You’ve heard of meatballs. You’ve heard of stuffed cabbage rolls. A lot of cuisines have their own versions of the two, but this dish is their Russian love child. I called them Russian vegan meatballs, but what is traditionally known as “golubtsy” in Russia and neighboring countries is a dish consisting of cabbage leaves stuffed with various grains (rice, buckwheat, millet), sometimes veggies, and often minced meat. Sadly, not only the traditional golubtsy recipe is not vegan, but even the name itself translates to “little pigeons”, which, according to one version of their origin, is referring to 19th century Russia, where aristocrats were having grilled doves, and peasants would emulate the dish by stuffing meat into cabbage leaves.
Luckily, this recipe wasn’t hard to veganize, and this particular version of golubtsy has a little less in common with cabbage rolls and a little more with meatballs (including tefteli –Russian meatballs that are also made with rice and cooked in tomato sauce): the cabbage is chopped into the mix with rice, veggies, and vegan meat, so you can save time and enjoy your lazy golubtsy as they are instead of stuffing them into individual cabbage leaves.
The end result is what I imagine perfect comfort food to be, and I only learned to appreciate it once I’ve moved to NYC, where all of a sudden I started missing familiar flavors and dishes. I’ve tested a few veganized traditional dishes on my housemates and was always amused at their amazement – clearly, vegan Russian food is rare in NYC! I was happy to help them explore a new cuisine and with that reignite my passion for my homeland’s comfort food.
For the “meatballs”
- 100g rice
- 1 onion
- 1 small/medium carrot
- 400g white cabbage
- 150g cremini (baby bella) mushrooms (~9 pcs)
- 450g vegan ground “meat” (i used Beyond Beef, but any other will do)
- salt, black/red pepper, bay leaf, smoked paprika – to taste
- a little bit of flour or breadcrumbs (optional, in case your “meatballs” aren’t coming together easily)
For the sauce
- 400g vegan sour cream
- 200g tomato paste
- soy sauce/vegan Worcestershire sauce – to taste (optional)
- Cook 100g of rice according to package instructions.
- Finely chop onions, carrots, garlic, cabbage, and mushrooms.
- In a deep saucepan, fry the onions for 2 minutes, add carrots & garlic, sautee for another 3 minutes, then add cabbage, mix and cook another 5 minutes.
- Next, add mushrooms, minced vegetables, vegan ground “meat” and salt + spices to taste, and simmer under the lid for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft enough.
- Mix everything with cooked rice, and transfer to a bowl to cool. While the mix is cooling the filling, preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
- Make balls from the cooled mixture (~24 pieces), place them into a deep baking dish, and put them in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, mix tomato paste and vegan sour cream, heat it up, check the consistency and taste, add soy / vegan Worcestershire sauce/salt and water as desired. Bring to the first bubbles and set aside.
- After 15 minutes, take your lazy golubtsy out of the oven, pour the sauce over them and send back for another 10 minutes.
- Let them cool down and enjoy!
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