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Last updated on April 15th, 2024 at 04:56 pm

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Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Slow-Cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are filled with seasoned ground beef, and cooked rice, in a tangy and flavorful tomato sauce. Each one is wrapped in a slightly sweet cabbage leaf and then soaks up all the flavors in the crock pot all day. This traditional recipe is the definition of comfort food.

Crockpot Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Being from Moldova I have my fair share of cabbage rolls, because there is no holiday here, or special occasion, without making some “Sarmale”. You see, cabbage rolls are very popular in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, Romania, and Moldova.

There are a few differences from country to country, for example, the ones in Moldova are usually small in size. The tinier you can make them, the more praise you get. Since it’s a long, and thorough process. Also, the ones from Moldova, have more rice to meat ratio, and the vegetarian option is just as popular.

The stuffed cabbage rolls that I have made using this recipe, are the ones you will find in Romania and Poland. They are larger, easier to roll, and not as time-consuming. Filled with seasoned ground beef, and cooked rice, heavier on the meat this time. Each one is wrapped in a slightly sweet cabbage leaf and that soaks up all the tomato sauce flavors in the crock pot all day.

Also, Moldavian and Romanian rolls, sometimes are made with pickled cabbage/sour cabbage or with grape leaves. But ONLY the Moldavian version is NOT cooked in a copious amount of tomato sauce. Mostly, they are just slowly roasted in a Dutch oven with some water. Later served with sour cream for dipping.

As someone who had an incredible amount of cabbage rolls, I can tell you that these are great. And here is why you will love them:

  • Very easy to make, larger saved time and effort.
  • Filling on their own, as they are a mix of vegetables, protein, and starch.
  • Cooking them in the slow cooker requires little prep and you don’t have to check on them often. Also, this lets you use your oven for other recipes.

What do you need to make crockpot stuffed cabbage rolls?


  • Head of cabbage – for this recipe I use green cabbage because it is pliable enough and after slow cooking the rolls are tender.


  • Cooked rice – I made the recipe with cooked white rice, and this is a great way to use some leftover rice. Brown rice works great as well.
  • Meat: cabbage rolls are traditionally made with ground pork, or with a mixture of ground pork and beef, however, I prefer mine with ground beef.
  • Aromatics and seasonings: To make the filling stand out I use a combination of fresh minced garlic, onion powder, paprika, Italian herbs, and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Fresh herbs: Adding a good amount of freshly chopped parsley adds some freshness and extra flavor to the filling.
  • Egg: I add one egg to bind all the ingredients together.


I am proud of the sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce I have specifically developed for this recipe. Made with a combination of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, fresh onion, and garlic, to add a savory layer.

To season the sauce I used salt, ground black pepper, and added some brown sugar. A little goes a long way, and a teaspoon of sugar will balance the acidity of the tomatoes, highlighting their natural sweetness.

A bit of Worcestershire sauce for an unami flavor, that goes very well when combined with the meat from this recipe. Also, a bit of wine vinegar, which is known for its delicious and distinctive tangy flavor, and the ability to tenderize the meat.

Can’t make my tomato sauce without some dried Italian herbs, that includes dried basil, dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried thyme, and dried marjoram.

How to make crockpot stuffed cabbage rolls?

  • Blanching the cabbage: To begin, place the cabbage head in a pot of boiling water on medium heat and boil for 5-8 minutes to make the leaves easy to roll.
  • Make the filling: Then, mix ground beef, cooked rice, garlic, onion powder, paprika, Italian herbs, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  • Mix the sauce: After, make the sauce in a small bowl by combining chopped onion, garlic powder, tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, brown sugar, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and dried Italian herbs. 
  • Make the rolls: Then, make your rolls by filling each cabbage leaf with half the ground beef meat mixture. Seal both ends and set them aside. Continue with the remaining leaves.
  • Slow cook: Spray the crock pot with cooking spray and layer three cabbage leaves on the bottom. Pour half of the tomato sauce on top. Arrange the prepared cabbage rolls in the crock pot and top with the remaining sauce. Cover and cook on high for four hours or eight hours on low. 

Expert tip

Don’t learn this the hard way, let someone else’s experience guide you and save you time. Do NOT try to roll the fresh cabbage leaves, they will snap and tear.

It is important to either boil or microwave the cabbage leaves first. I prefer the boiling method I have described in the recipe, but if you are short on time, try the microwave method.

Place the cabbage in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave on high for about 12-14 minutes. Check if the outer layer of leaves is pliable and once the cabbage is cool enough to handle, peel them off. Microwave the cabbage again for 3 minutes, remove the pliable leaves again, and repeat.

Another way to soften the cabbage leaves is by freezing it. For this method, you have to plan ahead of time, wrap the cabbage in plastic wrap, and freeze it for a couple of days.

Remove from the freezer, place it on a plate, and let it thaw at room temperature. Once it has thawed out, the leaves should be softened and easy to peel.

Recipe variations:

  • Different meat: Try using ground turkey, chicken, ground pork, or even spicy ground sausage. 
  • Leaves: Experiment with pickled cabbage leaves or grape leaves.
  • Add cheese: Everything tastes better with cheese. Add some shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese to the filling.
  • Spicy: Add red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper for spicy cabbage rolls. 
  • Bacon: It is popular to have bacon bits in the Romanian and Moldavian versions, so feel free to add some.
  • Vegetarian: Use rice and veggies for a vegetarian option.
  • Rice substitutions: Use quinoa, amaranth, or buckwheat instead.

What do you serve with cabbage rolls?

Frequently asked questions

What kind of rice is best for cabbage rolls?

I used cooked white rice for our slow-cooker cabbage rolls, usually, regular, long grain or short-grain white rice is the best. Brown rice works well too. Some recipes call for uncooked rice, but I like to use cooked rice to make sure it gets done all the way. You can also try using jasmine, basmati, or black rice in your slow-cooker cabbage rolls. Minute Rice is a great choice for using uncooked rice.

What is the best cabbage to use?

Green cabbage is best for this recipe. However, you can use whatever you have. As long as you use fresh cabbage, you can make it with whatever type of cabbage you like. Although there are over 400 types of cabbage, the main ones are green, red, napa, savoy, and black cabbage. You will need about eight outer leaves from a head of cabbage for this crock pot cabbage roll recipe.

Can I use lean ground beef?

I recommend lean ground beef (80/20) but you can use whatever you like to cook with. Just remember, the higher the amount of fat, the more grease you will end up with and you do not want your cooked cabbage rolls swimming in oil. You may want to use 90/10 ground sirloin for the least amount of grease and saturated fats.

Why are my cabbage rolls tough?

Unfortunately, this is if you didn’t soften the cabbage leaves, either by boiling, microwaving, or freezing the head of the cabbage. This will also make rolling the leaves harder, and the rolls may fall apart. To fix this issue, just cook the cabbage rolls a little longer until the cabbage is tender.

Why do you freeze cabbage before making cabbage rolls?

This is one of the three methods to soften the leaves, otherwise they will tear and break. Freezing breaks down the structure of the leaves, making them softer and pliable, reducing the possibility of cracking when pulling them from the head or rolling them. However, you have to plan to use this method, as you need to freeze the cabbage for a few days and after that thaw it.


  • Store: You can store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
  • Freeze: Wrap in plastic wrap and place the cabbage rolls in a freezer bag to freeze for up to three months.
  • Thaw: Thaw your frozen leftover cabbage rolls in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

More recipes with cabbage:

Recipe tips:

  • Cook the whole head of cabbage just until the leaves fall off. There is no need to cook it for longer. 
  • If you decide to use sour cabbage for this recipe, you do NOT have to boil it. But since it’s pretty salty, you need to soak it in water for 1-2 hours before you peel and use the leaves.
  • Cook the recipe either on High for 4 hours or on Low for 8 hours.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

  • Prep Time30 MIN
  • Cook Time8H
  • Servings 6 servings


Tomato Sauce:

  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes do not drain
  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs

Cabbage Rolls:

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves chopped
  • 1 egg


Prepare the leaves:

  • Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  • Take out the core of the cabbage head, then, submerge the cabbage in the boiling water for a few minutes until some of the leaves start to peel away and the leaves begin to soften, in a way that each leaf must be pliable enough for rolling later.
  • Remove from water and cut off the thick part of the leaves to flatten it.

Prepare the filling:

  • Combine the "Cabbage Rolls" ingredients, except the cabbage, in a large bowl.

Make the sauce:

  • Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray.
  • Layer 3 cabbage leaves on the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Add the sauce ingredients to a bowl, stir to combine, and transfer HALF to the slow cooker.


  • Add about 2-3 tablespoons of filling inside a cabbage leaf and roll. Make sure to seal both ends. Repeat with the remaining leaves. Set aside.
  • Layer the cabbage rolls in the slow cooker, and pour the remaining sauce on top.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts

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Hi, what size slow cooker do you need for this?

Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

Cindy Tufford

Cindy Tufford

Made these cabbage rolls for the first time today, they turned out delicious! My company raved about them!



I made these yesterday, and they were delicious. Re: the nutritional info, how many cabbage rolls are in an individual serving (needed for counting calories)? Thanks.

Kerri S

Kerri S

Made this today for St. Paddy’s.. it was PERFECT! My Mammaw used to make something cabbage rolls, and I’ve been on the hunt for her receipt. After a total failed cabbage lasagna recipe years ago, I’ve been apprehensive to try again. I’m so glad I tried this recipe. It tastes just like what I remember from childhood. Boiling the cabbage made all the difference.. DONT skip that step! I was apprehensive about putting raw ground meat in the slow cooker, but it was perfect. It is saucy, so I recommend serving with mashed cauliflower or potatoes. I had some cabbage leftover and sautéed it with butter. So tasty! Thank you for this recipe! It’s going in the rotation!

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