These Asian-inspired vegan cabbage rolls are made up of tender cabbage leaves, stuffed with a rice and veggie filling, and served alongside a Chinese brown garlic sauce. Plus, this recipe is super versatile, gluten-free, and naturally vegetarian and vegan!
Stuffed cabbage rolls are enjoyed all over the world. In Germany, they are referred to as “Kohlrouladen” and “Krautwickel”, in Poland “Golumpki,” in Russia “Golubtsi,” and in the Middle East “Malfouf,” all with tweaks for the filling, sauce, and serving suggestions. Having enjoyed the German cabbage rolls version countless times, I thought I’d try something a little different this time with these Asian-inspired vegetarian cabbage rolls.
Tender, Flavorful Asian-Inspired Vegan Cabbage Rolls
Traditionally, they often contain meat (usually beef). However, this recipe contains a mixture of rice and veggies and is not only for naturally vegetarian cabbage rolls; it is, in fact, fully vegan too! But don’t worry, it’s still packed with flavor!
Depending on what you’re in the mood for (and what you have in your fridge/pantry), cabbage wraps are super versatile, too. Swap out the seasoning, sauce, and experiment with fillings for entirely different results every single time. Plus, unlike many traditional cabbage wrap recipes, these are cooked on the stovetop rather than baked in the oven.
For this Asian version of the dish, I made Napa cabbage rolls stuffed with a mixture of rice and veggies, topped with a Chinese Garlic Brown Sauce. However, multiple cabbage varieties will work as well. It certainly helps that the shape of most cabbage leaves is practically designed to wrap in on themselves, perfect for rolls.
Best of all, this entire recipe is made up of just five simple steps and is perfect for making up a massive batch and storing it in the freezer! Below are the main ingredients (not pictured here is garlic and some condiments).
The Step-By-Step Instructions
Note: For the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information, read the recipe card below.
Step One: Cook the rice
Soak the rice for 45-60 minutes before draining and cooking it in a pan with water and salt until tender (usually 10-12 minutes).
Step Two: Prepare the cabbage & other veggies
First, prepare the cabbage. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 3-4 napa cabbage leaves, cooking them until just tender (2-3 minutes). Remove and place in a bowl of cold water, set aside, and repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves.
Then, finely chop the veggies for the filling. Heat oil in a skillet and lightly sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, carrot, peppers, and mushroom for 3-4 minutes. Add the tamari and spices, then cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
Step Three: Assemble the vegan cabbage rolls
Add the cooked rice to the skillet with the veggies and stir to combine, then remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
For each cabbage leaf, spoon in around 1 ½-2 tablespoons of filling. Then fold in the sides and the top over the filling and roll it into a neat parcel (similar to a burrito). Repeat this with the remaining cabbage rolls.
Step Four: Cook the rolls
Add around 5 of the veg stuffed cabbage rolls to a large, oiled skillet and pan sear over medium heat for a few minutes on both sides, until golden brown.
Step Five: Prepare the sauce
I used this Chinese Brown Garlic Sauce as my base, with a couple of tweaks (check the recipe). To prepare the sauce:
Heat oil in a saucepan, and then add the ginger, garlic, tamari, rice vinegar, and maple syrup. Let it cook for about 1-2 minutes. Mix the water with cornstarch to make a slurry and pour it into the skillet. Add the spices and cook the sauce for a few more minutes until thickened.
Once ready, pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, sprinkle with sesame seeds (and optionally scallion), and enjoy!
How to Serve
If serving the cabbage rolls as part of an Asian appetizer range, you could serve with steamed dumplings and similar ‘small bites’.
How to Make Ahead & Store
You can assemble the rolls a day in advance and keep, covered, in the fridge.
You can freeze the uncooked rolls too. Simple freeze on a large tray until par-frozen, then transfer to a bag and store in the freezer for up to two months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge before cooking.
It will take longer to heat them through from chilled, so you can optionally heat in the microwave or bake them for 10-15 minus (at 180C/360F) before finishing off in the skillet.
Once cooked, the vegan cabbage rolls should be stores in an airtight container in the fridge for between 3-4 days.
Useful Ingredient & Recipe Notes
- Cabbage: I used napa cabbage, but you can use a different cabbage of choice for these vegan cabbage rolls – Savoy, green, white, pointed, Jaroma, etc. You can even use chard for something a little different.
- Certain varieties of cabbage have a very thick center ‘rib’ on each leaf. After boiling the leaves, you’ll need to trim this rib to make it easier to roll.
- If you use a cabbage like Jaroma, which has super tender leaves, you won’t even need to blanch them before preparing the cabbage wraps.
- There are several methods for separating cabbage leaves. Rather than blanching the individual leaves, you could also place the entire cabbage in the boiling water and boil until the first layer of leaves begins to separate from the cabbage. Remove them from the pan and continue to cook for the next layer. Repeat until you have all the leaves that you need.
The downside of that method is that you’ll end up with the inner semi-cooked cabbage that isn’t needed for the rolls and will need to decide what to do with it (as it needs to be used fairly imminently). Alternatively, I’ve heard from friends that you can place the entire cabbage in the freezer instead. Rinse and core the cabbage, then wrap it up with plastic wrap (or place in a large freezer-safe bag), and freeze for at least 3 days, but a week is even better. Thaw the cabbage when you’re ready to use them, and the leaves will be tender and ‘wilted,’ as they are when boiled.
- Veggies: Choose your favorite veggies for this vegan stuffed cabbage dish. Just make sure they have a similar cooking time to one another, so you don’t end up with some tender and some underdone.
- Add more spice to this recipe with a little chili pepper or red pepper flakes in with the seasoning or sprinkled over the top of the Asian cabbage rolls.
- If you want more of a meaty texture within the vegetarian cabbage rolls, you could optionally add some soy ‘mince’ or cooked lentils in with the filling.
Other Vegan Asian Recipes and Cabbage Recipes:
- Asian Vegetable Stir-Fry Noodles
- Hibachi-Style Japanese Fried Rice
- Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Yum Woon Sen)
- Thai Coconut Curry Soup (Vegan)
- Spicy Sriracha Noodles
- Homemade Hoisin Sauce Recipe
- Creamy Vegan Ramen Recipe
- Sticky Teriyaki Tofu
- German Sauerkraut Recipe
- Keto Coleslaw
If you try this Asian-inspired vegan cabbage rolls recipe, I’d love a comment and recipe ★★★★★ rating below. Also, don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan – I love seeing your recreations.
Vegan Cabbage Rolls
- 1 1/4 cups (250 g) dry sushi rice or any short-grain rice
- 1 large napa cabbage (10-12 leaves)
- 1 tbsp oil divided
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3/4 tbsp ginger minced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 medium (120 g) carrot diced
- 2 medium (70 g) peppers diced
- 8 white button mushrooms diced (I used canned)
- 2 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
- 1/2 tsp each of sea salt, ground pepper, onion powder
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or to taste
- Sesame seeds to garnish
Cook the rice
- You can watch the video in the post for visual instructions.Soak the sushi rice in a bowl with plenty of water for about 45-60 minutes, then drain. Cook it with the mentioned amount of water and some salt in a saucepan until tender, about 10-12 minutes.
Cook the veggies
- Meanwhile, chop the veggies and prep the cabbage leaves. Bring a large pot with water to a boil, then add in 3-4 of the cabbage leaves and cook them for 2-3 minutes until softened. Place the cooked leaves into a bowl with cold water, then set aside. Do this with the remaining leaves.
- Heat 1/2 tbsp oil in a skillet, add the onion, ginger, garlic, carrot, peppers, and mushrooms. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add tamari, and all spices. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Once the rice is cooked, add it to the skillet and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and taste the mixture. Add more seasonings if needed.
- Place a cabbage leaf on a plate and put about 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture in the middle. Fold in the sides and the top over the filling and roll it up. Place it on a plate. Do this with the remaining leaves.
Pan sear the rolls
- Heat 1/2 tbsp of oil in a skillet, and once hot add 5 of the cabbage rolls. Pan sear for a few minutes from both sides. The rolls should be golden brown.
Make the sauce
- Heat oil in a saucepan, then add ginger, garlic, tamari, rice vinegar, maple syrup. Let it cook for about 1-2 minutes. Mix the water with cornstarch to make a slurry and pour it into the skillet. Add the spices and cook the sauce for a few more minutes until thickened.
- Pour the sauce of the cabbage rolls and garnish with sesame seeds. Enjoy!
- Cabbage: You can use a different cabbage of choice for this recipe, like Savoy, green, white, pointed, Jaroma, etc.
- Certain varieties of cabbage have a very thick center 'rib' on each leaf. After boiling the leaves, you'll need to trim this rib to make it easier to roll.
- Veggies: Choose your favorite veggies. Just make sure they have a similar cooking time.
- Serve: You can serve it as a meal alone or with pan-roasted potatoes, quinoa pilaf, or just bread.
- This recipe was inspired by my friend WoonHeng.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically