This unstuffed cabbage roll skillet meal is a deconstructed version of a favorite made with all of the fix-ins but without the rolls. It’s loaded with flavor from vegetables, ground beef, and smoked paprika and uses a jar of marinara sauce for a shortcut. Quinoa replaces rice to speed up the cooking time.
When it comes to winter vegetables, cabbage is the real MVP! You can get at least 4 meals out of a large head. Seriously, I made 2 recipes before I tested this cabbage roll skillet all with the same head of cabbage…and I still have a quarter left!
Cabbage is also incredibly hearty and filling. I especially love it cooked down in stews or soups, like my Coconut Cabbage Chicken Soup and Stewed Cabbage, Apples, and White Beans. Any bitterness disappears and it becomes so buttery. YUM.
This skillet dinner capitalizes on the deliciousness of tender cabbage. It slowly simmers on the stove so that the quinoa cooks, resulting in a tons of flavor and soft vegetables.
It has many of the same flavors that you find in cabbage rolls, including tomato and paprika. So if you like cabbage rolls but don’t want to go through the whole process of making them, this meal was made for you!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Onion: Use a yellow onion for best results, but you can substitute a red or white onion if needed.
- Carrot: I like to add chopped carrots for some extra vegetables, but you can omit them if you don’t have on hand.
- Ground beef: I used 80/20 ground beef, but you can use a leaner version (90% lean or higher) if desired.
- Cabbage: I use green cabbage, but Napa or red cabbage would work well.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic is what I prefer, but substituting garlic powder works just fine.
- Smoked paprika: You can use sweet paprika if you don’t have smoked on hand.
- Marinara sauce: My favorite kind to use is Cucina Antica tomato basil or garlic marinara sauce or my homemade Canned San Marzano Tomato Sauce.
- Quinoa: White, black, red, or tri-color quinoa can all be used to make a cabbage roll skillet. To save time, you can use cooked quinoa instead of cooking it in the skillet. However, the long simmering time required to cook the quinoa in the skillet is intentional since it also makes the cabbage and other vegetables very tender. Keep that in mind.
For the full ingredients list and step-by-step instructions, scroll to the bottom of the post. Here’s a preview of the steps.
Slice the cabbage and chop the other vegetables. See my tutorial on How to Cut Cabbage for more tips. Gather the other ingredients.
Cook the onions, carrots, and ground beef in a skillet for a few minutes. Use a spoon to break up the ground beef into crumbles.
Add the garlic, tomato sauce, paprika, salt, and pepper. Increase heat to get the skillet bubbling.
Add the cabbage and quinoa. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the quinoa is cooked and the cabbage is very tender. This usually takes about 45 minutes. Enjoy!
Storage and Reheating
Keep cabbage roll skillet leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Reheat in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, for a few minutes. You may need to add a little liquid to prevent scorching. You can also heat leftovers in the microwave for a couple of minutes until warmed through.
More Cabbage Recipes
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Cabbage Roll Skillet
- skillet (at least 12 inches wide)
- Add the onion, carrot, and ground beef to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, breaking up the ground beef with a spoon, until the beef is almost fully cooked.
- Stir in the garlic, marinara sauce, paprika, and pepper. Increase heat to bring to a gentle boil. Stir in the cabbage and dried quinoa. The skillet will be very full, but the cabbage will cook down.
- Reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 45 minutes, stirring often, until the quinoa is cooked through and the cabbage is very tender. About halfway through the cooking time, you will likely need to add about 1 cup of water to the skillet. You always want there to be enough liquid in the skillet to maintain a gentle simmer so that the quinoa cooks.
- When the quinoa is finished cooking, remove the skillet from heat. Serve and enjoy!
- Leave a rating or review by tapping the stars on this recipe card (above) or in the comments section (at the end of the post)!
- To cut back on cooking time, you can just stir in 1.5 cups cooked quinoa instead of letting it cook in the skillet. However, the vegetables will not be as tender if you forego the long simmering time. It’s up to you and your preferences.
- Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Reheat in a skillet, adding water if needed to prevent scorching, until warmed through. You can also reheat a serving in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes.
Happy cooking! – Lizzie