These lazy cabbage rolls are based on Ukrainian sour cabbage rolls with rice, sauerkraut and bacon, but without the extra work to roll them!
I grew up eating Ukrainian food at all the major holidays. My mom is 100% Ukrainian, so when we were with her side of the family (which was almost always for holidays) my Grandma cooked the Ukrainian dishes we knew and loved.
These dishes included things like perogies (which need no further explanation), nalysnyky (crepes filled with cottage cheese and dill), pyrizhky (buns filled with cottage cheese and dill), and of course, cabbage rolls.
What are Ukrainian Sour Cabbage Rolls?
Ukrainian sour cabbage rolls are nothing like what probably at least 80% of you think cabbage rolls are.
They are NOT fresh-cooked cabbage leaves filled with rice and beef in a tomato-based sauce.
They are sour cabbage leaves (think sauerkraut) filled with rice and a little bacon. At least that's how my Grandma makes them. And, as it turns out, my mother-in-law too.
How do you make sour cabbage rolls?
Making cabbage rolls - as with making all the Ukrainian food I mentioned - takes a lot of work and a lot of time.
After making the rice filling, you carefully separate and assess the size of each sour cabbage leaf. Then you cut any tough ribs from them, and cut them to the correct size for rolling.
Next comes the stuffing and rolling. Then, once assembled, the casserole dish full of cabbage rolls gets baked.
In order to avoid this time-consuming procedure, someone came up with a shortcut and found a way to incorporate all the components of cabbage rolls without all the extra labor. I bring you Lazy Cabbage Rolls.
While, I do actually occasionally make real cabbage rolls, when it's just me and my family at home, I don't usually have an hour (at least) to spend rolling up a bunch of rice into their sour cabbage leaves to make perfect little rolls. So I make the much quicker and easier version of lazy cabbage rolls.
How do you make Lazy Cabbage Rolls?
Making lazy cabbage rolls is much simpler and faster than making real cabbage rolls.
Lazy cabbage rolls should be made with cold rice to keep the rice kernels separate and prevent them from sticking together and becoming mushy.
Start with leftover rice, or make rice and chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours before continuing the recipe.
Brown some chopped bacon in a skillet and add onion, garlic, and sauerkraut. Stir in the chilled rice and cook until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Lazy Cabbage Roll Ingredients:
- Bacon: use regular bacon, or turkey bacon works fine too if you don't eat pork, but you may have to add a little extra oil to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan.
- Leftover or cold rice: If you don't have any leftover rice, at least make sure you cook it a couple of hours before you plan to make dinner, then let it chill in the fridge.
- Black pepper
While I would (and do) make lazy cabbage rolls as a side dish for any old weeknight, I especially like to make it for holidays.
After all, that's when I would most likely have the real deal cabbage rolls for so many years. You can bet they'll be on my dinner table for Easter just a few short days away!
Lazy Cabbage Rolls Nutrition Notes
If you want to increase the fiber content of this dish, use brown rice instead of white.
You can also use turkey bacon instead of regular bacon to decrease fat content slightly, which is how my Grandma made her cabbage rolls for years. However, when it comes time to cook the onions, you may have to add a little oil to the pan.
Want more delicious side dishes?
Lazy Cabbage Rolls
- 6 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, minced
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 24 ounce jar sauerkraut, drained and squeezed dry, but not rinsed
- 4 cups day old or cold cooked rice
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cook bacon in a 12" skillet over medium high heat until well browned and crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towel using a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease.
- Reduce heat to medium and cook onions in the remaining bacon grease until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sauerkraut and cook, stirring often until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice, salt and pepper until incorporated. Cook until rice is heated through, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bacon. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
Nutrition Disclaimer: I try my best to make sure the nutrition information I provide is accurate to provide you with the best information possible. However, due to ingredient discrepancies and other factors, the above nutrition information should be considered an estimation only.
This was delish! I did add ground chicken to mine and I wanted a protein with my dinner. Today Im going to use sausage in place of bacon. Thank you for the recipe!
I'm so glad you like it! 🙂
Debora Lee Fleming
Love your recipe, was raised in Bonnyville, Ab, learned such wonderful Ukranian recipes, always have little sour cabbage rolls made my our friends Babba! We always make nalysnickies and bring them to any potluck! Sheesh, can’t spell them☹️ Always a hit,! Love Ukranian New Years festivities. Now living in Billings Mt, thanks for posting,,, Daja good. Also learned French cooking, please keep the traditions coming. Thanks Deb
I was raised in Stoney Plane, my mom was from Andrew AB, I now life with my husband and kids in Great Falls MT!! Lol, small world, lol
It is a small world. I live in Stony Plain and this is exactly how my Mom made them. The best.
Wonder if I could use cauliflower rice along with or instead of regular rice?
I really can't say, as I've never actually tried cauliflower rice. If you try it, feel free to post a comment and let us know how it turns out 🙂
Have you or anyone tried topping this with tomato juice? Just wondering how the flavours would pair. My mother in law is Ukrainian and makes her cabbage rolls with tomato juice. Thanks 🙂
I have tried cabbage rolls with tomato base, but they are generally made differently. They use regular cabbage, not sauerkraut. I did some very quick research in a Ukrainian cookbook I have (it has a whole chapter on cabbage rolls). It does have a recipe for lazy cabbage rolls that uses regular cabbage (not sauerkraut), and also tomato juice. I don't think tomato juice and sauerkraut would go well together. I would stick with regular cabbage if you're going the tomato juice route.
My family (maternal aunt) made cabbage rolls with addition chopped cabbage AND sauerkraut plus tomato base.I don't know the recipe. I am going to try to get the recipe from my cousin who has been making it for family gatherings since that aunt passed away. I hope to take the recipe and try making it the "easy" way to see if it works or if it needs to be meatballs or "porcupine meatballs" (rice and ground beef meatballs" to get the same flavor without so much of the work. The sauerkraut and tomato combination blends together VERY well. Need to give it time to simmer for the flavors to meld. The 'kraut adds a nice zip to the taste that really perks it up. YUMMY!
My husband's aunt's family makes sour cabbage rolls every Christmas and we have been there a few times and they are amazing. Sour cabbage, rice and some bacon but I can't find a recipe online!! Every single one has tomato sauce and meat! I saw this recipe and I will try it too but could you send me the recipe for the cabbage rolls that you make? They sound like the ones they make!
I'm afraid I don't really have a recipe. I've made them a couple of times with the help of my Grandma or Mother-in-Law, but never by myself. I don't have a written recipe from either of them, just advice. However, if I ever get a recipe down on paper, I'll for sure publish it on here!
Thank you for this recipe! We adopted both of our children (now 17 yrs old) from Ukraine so I'm always on the lookout for authentic Ukrainian recipes. Can't wait to try these!
I was raised in Stoney Plane, my mom was from Andrew AB, I now life with my husband and kids in Great Falls MT!! Lol, small world, lol
I am from Grande Prairie, AB and raised in the Peace Country. Lots of Ukrainians in Alberta I see. We made cabbage rolls for Thanksgiving but we make the sweet cabbage with hamburger and rice covered in tomatoe sauce. I live the sour cabbage rolls but never learned to make them so was happy to find the “lazy” version!! Hi to all you fellow Albertans!
Thank you!!!! I am not a big fan of the meat cabbage rolls and was looking for something with just rice and bacon. Had never even thought of using sauerkraut (LOVE)!
What kind of rice do you use? My mom always used a parboiled short grain kind of rice that was more "sticky". Any ideas of how that might impact this dish?
When I make this, I just use whatever leftover rice I have on hand, which is usually a long grain rice. But I don't think the actual type of rice you use matters too much. The most important thing is that the rice is cold - leftover or cooked and then chilled. If you try to use soft, hot rice, it will turn into a sticky mess.
The original rice of the Prairies for Ukrainian cabbage rolls (holupchi) or lazy holupchi was Monarch pearl rice in a blue box. They don't make it in regular grocery store sizes anymore. I use calrose rice instead and it works nicely - just don't overcook it.
First off, Carissa, I have to say that "I love you." (LOL) You don't know how long I've been searching for cabbage rolls with "BACON" and rice. Every recipe I've seen uses meat and not bacon, and that is not what I was raised on. I'm half Russian, my mom was born and raised in Canada, but both her parents are from Russia. I remember years ago when I was in my early teens that, mom's sister and sister-in-law came for a visit and the had made cabbage rolls with cabbage and they used tomato juice. Then years later mom had made the lazy version. Both were great, I loved them. Can I make them?? NO! The Russian/Ukrainian recipes died with mom in 1998. Now both my sister and I have to find recipes that are very similar to what we grew up with.
I can not wait to try this and see how close this is to the one that I grew up with. Can you give me the recipe that uses cabbage and not sauerkraut? I want to try both...cabbage rolls and the lazy cabbage rolls. You also mentioned that you have a recipe for perogies. May I please have that too?? or is it in your website??
Thank you! I'm flattered!
Unfortunately I don't have a recipe that uses fresh cabbage instead of sauerkraut for regular or lazy cabbage rolls. My grandma, and mother-in-law have always used sauerkraut. I would guess you'd have to cook the cabbage first, and add extra salt for seasoning. Also, I don't really have a recipe for perogies that I feel confident sharing (yet). I have some hand scribbled notes from my Grandma on how to make the dough, and I've made them a few times, but they could definitely use some perfecting. I hope this recipe works out well for you!
I have a beautiful dough recipe from a Manitoba church cookbook my mom gifted us girls a few (!) years back:
2 cups cool water
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 t salt. Add about 5 1/2 - 6 cups of flour. If still sticky knead it a bit but don't add too much flour or the pyrohy won't seal. Cover the dough and let rest 30 minutes.
Everyone who uses this recipe loves it.
Thank you for this recipe! I'm going to make it for Easter dinner, when all our adult kids and their families will be here. I grew up eating cabbage rolls without meat and tomato sauce, and was looking for an easy variation of the kind of cabbage rolls I love. I think this is it. Thanks again!
Really appreciate this. Being 100% Alberta Ukrainian, this is the closest recipe to my mother's cabbage rolls! Simple and super tasty.... no need to add all those other things. They only take away from the heritage. Bravo!!!
I'm so happy that you loved the recipe! Happy Thanksgiving!
Grew up on this in Saskatchewan. My mom made cabbage rolls from rice and bacon. However instead of sour cabbage she layered her cabbage rolls with sauerkraut layers, cooked in a Dutch oven or crockpot.
Thank GOD there's a recipe for traditional Ukranian holopchi WITHOUT anything tomato. It's just plain wrong. I'm so thankful to find your recipe! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I SOOOO agree with you, Leanne. Tomato does not go with holopchi.
This is what I’ve been looking for! My Save-On-Foods sells a whole sour cabbage in brine sealed in plastic wrap. I was looking at it thinking I could do the plain rice bit of bacon ones our Alberta family likes. Any advice? Thanks.
Yes, if you're looking to make sour cabbage rolls, you could certainly make them similar to this. I don't have an exact recipe to follow, as I don't usually make them myself. I do know though, that my mother-in-law and Grandma both prefer using short grain rice to make sour cabbage rolls, as it's stickier and holds together better. Good luck!
What kind of rice is best and also what kind of saurkraut do you use? I would like to try this as I LOVE lazy cabbage rolls and your recipe looks close to what I have tried. I am not fond of the beef and tomato in lazy cabbage rolls which is what most of the on line recipes are...but I do like cabbage rolls with tomato and beef, just not the lazy ones.
I've found the type of rice to be less important than the fact that it's cold when you start cooking this dish. I've successfully made these lazy cabbage rolls with cold leftover brown rice, long grain basmati, as well as leftovers from my local Chinese food restaurant. Same goes for the sauerkraut. Use whichever type/brand you like the flavor of. I prefer brands that you buy in the refrigerated section instead of from the pickle aisle, but any kind will work just fine.
Excellent. Served with a side of kielbasa.We loved it.
Some people put the cooked rice, bacon, onion and sauerkraut in the oven
after all mixed, is it a different way of making the lazy cabbage rolls.
When making the lazy cabbage rolls, do you sometime put all the cooked ingredients in the oven to cook a little again ?
I've personally never used the oven for this dish, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. You might end up with crispy edges, which, depending on your preferences, you may or may not like.
This was so good! I used a smoked pork chop instead of bacon and followed the rest of the recipe as suggested, using Japanese short grain rice. Served it the first night with green peppercorn Dijon chicken breast and the second night with a crispy fried egg. Delicious!
Thank you so much. Have you ever made this ahead and frozen it?
I haven't tried it myself, but I do know that you can freeze cooked rice, so I would assume that it can be done successfully. If you try it, I'd love to know how it works out.
I almost always pre-make and freeze part or all of big meals when I'm hosting!
just a quick note about sauerkraut, I watch the labels as I don’t care for sauerkraut with wine vinegar. It should only be cabbage and salt. Most of the sauerkraut that comes in jars has vinegar.
The cans usually only have cabbage and salt. Though the Kuane brand in jars is only cabbage and salt. There are a few brands in cans that are good such as Steinfields and No Name at superstore that are good. My parents made Sauerkraut, with cabbage and salt…..NO vinegar.
Yes, I agree 🙂