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Recipe: Vegan Cabbage Rolls

I grew up in an Eastern European household eating an assortment of delicious dishes, amongst them, stuffed cabbage rolls.

Traditionally, these are made with mince-meat, but my ever-accommodating mother adapted her recipe to a vegan one when I was a child, and we grew up eating ours with rice, mushrooms and an assortment of herbs in a rich tomato sauce. And they were delicious!

But, recently I came across a Lebanese version of stuffed cabbage leaves, called 'malfouf mahshi', that features the addition of spices to the rice mix. I can never pass up on a recipe that requires fragrant spices so, inspired by the Middle Eastern version, I thought I'd add some cinnamon and allspice to my mother's original recipe. Absolutely no regrets. And with mushrooms, pine nuts and lentils there's plenty of protein for us ‘protein deficient’ vegans ; )

You can use regular green cabbage but I prefer Savoy for its texture. If you want a 'meatier' cabbage roll, add a cup of soy protein to the mix. You can also substitute the lentils for cooked or canned chickpeas, and add a handful of chopped raisins to the rice for sweetness.

This recipe makes a large pot of stuffed cabbage leaves, so you will have enough for a small dinner party and leftovers.




Serves around 6 people

1 head of savoy, or regular green cabbage


125g white rice

125g brown lentils, cooked and drained

1 cup chopped brown mushrooms

2 medium onions, chopped finely

2 tablespoons pinenuts

½ cup of chopped parsley

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

250g canned plum tomatoes, pureed

2 teaspoons tamarind paste

1 cup hot water

Salt and pepper to taste


  • Boil the cabbage in a pot of lightly salted water for about 8 minutes, or until the leaves are loosened and easy to remove.

  • Remove the cabbage from pot, drain and cool slightly. Then separate and remove the outer leaves carefully as they will be stuffed. Set aside. Save the smaller leaves for later—you can throw them into the sauce.

  • To make the rice stuffing, boil the rice in salt water for 10-15 minutes. Drain well and in a bowl mix in with cooked lentils, chopped mushrooms, onions, pine nuts, herbs and spices. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • For the sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan, and cook garlic for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, water, tamarind paste and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook in pan for 5 minutes.

  • Take a cabbage leaf in your hand and add 2 tablespoons of rice stuffing on the stem end of the leaf, leaving room at the sides. Fold the sides in and roll the leaf away from you, towards the tip to form a cylindrical shape.

  • Repeat with the remaining leaves.

  • Pour the sauce into a large pan, and throw the smaller cabbage leaves in there. After you have stuffed all the large leaves, place them in the pot side by side and atop each other, pouring sauce on each layer.

  • Place a lid on the pot and simmer for one hour.

  • Remove from pot carefully and serve on a plate.


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