Wheatberry Cabbage Rolls

One of the interesting things about being married (or really being in any long-term relationship—platonic, romantic, whatever!) is discovering all the familial traditions and quirks that come along with the other person. It never really hit me until college that not every family was exactly like mine. Not every family ate biscuits and gravy for Sunday morning breakfast. Not every family went to the movies on Christmas day. Not every family threw an obnoxiously large 4th of July party every year.

cabbage rolls

Over the years, my darling husband has mentioned “cabbage rolls” a few times in my presence. I had never had cabbage rolls. I had never seen a cabbage roll. I had no idea what cabbage rolls were. In fact, if anything, I thought they were maybe something like a Chinese lettuce wrap—and this girl doesn’t do Chinese food.

Whatever they were, these cabbage rolls were part of Craig’s childhood. So when we started to get giant cabbage after giant cabbage in our CSA each week, I figured maybe it was time to dive into the world of cabbage rolls. If worst came to worst, I could eat a bowl of cereal for dinner.

cabbage rolls

Turns out, the cabbage rolls Craig talked about are not only not Chinese food (although, I’m sure there is something similar in Chinese cuisine), but they are also really a pretty prevalent dish in North American households. Apparently they’re a “thing”. Who knew?

Oh yeah, that’s right, everyone but me.

Cabbage rolls are cabbage leaves (duh) stuffed with a flavorful filling—usually beef, sausage, rice and aromatics—and then baked under a blanket of tomato sauce until everything is yummy and delicious. Guess what? I like cabbage rolls!

cabbage rolls

I wanted to go vegetarian with this dish, so my version of these guys is minus the meat and plus a boatload of whole grains thanks my heavy handed use of wheat berries. If you’ve never worked with wheat berries before, you can find them in most of your natural foods stores (we get them in our CSA every now and again) and they are the entire kernel of the wheat plant. Which means, the only processing they’ve gone through is to remove the inedible hull around the berry. You can’t get more whole wheat than this!

I love wheatberries because they retain a really nice chew to them, even when cooked for long periods of time. Some folks might be turned off by the chew, so if you prefer less of a jaw workout, you can sub in farro, brown rice or freekeh. I also think lentils would make for an excellent, protein-packed substitute.

cabbage rolls

One word of caution about cabbage rolls—these suckers are definitely not a weeknight meal. They require quite a few steps and upwards of two hours from start to finish. Save this dish for a Sunday super when you feel like trying something new. Thankfully, the recipe makes enough that you can stash them in the fridge for leftovers all week long—they reheat beautifully.


Wheatberry Cabbage Rolls

Wheatberry Cabbage Rolls

Yield: 16 rolls
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

These wheatberry cabbage rolls are a hearty weekend meal.


  • 2 cups raw wheatberries
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (use vegan, if you can)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine the wheatberries and broth in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the wheatberries are tender and the liquid has been absorbed—about 20 minutes. Set aside.
  2. While the wheatberries cook, fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, drop the whole head of cabbage in the water and cook until the outer leaves are tender and bright green, about 10 minutes. Remove cabbage from water carefully (it'll be hot!) and drain on paper towels. Once cool enough to handle, pull off the large outer leaves (you'll need at least 16 of them) and cut out the base of the thick stem. Dice the remaining cabbage and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Once melted, add in the garlic and cook until fragrant and tender, about 3 minutes. Then add in the onion and green peppers and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add in the remaining diced cabbage, Italian seasoning, ketchup, fennel seeds, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cream cheese, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. In a blender, puree the two cans of diced tomatoes until very smooth.
  6. To assemble the cabbage rolls, pour a small amount of the tomato puree on the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. For each roll, put about 1/2 cup of the wheatberry mixture in the middle of one of the cabbage leaves. Roll up tightly and place in prepared casserole dish. Continue with the remaining leaves and filling until the casserole dish is full. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over top of the rolls.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly and browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 2 rolls
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 290Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 778mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 8gSugar: 17gProtein: 9g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Do you have any foods you’ve discovered thanks to your spouse or significant other?

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  1. How do you make preparing cabbage rolls look so mess-free! 😀 My only attempts at making them have been near disastrous, lol! Lovely recipe!

  2. Yay cabbage rolls! In my Hungarian family these are a staple, like a eat-at-every-family-party kind of thing. I will definitely have to try this recipe, maybe add in some ground turkey for my carnivore father haha.

  3. These look sooo good! I might want to try my meatloaf recipe (ground turkey with pork sausage and all the other meatloaf ingredients) in the cabbage leaves.

  4. This looks amazing! I’ll definitely have to try it. Cabbage is so awesomely versatile — I love how the texture changes when it’s steamed or cooked. Haha, why so against Chinese food, though? Or is that specifically fast food/buffet-type Chinese food?

    1. I just don’t like a lot of flavors used in Chinese food. I don’t really like soy sauce, sesame, ginger, etc. I’m sure there are some Chinese dishes out there that I’d like, but I haven’t met them yet. 🙂

  5. I’m with you, Cassie, I’ve never heard of cabbage rolls but they sound AWESOME! I eat cabbage once a year for St. Patrick’s Day and am always struck by how amazingly delicious it is (cabbage usually gets a bad rap, doesn’t it?) so this sounds like a great way to incorporate more of it in my life. Before I met my SO I had NO idea what gulash or S.O.S. (two things he grew up on) were. And I kinda wish I still didn’t know, ha ha.

  6. My mom was from Thunder Bay too. We grew up eating cabbage rolls and pierogie. My mother-in-law isn’t much of a cook so my husband has really enjoyed adopting my family traditions, yummmmm!

  7. Galumpkis and lazy galumpkis were a staple in my house–even though in my very Polish town we were one of the few NON-Pole families! I love these with a hefty dollop of ketchup.

  8. I grew up eating cabbage rolls as well! My very polish grandmother makes these. They’re called galumpkis and she fills them with a trio of ground beef, pork and lamb. You’ve never seen someone so excited about extra large cabbages in the grocery as my dear, sweet Gramma. Enjoy!

    1. My very Polish grandma made them as well; we called them gwumpkies. I hated them growing up but I have a feeling I’d probably like them now. 🙂

      1. They are called “golabki” in Poland (pigeons in english – no idea where this name came from). Usually they are braised in thin tomato sauce, made basically from chicken stock and tomato puree.

        I must try baked version – it looks easier, without the risk of burning cabbage in a pot.