The Ultimate Stuffed Cabbage Hack

The delicious flavors of stuffed cabbage made easier.

My mother’s stuffed cabbage is one of my favorite dishes in the world. She makes it with ground beef and rice and simmers the stuffed cabbage leaves in a rich, savory tomato sauce. I could eat trays of it.

My late grandmother used to make a vegetarian version, hers included rice, mushrooms and barley. The sauce was sweeter than my mother’s, leaning a little more to the Polish side of tradition, where sweet foods are more prevalent. I could also eat trays of her stuffed cabbage and I savored the scent of her cooking it up on special days before Sukkot and Simchat Torah.

There are countless delicious ways to make stuffed cabbage, with influences ranging from Eastern Europe to Asia, but all of them are undoubtedly a patchke (a bit of work). The leaves need to be boiled or frozen to become pliable enough for stuffing and wrapping and the entire process from start to finish can take a good couple of hours.

It wasn’t until Sukkot of last year when I helped one of my aunts make kraut lokshen, or cabbage noodles, an Ashkenazi cabbage dish made of sauteed cabbage and egg noodles, that I thought of making unstuffed cabbage. Inspired by my aunt’s simple but delicious dish, I realized that instead of stuffing each cabbage leaf separately, I could cook everything together in one big pot, eliminating most of the work, but none of the taste.

These unstuffed cabbage noodles combine the best elements of each dish — the cabbage and egg noodles from kraut lokshen, the meat and tomato sauce from stuffed cabbage — for a dish that’s hearty, savory and delicious. Smoky, salty beef bacon adds a layer of savory flavor to the dish, a tablespoon of sugar perks up the tomato sauce and the flavorful sauce is simmered and thickened before being combined with the noodles.

These noodles could never replace stuffed cabbage, what could? But this dish is an easy, tasty twist on tradition for when you don’t have hours to spend stuffing little bundles. Serve them on a chilly fall night, in a cozy Sukkah or simply when you need a comforting dinner.

Editor’s note: This dish calls for beef bacon in the recipe. Beef bacon can be found in the kosher section of major grocery stores, or in kosher markets. It is sometimes called “facon.” It could also be replaced with lamb bacon, or can be left out entirely to make this dish vegetarian.

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unstuffed cabbage

Unstuffed Cabbage Noodles

While these noodles could never replace stuffed cabbage, this dish is an easy hack to replicate the same flavors with less work.

  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 8 oz beef bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium cabbage, core removed and chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 12 oz uncooked egg noodles
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • dried or fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the chopped “bacon” until crisp and browned. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and chopped cabbage to the same skillet with the “bacon” fat and cook for 7-10 minutes on medium heat, until the onion is lightly browned and softened and the cabbage is wilting. Transfer the mixture and set aside.
  3. Turn heat up to high and add the ground beef to the skillet. Cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go, until browned.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes and bay leaves to the skillet. Stir to combine with the beef, cabbage and onion.
  5. Add the beef “bacon” back to the pan, bring to a simmer then turn down to medium so it bubbles gently. Cook for 10 minutes uncovered, then simmer for another 10-15 minutes, covered. Remove the bay leaves.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Taste the beef and cabbage mixture and season with salt and pepper as desired.
  7. Combine the beef and cabbage sauce with the noodles. Garnish with parsley. Serve.
  • Author: Chaya Rappoport
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Ashkenazi

28 responses to “The Ultimate Stuffed Cabbage Hack”

  • Hi ~ my family is from the sweet and sour Polish tradition. I make a dish I call “deconstructed stuffed cabbage” which is similar but has turkey meatballs rather than ground beef and does not have the noodles. I like the noodle idea but would like the dish to have that sweet+sour taste profile. I accomplish that by using canned whole cranberry sauce with the tomato sauce. Do you think I could just add that to your recipe to get a similar taste?

    • Hi Jan, this dish calls for beef bacon in the recipe. Beef bacon can be found in the kosher section of major grocery stores, or in kosher markets. It is sometimes called “facon.” It could also be replaced with lamb bacon, or can be left out entirely to make this dish vegetarian. (See the recipe introduction.)

  • Why would you suggest putting bacon in a Jewish recipe for a holiday? I find that disrespecting of our Jewish traditions and the Torah Law they are based on. It doesn’t need unhealthy bacon even if it’s “beef bacon” it’s just fat.

    • Hi Ellen, the beef bacon can be left out entirely for a vegetarian recipe (see the recipe introduction).

  • My mother figured this out over 40 years ago when she decided to add cabbage to her cooking of sweet and sour meatballs in the pressure cooker. The meatballs represented the meat inside, the sweet and sour sauce, and the cabbage. Easy Unstuffed cabbage!

    • Hi Sandy, this dish calls for beef bacon in the recipe. Beef bacon can be found in the kosher section of major grocery stores, or in kosher markets. It is sometimes called “facon.” It could also be replaced with lamb bacon, or can be left out entirely to make this dish vegetarian. (See the recipe introduction.)

  • When I make unstuffed cabbage, I slice the cabbage an spread it in a baking dish. Then I make meatballs as if I were stuffed the leaves, but just place them on top n the cabbage. Lastly I pour the sauce over all and cover and bake. Not rolling the meat into the cabbage leaves saves so much time but the flavor is still there.

    • Hi Susan, this dish calls for beef bacon in the recipe. Beef bacon can be found in the kosher section of major grocery stores, or in kosher markets. It is sometimes called “facon.” It could also be replaced with lamb bacon, or can be left out entirely to make this dish vegetarian. (See the recipe introduction.)

    • Thanks for your comment. The product is a kosher beef bacon. You can find beef bacon at most kosher markets. Its also called “Facon.” If you cant find it, just leave it out.

  • What’s with the bacon? You put it in quotes but you don’t say what you use. In addition to not being kosher bacon has a huge amount of salt. What can I use to impart the flavor of bacon?

    • You can find kosher beef bacon at most kosher markets. Its also called “Facon.” If you cant find it, just leave it out.

    • You can find kosher beef bacon at most kosher markets. Its also called “Facon.” If you cant find it, just leave it out.

  • Yummy I love stuffed cabbage I have my great nana’s recipe I had to write it down and convert to standard measurements as it was a pinch, Bessel of that, a coffee cups of that or hand fulls till it looked right. It was fun, thank you for this recipe that is quick tasty and takes me back to my childhood with 4 if you include mom that taught me about traditions, how life was for them growing up or as newlyweds and how to cook Jewish food.

    • You can find kosher beef bacon at most kosher markets. Its also called “Facon.” If you cant find it, just leave it out.

  • We just love cabbage and noodles!
    I followed this recipe exactly and it was so easy to make and looks appetizing.
    Some how, the flavors sort of fell apart….the finished product was
    very bland, tasted more like a meat sauce over pasta. I am going to try adding more fried cabbage mixture to boost the flavors.
    Thanks, Melanie

  • We’re always looking for new things to do with cabbage in the winter, and this looks great! My family is vegetarian, so we’ll use a veggie bacon.

  • Can’t believe people haven’t heard of beef bacon. We had it often. Can find it at the kosher market. Can also find turkey bacon at most regular supermarkets.
    It’s just beef or turkey sliced like bacon slices.
    Hence beef or turkey bacon.
    Love it!

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