leaf from the steamed head. Let stand until cool to touch.

Tomato Sauce

  1. In a small sauce pan heat 1 can of tomato sauce over medium heat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 Tbsp of smoked paprika, sweet paprika, white pepper, 1 Tbsp of black pepper and 1 Tbsp of kosher salt.
  2. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Take off heat and let cool.

Meat Filling

  1. In a large bowl, combine ground pork, chopped onion, parsley and 4 cloves of garlic minced.
  2. Add the remaining seasonings: 2 Tbsp of smoked paprika, 2 Tbsp of kosher salt, 2 Tbsp of red pepper flake, 2 Tbsp of black pepper, and 1 Tbsp each of thyme, fennel seed and oregano.
  3. Mix to combine.

Cabbage Rolls

  1. Place two large spoonfuls of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch oven safe pan. Spread it around to lightly coat the bottom.
  2. Take 1 par-boiled cabbage leaf and put 1 heaping Tablespoon of pork mixture and a small pinch of the pickled cabbage. 
  3. Starting from the thick end of the cabbage fold over the end,  then fold in the sides and roll to encase.
  4. Put seam side down in the pan. Try to keep these nice and tight in the pan as you go.
  5. Repeat until you have no more filling and/or cabbage leaves.
  6. When you fill up the pan, cover with the remaining tomato sauce. 
  7. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F until the sauce is boiling (~ 20-30 minutes).
  8. Reduce heat to 300 F, remove foil and bake another 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Then serve and enjoy! 

Different stewing sauces often define what culture the recipe comes from. My recipe is from my Dad’s side of the family and uses a smokey paprika tomato sauce, which is common for Romanian, Polish and Hungarian cabbage rolls. These paleo cabbage rolls are every bit as tasty as the ones my Dad’s family used to make and I have the proof! Two empty pans in my sink.

Paleo Cabbage Rolls

Paleo Cabbage Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of ground pork
  • 1 large head of savoy cabbage
  • 1 can of plain tomato sauce (or a jar of homemade)
  • 1/4 head of green cabbage, thinly sliced or chopped (or 1 jar of sauerkraut)
  • 1/2 white or red onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced, divided
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley, choppped
  • 1 Tbsp of dried thyme
  • 3 Tbsp of smoked paprika, divided
  • 1 Tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 2 Tbsp of red pepper flake
  • 1 Tbsp of cayenne, divided
  • 5 Tbsp of kosher salt, divided
  • 3 Tbsp of crushed black pepper, divided
  • 1 Tbsp of white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp of fennel seed
  • 1 Tbsp of oregano
  • 1 Tbsp of white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)

Instructions

  1. Quick Pickled Cabbage:
  2. Put sliced or diced green cabbage in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of kosher salt.
  3. Smash the wooden spoon or potato masher for 2-3 minutes. (This helps to release the sugar and juices from the cabbage).
  4. Add 1 Tbsp of vinegar, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. The longer the better.
  5. Steamed Cabbage Leaves:
  6. Boil 6-8 cups of water.
  7. Wash and core the head of savoy cabbage. Keep any leaves that fall off during the coring.
  8. Place individual leaves and cored head of cabbage in a bowl close to the same size as the head.
  9. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of kosher salt. And pour boiling (yes, it has to be boiling) water over the cabbage to submerge the leaves. It will float a little, so it is easier if your bowl is roughly the same size as your cabbage head to keep it submerged.
  10. Let is stand for 15-20 minutes. The leaves should get pliable enough to fold or roll. Don’t be alarmed if the color of the leaves change slightly, it is part of the steaming process.
  11. Once the leaves are soft, carefully discard the hot water and remove each individual cabbage leaf from the steamed head. Let stand until cool to touch.
  12. Tomato Sauce:
  13. In a small sauce pan heat 1 can of tomato sauce over medium heat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 Tbsp of smoked paprika, sweet paprika, white pepper, 1 Tbsp of black pepper and 1 Tbsp of kosher salt.
  14. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Take off heat and let cool.
  15. Meat Filling:
  16. In a large bowl, combine ground pork, chopped onion, parsley and 4 cloves of garlic minced.
  17. Add the remaining seasonings: 2 Tbsp of smoked paprika, 2 Tbsp of kosher salt, 2 Tbsp of red pepper flake, 2 Tbsp of black pepper, and 1 Tbsp each of thyme, fennel seed and oregano.
  18. Mix to combine.
  19. Cabbage Rolls:
  20. Place two large spoonfuls of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 inch oven safe pan. Spread it around to lightly coat the bottom.
  21. Take 1 par-boiled cabbage leaf and put 1 heaping Tablespoon of pork mixture and a small pinch of the pickled cabbage.
  22. Starting from the thick end of the cabbage fold over the end, then fold in the sides and roll to encase.
  23. Put seam side down in the pan. Try to keep these nice and tight in the pan as you go.
  24. Repeat until you have no more filling and/or cabbage leaves.
  25. When you fill up the pan, cover with the remaining tomato sauce.
  26. Cover with foil and bake at 350 F until the sauce is boiling (~ 20-30 minutes).
  27. Reduce heat to 300 F, remove foil and bake another 1 1/2 hours.
  28. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Then serve and enjoy!
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  • author's avatar

    By: Jaclyn P

    Jaclyn fell in love with trying new foods when she was traveling in college. She is a total foodie that borrows from her adventures (and her mom!) to develop dishes with huge flavor from seasonal, organic and local products. Read more…

  • author's avatar

2 comments

  1. All those spices looks amazing! Is there really a whole tablespoon of cayenne added? If so, where should I add it in (I know I’ll have to reduce it with spice averse kiddos!)! I really want to try these!

  2. Great question! There is cayenne in both the sauce and the meat filling. It looks like I might have forgot that part in the directions. Oops! You can definitely omit or substitute it for more sweet paprika and it will still taste great! I just like a little kick in most of my food :) Enjoy!

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