Inspired by Slovak stuffed cabbage (also known as holubky or halupki), these vegan cabbage rolls with brown rice, tempeh bacon, sauerkraut and tomato sauce are packed with savory, sour delicious flavors. And they are so good!
So, what goes with this vegan cabbage rolls recipe? Mashed potatoes. A big, huge mound of mashed potatoes topped with some melted vegan butter. Get a little of the cabbage roll, the sauerkraut tomato sauce and some mashed potato in every bite. Wow!
A few notes…
If you use Easy Tempeh Bacon for this recipe, make sure the tempeh marinates overnight or even two nights, if possible. You want it to be potent, so it can carry the flavor.
After pulling off the outer leaves of the cabbage, you’ll be left with the inner leaves of the cabbage and part of the core. This part of the cabbage does not work well for cabbage rolls, but do not throw it out! Save it and use it to make Slavic Cabbage Soup or Vegan Cabbage and Noodles.
Slow Cooker Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Sauerkraut Tomato Sauce
2 heads of green cabbage
1 ½ cups short grain brown rice
1 ½ cups onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp vegan butter
1 uncooked batch of Easy Tempeh Bacon, crumbled up (OR use store bought, like Lightlife Smoky Tempeh)
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
28 ounce can of tomato puree
1 cup sauerkraut, drained (but reserve ¼ cup of the brine)
1. Fill a large pot with water. Add 4 cups water to a medium saucepan. Put both on the stove and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, core the cabbage (see photo above).
2. When the medium saucepan comes to a boil, add the rice and boil for 15 minutes. Drain the rice in a colander, and then, dump it into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. When the large pot comes to a boil, add one of the entire heads of cabbage. Push it down with a wooden spoon, so it’s totally submerged (air bubbles will rise to the surface of the water, as the water seeps in).
4. After ~3 minutes of boiling, edge your wooden spoon (or spatula) between one of the leaves and the head of the cabbage and push a little. The leaves should be soft, and easily come away (see photo above). This entire process should take less than 5 minutes.
5. Remove the cabbage head from the boiling pot using two wooden spoons (see photo above). And place the boiled cabbage on a plate lined with a paper towel, and give it a chance to cool a bit.
6. Repeat steps 3-5 with the second head of cabbage. Once you remove the second cabbage head from the boiling water, keep the pot of boiling water. You may need it to soften some of the cabbage leaves, if they are not pliable enough.
7. Once you’ve boiling both cabbage heads, gingerly pull off the outer leaves, and stack them on the plate covered with a paper towel. You’ll want 12-15 leaves–depending on the size of the leaves.
8. If one of the leaves feels a little too “crisp”, put it back in the boiling water for a few seconds. The leaves need to be easy to fold. The innermost part of the cabbage does not work well for making stuffed cabbage rolls, so reserve it and use it in another recipe (see the notes for suggestions).
9. In a skillet, add the onion, vegan butter and a dash of salt. Saute over medium-high heat until the onions are transparent (or ~6 minutes).
10. Add the tempeh bacon, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder to the skillet. Stir around for ~3 minutes over medium-high heat. Then, add it to the mixing bowl with the rice. Stir to combine everything together. Set aside.
11. In the bottom of a slow cooker or crockpot, add ~⅓ cup of the tomato puree and ¼ cup of the sauerkraut. Mix together and spread evenly across the bottom.
12. Now, it’s time to fold the rolls. Run your knife along the midrib of the cabbage leaf and shave it down (see photo above). This will make the leaf much easier to fold.
13. Turn the leaf over, so the area where you shaved part of midrib away is facing down. Put 2-3 Tbsp of the filling in the center of the leaf.
14. Fold up the bottom part of the leaf and fold over one side.
15. Fold over the other side. It should create a pouch around the filling.
16. Roll it up, and trim away any excess leaf.
17. Place it in the slow cooker. Repeat this process until you have one layer of rolls across the bottom of the slow cooker. Don’t be shy about squeezing them in there.
18. When you make one layer, add another ⅓ of the can of tomato puree over the rolls and ½ cup of the sauerkraut. Spread it over the rolls.
19. Then, finish folding to rolls until you create another layer (or however many you have left).
20. Cover the second layer of rolls with the remaining sauerkraut and tomato puree. Pour the ¼ cup of sauerkraut brine over the top. Secure the slow cooker lid, and cook on HIGH for 3.5-4 hours.
21. Remove the lid, top with fresh parsley, and serve with a big pile of fluffy mashed potatoes.