The only thing in this world that could be better than stuffed cabbage rolls is stuffed cabbage roll soup. This recipe is my take on the classic, grandmother-approved dish that is always a cozy choice for a family dinner. Best of all, by turning it into a soup, you get all that lovely cabbage roll deliciousness for a fraction of the time and effort. 🙌
I’m all about recipes that are quick and easy to throw together and can easily feed a crowd, and stuffed cabbage roll soup ticks both of those boxes.
Even if I’m not having company, I love making a big batch of this soup and enjoying leftovers for a few days afterward.
What is Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup?
Basically, this soup is an un-stuffed version of a classic Polish recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls. Traditionally, stuffed cabbage rolls involve steaming or otherwise softening cabbage leaves, stuffing them with pork, beef, rice, tomato sauce, and seasonings, and then wrapping each roll individually and baking them.
Clearly, traditional stuffed cabbage rolls are pretty labor-intensive, which is why I adore this (deconstructed) stuffed cabbage roll soup so much.
It’s quick and easy but still has all the nourishing ingredients and satisfying flavors you get with the traditional recipe. 😅
What it Takes to Make Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup
- Vegetable Oil – This versatile kitchen must-have will keep your beef and veggies from sticking to the pan as you sauté them. Since it doesn’t have much flavor, it won’t affect the final taste of the soup.
- Ground Beef – Cut up into tiny pieces in a meat grinder; ground beef makes this dish hearty and delicious.
- Yellow Onion – Fresh and tangy, onions add real depth of flavor to this dish and complement the other ingredients.
- Garlic – This veggie adds flavor and aroma to any recipe, turning it into a mouthwatering dish.
- Thyme – This herb adds a subtle minty flavor, with a hint of floral notes and sweetness.
- Bay Leaves – With a tea-like aroma, bay leaves add a spectacular layer of flavor with a touch of cool mintiness.
- Creole Seasoning – You will definitely notice the kick of heat in this spice mix with plenty of flavors. If you don’t have any store-bought creole seasoning, you can make your own using my recipe HERE.
- Tomato Sauce – Sweet, fresh tomato sauce adds yet another layer of flavor to this recipe, maintaining the classic cabbage roll taste.
- Tomato Paste – An extra thick paste made from fresh and flavorful tomatoes will help you get the perfect soup consistency.
- Beef Bouillon – It’s available in a paste, powder, or cubes and concentrates flavor without adding extra liquid for a richer broth.
- Light Brown Sugar – With a deep, caramel-like flavor, brown sugar gets its classic taste (and color) from molasses and acts to balance the acidity from the tomatoes.
- White Rice – This filling ingredient soaks up quite a bit of water, making this soup thicker and heartier.
- Carrots – This root vegetable adds color and flavor to this already beautiful dish.
- Beef Broth – This delicious ingredient is essentially water from boiled beef, and it’s much more flavorful and nutritious than plain water.
- Worcestershire Sauce – This multipurpose sauce’s robust taste shines with a bold flavor. It’s a common choice for sauce bases and stews.
- Water – Soup has a lot of liquid, but if you want even more flavor, you can use broth instead of water and bouillon.
- Cabbage – A leafy veggie that comes in many different varieties. Classic green cabbage is the star of this soup show!
- Salt and Pepper – This classic duo harnesses the power of salt to bring other flavors to life and potent pepper to add a kick of heat without making a dish overly spicy.
- Parsley – This attractive herb contrasts with and highlights other flavors. Its bright green leaves make for a beautiful and tasty garnish.
- Ground Beef – You could use different ground meat if you prefer here, such as turkey or pork.
- Beef Broth – If you don’t have any on hand, chicken broth is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
- Brown Sugar – You could use white sugar in a pinch or just omit it. But if you want a hint of sweetness without refined sugar, agave syrup, coconut sugar, and honey work well.
- White Rice – Brown rice takes much longer to cook, so if you want to use brown rice instead of white rice, try adding it pre-cooked near the end, giving it just enough time to warm through.
Tips and Tricks
1. Stir the soup pretty frequently while it’s cooking to keep ground beef and rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
2. This soup will thicken as it cooks quite a bit, especially if you use uncooked rice, as I did. If it gets thicker than you want, just add some more water or beef broth to thin it back to your desired consistency.
3. Instead of cooking rice in the soup, you could use up any leftover cooked white rice you have in the fridge and add it at the end. Any variety of cooked rice will work, including jasmine, basmati, or brown rice.
Making stuffed cabbage roll soup ahead of time is totally doable, with just one minor recipe tweak.
Prepare the soup as per the directions, but don’t add the rice. It will soak up too much of the soup broth if left to sit for a few days. Store the riceless soup in the fridge for up to four days.
Heat it up on the stove and add cooked rice a few minutes before serving when ready to serve the soup.
Serving and Storage
This dish is a one-pot wonder! 🤩 Simply serve it in your favorite cozy bowls and garnish with loads of parsley.
Once the soup has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container and store it in the fridge, and it will stay delicious for up to four days.
You can also freeze this soup in an airtight container or freezer-safe resealable bag for up to three months. Thaw your stuffed cabbage roll soup overnight in the fridge and reheat it in a saucepan when you are ready to dig in. 😋
If your cabbage is tough, it simply hasn’t cooked long enough. Let your soup simmer five minutes more and do a taste test. Repeat until the cabbage softens.
The best way to soften cabbage is to give it enough time to cook. The cooking times in this recipe worked perfectly for me, but everyone’s stove, pans, and ingredients can vary slightly, so be ready to add a few extra minutes to let your cabbage get soft if you need to. 😉
Now, if you’re talking about sauerkraut, that’s a different story. Thoroughly mix your sliced cabbage with approximately two teaspoons of non-iodized salt and let it sit overnight, and that should soften it up enough to pack it in good and tight in a glass jar for fermenting.
Stuffed cabbage roll soup lasts for 3-4 days in the fridge when stored correctly in an airtight container. In my honest opinion, it’s one of those soups that just gets more flavorful over time, so don’t shy away from those leftovers!
What Goes with Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup
I mean, stuffed cabbage roll soup is already a pretty complete package, guys. It’s got rice, meat, AND veggies, which means this recipe can stand alone with no other sides.
Homemade croutons also make a lovely topper for this dish, and if you want to, you could even make a side salad to go with this dish.
I think a classic wedge salad is perfect because its cool freshness balances well with the soup’s warm, hearty nature.
How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup
Sauté and Season the Meat
- Heat the Oil – Add the vegetable oil to a large cast-iron skillet or pot and heat on medium heat.
- Sauté the Beef – When the oil is hot, add the ground beef and cook until it is no longer pink. Break the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. (Photos 1-3)
- Discard Unwanted Fat – Once the beef is cooked, remove any excess fat with your wooden spoon and discard.
- Add Seasonings – Add the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and Creole seasoning and cook, constantly stirring, until the onions are translucent and the beef is slightly browned. (Photo 4-5)
Add Liquid Ingredients, Rice, and Veggies
- Pour in the Liquid -Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef bouillon, and brown sugar. (Photo 6)
- Heat – Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat. (Photo 7)
- Simmer – Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Toss in More Good Stuff – Add rice, carrots, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and water. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. (Photo 8-9)
- Final Stretch – Add cabbage and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the rice is tender. (Photo 10-12)
- Customize – Adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.
Serve the Soup
- Take out the bay leaves.
- Spoon individual servings into bowls.
- Garnish with parsley and serve!
Watch How To Make It
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Soup
- 1 tablespoon (14 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 pound (453.59 g) ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon (8 g) garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons (2 g) thyme, minced
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1-2 teaspoons (4-8 g) Creole seasoning
- 2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons (32 g) tomato paste
- 1-2 teaspoons (2-4 g) beef bouillon, or 1-2 cubes
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) light brown sugar
- ½-¾ cup (92.5-138.75 g) white rice, uncooked
- 2 medium carrots, sliced (about 2 cups)
- 2 cups (500 ml) beef broth (or water)
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
- 1 tablespoon (17 g) Worcestershire sauce
- 4 cups green cabbage, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons (8 g) fresh parsley, chopped
- Add the vegetable oil to a large cast-iron skillet or pot and heat on medium heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the ground beef and cook until it is no longer pink. Break the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
- Once the beef is cooked, remove any excess fat with your wooden spoon and discard.
- Add the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and Creole seasoning and cook, constantly stirring, until the onions are translucent and the beef is slightly browned.
- Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, beef bouillon, and brown sugar.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat.
- Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup
- Add rice, carrots, beef broth, water, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes.
- Add cabbage and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the rice is tender.
- Adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.
- Take out the bay leaves.
- Spoon individual servings into bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve!
Tips & Notes:
- Stir the soup pretty frequently while it’s cooking to keep ground beef and rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- This soup will thicken as it cooks quite a bit, especially if you use uncooked rice, as I did. If it gets thicker than you want, just add some more water or beef broth to thin it back to your desired consistency.
- Instead of cooking rice in the soup, you could use up any leftover cooked white rice you have in the fridge and add it at the end. Any variety of cooked rice will work, including jasmine, basmati, or brown rice.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.