Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (‘Apraxê Kelema) with Garlic Butter

All About the Veg! is a biweekly recipe column where Best of Vegan contributor Seiran Sinjari breaks down one amazing plant at a time. In today’s column, she talks about cabbage and one particular Kurdish dish that perfectly shows off what amazing things can be done with this humble vegetable. Her recipe for ‘Apraxê Kelema yields the most tender, slow-cooked, and aromatic vegan stuffed cabbage rolls!

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (‘Apraxê Kelema) with Garlic Butter

We’re still in the winter season and it wouldn’t be complete without a good old cabbage recipe! When I’m thinking winter and cabbage, there’s one dish in particular that will show off what amazing things we can do with the humble cabbage. Tender, slow-cooked, and aromatic stuffed cabbage rolls. An almost universal dish that is prepared and seasoned in so many different ways across the globe. Yet the two-component method remains the same; blanched cabbage leaves are stuffed with a filling and slowly simmered in a broth.

I grew up eating cabbage rolls prepared both the Kurdish way (‘Apraxê Kelema’) and the Swedish way (‘Kåldolmar’), which are completely different and I love them both! Kurdish cabbage rolls are stuffed with an aromatic herbed rice and meat filling, then simmered in sour sumac broth, tomato broth, or a combination of both. And this is very similar to how they are prepared within various Middle Eastern cuisines, save for the sumac broth which is very typical for Kurdish cuisine specifically. You soak whole sumac berries (not the ground one) in water and just use the soaking water (sumac water, ‘ava sumaqe’ in Kurdish), which will turn purple and very sour. The Swedish cabbage rolls are filled with a meat, rice, egg, and cream filling, then cooked in butter and syrup and finally served with potatoes, cream sauce, and lingonberries. What these two dishes do have in common is that they are both considered typical winter foods.

Today I’m sharing my vegan version of Kurdish cabbage rolls with a final touch that makes them absolutely irresistible. I’m drizzling them with foamy garlic butter, something my Pirê (grandma) used to do with stuffed chard rolls, and it just takes this dish to a whole other level! And as with all our stuffed veggie dishes, serving it with Mast û Xiyar’, Kurdish cucumber salad with garlic, yogurt, and dried mint, on the side. Easily veganized with vegan greek style yogurt.

We typically use ahead of flat white cabbage which has tender leaves but regular round white cabbage works perfectly well and the flavor is pretty much exactly the same.

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (‘Apraxê Kelema) with Garlic Butter

Finally, yes, you need some time to prepare the cabbage rolls and cook them. But a very good thing about this dish is that you can prepare everything, including making the rolls, the day before. Store them in the fridge overnight and prepare the broth and simmer them the day after. That’s what I like to do when serving them for lunch. I prepare them the evening before and put them on the stove in the morning.

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (‘Apraxê Kelema) with Garlic Butter
Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (‘Apraxê Kelema) with Garlic Butter

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (‘Apraxê Kelema) with Garlic Butter

5 from 3 votes
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Author: Seiran Sinjari | Legally Plant Based
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 head of flat cabbage or regular round white or green cabbage
  • ½ tbsp salt
  • boiling water

Filling:

  • 250 g short-grain rice rinsed & drained
  • 75 g walnuts finely chopped
  • 1 medium bunch dill finely chopped
  • 1 medium bunch parsley finely chopped
  • 5 green onions or 1 yellow onion finely chopped
  • the white part of 1 leek finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 ½ tbsp seven spice blend
  • 2 tsp Aleppo pepper or 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp salt more or less to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons juiced more or less to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp pomegranate molasses

Cooking Stock:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp seven spice blend
  • 1 tsp ground sumac
  • 1 tbsp veggie stock powder
  • 2-3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 500-650 ml boiling water

To cover the bottom of the pot:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 potatoes peeled and cut into 1 cm thick slices

Garlic Butter:

  • 6 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp vegan butter
  • salt to taste if using unsalted butter

Instructions

  • Carve out the root part of the cabbage and place the whole cabbage in a pot with salted boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Carefully remove from water and peel off the leaves, put them back into the boiling water in smaller batches, and blanche for 1-2 minutes or until tender enough to fold. Let cool and drain in a colander.
  • Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl and adjust salt/lemon/spices to your liking.
  • Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and cover with potatoes in a single layer.
  • Small-medium cabbage leaves can be used whole and the bigger ones can be cut in half. Place a leaf on a flat surface such as a chopping board, smash the hard middle vein with a pestle or you can cut it off and place it in the bottom of the pan. Place a spoonful of filling in the center and spread it a little into a horizontal log, bring in the sides and roll tight. Place with seam side down in the pot, repeat, and organize them tightly in even layers in the pot.
  • To prepare the stock, add olive oil to a pan over medium heat, add tomato paste, and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes without burning the tomato paste. Add all seasoning and 500 ml boiling water, mix well.
  • Pour the stock into the pot until just reaching the top layer of the cabbage rolls (not covering). Add some more water if needed. Place an inverted heatproof plate on top (optional, to keep them tightly rolled). Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and let simmer over low heat for 2 hours or until veggies are tender and the rice is cooked through. Check on them after 1-1.5 hours. If you want more of the stock to cook off, cook uncovered for a couple of minutes. I like them juicy with some stock left, it will thicken and be full of flavor.
  • Prepare garlic butter before plating the cabbage rolls. Smash the garlic cloves with a pestle or knife blade against a chopping board. Add olive oil and butter to a pan over medium heat, when the butter has melted, add the garlic. Cook while stirring over medium-low heat until fragrant and the garlic is starting to brown a little around the edges and the butter is foamy.
  • Plate the cabbage rolls and pour the garlic butter on top of them.
  • I’m also serving them with Mast û Xiyar’, Kurdish cucumber salad with garlic, shredded cucumber, yogurt, salt, and dried mint, easily veganized with vegan greek style yogurt. You can adjust the ratios of all the ingredients to your liking.
  • The cooked cabbage rolls can be stored in the fridge and the flavors will develop even more overnight. Can be reheated or eaten cold.

Notes

Find more of Seiran’s recipes at @legallyplantbased.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Recipe, text, and photography by Seiran Sinjari.

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Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (‘Apraxê Kelema) with Garlic Butter

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