These Healthier Napa Cabbage Rolls are made with ground turkey, quinoa and a homemade tomato sauce that's hearty and delicious – it's the ultimate comfort food!
Ingredients in stuffed cabbage rolls
Cabbage Rolls are something I've always wanted to try, but never quite got around to making. When I was recently invited to a fall potluck at a friend's house and learned that one invitee couldn't eat gluten, I decided to experiment and make them with quinoa!
Obviously with that healthier step taken, I couldn't resist using ground chicken as the main protein instead of the higher calorie ground beef. The result, though quite unusual for cabbage rolls, was a tasty, much healthier version of everyone's favourite fall comfort food dish! Here's what you need to make them below:
- Napa cabbage
- ground turkey or ground chicken
- yellow onion
- red pepper
- dijon mustard
- dried thyme
- marinara sauce
How to make cabbage rolls
These Healthier Napa Cabbage Rolls are baked in the oven with a simple, homemade tomato sauce, and are a rich, satisfying meal perfect for family gatherings, potlucks and more. Here's how to make them step-by-step:
- Mix ground turkey/chicken, garlic, onion, red pepper, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Meanwhile, cook quinoa.
- Saute ground turkey mixture, breaking up with spoon until meat is fully cooked. Add cooked quinoa, remove from heat and set aside.
- Using tongs, insert each individual cabbage leaf and submerge in boiling water for a couple of seconds before quickly removing.
- Add a bit of meat mixture inside each flattened out, softened cabbage leaf and roll up, placing in a large oven safe casserole dish. Repeat until the casserole dish is filled with cabbage rolls.
- Pour marinara sauce overtop, then bake for 15 minutes in a 375 F oven. Serve and enjoy!
Rolling the cabbage leaves
I used Napa cabbage because I've heard it's easier to roll as it is more delicate, but that's also something you should watch out for: make sure that you aren't cooking the cabbage for too long or the leaves will fall apart. Just a couple of seconds submerged in boiling water should do the trick! You can either boil some water in a kettle and leave it in a large bowl while you submerge each cabbage leaf, or you can have a pot of water boiling on the stove.
After boiling, lay flat on a clean surface, then add 1-2 tbsp of the ground turkey and quinoa mixture. Roll from the bottom stem part, tucking in the sides gently, then place the roll in a large casserole dish. The rolls will hold up better once more are in there, causing each roll to be secured.
What type of sauce to use
To keep things simple, I use a regular store bought jar of marinara or spaghetti sauce. This makes the recipe easier, with less steps. That being said, you can make your own homemade tomato sauce too!
The trick to amazing homemade tomato sauce believe it or not is brown sugar! Add a pinch to a jar of crushed tomatoes (sometimes referred to as passata), along with some sautéed shallots and garlic, and you've got one hell of a sauce!
Ground turkey – To make these cabbage rolls the traditional way, you'll want to use extra-lean ground beef or ground pork. Ground chicken works too though!
Quinoa – Again, to make these cabbage rolls the traditional way, you'll want to use cooked rice instead of cooked quinoa. White rice will do. Or, you can leave out the rice and quinoa for a low carb dish, but just be prepared for less servings and less filled rolls.
Cabbage – I used napa cabbage in this recipe, but you can use red cabbage or green cabbage too. The process is much the same!
Storing and reheating
The leftovers will keep in the fridge up to 5 days. You can reheat in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes, which is the method I recommend to get them tasting fresh again, or you can reheat individual portions in the microwave for 2 minutes or so. I recommend storing in the casserole dish itself if reheating in the oven, and using glass meal prep bowls for individual servings.
Can you freeze cabbage rolls?
Yes you can! The texture won't be quite the same, but this is a good freezer meal. Freeze in individual portions in glass or foil containers. From there, you can reheat right from frozen. If using glass containers, microwave for 6-7 minutes from frozen, gently stirring and checking on the dish halfway through the cook time. If using foil containers, bake them from frozen in a 375 F oven for 30-40 minutes. Reheating in the oven will reduce sogginess.
More healthy fall recipes
Meal prep tools for this recipe
- Grab some glass meal prep bowls if you plan on turning these cabbage rolls into your weekly lunches.
- I get all my free-range ground turkey from Butcher Box, conveniently delivered to me frozen.
- Freeze this recipe in glass microwave-safe bowls up to 3 months
Meal prep challenge
If you'd like some more help with meal planning, then you'll love my free 5-day meal prep challenge! It's basically a free course that will teach you how to meal prep and cook healthy meals at home with some PDF bonus materials. Sign up for free below:
Healthier Napa Cabbage Rolls
- 1 head Napa cabbage
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground turkey or ground chicken
- 1 yellow onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 red pepper finely diced
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 (680mL) jar marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 3/4 cup water
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine ground turkey, garlic, onion, red pepper, mustard, thyme, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package directions on the stove, or in a rice cooker.
- Heat olive oil in frying pan on high, and cook meat mixture, breaking up with spoon. Saute for about 7-8 minutes until meat is fully cooked. Add cooked quinoa, remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large pot of boiling water and using tongs, insert each individual cabbage leaf and submerge in water for a couple of seconds before quickly removing.
- Add about 1-2 tbsp of meat mixture inside flattened out, softened cabbage leaf and roll up, placing in a large oven safe casserole dish. Repeat this until you fit about 18 cabbage rolls inside.
- Pour marinara sauce over cabbage rolls, then cook for 15 minutes in the oven. Serve and enjoy!