This casserole has ground beef, onion, cabbage, and rice cooked in tomato sauce - all the components of traditional cabbage rolls, but with none of the hassle of making individual rolls. Simply toss everything in a slow cooker for a set-it-and-forget-it casserole.
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Cabbage rolls are a great dinner for just about any occasion. But traditional cabbage rolls are a real pain to make. This casserole gives you all the flavor but with just a fraction of the work.
Ingredients and substitutions
Even though the cooking method for this slow cooker recipe, is quite different than that of traditional cabbage rolls, the ingredients are much the same.
- Ground Beef - Ground turkey, pork, or chicken would also work. In addition you can use vegan ground beef substitute.
- Onion or onion powder
- Green Bell Pepper - a red, yellow, or orange bell pepper would also work.
- Garlic or garlic powder
- Italian Seasoning
- Salt and Pepper
- Tomato Sauce - you can also use any combination of canned tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes.
- Brown Sugar, molasses, or honey
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- White Rice or or brown rice (only use 1 cup if you are using brown rice)
- Beef Broth or vegetable broth
- Monterey Jack Cheese or mozzarella cheese
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to make slow cooker cabbage roll casserole
To make this slow cooker cabbage casserole you will start by cooking the beef along with the onion, green pepper, and garlic. After it's fully cooked and the vegetables have begun to soften, drain the grease.
Hint: Save time, by cutting up your cabbage and mixing the tomato sauce (see step 4) while the beef cooks.
Next, add the rice and beef broth to a 6-quart slow cooker and stir.
Tip: To easily core and slice cabbage, first cut it into four wedges (cut from the top of the cabbage, down through the core) Then you can easily slice the core away from each wedge. After the core has been removed, slice the wedge into 1-inch squares.
Add half of the cabbage to the slow cooker on top of the rice and broth, season it with salt and pepper. Next, add half of the cooked beef. Then repeat this with the remaining cabbage and beef.
Now, in a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce with the brown sugar and vinegar. Then pour the mixture over the beef and cabbage in the slow cooker.
Place the lid on the slow cooker, and cook on low for 4-5 hours, or on high for 2-3 hours. About 15 or 20 minutes before the cooking time is complete, stir the contents of the slow cooker and top it all with the shredded cheese. Replace the lid and allow the cheese to melt until the cooking time is complete.
This recipe can be easily adapted to suit your taste buds and dietary preferences.
- Low Carb - Substitute the brown sugar with brown sugar substitute and exclude the rice and beef broth and sub with 1 tablespoon of beef broth concentrate or bouillion and 3 cups of cauliflower rice or additional cabbage.
- Vegan - Use a plant-based ground beef alternative, vegetable broth, and vegan cheese.
- Make it soup - Reduce the ground beef to 1 pound, reduce the cabbage to one half pound, and reduce the rice to three-quarters of a cup. Double the beef broth. Instead of melting the cheese over the casserole, serve it sprinkled on bowls of soup when serving. Otherwise the follow the cooking directions as they are written.
Here's what you'll need to make this slow cooker casserole:
- Slow cooker with at least a 6-quart capacity (I used an Instant Pot Aura Pro affiliate)
- Large skillet (I used a 12" lodge cast iron skillet affiliate)
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Small mixing bowl
- Knife and cutting board
Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen for up to 6 months. To reheat, allow the casserole to thaw then bake in the oven or microwave until it is heated through.
How to make it in advance
The majority of this recipe can be assembled in advance for an even easier meal perfect for busy nights.
To make the casserole ahead, cook the beef, onions, pepper, and onion and prepare the tomato sauce as written in steps 1 and 4.
Then, place the rice in the bottom of the slow cooker, followed by the alternating layers of cabbage and beef. DO NOT add the broth or tomato mixture yet. Store all the components in the fridge until you are ready to cook.
When you are ready to cook the casserole, simply pour the beef broth and tomato sauce into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or high for 2-3 hours.
Additionally, you can add the rice, cabbage, cooked beef(with the onion, pepper, and garlic) to a large freezer bag. Then, add the tomato sauce mixture to a separate bag. Freeze for up to 6 months.
When you are ready to cook, simply pour the beef broth into the bottom of a slow cooker, then empty the contents of the freezer bags into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 4 hours. Stir halfway through.
Unfortunately, I do not recommend this. The end result would be too greasy and since the beef would be broken up, it would cook unevenly.
Yes, you can use Italian sausage or spicy pork sausage would work well.
You sure can! Reduce the beef broth to a half cup. I also suggest cooking the rice in beef broth instead of water for extra flavor.
To save some time cut up your cabbage and mix the tomato sauce (see step 4) while the beef cooks.
Slow Cooker Cabbage Roll Casserole
- Slow Cooker
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- 2 lb Ground Beef
- 1 Yellow Onion diced
- 1 Green Bell Peppers seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoon Garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 lb Head of Cabbage chopped (6-8 cups)
- 28 oz Tomato Sauce
- 2 tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 ½ cup White Rice uncooked and rinsed
- 4 cups Beef Broth
- 1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese shredded
- In a large skillet, brown the ground beef with the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Once the beef is fully cooked, drain the grease from the pan.2 lb Ground Beef, 1 Yellow Onion, 1 Green Bell Peppers, 2 tablespoon Garlic, 1 teaspoon Salt, ½ teaspoon Black Pepper, 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- Add the rice and beef broth to the slow cooker and stir.1 ½ cup White Rice, 4 cups Beef Broth
- Place half of the chopped cabbage on top of the rice and beef broth, season with a few shakes of salt and pepper. Then, add half of the cooked ground beef, onions, and peppers. Repeat this using the remaining cabbage and beef.1 lb Head of Cabbage
- In a small bowl, combine the tomato sauce with the brown sugar and vinegar. Mix well, then pour the mixture over the ground beef in the slow cooker.28 oz Tomato Sauce, 2 tablespoon Brown Sugar, 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours. When just 15-30 minutes of cooking time remains, remove the lid from the slow cooker and stir the contents. Then top with the shredded cheese.1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese
Be sure to read the entire post for tips, tricks, and help troubleshooting.
The nutrition information listed here is only an estimate and is simply provided as a courtesy. It nor any other information within this post should constitute medical or nutritional advice. Be sure to read all packaging and ingredient labels for potential allergens. Optional ingredients are not included unless otherwise specified.