Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

Hello My Name IsHello, my name is Sonia and I’m a Sugar Junkie!

I might even say that I’m a real, hard core, Junk Food Addict.

Never in my life have I had such a hard time battling an addiction.

Oh, for the most part, I’m doing fine. It seems like my brain is very well trained in the sense that it knows that if/when something is off limits, it can cry and whine all it wants, it’s never gonna get its way. We are to stay away from such and such food and that is that. Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me all that much and it pretty much complies with my wishes.

But as soon as I let my guard down, no matter how little, all hell breaks loose.

And it seems that whenever I’m on vacation, I happen to let said guard down and eventually lose all sense of self-control.

In other words, I tend to make almost perfect food choices 95% of the time throughout the year, EXCEPT for the 4-5 weeks during which I’m on vacation.

During those weeks, I eat just about anything I want. And it gets ugly. Real ugly.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

This past week, there has been A LOT of ice cream. As in almost every day, ice cream. Including, but not limited to, one of these. In “Gotta Have It”. With extra brownies.

Also, there has been Szechuan/Thai food. Yes, it was all you can eat. And this happened not only once, but TWICE!

There’s also been a couple of beers (read FOUR, all in the same day), a whole lot of handfuls of pretzels and chips, a generous serving of French Fries, some gummies and other candies, a whole chocolate bar, as well as a real hamburger, complete with olive bread and blue cheese.

Oh yeah, and a Beaver’s Tail, too…


Needless to say I now feel incredibly bloated and my body looks like it’s gained 20 pounds of pure fat. I can’t say I’m too proud of myself.

Good thing is, at least, my Whole30® started on my last official day of vacation and, as usual, I had no trouble whatsoever making the switch. In fact, I was almost relieved.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

An entire week of really bad eating is pretty much all I can take… It’s funny how I can snap in and out of it super easily, but just can’t stop overindulging until the very end, even if I invariably start feeling bad both physically and mentally at some point.

Food definitely is a crazy strong addiction. And a real strange one at that!

I think that for the time being, I still have to accept that I’m not perfect… and maybe next time, I oughta plan doing a Whole30® while on vacation.

Hmpft! Not sure I’d be strong enough to pull that off, but it might be worth a try!

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

So anyway, enough about my junk food addiction and other weaknesses. Let’s put the focus back where it should be now, shall we?

GOOD FOOD is what we should be talking about. And this tasty dish definitely qualifies!

Strangely enough, this was the dish that I chose to make to kick-off my summer vacation. Not that it’s all that summery… but I was really in the mood for Cabbage Rolls, although I didn’t feel like spending the time in the kitchen.

So I figured I would keep all of the components but go through almost none of the trouble. Instead of stuffing the meat in carefully rolled steamed cabbage leaves, I just made it into meatballs, which I slowly cooked in a tasty tomato sauce over a bed of shredded cabbage.

The resulting dish was so amazingly good that I doubt I will ever go through the trouble of making the actual rolls ever again!

And of course, this recipe is Whole30® compliant. In fact, I decided that for the entire month of July, which is the duration of my challenge this time, I would be posting nothing but Whole30® compliant recipes.

Fear not… they won’t all take so long to make. In fact, I’m planning on posting a whole bunch of really easy ones, too!

For doing a Whole30® should be everything but complicated!

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

Yield: Serves 6-8

NF based on 1 of 6 servings

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls


    For the meatballs
  • 900g lean ground beef
  • 325g raw cauliflower, grated (that’s about 2 cups)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp whole anise seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp cacao powder
  • 1 tsp instant coffee powder
  • For the tomato sauce
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 227g mushrooms, sliced or cut in half
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp dried mustard
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed chili peppers
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ medium green cabbage head, finely shredded


  1. Place all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large mixing bowl and knead well with your hands until uniformly blended. Form the meat mixture into 18-20 medium sized meatballs (an ice cream scoop really helps getting the job done!)
  2. Heat some coconut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When pan is nice and hot, add the meatballs and cook until crispy and golden brown all around. You might have to work in 2 or 3 batches, depending on the size of your skillet. Don’t worry about cooking the meatballs all the way through as they will finish cooking in the oven.
  3. While the meatballs are cooking, shred the cabbage and lay it at the bottom of a large Dutch oven or oven safe dish with fitting lid.
  4. Arrange the meatballs over the shredded cabbage.
  5. Add mushrooms, onions, and garlic to the pan that you used to cook the meatballs and cook for one or two minutes, just enough for the vegetables to become fragrant and wilt a little bit. Put that in the Dutch oven right over the meatballs.
  6. Add water, vinegar, mustard and spices to the cooking pan to finish deglazing it, bring to a quick boil then pour over the reserved meat and veggies.
  7. Add the canned tomatoes put the lid on and place that in a 350F oven for about 3½ to 4 hours, until the cabbage is nice and tender.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Sear the meatballs on all sides until they a nice golden crust forms. 

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Arrange the meatballs on top of the shredded cabbage

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

 Top with cooked onions and mushrooms, followed with canned tomatoes. 

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Cook in the oven for 3½ to 4 hours… 

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Garnish with a little bit of fresh parsley and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Look at all that beautiful cabbage!

You get so much more than with the rolls… 

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

Time for me to dig in! 

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls | by Sonia! The Healthy Foodie

I really wish I could share! 

The Whole30 Program


  1. says

    I did something very similar to this the other day… only I didn’t bake it all in the oven. I cooked the meatballs, cabbage and tomato sauce separately plated the cabbage (I called it cabbage noodles!), topped with the meatballs and then spooned the sauce over the top.
    The cabbage “noodles” were sauteed with bacon and garlic and I used a mix of ground bison and bulk pork sausage for the meatballs.
    It was yummy.
    I will have to try your way one day.

      • Michelle says

        We just made this last night. looked great on your site, smelled great when cooking. we found there was too much tomato sauce. one can of diced would probably be ample. and then we found the meatballs too dry. next time we make this, and there will be a next time! we’ll re-layer… cabbage, then 1/3 of a tin of the tomato sauce, then meat balls then 2nd third of the tomato sauce, veggies, spice mix and final third of tomatoes. just our version of your great recipe. thank you!

  2. says

    Gorgeous photos as usual Sonia! These look amazing! My mom used to make us stuffed cabbage rolls at least once a month when we were kids and I LOVED them! Haven’t eaten them in years but seeing these made me crave them – and this is a much healthier version I’m sure! All that wrapping in cabbage leaves is so tedious, I love what you’ve done here. And for those crock pot lovers this looks like it would work perfectly! Regarding the sugar addiction – I’m with you girlfriend! For me it’s less the sugar and more the savory, but just as unhealthy and addicting! Hope your Whole 30 is great and gets your butt back in gear! :) Looking forward to more awesome Whole 30 recipes from you this month!

    • says

      Thanks Mellissa! And sorry for having you crave Stuffed Cabbage Rolls… Funny thing is I thought about you when making this dish and thought it might be up your alley. Must be the meatballs! You know, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have meatballs again without thinking about you. 😉

  3. Leigh Ann says

    I have been searching for a way to make my meatballs tender and I think adding cauliflower is a super idea. I am looking forward to trying these out. On a side note, thanks for coming clean about your difficulties with not so clean eating. I am in the same boat. The good news is that with recipes like this, getting back on board is easy. :)

  4. Walls says

    Hi, Sonia,

    I’m a long-time reader, although this is the first time I’ve left a comment on your blog. First off, let me say that I admire the effort you’ve put in to making a huge lifestyle change! I hope you’re enjoying the pay-off and the health benefits that come with quitting smoking, eating well, and exercising. Secondly, I’m also a Canuck (living in America), so I was really happy to come across a blog written by a fellow Canadian. My French is rusty, so pardon me for writing en anglais!

    I love that you’re treating yourself to a bit of a ‘vacation’ away from your typically regimented diet. I love cabbage rolls, and I appreciate the ease with which these are made. I don’t eat red meat, so I will probably substitute turkey for beef, which is my usual habit. I have been happy with the results and usually cook with 93% lean turkey.

    Keep up the food chronicles. I love your zest for food and the great photography that accompanies your recipes. I find your story inspiring; recently I revamped my exercise routine and diet so that I can be the best version of me!

    • says

      Aw, thank you so much for all your kind words. I truly appreciate them. You are too kind, really. Glad to be an inspiration and I’ll do my best to keep doing it. :)

      Oh, and I’m sure that this recipe will be equally good with chicken, too. Please let me know how they turn out if you do give them a try! :)

  5. says

    Your food photos are amazing. You can share your mouth watering photos with us at is a new food sharing site and we actually try our best to promote your food photos. At all your food photos will be published without any editorial review so I really hope you come and join us.

  6. says

    I am making this for Friday nights dinner! I have a baby cabbage in the fridge that needs to be eaten. Cabbage rolls are a favorite of mine but they do take forever to make and my baby cabbage is far too small to use. I think I might be extra lazy though and just add all the spices to cubed beef and not bother with the meatballs. It will not look nearly as beautiful as yours though! I will try the meatballs when I have a little more time :)

  7. Michele Peacock says

    I am putting this all in the crockpot for 8 hours on low. It looks delicious and I sure hope it turns out good! It is so full I am wondering if 10 might be better? I did not brown m meatballs. I did not have time!

    • says

      I really hope it turned out good, Michele! I think I really need to get me a crock pot, too. I love the “set it and forget it” aspect of that cooking method. If you tell me the deconstructed cabbage rolls did turn out, I’m running to the store to get one! 😉

  8. says

    I made these last night, and I have to say the flavor profile is EXQUISITE! It’s almost as if the spices in the meatballs have seeped into the entire tomato sauce. Very lovely.

    I will say that mine came out VERY liquidy, almost a soup layer in the bottom. From your photos, it didn’t look as if yours did, or maybe you just scooped out the contents and arranged in prettily on a plate? The only change I made was using ground chicken instead of beef – they meatballs are so juicy!

    I would love to hear how it turned out from the folks who mentioned making this in a crock pot! I would think you’d definitely need to brown the meatballs, but from there it seems like it work work?

    • says

      Well, I did get a lot of liquid, Johanna, and I think that it does show in the photos, too. But I wouldn’t say it was “soupy”… I guess the solution to that problem would be to remove the lid towards the end to let some of that water evaporate? Or just plain leave the cup of water out… I think I’ll have to retest / revisit this recipe, just to be sure! Maybe I’ll even test the crock pot option myself…

      Glad you loved the flavor, though, and thank you so much for sharing your experience. I truly, sincerely appreciate that! :)

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