Barley & Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls {Vegetarian}

My Mother’s cabbage rolls were a family favorite growing up, and everyone in the family enjoyed them. In fact, there are many dishes that I grew up with that I have adapted over the years to make them a little healthier and decided to tackle cabbage rolls this week. In Italy, involtini di cavolo verza are a popular dish in many regions, and these cabbage rolls are often stuffed with different ingredients than they are in North America.

This week I decided to tackle a vegetarian version of cabbage rolls and planned a barley and lentil filling. This is a somewhat time-consuming recipe, but if you cook the barley and lentils and even the sauce the day before, you can cut down preparation time considerably.

I left my barley and lentils a little “al dente” because I didn’t want the filling to end up mushy, and we thoroughly enjoyed the texture and didn’t miss the fact there was no meat in this dish at all. I chose barley as my grain, but you could also use farro, or brown rice if you prefer, and when it comes to lentils, choose small green or beige lentils as the red ones can become mushy when cooked.

These involtini freeze well, so you can even double the recipe and freeze a second casserole to be enjoyed later. To cook the lentils, place 1 1/2 cups in a pot and cover with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until they are “al dente”. Cook the barley in the same fashion.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 

Barley & Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Barley & Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

These tender stuffed cabbage rolls combine legumes and b=nutty barley to replace meat.


Tomato Sauce:

  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Onions
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 (28 Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 (4 Ounce) Can Tomato Paste
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 3 Tablespoons Finely Chopped Fresh Basil


  • 3 Cups Cooked Lentils
  • 2 Cups Cooked Barley
  • 1 Medium Onion, Finely Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste:
  • 2 Eggs

To Assemble:

  • 1 Medium Large Head of Green Cabbage


  1. To prepare the sauce heat the olive oil over medium heat until lightly smoking.
  2. Add the onion, and stir, cooking until the onion is translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes, paste, salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.
  5. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, then cook over medium low heat until sauce is thick, about 30 minutes.
  6. In a bowl, add all the filling ingredients and mix well.
  7. Trim the cabbage of damaged leaves and use a sharp knife to cut out the core.
  8. Place the cabbage into a large pot with enough water to cover and bring it to a boil.
  9. Cook the cabbage until the leaves soften and begin to unfold.
  10. Use tongs to remove the leaves as they cook and carefully place them on a plate to cool.
  11. Continue until you have at least 12 leaves.
  12. On a cutting board, use a sharp knife to thin the large vein on the outer leaves.
  13. Lay the leaves onto the cutting board and place about 1/3 cup of filling at the stem end.
  14. Fold the sides and stem end over the filling and firmly roll.
  15. Place the rolled cabbage aside and continue with the remaining leaves.
  16. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  17. Spread half the sauce into an oven-proof casserole dish and then place the rolls into the pan seam side down.
  18. Spoon all but 1 cup of sauce over the cabbage rolls, then cover the rolls with 3 to 4 leftover leaves.
  19. Spoon the remaining sauce over the top, cover, and bake for 40 minutes.
  20. Remove the lid and cook an additional 20 minutes.
  21. Allow to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 rolls
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 357Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 397mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 16gSugar: 14gProtein: 17g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.