Vegetarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Craving cabbage for St Patrick’s Day? Rather than serving it with its famous sidekick, corned beef, try stuffed cabbage with protein packed pulses instead!
These stuffed cabbage rolls are mixed with green lentils and brown rice as a healthy, plant-based meat subsitute to corned beef. Topping them with vitamin C-rich tomato sauce also makes it an even better source of iron!
The Power of Pulses
According to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 2016 was the year of the pulses. In addition to being a nutrient powerhouse, pulses are also an extremely sustainable food crop. Thanks to their longer shelf life, pulses, the edible seeds of legume plants, reduce food waste and the carbon footprint. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is on a mission to increase the public’s awareness about these tiny, but mighty foods.
Among the key messages by the FAO include the nutritional values of pulses and the benefits they bring for our health. Pulses pack in twice as much protein as whole grains, while also providing all of the essential amino acids. Naturally low in sodium, canned versions of cooked pulses can carry higher amounts. However, rinsing canned beans or peas can decrease sodium content significantly. In addition to being an excellent source of protein, these edible seeds are also heart healthy, as they provide extra fiber and folate. Those that are gluten sensitive can also benefit from pulses, which are naturally gluten free.
So, what are pulses really?
Here are some examples of powerful pulses:
- all types of lentils, such as green, red, and brown
- all types of peas except green peas, i.e. black-eyed peas and chickpeas
- all types of dried beans, such as kidney and pinto beans, except for soy or green beans
Ways to include pulses in your diet:
- add to your favorite soups or stews
- toss in whole grain dishes, such as rice, pasta, or quinoa
- mash and use as a vegetable burger or meat alternative instead of ground beef (for example, stuffed cabbage rolls!)
- top on your favorite salads
- mix in a hummus dip for an appetizer or as a sandwich spread
In this recipe for stuffed cabbage…
The trick to these stuffed cabbage rolls is having the lentils and brown rice already cooked ahead of time. This preparation cuts out 40 minutes of cooking time, and makes a great meal prep for the week. Try leftover lentils and rice in your favorite soups, casseroles, or salads.
To make a “perfect” cabbage roll, boil the leaves to soften them. Boiling the whole cabbage in a large pot of water makes it easier to gently break apart the leaves. The softer leaves become more flexible and easier to roll up with fillings. Cabbage rolls can be baked in tomato sauce, but I prefer simmering them in sauce to keep the lentils and rice soft.
To those celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this year, make it a healthy and safe one, and wear your green!
These vegetarian cabbage rolls are made with lentils and brown rice to make an excellent meatless meal for St Patrick's Day.
- 1 large green cabbage, whole
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup cooked green lentils (1/2 cup dried lentils)
- 2 cups cooked brown rice (3/4 cup dried rice)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, low sodium
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (Split between filling and tomato sauce)
- 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
- Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Bring a large stock pot of water to boil. Place whole cabbage in pot and boil until leaves are tender and easily peel off, about 5-7 minutes. Turn off heat and carefully remove the cabbage and place on a cutting board. Pull the leaves apart (keeping them whole) and place on a paper towel lined surface.
- While cabbage is boiling, heat one tablespoon olive oil on medium high heat and sautee onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and dried herbs, spices to the pan. Heat an additional minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Wipe out the pan.
- Stir in the lentils, rice, and dried fruit to the onion mixture. Add one tablespoon of tomato paste and soy sauce. Set aside.
- To make the rolls, place one to two tablespoons of the mixture onto end of a cabbage leaf, tuck in the sides and gently roll, like a burrito.
- In the same pan that made the onion mixture, heat the remaining olive oil on medium heat. Add the can of tomatoes, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, about 10 minutes.
- Place the rolls with the seam side down on atop the sauce. Let simmer and spoon sauce on top to moisten, about 5-10 minutes.