Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole

This Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole brings all the flavors of traditional cabbage rolls into an easy-to-make, layered casserole. Perfect for a weeknight dinner, this dish combines tender cabbage, seasoned ground meat, and a rich tomato sauce, making it a comforting family favorite.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ pound ground pork
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 ½ cups cooked rice (brown or white)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 head cabbage, chopped (approximately 8 cups)


  1. Preheat the Oven: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13 pan.
  2. Cook the Meat: Brown the ground beef, ground pork, onion, and garlic until no pink remains. Drain any fat.
  3. Prepare the Sauce: Add tomato sauce, tomato soup, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, dill, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Simmer covered for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the rice.
  4. Cook the Cabbage: Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cabbage and cook until tender-crisp.
  5. Layer the Casserole: Place half of the cabbage in the prepared pan. Top with half of the beef/rice mixture. Repeat layers, ending with the beef/rice mixture.
  6. Bake: Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Preparation and Cooking Time

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes

Serving and Storage Tips:

Serving Tips

  • Side Dishes: Serve Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole with a side of mashed potatoes, crusty bread, or a fresh garden salad for a complete meal.
  • Garnishes: Sprinkle chopped parsley or dill on top before serving to enhance the flavors and add a pop of color.
  • Pairing: Pair with a glass of red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, to complement the rich tomato and savory meat flavors.

Storage Tips

  • Refrigeration: Store any leftover casserole in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Reheating: Reheat portions in the microwave or oven until heated through. Add a splash of water or broth to maintain moisture.
  • Freezing: To freeze, allow the casserole to cool completely, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.


  1. Vegetarian Version: Replace the ground beef and pork with a mix of lentils, black beans, or vegetarian crumbles for a meat-free alternative. Ensure to adjust seasoning for added flavor.
  2. Low-Carb Option: Substitute the rice with cauliflower rice to reduce the carb content while maintaining the dish’s texture and flavor.
  3. Cheese Lover’s Twist: Add a layer of shredded cheese, such as mozzarella or cheddar, between the cabbage and meat mixture for a gooey, cheesy delight.
  4. Spicy Variation: Incorporate diced jalapeños or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes into the tomato sauce for a kick of heat. Adjust the amount based on your spice preference.
  5. Creamy Variation: Mix in a half cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt into the tomato sauce mixture for a creamier texture and tangy flavor.
  6. Italian-Inspired: Infuse Italian flavors by adding dried basil, oregano, and a dash of balsamic vinegar to the tomato sauce mixture. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top.
  7. Mexican-Inspired: Substitute the tomato sauce with enchilada sauce and add corn, black beans, and Mexican spices like cumin and chili powder for a Tex-Mex twist.
  8. Asian Fusion: Use soy sauce, ginger, and a touch of sesame oil in the meat mixture. Add chopped bok choy or Napa cabbage for an Asian-inspired flavor profile.
  9. Greek-Inspired: Replace the tomato sauce with a blend of diced tomatoes and Greek yogurt. Season with garlic, oregano, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Top with crumbled feta cheese before serving.
  10. Eggplant Addition: Incorporate diced or sliced eggplant along with the cabbage for added texture and flavor. Adjust cooking time to ensure the eggplant is tender.
  11. Mushroom Lover’s Delight: Add sautéed mushrooms to the meat mixture for an earthy flavor and added texture.
  12. Nutty Crunch: Mix in a handful of chopped nuts, such as almonds or walnuts, into the meat mixture for a crunchy twist.
  13. Apple and Raisin Sweetness: Incorporate diced apples and raisins into the tomato sauce for a sweet and savory combination.
  14. Bacon and Cheddar: Crumble cooked bacon and sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese between the layers for a hearty, indulgent variation.
  15. Curry Infusion: Add curry powder or paste to the tomato sauce for a flavorful curry twist. Serve with a dollop of yogurt for a cooling contrast.
  16. Pulled Pork Style: Substitute the ground meat with pulled pork for a barbecue-inspired version. Mix in barbecue sauce with the tomato mixture for bold flavor.
  17. Greek-Inspired Lemon Twist: Add lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice to the tomato sauce. Top with crumbled feta cheese and fresh oregano before serving.
  18. Tex-Mex Fiesta: Use taco seasoning in the meat mixture and substitute diced tomatoes with a can of diced tomatoes with green chilies. Serve with guacamole and sour cream.
  19. Herbaceous Delight: Mix in fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, or mint into the tomato sauce for a vibrant and fresh flavor profile.
  20. Sausage and Peppers: Replace part of the ground meat with Italian sausage and sautéed bell peppers and onions for a hearty and savory variation.

These variations offer creative ways to customize your Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole, catering to different tastes and preferences while maintaining the dish’s comforting appeal.


  1. Can I use pre-cooked rice in this recipe? Yes, you can use pre-cooked rice. Adjust the amount used based on personal preference for rice texture in the casserole.
  2. How do I prevent the cabbage from becoming too watery? Ensure to cook the cabbage until tender-crisp and drain any excess liquid before layering it in the casserole dish. This helps maintain the dish’s texture and prevents it from becoming soggy.
  3. Can I prepare this casserole ahead of time? Yes, you can assemble the casserole up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerate it covered. Bake as directed when ready to serve, adding a few extra minutes to baking time if needed.
  4. What can I use instead of cabbage? You can substitute cabbage with thinly sliced kale, collard greens, or even spinach for a different flavor and texture profile.
  5. How do I adjust the seasoning to my taste? Taste the tomato sauce mixture before assembling the casserole and adjust the seasoning of salt, pepper, and herbs according to your preference.
  6. Can I freeze leftovers of this casserole? Yes, this casserole freezes well. Store cooled leftovers in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
  7. How can I make this recipe gluten-free? Use gluten-free tomato soup, tomato paste, and ensure any other canned ingredients are gluten-free. Substitute the flour in the tomato paste if needed with a gluten-free alternative.
  8. Can I make this casserole spicy? Yes, add diced jalapeños, crushed red pepper flakes, or a pinch of cayenne pepper to the tomato sauce mixture for a spicy kick.
  9. What size pan should I use for baking? Use a 9×13 inch baking dish to accommodate all the layers of cabbage, meat mixture, and rice evenly.
  10. How can I make this dish dairy-free? Omit any cheese garnish and use dairy-free substitutes for ingredients like tomato soup and tomato paste that may contain dairy.

Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole is a versatile and satisfying dish that brings together the flavors of traditional cabbage rolls in an easy-to-make format. Whether you’re looking for a comforting family dinner or a dish to impress guests, this recipe delivers on taste and simplicity. With various customization options and straightforward preparation, it’s a perfect choice for any occasion, promising warmth and flavor in every bite. Enjoy this hearty casserole as a delicious way to savor classic flavors with minimal effort.