Vegan Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls

I have little to show for my Ukrainian heritage except cabbage rolls. Cabbage rolls, or golubsti, are to Ukrainians as lasagna is to Italians. Traditionally, cabbage rolls are based in rice, cabbage, beef and pork.  Obviously, I leave out the meat and jazz it up with some lentils, and I trade the white rice for brown for extra fibre and protein.  A well-kept secret to make your cabbage rolls perfectly uke-credible:

First, the cabbage heads must be cored, then frozen for at least two days before cooking, then defrosted for another day. Attempting to remove the leaves while fresh is a frustrating undertaking. They will rip and tear and you will be lucky to salvage a full leaf or two large enough to make a creditable roll. 

Second, like all good casseroles, cabbage rolls are best enjoyed the day after preparation, and freeze wonderfully. With all the prep work involved in this culinary undertaking, I recommend making enough to freeze for a later date.

Strap on your babushkas, folks, and try to ignore the sound of your Ukrainian foremothers rolling over in their graves for altering a time honoured cultural mainstay. 

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Vegan Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls

Sauce Ingredients
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can crushed tomatoes 
½ cup vegetable broth
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbs white vinegar

Filling Ingredients
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp thyme
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup tomato sauce 
1-1 ½ cup cooked brown lentils
1-1 ½ cups cooked short grain brown rice
1 medium head green cabbage, frozen and thawed


1. Freeze and thaw your cabbage. This takes a few days, so plan in advance.

2. Make the lentils and brown rice in advance. I cooked ½ cup each dried lentils and rice.

3. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium pot, add the minced garlic and sautee for 3-5 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Make the filling: Heat 1 tbs water or oil in a large sauce pan and saute the onion and garlic for 5-10 minutes until onion are soft and transparent. And remaining ingredients and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Add lots of salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

5. Cut the core out of your cabbage and carefully peel off the leaves. Rinse the leaves in a large strainer and shake off excess water.

6. Preheat oven to 350 F.

7. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch glass pan.

8. One leaf at a time, cut the core out of the cabbage leaf and fill with ¼ to ½ cup filling. Roll it up and place in the glass dish.

9. When all of the leaves are done, cover with sauce.

10. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.