“Same fab flavor, way less fuss!” is a gets-me-every-time mealtime tagline, and a driving force behind the recipes I share with you here. This easy Cabbage Roll Soup has all the rich, comforting flavor and classic ingredients in traditional cabbage rolls, and exactly none of the hassle of making them.
Lean ground beef, fresh veggies, and brown rice cooked together in a thick, deeply savory tomato broth, this cozy cabbage roll soup is a protein, whole grain, and nutrient-packed all-in-one dinner.
The ingredients and flavor profile are inspired by cabbage rolls, which are a common dish throughout most of Europe and much of Western Asia, Northern China, as well as parts of North Africa.
Hungarian cabbage rolls are quite popular, and you’ll find versions in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and more.
Though the ingredients can vary depending on the specific location, a cabbage roll is traditionally a meat (usually beef, pork, or lamb) and rice filling wrapped inside cooked cabbage leaves.
Most of the time, a variation of tomato sauce is added on top.
Cabbage rolls are delicious. They’re also a legendary pain.
The cabbage and filling are cooked separately, you need to set up a rolling station, and the sauce is cooked in yet another pot.
I can see myself enjoying this sort of effort and process on a special weekend, but on a weeknight it’s 6 o’clock and I’m starving! situation, this unstuffed cabbage roll soup is the move.
As the temperature cools, my appetite also gravitates toward hearty, healthy, simple ground beef recipes.
This cabbage roll soup also wins my heart for its earnestness.
- The ingredients are humble, but the flavors are robust (I was inspired by traditional Hungarian cabbage roll soup and Lebanese cabbage roll soup).
- This recipe will stretch your dollar.
- It can feed a crowd and tastes equally fantastic leftover!
Reasons to Love Cabbage
When it comes to a minimalist ingredient with max potential, cabbage is a poster child. Here are some great reasons to jump into a recipe with cabbage. Cabbage:
- Lasts a While. Cabbage can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Yes, you read that right. This makes it a popular ingredient to keep available for home cooking.
- Is Really Healthy. Cabbage is loaded with vitamins (like vitamins K, C, and B6), nutrients (like iron), and antioxidants, all of which have many health benefits you can learn about here.
- Is Surprisingly Versatile. I usually serve my favorite Sauteed Cabbage or Winter Slaw as a side dish. But it’s perhaps even more fun to mix it into the recipe itself, like in this Cabbage Stir Fry.
- It’s Budget Friendly. Cabbage itself is inexpensive and as a whole, cabbage roll soup is also one of the most budget-friendly recipes you can make.
How to Make Cabbage Roll Soup
An easy, hearty meal simply made in one pot, cabbage roll soup is a faster option that will undoubtedly fill you up.
- Ground Beef. I love using lean ground beef here for both its health benefits (hello, protein and iron) and the deep flavor it adds to the soup.
- Carrots + Parsnips. Two delicious root vegetables that help build flavor and add nutritional value to the soup.
- Green Cabbage. While cabbage tends to be a humble ingredient, it has a chance to shine here. It becomes delightfully tender and flavorful in the broth.
- Beef Broth + Tomato Sauce. The two main liquids for our soup. Both help build the soup’s rich flavor.
- Brown Rice. Following the classic recipes, I made this a cabbage roll soup with rice. Brown rice helps make it more hearty and filling.
- Herbs. Bay leaves, thyme, and oregano bring scrumptious flavor to the soup as it simmers.
- Maple Syrup. A touch of sweetness to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.
- Worcestershire Sauce. Hello, deeply-flavored umami goodness!
- Sherry Vinegar. For a touch of brightness and acidity. It rounds the soup and makes it taste complete.
- Cook the beef, salt, and pepper, breaking apart the meat as it browns.
- Add the carrots, parsnips, and onions. Stir in the garlic.
- Add the broth, tomato sauce, rice, herbs, maple syrup, Worcestershire, and red pepper flakes.
- Let the mixture boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage.
- Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the soup from the heat, and stir in the vinegar. Let the soup rest a few minutes. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
- To Freeze. You can freeze stuffed cabbage soup. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Plan Tip
Chop all the vegetables up to 1 day in advance, and store them in separate airtight storage containers in the refrigerator.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. A kitchen tool that will last you a lifetime.
- Extra Large Cutting Board. You’ll love having the extra space when chopping all the ingredients for this soup.
- Ladle. The ultimate soup serving tool.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can swap white rice for the brown rice in this recipe. Add the cabbage at the same time as the beef broth in Step 3. Let the entire pot simmer for 25 to 30 minutes only (vs. the 45 minutes total needed for brown rice; white rice cooks more quickly).
If you can’t find parsnips, you could try swapping in additional carrots or even a different root veggie like sweet potato or white potato.
For a low carb (keto) unstuffed cabbage roll soup, you can experiment with replacing brown rice with cauliflower rice: omit the rice from the recipe, reduce the amount of beef broth to 3 cups, and stir in 1 1/2 to 2 cups cauliflower rice towards the end of the soup’s cooking time to warm the cauliflower rice through.
Cabbage Roll Soup
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper plus additional to taste
- 4 medium carrots peeled and cut into ¼ to ½-inch dice
- 2 medium parsnips peeled and cut into ¼ to ½-inch dice
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 4 cups low sodium beef broth
- 3 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup uncooked long grain brown rice*
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 4 springs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 5 cups chopped green cabbage about half of a small head
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or ½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Heat a Dutch oven or similar large soup pot over medium high. Add the beef, salt, and pepper. With a wooden spoon or sturdy plastic spoon or spatula, break apart the meat into pieces.
- Once the meat is broken up, add the carrots, parsnips, and onions. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1 additional minute, until very fragrant.
- Add the beef broth, tomato sauce, rice, bay leaves, maple syrup, Worcestershire, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
- Bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cabbage.
- Continue simmering until the cabbage and rice are tender, about 25 to 35 minutes more. Check and stir periodically.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Fish out and discard the bay leaves and thyme stems. Stir in the vinegar. Cover and let the soup rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the flavors to marry and the soup to thicken a bit further, then taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. Enjoy hot.
- *To use white rice instead of brown: add the cabbage at the same time as the beef broth in Step 3. Let the entire pot simmer for 25 to 30 minutes only (vs. the 45 minutes total needed for brown rice; white rice cooks more quickly).
- TO STORE: Refrigerate soup in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftover soup in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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