Grain-Free Turkey Cabbage Rolls

Grain-Free Turkey Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls or “Golumbki” is a popular Polish dish. These gorgeous little pockets of cabbage are traditionally stuffed with ground beef, pork and rice and smothered in tomato sauce. When following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (as we do to manage my daughter’s Crohn’s Disease), grains, including rice, are not allowed. But that doesn’t stop us from enjoying delicious dishes, we just need to get creative! With a few tweaks to the original dish, these Grain-Free Turkey Cabbage Rolls were born. Not only is this dish eye-catching, but it is the definition of delicious, healthy comfort food!

There are a few components to this dish and in total, these take me about 2 hours from start to serving time. The steps are all easy, however, and I think it’s fun to create the little rolls. The cabbage is so green and vibrant that this dish looks like a work of art!

Tips on Cabbage Roll Construction

The Meat

I prefer ground turkey or chicken. It feels lighter, there is not so much grease that cooks out and I believe that the mild tasting meat absorbs spices and other flavors better. However, beef and pork are the traditional meats used and would work perfectly in this dish.

The Cabbage

These photos show the rolls using Napa cabbage (what I had in my fridge). It worked great, tasted amazing and I would use it again! I have made this dish many times before using regular green cabbage which is more traditional and tastes equally as amazing. The process and construction are the same for either cabbage. Once you blanch the cabbage leaves, you will want to remove the middle, thick part of the leaf for easy rolling. It should look like this:

The Sauce

I wanted the taste of the cabbage and filling to shine in this dish, so I opted for a lighter homemade sauce. To cut down on time, you can absolutely use your favorite brand of jarred marinara sauce. Rao’s is an SCD legal brand that I love and use often!

Here is the quick recipe for my Homemade Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 container of my favorite brand (Pomi) plain, Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • salt and pepper.

Sautee onion and garlic in 1 Tbsp olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes until thickened slightly and flavors combine. Taste and add salt/pepper if desired. Blend with a regular or immersion blender to achieve a smooth consistency if desired.

More Grain-Free Comfort Dishes

If you like this dish, make sure to check out these other traditionally grain-filled comfort food favorites made SCD-style!

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Grain-Free Turkey Cabbage Rolls

  • Author: Kristi McCollom
  • Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12 rolls: Serves 5-6 1x


With a few tweaks to this traditional rice-based dish, these Grain-Free Turkey Cabbage Rolls were born.  Not only is this dish eye-catching, but it is the definition of delicious, healthy comfort food!



For the Rolls and Filling:

1 head green, napa or savoy cabbage

1/2 cup onion- diced

1 large clove garlic- minced

1 large or 2 small carrots- shredded

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 lb ground turkey or chicken

For the Cauliflower Rice:

10 oz frozen cauliflower rice or 1 1/2 cups fresh riced cauliflower

1/41/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

pepper fresh parsley (optional, but good if you have it on hand)

For the Sauce:

1 25 oz jar marinara sauce


1 25 oz container Italian chopped tomatoes (nothing added)

1/2 cup onion- diced

1 large clove garlic- minced

1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)


12 tsp honey (optional if a sweeter sauce is desired)


For the Sauce: (If making homemade, start the sauce first)

  1. Sauté 1/2 cup diced onion and 1 clove garlic in 1 Tbsp olive oil until softened.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper.
  3. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce thickens a bit.
  4. Taste and adjust salt/pepper as desired.  Add 1-2 tsp if desired for sweetness.
  5. Blend with immersion or regular blender for a smooth consistency if desired.

For the Filling:

  1. Sauté 1/2 cup onion and 1 large garlic clove in 1 Tbsp olive oil until softened.
  2. Add onion and garlic to a large bowl with shredded carrot, 1 lb ground turkey, filling spices and cauliflower rice.  (See below for cooking instructions)

For the Cauliflower Rice:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil to a large skillet.
  2. Add frozen or fresh riced cauliflower to the skillet with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
  3. Sauté until all of the water is absorbs and cauliflower is tender, not mushy!  This takes about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Toss finished rice with 2 Tbsp fresh parsley.  Add rice to the large bowl with the rest of the filling ingredients.

To Assemble:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spoon about 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of an 8 x 10 or 9 x 11 baking dish.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  4. Carefully remove 12 large cabbage leaves.  Try to keep them whole.
  5. One or two at a time, submerge the cabbage leaves in the boiling water for 5-10 seconds to soften the leaves.  This makes it easier to roll.
  6. Using a sharp knife, remove the thick middle part of the cabbage leaf.  This thick part makes it too difficult to roll.  (See below)
  7. Lay the cabbage leaf flat and place about 1/4 cup of filling mixture at the top.  Then roll the leaf around the filling, tucking in the sides as you go to make a cute little egg roll shape.
  8. Repeat this process until the filling is all gone.  For me, this was 12 cabbage leaves.
  9. Top with sauce.
  10. Cover with foil and cook at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until the sauce surrounding the rolls is bubbly.  I like to remove the cover during the last 10 minutes or so.
  11. Enjoy!



Keep leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.  These are fantastic leftover!

This amount of sauce this recipe makes is more than I used for our cabbage rolls.  I freeze any unused sauce for a quick future meals!

  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes

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