Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a popular dish in a myriad of different cuisines. The filling is traditionally some type of ground meat, vegetables, and grains. While cabbage rolls are versatile and delicious, they can be time consuming to cook taking upwards of two hours to be done. This recipe cuts the time by deconstructing the cabbage rolls and un-stuffing them.

Green cabbage is simmered to a perfect level of tenderness and combined with ground chicken meatballs and a tomato based sauce. Cabbage is great for detoxifying the body and full of vitamin K, which supports a healthy brain. Ground chicken is leaner than a red meat option, but remains flavorful with the spice blended tomato sauce.

Until March 17 at Whole Foods Market…

Organic Green Cabbage is on sale for $.69/lb. (Reg. $1.49/lb… over 50% off)

Freshly Ground Chicken Breast is on sale for $4.99/lb (Reg. $6.99/lb… save $2/lb.)


1 head of green cabbage, cored and cut into strips

1 tsp. smoked paprika

¼ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. onion powder

Pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce

2 lb. ground chicken

2 eggs

½ cup whole wheat bread crumb

(make it gluten free by using ¼ cup almond flour and 3 tbl. coconut flour)

2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes

1 tbl. lemon


Pour 1 cup of water into a large pot, bring to a boil. Place cabbage strips into the pot. Cover the pot. Steam cabbage over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Meanwhile, combine paprika, garlic powder, ground cloves, salt, pepper, and ¼ the can of tomatoe sauce at the bottom of a large bowl. Stir well until blended.

Add the ground chicken, eggs, bread crumb (or almond and coconut flour combination), and fresh minced parsley. Mix with a fork or knead with clean hands until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and meat is evenly seasoned.

Uncover the cabbage and reduce the heat to low. Form the meat mixture into 2-inch meatballs and place them in a single layer on the surface of the cabbage. Take care when adding them to the hot pan as not to burn yourself.

Pour the remaining tomato sauce into a mixing bowl with the diced tomatoes and lemon juice. Stir until blended, then season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the meatballs.

Bring mixture to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low. Cover pot and cook for 75-90 minutes over medium low heat until meatballs are cooked and cabbage is very tender. Stir every 20-30 minutes. If the cabbage seems dry towards the end of cooking, add a little hot water to the pan.

Give the pot a gentle stir at the end of cooking to blend the sauce, cabbage, and meatballs.

Serve meatballs on top of the soft cooked cabbage. Garnish with more fresh parsley. Serve over rice if looking for a more carbohydrate dense meal.

headshotAllison is the Metro Healthy Eating Specialist for the Bethesda, Friendship Heights, and Tenleytown Whole Foods Market locations. She loves to help customers find their healthy eating balance. She offers a plethora of free services including, one on one consultations, store tours and events, food and recipe advice, and coaching on how to make healthy choices. Email her at to ask any questions, plan an event, or to set up a consultation.

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