Ukrainian lazy cabbage rolls taste as great as classic cabbage rolls but with less work. Juicy rolls made with beef, cabbage and carrots, and then baked in a tomato and sour cream sauce.
So, I decided to share with you another of my favorite Ukrainian recipes. When I was a kid I really loved cabbage rolls. My mom used to make those mostly on holidays because it would take quite a time in the kitchen to prepare the traditional cabbage rolls.
But on weekdays, she would often make these deconstructed cabbage rolls, called "linyvi holubtsi" which translates as lazy cabbage rolls. They are still made as rolls and taste so delicious.
I have not prepared this recipe in a very long time. When I decided to share it on my website, I had to test it first. At times, when I was not sure if that's exactly how my mom made it, I literally could hear my mom's voice in my head guiding me on how to make these lazy cabbage rolls the way she did. I hope you enjoy this lazy cabbage rolls recipe!
Why you will love this recipe
- it takes less effort than making classic cabbage rolls.
- it is a complete meal with a good serving of protein, starch, and vegetables.
- these lazy cabbage rolls are tender and very easy to eat for smaller kids as well.
- this recipe is quite affordable and can feed a large family.
What are Ukrainian lazy cabbage rolls
Lazy cabbage rolls are made with the same ingredients as classic ones. The only difference is the technique of how to make them:
- Instead of rolling meat and rice mix inside cabbage leaves, we are adding shredded cabbage to the meat mix and rolling everything into potato shapes patties or meatballs.
- And instead of simmering them on the stove top, we are baking them in a creamy tomato sauce.
- Dry Rice: I used organic jasmine rice. You can use any kind of rice in this recipe, even a brown one.
- Ground Beef: 93% lean grass-fed ground beef. You can use beef with a more fat content as well.
- Vegetables: white cabbage, carrots, and onions. All vegetables I used were fresh.
- Butter: I used butter to saute the carrots and onions. You can use ghee butter or oil instead. But butter gives a better flavor.
- Salt: just a little bit of salt to add to the meat mix.
- Spices: I used dry garlic powder, coriander, dry parsley, paprika, and black pepper.
- Plain Tomato Sauce: I used 2 cans of plain organic tomato sauce. If you use no salt added tomato sauce, add about ½ teaspoon of salt or more by taste to your sauce besides the salt added to the meat mix.
- Sour Cream: I add full-fat sour cream to the tomato sauce. It will create a beautiful pink and delicious sauce for our rolls.
- Sugar: plain tomato sauce can be quite sour due to added citric acid. I always add a little bit of sugar when using it to balance the flavor and neutralize some of the acidity.
See the recipe card for ingredients quantities.
How to make it
- Cook Rice: First, measure the needed amount of rice and rinse it in cold water until it runs clear. Add rice and water to your pot and cook until the rice is fully cooked. You can leave the rice al dente and it will finish cooking in the oven. Set the rice aside to cool down.
- Prepare the Vegetables: Meanwhile, take off the outer leaves of the cabbage and cut it in half. Wrap one half in a plastic wrap and put it away in the fridge for other recipes. Cut the other half in half. Now, using a large knife shred each wedge into thin shreds and place shredded cabbage in a bowl. Wash and peel the carrots. Shred using a large side of your shredder box. Alternatively, you can julienne the carrot or shred it using a food processor. Transfer shredded cabbage to another bowl. Peel and dice finely half of the onion.
- Saute the Vegetables: Heat the frying pan over medium heat. Now, add all of the butter, carrots, and onions. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often until the vegetables start to soften up. Turn off the heat and set it aside.
- Make the Meat Mix: in a large mixing bowl, add ground beef, rice, shredded cabbage, salt and spices. Now, add half of the sauteed carrots and onions. Leave the other half in a frying pan for now. Using your hand (I usually use food-grade gloves), mix everything until combined. After that, add ¼ cup of water and mix again. Water will make the cabbage rolls more juicy and tender.
- Make the rolls: now, preheat the oven to 400°F and set the baking dish on the counter. Start forming the rolls using your hands. I usually shape them into classic cabbage rolls shapes or long potatoes. You can make them in the form of large meatballs as well. I used approximately 2-3 Tablespoons of meat mix per roll. Arrange the rolls in a single layer in your baking dish. Pour all the tomato and sour cream sauce over the rolls.
- Make the Sauce: add 2 cans of tomato sauce and sour cream to the frying pan with the rest of the onions and carrots. Turn on the heat and cook on medium mixing occasionally until the sauce starts to simmer. At the end add sugar. I always add a little bit of sugar first, taste it and then add the rest. Sugar is needed to neutralize some of the acidity. Turn off the heat.
- Bake: cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until the internal temperature of the rolls reaches 165°F, and the cabbage becomes tender. Take the dish out of the oven carefully, and open up the foil (caution steam!). Let them sit for 5 minutes. Serve hot with some fresh chopped parsley on top and a dollop of sour cream.
- Cutting board
- Large knife
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl (for meat mix) (3 Bowls (for vegetables)
- Box Grater
- Can Opener
- Measuring Spoons
- Measuring Cup
- Medium Saucepan or a Pot
- Stainless Steel Frying Pan
- Deep Large Baking Dish 13"x9"x3"
Make sure you add that ¼ cup of filtered water to the meat mix for even juicier and tender rolls.
How to serve
These lazy holubtsi are a complete meal by itself, just add a dollop of sour cream and you are good to go!
Additionally, I love to chop some fresh parsley or dill (or both and top the rolls for serving).
Fresh sourdough bread and a garden salad are great sides for these delicious cabbage rolls.
Storing and reheating
Refrigerate: Let the rolls cool down first. Transfer the rolls and the sauce to an airtight container. Store in the fridge for about 3 days. Reheat in a microwave for about 1 minute or until very hot. You can also reheat them in preheated to 375°oven for about 20 minutes or until very hot.
Freeze: you can store these cabbage rolls for 2 months in a freezer. Just make sure to place them in a freezer-friendly bag or container.
Recipe variations and substitutions
- Meat: you can use any kind of ground meat of your choice: chicken, turkey, pork, or even a combination of two types. My mom always used pork and beef mix.
- Rice: use brown rice instead of white. Just adjust the cooking time for the rice.
- Sauce: you can easily make this recipe dairy-free by using the dairy-free tomato pasta sauce of your choice (marinara is a good one) or simply by omitting the sour cream. Do not forget to use olive oil instead of butter if making this dish dairy-free.
Other traditional Ukrainian recipes
Can I cook these lazy cabbage rolls on the stove?
- Yes, you can use a dutch oven and simmer them on low for about 45-60 minutes.
Can I use purple cabbage instead?
- I do not recommend using the purple cabbage here, because it will turn your tomato sauce to purple and I think it won't match this dish. But you can easily use Napa or Savoy cabbage instead.
Ukrainian Lazy Cabbage Rolls
- 1 Measuring Cup
- 1 set of measuring spoons
- 1 spatula
- 1 Box grater
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl
- 1 saucer pan or a small pot
- 1 Frying Pan
- 1 large and deep baking dish Deep Large Baking Dish 13"x9"x3"
- 1 sheet of foil
- ¾ cup dry rice
- 1½ cup water or more, to cook the rice.
- 1 pound ground beef 97% lean
- ½ cabbage or 3 cups shredded
- 3 medium carrots
- ½ onion
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dry paprika
- 1 teaspoon dry parsley
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cans plain tomato sauce (15oz each)
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon sugar or other sweetener
- Rinse and cook the rice. Set aside to cool down.
- Using the knife, shred the cabbage. Now grate carrots using the larger side of your grater box. Dice the onion finely. Transfer vegetables to separate bowls.
- Heat the frying pan on medium heat. Add butter, onions and carrots. Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally until vegetables soften up.
- In a large mixing bowl, add cooked rice, meat, shredded cabbage, salt, spices, water and half of the carrots and onions mix. Mix everything well until combined.
- Add 2 cans of tomato sauce, sour cream and sugar to the frying pan with the remaining carrots and onions. Cook on medium heat stirring occasionally until simmering. Taste the sauce and if it's still too sour add little bit more sugar.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare the baking dish and a sheet of foil.
- Form the cabbage rolls with your hands into the shapes of long potatoes or large meatballs. Arrange the rolls in a single layer in your baking pan. Cover tightly with foil.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the thermometer inserted in one of the rolls reaches 165°F and the cabbage becomes tender. Enjoy hot with the dollop of sour cream on top!