Lentil & Quinoa Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cooked cabbage wrapped around savory lentil, quinoa, and olives.

There are times when you encounter a recipe and look through the steps, and it just seems so daunting, to the point where you don’t even want to begin to attempt it. This is one of those recipes. Yes, there are a lot of steps. And yes, it can be tricky, getting the cabbage to peel off of the head perfectly, and to wrap it around the heaping spoonful of ingredients. But sometimes the most complicated recipes have the biggest payoffs. And this is one of them.

I created this recipe by what I like to call the “Kitchen sink” method. I know stuffing cabbage rolls with beans and grains is nothing new itself, but I imagined the flavor profiles of foods I love, and once again, frankensteined them into something that surprisingly worked out well. I love how well lentils mimic the flavor of meat (perfect for tacos or beanloaf, a meat-loaf inspired recipe but with beans only), and this time around I leaned toward seasonings that are often used with chicken, to help evoke a similar taste. I love olives, so that was a no brainer. Their sharp, salty brininess really livens things up. And quinoa adds a perfect texture, somehow both creamy and crunchy, to tie everything together. Combine those three with an abundance of seasonings like lemon pepper, paprika, and mustard, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a meal.

Recipe notes: Feel free to tweak the recipe. If you don’t have lentils on hand, I’m sure kidney or black beans would work just as well.

For blanching the cabbage (which can be a bit tricky): Get a large pot, and fill about halfway with salted water. Bring to a boil. The goal here is to soften the cabbage leaves so they pull right off. What you’ll do is grab a large knife or fork and stab the cabbage, so you can turn it through the boiling water to soften the leaves. It takes a couple of minutes for the outer leaves, and a bit longer for the tougher inner leaves to get soft. Here’s a great tutorial that explains it all. But the basic idea is to roll your cabbage through the boiling water slowly by turning your fork. And then remove the outer leaves one a time as they soften. Set those to the side to be used later for stuffing.

Time You Need

  • ~35-40 minutes prep
  • ~30 hour cooking
  • Yields: About 8 cabbage rolls

What You Need

  • 2 cans of lentils
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 6 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup of finely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • ~1 ½ cups of cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of diced manzanilla olives with pimento
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tbsp stone ground mustard
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • ~ 8 cabbage leaves
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • ~ 2 cups of tomato sauce of choice

What You Do

  • Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
  • Blanch the cabbage in a pot of boiling water, pulling off leaves as they soften. You’ll ideally want about 8 or so leaves to use for the rolls.
  •  You can chop of the remaining cabbage and toss in the mixture with the beans and rest of ingredients, or toss in some vinegar, lemon juice, and oil for a quick slaw side dish.
  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in diced onion and garlic, and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until onions are soft.
  • Turn heat down to a medium-low. Drain and rinse your lentils, then add to the skillet. Add in 1 cup of chicken stock.
  • Cook covered for about 10-15 minutes, getting a nice litter simmer and stirring often.
  • Then remove from heat and drain any excess chicken stock.
  • Let lentils/garlic/onion cool for about 10 more minutes.
  • Then in a large bowl, add lentils, garlic, onion, quinoa, diced olives,  stone ground mustard, olive oil, your seasonings, and a ½ cup of tomato sauce.
  • Mix thoroughly, smashing the lentils to form a sort of paste, then mix in shredded mozzarella.
  • Take the cabbage leaves, and cut out the thick vein in the bottom center (making a shallow V) and toss.
  • Take a heaping spoonful or two of the mixture and place in the center of the cabbage leaves, and starting from where you made the V cut, roll up the leave to form the roll. Set to the side and repeat for the rest of the rolls.
  • Then in a large covered skillet or Dutch oven, add your rolls. Top with 1 ½ cups of remaining tomato sauce. Let simmer over medium heat for about 1/2 hour.
  • Serve with extra cheese and enjoy!
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