Vegan Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce

Vegan Cabbage Rolls

Vegan cabbage rolls would probably have to be one of my favourite dishes ever!

I wanted to make this recipe easy to make so I used fresh cabbage leaves and canned brown lentils. Where I’m from, this dish is originally made with meat and is called sarma.

For the last seven years, I’ve been shooting fruits and vegetables in their natural state and focusing on bringing out the beauty in each piece.

Since I closed my photography business, I’ve been focusing on only shooting food. Food is where my love of photography first came from and used to photograph a lot of food at the beginning.

After shooting this recipe, I feel like my spark has been reignited. I’m seeing the beauty in the simple. We sometimes forget to take the time to look and appreciate what nature has created for us.

I really enjoyed shooting this cabbage and took quite a few beautiful photos of it. Here are just a couple.

Vegan Rice and Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Hope this recipe is as enjoyable for you as it has been for me over the years. You can do so many different variations with this base. Use your imagination and experiment!

If you try this recipe, let me know! Would love for you to leave a comment and rating below. If you want to go that extra mile, tag us on Instagram or share your photo of the recipe on Pinterest

Vegan Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce
Yield: Serves 8 Rolls

Vegan Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Enjoy these hearty Vegan Cabbage Rolls in a Rich Tomato Sauce, which has been a staple in my household for as long as I can remember.


  • ¼ cup high heat oil (I use brown rice bran oil or macadamia oil)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 can of brown lentils, drained and washed well
  • 1 cup of cooked white rice
  • 8 full cabbage leaves or 14 -16 half leaves
  • 1 can of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat half the oil and add half of the chopped onion. Sauté the onion until it begins softening and turning translucent.
  2. Add in the brown lentils and cook for one minute.
  3. Add in the cooked rice and seasoning to taste cooking for 5 minutes.
  4. Set this mixture aside.
  5. In a large saucepan, bring water to the boil and boil the cabbage leaves for 1-2 minutes each. Remove from water and set aside.
  6. In the same large saucepan (without the water), add the remainder of the oil and onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
  7. Add in the canned tomatoes and tomato paste cooking for 5 minutes on a gentle simmer.
  8. Add in ½ cup of water and season to taste.
  9. While the sauce is cooking, lay out the cabbage leaves overlapping smaller leaves to form one larger leaf if necessary. Place a portion of the mixture in the centre of each. Fold the bottom half of cabbage over the filling, then fold in sides and roll up tightly. Transfer cabbage rolls seam side down on a plate.
  10. Once you have finished rolling the cabbage rolls and the sauce has been cooking for 10 minutes, place all the cabbage rolls in the sauce and cook for another 10 minutes.
  11. Serve warm on its own, with mashed potato or bread.

Other recipes you’ll love:

  1. Anna’s Rustic Eggplant Patties in Tomato Sauce
  2. Vegan Sweet Potato Gnocchi With a Capsicum Tomato Sauce (Gluten-Free)
  3. Turkish Stewed Green Beans
  4. European-Style Vegan Stuffed Peppers
  5. Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto

Interested in more recipes?

Want to get inspired each week with a new vegan recipe using everyday ingredients? Click on the link below to get them straight to your inbox!

  • Hi – this recipe looks great! It is a savory version, and my grandmother always made hers sweet and sour, with golden raisins. What would you add to the sauce for that? Any ideas? Thanks so much, Michele

    • So sorry Michele! I only saw this comment now. I’m not sure I understand the question. To make it sweet and sour? I’ve never had it like that before. I would imagine adding some form of sugar for the sweet part and then something acidic like lemon or apple cider vinegar for the sour part would do the trick? As I said, I haven’t made it like this before, but this is what I would instinctively try for those flavours. Good luck!

  • Meghan 13/09/2018 Reply

    I realize I’m late to the party BUT i made these tonight and it’s the first time I’ve made cabbage rolls that didn’t fall apart! I changed the recipe slightly- along with rice and lentils I added TVP re-hydrated with the cabbage water. I spiced my mixture with thyme, red pepper, and black pepper. I also used purple cabbage, but only because I think it’s beautiful.
    Thank you for such a lovely recipe!

  • Andrea 04/04/2018 Reply

    It’s important to note that lentils are kitniyot, which are legumes and are not permitted to Ashkenazim–Jews from Europe. Sephardic and Middle East Jews are allowed to eat kiyniyot.

    • bracha 10/04/2018 Reply

      i believe what you are referring to is at passover time. the rest of the year kitniyot are permitted for ashkenazim. for a kitniyot free version, perhaps one could sub quinoa for the rice and sauted mushrooms for the lentils.

  • Gwen 18/10/2017 Reply

    IMO a true minimalist would water saute and save the oil for a skin treatment.

    • We didn’t realise there was a rule book to be a true minimalist. Can you point us in the right direction?

  • Debra Shapiro 04/10/2017 Reply

    1/4 cup of oil? Have you tried making this without all the oil?

    • Hi Debra, I haven’t as it’s easier to cook the lentils, rice and onion while sautéing. You can give it a go and see if it’s not too dry!

  • Ellen 22/05/2017 Reply

    I tried it with a can of green lentils added basil and marjoram. Started the sauce and then put the cabbage rolls and sauce into the crock pot for the day. It tasted great. Thanks for a great recipe

  • Mary 23/02/2017 Reply

    Thank you for this recipe, it was delicious! I added garam masala as my seasoning and LOVED it! I will be adding more tomatoes/sauce next time just because I really liked it.

  • Alex Simofi-Ilyes 05/01/2017 Reply

    Can I use red lentils instead and have somewhat similar result?

    • It won’t be overly similar as I normally use red lentils for more dishes like soups and curries. It won’t mess with the rolls themselves but won’t have the same texture. French lentils would work better. Let me know how you go!

  • nat 18/12/2016 Reply

    Thank you for the recipe! Any spice ideas? I am adding garlic and thinking cumin and black pepper?

    • I would add paprika and/or black pepper. Cumin can be nice too but would work better if the leaves were fermented cabbage (sauerkraut). Can’t go wrong with garlic 🙂

  • J. Rich 04/11/2016 Reply

    Made these for dinner tonight. Next time, I’ll double the sauce and use a 28 oz can of tomatoes.

    I put the sauce in a skillet, and then put the stuffed cabbage on top. Would have been nice to put more sauce on top of the stuffed cabbage.

    Thank you very much for the recipe. I’ll have to check out more of your recipes!

  • Bea 04/11/2016 Reply

    These sound amazing, I am about to make them for my significant other’s birthday. Thank you! Love your site

  • J Rich 20/10/2016 Reply

    What size of tomatoes? 14 oz or 28 oz can? Thank you

  • Alison Preloznik 07/05/2016 Reply

    Hi! Thank you so much for posting this recipe! My husband is from Croatia and we eat mostly European foods. I have recently started a plant based food diet with no meat, dairy, or eggs and have been searching for recipes like sarma and pita that are dairy free and meatless. I really appreciate being able to make one of our staple foods minus the meat! I can’t wait to make it for my husband!

    • Hi Alison, thanks so much for reaching out! Yes, they are sometimes tricky foods to make plant based but there is always a way! If you wanted to make them more like sarma, I would use fermented cabbage leaves (sauerkraut)and maybe even soy mince (organic) to give it a more authentic flavour. This will be nice but if you’re trying to transition, this version may be the closest to the traditional one 🙂 I have to get more recipes and inspiration from my parents 🙂 Hope you both enjoy it and good luck on your plant based journey! Masa x

  • Laurie Humes 01/12/2015 Reply

    Hi, I was wondering if these can be frozen? (trying to get ahead on my Christmas cooking) If they can be frozen, would you cook them first, freeze and take them out of the freezer a day ahead and warm in the oven or????

    • Hi Laurie! I don’t see why not 🙂 Thaw the day before and pop in the oven just like you said. Enjoy!

  • Faith Watson 22/05/2015 Reply

    Where I’m from (well, not me per se, but my Polish anscestors) these are called golabki (say guh-whoomp-key) and they are made with meat, usually ground beef and pork. I don’t like meat but never thought to make them with something like lentils (or I am now thinking minced mushrooms actually). I love the sauce and cabbage, though I also embellish with bay leaf, summer savory or thyme, and usually add some shredded carrot for moisture and color. If anyone is looking for a good brand of diced tomatoes and/or pureed for sauce, I like Pomi. It comes in a box, no BPA or anything artificial, 100% Italian tomatoes. Good stuff. Thanks for this post!

    • Hi Faith 🙂 I’ve heard that a few times now, people with a Polish background seem to eat them very frequently! Sounds very similar to sarma. Minced mushrooms sounds amazing! Mmmm….drool. Your version sounds delicious also. Thanks for sharing the tip! I always buy BPA free canned foods but a tetra pack is even better. I can get them at one health food store here – Ceres Organics is the brand.

  • Amanda 19/05/2015 Reply

    Yum!!! Thank you so much for sharing this and making it so easy to print off or save the recipe. Can’t wait to try it.

  • Tina 14/05/2015 Reply

    Can I substitute green peppers for the cabbage? Thank you!

    • Hi Tina, You sure can! Might be nice to grill them slightly whole over an open flame to get that extra flavour before stuffing them.

  • Lali 14/05/2015 Reply

    If using fresh lentils – what’s the measurement?

  • chalynda 14/05/2015 Reply

    Can I use a bag of lentils instead of a can?

    • You sure can! A bag of lentils I’m guessing would be dried lentils? Just make sure you cook them first and use about ½-¾ cup.

  • Lisa 14/05/2015 Reply

    What kind of canned tomatoes? Whole? Diced? Crushed? Stewed?

    • Hi Lisa, I like to get the whole ones and them dice them myself. I prefer to know that I am getting. Either whole or diced would be best 🙂 If tomatoes are in season where you are, beautiful fresh ones are also great!

  • carolina 06/05/2015 Reply

    Can you use quinoa instead of the white rice or brown rice?

    • You sure can! 🙂

      • Dottie 18/05/2015 Reply

        That was my question, and I am making this today!

        • Dottie 18/05/2015 Reply

          Made them with quite a few embellishments. Used fire roasted tomatoes, quinoa, safflower oil. Added basil, oregano, a little garlic, Field Roast (vegetarian) sausage, vegetable stock instead of water to the sauce and then I baked them! in the oven now. Cannot wait to taste them; they smell and look delicious!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.