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"Free" Chaleshkes (Allergy friendly Polish Cabbage Rolls)

This recipe was developed out of a need to recreate a comfort holiday food that everyone in our family could eat. It is Gluten and Rice-free and Tomato free as well. If you need to stay away from all night shades, the roasted red pepper can be omitted but the sauce will be a little less bold and unctuous. It's no carb and very low fat. These freeze great and are a family favorite. The flavors may remind you a bit of Thanksgiving and a friend of mine garnishes these with toasted pecans for a nice textural component (we can't - add nut allergy to our list!)

This recipe can also be made with ground turkey or chicken, and if you want to be very different use red cabbage or savoy cabbage which has a beautifully subtle sweet earthiness to it.

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 12+ ServingsServings


  • 1 large cabbage core out and rinse - keep whole and place in the freezer 24 hours before intended usewhole
  • 2-3 pound Ground Beef
  • 1.5 cup Partially Cooked Quinoa cooked according to package to about 80% doneness (take off heat about 2 minutes early) directions
  • 2 whole large onion finely diced
  • 2 whole cloves Garlic finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoon Dried Parsley
  • 1 small Zucchini Shredded (about 1/2-3/4 c.)
  • 2 large Eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or chili pepper
  • 2 whole red peppers charred and skins removed (or 1 large jar of roasted red peppers)
  • 1 large Butternut squash peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
  • 1+1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2-3 cup Stock or water


1. Remove Cabbage from freezer and let thaw (preferably in a colander)- this will make pulling apart the leaves very easy with out the smell that accompanies boiling it!

2. In a large pan heat oil. Add 1 diced onion and garlic and sweat for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.

3. Add squash and caramelize for 10-15 minutes (don't fuss over this too much or it won't caramelize)

4. Deglaze pan with wine

5. Add roasted red pepper, maple syrup and stock. Bring to a simmer then puree using a stick blender. This should have a consistency of thick but runny soup.

6. Season with salt to taste, add 1 c. of dried cranberries and keep warm

7. In a large bowl combine meat, cooked quinoa, remaining onion, eggs, zucchini, cinnamon, cayenne, parsley and remaining cranberries. Mix well (preferably by hand)

8. Separate all the cabbage leaves and replace in colander.

9. Place a ladel or 2 of sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish

10. place one leaf with the stem facing you. Place 1/4c. of meat mixture at the end nearest to you. Fold in the sides then roll up. Keep in place with a large toothpick if desired. Place seam side down in a large baking dish.

11. Repeat until all leaves or mixture is used up. Any leftover meat can be formed into meat balls and used another time or dropped into the warm sauce for added flavor. Extra Cabbage can be thinly sliced and added to the sauce for added texture and flavor.

12. Pour sauce over top to just barely cover cabbage rolls. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 375 for 90 minutes.

To Freeze: I recommend cooking first, then freezing the cabbage rolls once cooled, however you can freeze the rolls (unsauced) then cook from frozen with the sauce added for 2 hours at 400.