While you can certainly make cabbage rolls after you get home on a weeknight, cabbage rolls can also be simmered until deliciously tender in the slow cooker all day long and welcome you home with their enticing aroma. With a no-cook beef-and-rice filling and no-cook tomato sauce, these cabbage rolls are easy to throw together in the morning so that dinner's cooking away while you're at work.
Many recipes for stuffed cabbage blanch a whole cabbage to soften the leaves, but I've found it easier to cut off the large, outer leaves and just blanch those quickly instead. You can even blanch the cabbage leaves and stuff them the night before if you want to make things easier in the morning. Then you just have to stir together the sauce and do the final assembly in the slow cooker, which will only take a few minutes so that you can get on with the rest of your day.
Slow Cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
For the cabbage and sauce:
1 large head regular or Savoy cabbage (about 2 1/4 pounds), including outer leaves
1 (28-ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup raisins, or 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
For the filling:
1/3 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 large egg
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground beef
Blanch the cabbage: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, remove 10 to 12 whole outer leaves from the cabbage by cutting them off the core. (Reserve the remaining cabbage for another use.) Add the leaves to the boiling water and blanch until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and transfer the leaves to a paper towel–lined baking sheet; set aside.
Make the sauce: Place all of the sauce ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Pour half the sauce into a 5-quart or larger slow cooker and spread into an even layer; set the remaining sauce aside.
Make the filling: Place all the ingredients except the beef in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add the beef and gently mix it in, making sure not to compact the meat. Divide the mixture into 8 portions (about scant 1/3 cup each), then form each portion into a ball.
Working with one leaf at a time, place a ball on the center of the leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf tightly over the filling, completely covering the filling. Place seam-side down in the slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining leaves, overlapping 2 leaves as needed if they are too small (you will not use all the leaves), placing the rolls in a single, tight layer.
Pour the remaining sauce over the top of the stuffed cabbage so that it's completely covered. Cover and cook until the meat is cooked through and the rice and cabbage are tender, about 8 hours on the LOW setting.
Make ahead: The sauce can be made and the cabbage stuffed and stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day ahead. Store separately before layering in the slow cooker.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.