This vegetarian cabbage roll casserole is a hearty bake the whole family will love. Full of rich flavours and healthy plant-based protein, this vegetarian casserole is a crowd-pleaser, the creamy cheesy topping takes this dish from health food to comfort food. It's a must!
This recipe looks long and has a few steps, but it is actually pretty easy to throw together. I would not call this a quick weeknight meal, but definitely something you can prep ahead of time.
My family loves this casserole. I find good, healthy, vegetarian comfort foods difficult to find. When I think of vegetarian comfort foods, I think Mac & Cheese. Which don't get me wrong, I love a good Mac & Cheese. But I want other options..
This vegetarian cabbage roll casserole is just perfect. Full of good, healthy vegetarian protein and a tonne of veggies, it's good for you! And actually pretty light in calories! And the creamy cheezy layer is so yum! 🤗🤗 Don't skip it1!
To make your life easier, and so that this casserole can be a possibility on a weeknight you can make components of this dish ahead of time.
- Make the tomato and rice filling and saute the cabbage.
- Assemble the casserole except for the cheese topping.
- The casserole can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- Make the cheese topping and transfer to s separate sealable storage container and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to bake the casserole.
- After about 40 minutes of baking, add the cheese topping to the casserole.
- Bake some more and serve!
This casserole freezes beautifully!!
Bake the casserole as written. Transfer leftover portion, or the whole casserole, to a sealable freezer-safe storage container. Yes, bake with the topping.
The casserole will keep frozen for about 3 months.
To reheat from frozen, allow casserole to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat, in an oven-safe casserole and covered with foil, at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Since you have already fully cooked this casserole, keep it covered to avoid drying it and over toasting the topping.
Yes! 2 cups cooked (or canned) brown or green lentils, skip the mushroom stock as you will not need it and you may need to adjust seasoning slightly.
Or half a recipe of Lentil and Walnut crumble, again skip the mushroom stock. If making this lentil and walnut crumble fresh for this recipe, leave out some of the chili powder.
I used Longeve plant-based protein crumbles in this recipe. I was given a package from Longeve for free to try.
This product is easy to use and basically just one ingredient - pea protein. It has no real flavor so I hydrated it with warm mushroom stock. The mushroom stock gives the crumbles an earthy and rich flavor, perfect in this dish.
Alternative plant-based proteins
Of course, you might not have this on hand.. but you can find it here (I am not compensated nor affiliated with this product, I just kinda like having it in my pantry). So in case, you can use these plant-based protein substitutes:
- 2 cups cooked (or canned) brown or green lentils, skip the mushroom stock as you will not need it and you may need to adjust seasoning slightly.
- Half a recipe of Lentil and Walnut crumble, again skip the mushroom stock. If making this fresh for this recipe, leave out the chili powder.
Mushroom stock: If you don't have mushroom stock - Campbells makes one in a 1-litre tetra pack - you can use any vegetable stock you like or even a bouillon cube dissolved in ¾ cups hot water.
Rice: you will need 2 cups of cooked rice for this recipe. I used leftover white and brown rice in combination from an early meal this week. Feel free to use what you have, it's really not important if you use white or brown or even an instant rice blend for convenience. You just need 2 cups cooked.
Saute the cabbage first: We saute the cabbage in this recipe to add some flavor and soften it before baking. Some cabbage roll casserole recipes do not require sauteing the cabbage first. But I prefer to do this as it shortens the baking time, adds flavors, but also ensures you don't end up with crunchy cabbage in the middle of the casserole.
Aromatics: Also, saute onions and celery with spices and herbs, and mixing that into the cabbage as it sautees makes full flavor throughout.
Assemble the casserole
Saute the vegetables with flavourings, aramoatics and spices. Set aside.
Make the rice and tomato filling. First, choose your plant-based protein. If using plant-based crumbles - see the recipe card for instructions. Otherwise, measure out your lentils or lentil and walnut no-meat filling.
Layer: Cabbage, tomato, and rice mixture, more sauteed cabbage, more rice and tomatoes.
Cover the casserole and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
Make the creamy cheesy topping
To make the cheese layer combine shredded cheese, one beaten egg, and a splash of milk or cream. I used a shredded Italian cheese combination. Again for flavor and convenience. Some dried thyme is nice. Dill is also good.
This topping makes a creamy and cheesy topping that will brown beautifully in the finished casserole.
After the base of the casserole has baked for 30-40 minutes and is bubbly and hot throughout, remove from the oven and remove the foil cover.
Spread the cheese topping evenly over the top of the casserole and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Until that cheesy topping is bubbly, melted and lightly browned on the top.
Vegetarian Cabbage Roll Casserole
Tomato and rice filling
- 2 oz plant-based crumbles see below for alternatives
- .75 cup mushroom broth to hydrate plant-based crumbles, see below for notes
- 2 cups cooked rice I used a combination of white and brown cooked rice
- 14 oz diced tomatoes
- 400 ml canned tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 ribs of celery finely diced
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 12 cups shredded cabbage one small head of cabbage
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- mushroom broth or water as needed
- 2 cups italian style shredded cheese blend mozzerella, gruyere, etc
- ¼ cup 10% cream or whole milk
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- In a large saucepan, warm ¾ mushroom stock until just steaming. Remove from heat and stir in 2 oz of plant-based crumbles. Let sit 5 minutes while you shred cabbage.Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
- In a large saute pan or other wide bottom pot, cook onions and celery in olive with thyme and paprika until softened, about 7 minutes. Add soy sauce, worchestureshire sauce, red wine vinegar and as much cabbage as can comfortably fit in the pot. Saute cabbage until tender, about 5 minutes. You may need to add the cabbage in batches dependinb on the size of your saute pan. Add 1-2 tablespoons of mushroom broth as needed to deglaze pot while sauteing the cabbage. If you do need to cook the cabbage in batches, be sure to toss all the cabbage together to mix and distribute the flavours of onions, celery, and spices.
- To the plant-based crumble mixture, add tomato sauce, diced tomates and place over medium heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cooked rice. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine 2 cups Italian style shredded cheese blend, ¼ cup milk or cream, 1 large egg and ½ teaspoon of dried thyme. Set aside.
- In prepared casserole layer half of the cabbage on the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread half of the tomato and rice filling over the cabbage. Repeat with the remaining cabbage and tomato and rice filling. Cover tightly with foil
- Bake at 375 degrees, covered, for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and hot throughout. Remove from oven and remove foil. Top with cheese mixture and bake, uncovered, for another 20-25 minutes. Cheese should be melted and browned on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Serve