Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls With Crispy Bacon

Growing up in a Ukrainian home, I’ve had my fair share of stuffed cabbage rolls. We call them golubtsi and it’s a very popular dish in both Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. It’s healthy, economical and super comforting. The best part is you don’t have to make them with any rice.

I have a lovely recipe for regular, rice-free stuffed cabbage rolls in my cookbook Eat Drink Paleo so today’s recipe is a little different. It’s what I call deconstructed cabbage rolls for lazy people. If you love the taste and all the nutrients that come with the dish but you can’t be stuffed making the rolls (forgive the pun), this recipe is for YOU, my friend.

It’s a good make-ahead recipe as you can make a big batch and keep it in the fridge for a couple of days. We had it for dinner and lunch, and you can serve it as is (I love my complete paleo meals) or with some extra cauliflower rice, root vegetable mash or even white rice, especially if you’re serving this to the whole family.

Cook’s notes: For best results use a mix of ground up pork and beef (or veal) mince. I used savoy cabbage because it’s so pretty but regular white cabbage, or even Chinese napa cabbage can be used. You could even add some purple cabbage for extra colour. Or kale. Or make it with little Brussels sprouts instead. Gosh, I tend to get excited about cabbage sometimes.

Ok, without further ado, here is the recipe guys. I hope you enjoy this one. Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to share.

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Unstuffed Paleo Cabbage Rolls

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Author: Irena Macri
Servings: 4
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Ukrainian
Print Pin Save
5 from 1 vote
Calories: 655kcal
If you love the taste and all the nutrients that come with traditional cabbage rolls but you can’t be stuffed making the rolls (forgive the pun), this recipe is for YOU, my friend.


  • 1 medium Savoy cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 large brown onion finely diced
  • 1 medium carrot grated or finely diced
  • 1 medium celery stick finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 300 g pork mince 0.6 lb.
  • 300 g beef mince 0.6 lb.
  • 4 large cloves garlic finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes 400 g / 0.9 lb.
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes or powder optional
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 rashers of bacon
  • Handful of parsley chopped
  • Sour cream or unsweetened full-fat yoghurt to serve (optional)


  • Boil a few cups of water in a large saucepan.
  • In the meantime, separate a few outer leaves of the cabbage and set aside. Cut the rest of the cabbage into quarters, remove the core and chop roughly (see pictures).
  • Add the whole outer cabbage leaves to the pot with boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened slightly. Then strain and leave in the sieve until later.
  • Remove any water from the saucepan and place it back over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and the onion and sauté for a minute. Then add the carrots and the celery. Season with a teaspoon of salt, and sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the beef, pork, and garlic and bring the heat back up to high. Stir continuously for a minute or two, breaking the meat apart and mixing through with the vegetables. The meat should start to give out some juices and change the colour.
  • Now add the rest of the ingredients except for the bacon and parsley. Mix through and add the chopped cabbage. Combine well, cover with a lid and once at gentle boil, turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, covered with a lid, for 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times.
  • In the meantime, pan fry the bacon rashers in a little coconut oil or ghee until crispy on each side and remove to a chopping board to cool. Once cool enough to handle, dice the bacon into small pieces. Chop the parsley.
  • To serve, place the pre-cooked outer leaves of the cabbage around a large serving dish. Then scoop out the cooked meat and cabbage in the middle. Sprinkle over with parsley and bacon.
  • Serve with a side of sour cream or yoghurt if you can handle dairy. White rice or quinoa can be served for the family.


Calories: 655kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 47g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 122mg | Sodium: 1850mg | Potassium: 1373mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 5126IU | Vitamin C: 85mg | Calcium: 164mg | Iron: 5mg
Keywords: Ground Beef Dinners, Cabbage Recipes, Dinner Meals, Ground Pork
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Irena Macri
By Irena Macri

About the author: Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share delicious recipes that I have cooked and loved. I am a published cookbook author, have been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition. You will find many healthy recipes as well as my favourite comfort food. More about me here | Subscribe to my newsletter and freebies

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  1. This looks delicious! We are heading towards winter here in Australia, and I was standing in the greengrocer the other day looking at the cabbages, and wondering how I would cook one. I went for the brussel sprouts instead. But next week I will get the cabbage and try this out!

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