Baked vegan cabbage rolls (gołąbki)

Baked vegan cabbage rolls (gołąbki)

baked vegan cabbage rolls close up

I apologise for a massive omission on my part – as my mum has kindly pointed out the blog was missing a Polish inspired cabbage rolls recipe UNTIL TODAY. Don’t get me wrong, I am a massive fun of stuffed cabbage rolls, any stuffed vegetables actually, and I have published a number of recipes in that vein already, like my Asian-inspired cabbage rolls, Greek dolmadakia, also Greek gemista (yemista), but I was admittedly dragging my feet on ‘gołabki’, which is what they are known as in my native language.

The main thing that was stopping me was that I wasn’t sure I will be able to convey to you how delicious they can be through the medium of photography alone. While they can taste delicious, they don’t tend to look the prettiest. Traditional stuffed cabbage leaves are most often made with a bog standard white cabbage, but I really love the texture and colour of Savoy cabbage so that’s what I used to make sure they are a little less anaemic to look at.

The most commonly made filling is rice flavoured with minced meat, but the Christmas Eve version (which traditionally cannot contain meat) is made with dry porcini mushrooms. My version is very shroomy as I love mushrooms and they bring so much flavour to otherwise bland rice. I used a mixture of aromatic dried mushrooms and fresh mushrooms, some walnuts for texture, lots of herbs, a touch of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar for even more umami and I am really happy with how they turned out. They don’t look too shabby either, I roasted the tops of the parcels under a hot grill at the end for a touch of rusticity.

In case you want to try this recipe out, but you would like to tweak it a little, here are a few pointers that may be helpful.

MUSHROOMS: they are pretty key here as they contribute so much flavour, but I know that I will get asked what can be used instead. I have made a version of these with sun-dried tomatoes and it was just as delicious, the flavour profile was different of course but still lovely. Sun-dried tomatoes and crumbled smoked tofu (or soy mince) soaked in flavoursome stock would be my suggestion.

RICE: This recipe also works with white basmati rice although I would shorten the pre-cook in porcini stock to only about 8 minutes. If you wish to use brown rice, I recommend precooking it until it’s almost done and skipping the rice simmering step, you’ll also need to make a stronger (240 ml / 1 cup) porcini stock and add together with wine (step 5). Traditionally cooked rice is used instead of raw, but my method makes the recipe less fussy.

WALNUTS: They aren’t traditional but I like the little pops of texture they add. If you are not keen sub them with cooked lentils or beans (smashed up a little).

HERBS: I used thyme, but rosemary, oregano, sage and parsley would also work beautifully.

SOY SAUCE / TAMARI: It adds saltiness and depth of flavour. You could use red (ideally) miso instead or perhaps salt and some nutritional yeast, just go by your palate.

TOMATO SAUCE: You could simply stew the rolls in well seasoned veggie stock (240-480 ml / 1-2 cups) enriched with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, some tomato paste / concentrate and some smashed garlic.

PORTION SIZE: You can easily make half of the portion, just make sure that your baking dish is small enough that it holds all of the rolls in snuggly.

EXTRA PLANT PROTEIN: You could swap some of the rice for precooked firm lentils (like Puy) or mashed up beans (like Cannellini or Borlotti), it will make the dish more protein rich.

I hope I anticipated all the questions you may possibly have and that you will make this dish. It may sound daunting, but it really isn’t that technical, plus there are shortcuts you can take (like skip the sauce) and it’s a big portion so it feeds a crowd!

baked vegan cabbage rolls ingredients

baked vegan cabbage rolls making filling

Make the filling by sautéing onion and garlic first, then add in chopped mushrooms in two batches. Cook the mushrooms through and until all of the liquids have evaporated.

baked vegan cabbage rolls simmering filling

Next, stir in raw rice and porcini stock. Cook briefly to soften the rice a little before it finishes off in the oven.

baked vegan cabbage rolls thinning leaves

Prepare blanched cabbage leaves for stuffing. Using a sharp knife thin the stem so that the leaves are more pliable when filling and more pleasant to eat.

baked vegan cabbage rolls filling leaves

Fill the leaves with cooled down filling, rolling them tightly, like a burrito.

baked vegan cabbage rolls making rolling leaves

Arrange filled cabbage leaves, steam down, on a bed of thinned tomato sauce, cover the dish and bake. Then take off the lid and bake a little bit more so that the sauce reduces and the cabbage tops brown a little.

baked vegan cabbage rolls before baking

vegan cabbage rolls baked

baked vegan cabbage rolls macro

14 rolls
40 min
50 min
14 rolls
40 min
50 min
  • 15 g / ½ oz dried porcini, soaked overnight (ideally)
  • 250 g / 8¾ oz mushrooms (I used cremini / chestnut mushrooms)
  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 banana shallots (or 1 medium onion), very finely diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp sea salt, adjust to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • fresh thyme, leaves from about 10 sprigs, to taste
  • 120 ml / ½ cup white wine (or veggie stock)
  • 50 g / ½ cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
  • 10 ml / 2 tsp quality balsamic vinegar, adjust to taste
  • 20 ml / 4 tsp soy sauce / tamari (GF), adjust to taste
  • 200 g / 1 heaped cup (raw) long grain rice*
  • 14 medium-large Savoy cabbage leaves*
  • 500 ml / 2 cups tomato sauce, ready-made or see below


  • 30 ml / 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 x 400 g / 14 oz canned tomatoes (I like plum tomatoes)
  • 15 ml / 1 tbsp tomato paste / tomato concentrate
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a good pinch of chilli (optional)
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  1. Soak porcini mushrooms in 400 ml / scant 1¾ cups of boiling water to soften them and to obtain a mushroom infused stock. I recommend 8 hours at least, 24 hours is even better. If making your own tomato sauce, get it going first (recipe below) and then return to the rolls while it simmers.
  2. Chop fresh mushrooms into a small dice. If using a food processor, slice thickly first and use the pulse method. Pulse mushrooms in smaller batches and be very careful not to overprocess, you want coarse dice, not mush.
  3. Heat up oil in a large pan you have a lid for. Add diced shallots, fry them off on a low-medium heat until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Next add in garlic – fry for a few minutes stirring frequently as it burns easily.
  4. Stir in smoked paprika, a good pinch of salt and pepper and thyme leaves. Stir all the ingredients around for a few seconds on low heat, next add half of the chopped mushrooms. If the water released from the mushrooms does not deglaze the pan, add a splash of wine.
  5. Once the first portion of the mushrooms cooks down a little, add the second. Allow it to cook down completely, before adding the rest of the wine, finely chopped porcini (make sure you rinse the grit off first and keep the stock), walnuts, balsamic and soy sauce. Carry on cooking the mushroom mixture until all the excess liquid evaporates. Taste and adjust the seasoning being mindful that rice will dilute the intensity.
  6. Next, add in rinsed rice and all of the mushroom stock without the grit that tends to settle at the bottom. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, once it starts to simmer count about 10 minutes, then switch off the heat and keep the lid on the pan for a further 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  7. Remove the leaves of the cabbage by making a delicate incision at the bottom of each leaf (where it attaches to the head), prising the leaf off gently. You will need about 14 whole leaves in total. I used large and medium leaves from 2 cabbage heads and kept the rest for a stir-fry or soup.
  8. Bring a big pot of water to the boil and grab a large bowl, fill it with cold water (ice cubes help but are not necessary).
  9. Plunge 4-5 leaves at a time into the boiling water. Blanch them, submerged fully (a smaller lid is often used to weigh them down), for 3-4 minutes. Fish them out and plunge them into the cold water.
  10. Thin the outside stem of each leaf with a sharp knife (see photos). Run the knife along the stem trimming off any excess that jets out above the leaf’s surface.
  11. Set the oven to 200° C / 390° F and grab a large oven proof dish / saucepan, ideally with a fitting lid but you can also use a piece of kitchen foil.
  12. Pour 480 ml / 2 cups of tomato sauce and 240 ml / 1 cup of water to the bottom of the dish. Mix the two together.
  13. Place a trimmed cabbage leaf on the work bench so that the inside faces you. Place a tablespoon or two (depending on the size of the leaf) of the filling at the bottom of each leaf, fold the sides to the middle and then roll the leaf gently until the filling is safely enclosed inside. Place it snugly in the prepared baking dish, with the seam down. Continue with the remaining leaves in the same manner.
  14. Cover the pot with a lid and bake for about 20 minutes.
  15. Remove the lid and bake for a further 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the cabbage leaves are fully cooked through (a sharp knife should slide right through the thickest part of the leaf). If you want the cabbage leaves charred, switch the oven to the grill function for the last 10 minutes (or so) and brush the leaves lightly with olive oil – watch carefully as they can burn quickly.


  1. Heat up oil in a pan, once hot add diced onion and fry off on a low-medium heat until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Next add in garlic – fry for a few minutes stirring frequently as it burns easily.
  2. Add canned tomatoes. If using plum tomatoes, add one can at a time, squashing the whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add tomato paste, a good pinch of salt, pepper and chilli (if using), plus a can’s worth (about 500 ml / 2 cups) of water to the pan. Stir everything well and allow it to simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
  3. Give everything a good stir every 20 minutes (I find that the sauce take about 60 minutes of simmering time) and squash down any stubborn tomato pieces you see. As soon as the pan is starting to look dry but the tomatoes are still quite chunky, add more water (I add about 1 litre / 4 cups in total).
  4. Once the sauce is thick, more or less uniform (i.e all the tomatoes have broken down nicely), taste and adjust the seasoning, including adding a small amount of sugar if you find it too acidic.

*RICE: This recipe also works with basmati rice. If you wish to use brown rice, I recommend precooking it until it’s almost done and skipping the rice simmering step, you’ll also need to make a stronger (240 ml / 1 cup) porcini stock and add together with wine (step 5).

*CABBAGE: You may need 2-3 cabbages as ideally you want large and medium leaves only. Keep the rest for a stir-fry or soup.

*TOMATO SAUCE: You could simply stew them in well seasoned veggie stock (250-500 ml / 1-2 cups) enriched with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, some tomato paste / concentrate and some smashed garlic.

6 g
5 g
1 g
5 g
23 g
*per *roll
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7 reviews, 23 comments
Nicole Wade:
I cant see where the 120mls of vinegar is used?
    Hi Nicole,
    I think you might have misread the recipe. It calls for 120 ml of wine, not vinegar and it goes in step 5. I add a tiny bit of balsamic as well at that stage. Hope you'll enjoy it. Ania
Wonderful! Try a filling of walnuts, quinoa, smashed white beans, silken tofu and cauliflower rice for a higher protein meal as a main course, with less carbs.
    Thanks but what's wrong with carb? I love them :)
A little fiddly but worth it!Easy to speed up using microwave brown rice or quinoa & chopped mushrooms from the shop.Also did a version using about 100 gms grated carrots & also beetroot so it is extremely versatile to whatever is in the pantry that I need to use up -add the home made passata that we freeze each year in small batches & done in half the time-many thanks Ania
    Glad you enjoyed this dish, Jayne. Yes, it isn't a quick meal by any stretch, but I am glad that you found it worthwhile. Ania
Does anyone know how these would freeze? I just made my pork beef ones (Hungarian style is my family background), but have a GF Vegan family member to feed as well now. 😊 . regardless of your answer it's on my to do list this morning! thanks
    Hi Margaret, yes, they will freeze fine once cooked. Hope your family will enjoy these! x Ania
This took a while to make but was so worth it! I think once you know the steps and can prepare some of them before the time it’ll be quite simple and quick. I used ready cooked brown rice so I adjusted accordingly and it was really delicious. Will definitely be making this again!
    Thanks Anthea, I am so happy you enjoyed this dish! Yes, I agree, it's not the fastest thing to make but once you've made it you realise that it's quite straightforward and can take shortcuts too. Cooked brown rice is a great swap, it's so much more filling and better for you too. x Ania
This is so good! Loved it. Unfortunately cabbages are $6 each here in NZ otherwise I'd eat this all day every day. Stuffing was flavourful and perfect.
    Hi Milan,
    I am delighted that you enjoyed this dish and thank you for letting me know - much appreciated. If cabbages are too expensive, how about using the stuffing to stuff some other, more affordable veggies - for example hollowed out sqaushes, zucchini? x Ania
Mom used to make this. I remember coming from school you could smell it simmering. Wonderful. We call it protkus. Not sure if it's from Transylvania or the Ukraine. I'll try and make this for Sukkot.
    Great to hear that, Carol. Favourite dishes of our childhood are so much more than food, aren't yet? I hope you'll enjoy my version. x Ania
The mushroom filling for this is delicious and is nice by itself, kind of like a risotto. Turning it into the rolls with the cabbage makes it look more impressive though and wasn't nearly as fiddly as I thought it'd be. I added the walnuts as suggested and they gave it that little extra crunch. I used red wine instead of white and only had basmati rice but both worked out fine.
    Delighted to hear that you enjoyed these, Anne and did not find them too difficult to make. Yes, you can totally eat the rice on it's own, with maybe some stir-fried cabbage if you feel like something quick. Thanks so much for taking the time to review this recipe, I really appreciate it. x Ania
Well, the filling is delicious. I'm not sure how tender the cabbage leaves are supposed to be once they're fully cooked in the oven, or whether the rolls are supposed to hold together in one piece when you cut them--I found them just a little troublesome to cut cleanly with a knife. Very very tasty, though! I used brown rice for the filling (cooked before adding to the filling) and it worked really well.
    Thanks, Kaitlyn, I am so happy to hear that you tried them and enjoyed! The leaves should be tender enough that a sharp knife goes into the stem without any resistance and yes, they do usually slice quite cleanly with a sharp knife. I think the issue here may be twofold. Firstly, you might have rolled them a little too loose for fully cooked rice (uncooked rice expands in the oven making the rolls tighter). Secondly, white rice has quite a bit of starch that sort of helps the filling to bind together while brown rice grains (at least the one I use) tend to be more separate, which is maybe why the rolls were a little messier. Hope this helps! x Ania
Got a present of Wild Ballyhoura Mountain (Ireland) dried mushrooms and used them in this recipe - really pleased with results thank you!
    Great to hear, Shirley, thank you and your mushrooms sound delightful, that place looks absolutely stunning! x Ania
Your cabbage rolls look so pretty! Sound delicious too! In my opinion a plate of neatly rolled cabbage rolls in tomato sauce does not look any worse than some pasta dish and far more appealing than lasagna :)! I have never tried making them with savoy cabbage - have to give it a go! Cabbage rolls are in heavy rotation in our family. My Ukrainian granny made them naturally plant-based with potatoes and buckwheat, shredded potatoes, rice, buckwheat and veggies and so on. She usually used porridge rice and the rolls held their shape well and were very juicy. So, really, people - give it a try, you are in for a treat! Thank you Ania!
    Thank you, Laana, glad you like the look of them, but trust me they are not easy to photograph, especially when made with white cabbage. Thank you for your encouragement, while I am sure that your gran's version is probably your favourite, I hope you'll enjoy these if you decide to shake things up a little. x Ania
These look epic! I will definitely making them very soon :)
    Thanks Basia, I hope you'll enjoy my take on this Polish classic. x Ania
We were, happily, given a galabki recipe by a Polish neighbour when I was a child. It was made with ground meat. I often wished I could replicate it, as I am vegan, but couldn't find a recipe that was baked. Thanks for this; can't wait to try it.
    Hi TQ,
    That's great to hear that you are planning to make them! I hope they will be enjoyed. x Ania
I'm gonna make this, but could i use huge CHARD leaves in stead of cabbage?
    Hi Valerie,
    Yes, I am pretty sure that it would work but I don't think you'll need to precook the leaves (or maybe for just a minute). x Ania
My mom makes gołąbki as her mother did--with hamburger (no rice)--and as a child (even before I became a vegetarian), I just ate the mashed potatoes she served with it. Now you've given me a gołąbki I can actually eat and ENJOY! Thank you!
    Glad to hear, Judy! Hope you'll enjoy my take on them. I've never heard of 100% meat filling - boy, that must have been heavy on the stomach! Ania
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