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Lazy Cabbage Rolls

These lazy cabbage rolls are based on Ukrainian sour cabbage rolls with rice, sauerkraut and bacon, but without the extra work to roll them!

Lazy Cabbage Rolls in pot

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, since that’s who we lived closest to) 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 cabbage rolls?

Ukrainian 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, it turns out, my mother-in-law too.

Overhead photo of lazy cabbage rolls in pot

Making cabbage rolls – as with making all the Ukrainian food I mentioned – takes a lot of work and a lot of time. So, somewhere along the way, 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.

Lazy Cabbage Rolls in pot

I do actually know how to make real cabbage rolls, and my mother-in-law often helps me make them when she’s here for a holiday. But when it’s just me 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 instead, I make some rice and throw it in the fridge overnight. Then I cook up some bacon, onions and garlic and throw in a jar of sauerkraut. In goes the rice, and voila. Lazy cabbage rolls. I like to think of it as Ukrainian fried rice.

Lazy cabbage rolls on spoon

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 since that’s when I would be most likely to 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.

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Lazy cabbage rolls in pot
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Lazy Cabbage Rolls

Lazy Cabbage Rolls is the unrolled version of Ukrainian cabbage rolls made with sauerkraut and rice.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings: 6
Calories: 280kcal

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • 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

Calories: 280kcal
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Lazy Cabbage Rolls Nutrition Info
Lazy cabbage rolls in spoon with pot

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Donna
    July 17, 2017 at 2:02 PM

    5 stars
    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!

    • Reply
      Carissa
      July 17, 2017 at 8:45 PM

      I’m so glad you like it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Reply
        Debora Lee Fleming
        November 20, 2017 at 7:10 PM

        5 stars
        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, canโ€™t spell themโ˜น๏ธ 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

        • Reply
          Mari B
          October 28, 2018 at 12:49 AM

          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

  • Reply
    Sophia
    October 3, 2017 at 6:08 PM

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Carissa
      October 3, 2017 at 7:42 PM

      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.

    • Reply
      Teena
      December 28, 2017 at 3:01 PM

      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!

  • Reply
    Sabrina Richard
    October 4, 2017 at 4:18 PM

    5 stars
    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!

    • Reply
      Carissa
      October 4, 2017 at 5:48 PM

      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!

  • Reply
    Cindy Dallow
    August 22, 2018 at 6:14 PM

    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!

  • Reply
    Mari B
    October 28, 2018 at 12:51 AM

    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

    • Reply
      Linda D.
      October 17, 2019 at 5:14 PM

      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 โ€œlazyโ€ version!! Hi to all you fellow Albertans!

  • Reply
    Vanessa
    January 14, 2019 at 3:02 PM

    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?

    • Reply
      Carissa
      January 14, 2019 at 6:01 PM

      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.

    • Reply
      Terra
      April 18, 2019 at 4:06 PM

      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.

  • Reply
    Beverly Zufelt-Henry
    March 14, 2019 at 2:59 PM

    5 stars
    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??

    • Reply
      Carissa
      March 14, 2019 at 3:22 PM

      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!

    • Reply
      Terra
      April 18, 2019 at 4:10 PM

      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.

  • Reply
    Joanne
    March 29, 2019 at 8:45 PM

    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!

  • Reply
    Philip Petryk
    October 13, 2019 at 12:27 PM

    5 stars
    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!!!

    • Reply
      Carissa
      October 13, 2019 at 3:09 PM

      I’m so happy that you loved the recipe! Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Reply
    John Matthews
    November 20, 2019 at 3:52 PM

    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.

  • Reply
    Leanne Anderson
    March 3, 2020 at 10:41 PM

    5 stars
    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!

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