Gluten Free & Vegan Buckwheat Cabbage Rolls

A while back I posted about Cabbage Rolls and Perogies, wishing there were easy gluten-free and vegan recipes to achieve tasty results.  I have been able to make a perogy recipe work out but I haven’t really reconsidered any recipes for cabbage rolls since then. I see that post gets a lot of traffic in search engines and I feel bad that it must be frustrating for someone to find it and … not get a recipe out of it.

So, fellow foodies and recipe hounds, I have set off to work on this and this is the first report in this long process.

This first attempt at recreating amazing cabbage rolls includes using buckwheat. I’ve never actually done much cooking of buckwheat. Maybe never. And I have read around on the internet about how to cook it but let’s face it, I’m lazy. Cabbage rolls are a bit of work as it is – what with the rolling and such – so why would I add complicated (ok not really that complicated) cooking of buckwheat to the mixture.

So I cooked it in the rice cooker. It was super easy. I think if you were going to just eat buckwheat as a side dish the texture might not be exactly what is desired. I don’t really know. First time with buckwheat, remember? But for this application the best way would be to use the rice cooker if you have one.

I fried up some onions and garlic in vegan margarine.

I mixed in the onions and garlic to the cooked buckwheat. And added a few seasonings.

buckwheat cabbage roll filling

Then I rolled up the buckwheat mixture in cabbage leaves.

Oh wait. Pause for a moment.

Here’s the part where I need to talk about cabbage. And guys, this is probably the most important part of this entire blog post so please, please pay close attention. Cabbage for cabbage rolls is kind of one of those weird things. Like, people suggest that you have to core the head of cabbage and steam the leaves and then use them to roll up the cabbage rolls. But guess what? That’s a stupid waste of time. There’s a much better way if you plan a bit ahead.

cabbage core

cabbage leaves lining roaster pan

Freeze it. The whole thing. Just throw the head of cabbage in your freezer until it freezes solid. Like a day. Or a week. Or a month. The outer leaves are probably going to be freezer burnt a bit. But you’ll be using them to line the bottom of the roaster anyway, so no big deal. Besides, you probably wouldn’t use those outer leaves if you were steaming the head either. A good few hours (maybe four hours) before you’re ready to roll up your cabbage rolls, pull the frozen cabbage out of the freezer and place it in your sink to thaw out. Cut out the core and peel off the leaves. As you’re working with the cabbage you may find the center leaves still are a bit frosty. Just go ahead and run the leaves under warm water and gently shake off the excess liquid.

For most of the leaves you’ll want to cut each leaf in half down the center rib. Cut out any tough parts of the center rib. For the smaller inside leaves, closer to the core, the rib won’t be as tough and you can just roll up the whole leaf.

You can anticipate your fingers will be pruney at the end of all of this. The worst part is they’ll smell like cabbage.

Had to. I just had to use that quote.

Okay back to the cabbage rolls now.

Then I rolled up the buckwheat mixture in cabbage leaves. If you have some extra leaves or torn leaves then just lay them on top of the rolls.

rolling up cabbage rolls

rolling up cabbage rolls

rolled up cabbage rolls

cabbage rolls

baked cabbage rolls

vegan gluten free cabbage rolls

vegan cabbage rolls

Gluten Free & Vegan Buckwheat Cabbage Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This is a reinvention of my Grandmother's cabbage rolls. This vegan version is made with buckwheat.
Recipe type: Main Course
Cuisine: Ukranian, Hungarian, German, Polish
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 cups buckwheat groats
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegan margarine
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large head cabbage, prepared as above
  • 1 23oz (680mL) can tomato sauce
  • 1 28oz (830mL) can whole or diced tomatoes
  1. Combine buckwheat groats, water, and oil in rice cooker. Set to brown rice setting and let cook.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt vegan margarine. Saute onions and garlic until softened.
  3. Combine cooked buckwheat and onions with sea salt, pepper, and paprika.
  4. Cut the core out of the prepared cabbage. Separate leaves.
  5. Take the outer tough leaves off and lay them in the bottom of a medium-sized roaster pan.
  6. Cut the large leaves down the center down the rib. Cut out any thick rib parts.
  7. Place 1 tablespoon of buckwheat mixture at one end of the leaf. Roll up the cabbage leaf over the buckwheat, tucking in the sides.
  8. Lay tightly in the cabbage-leaf lined roasting pan.
  9. Pour diced or smushed whole tomatoes with juice over rolls.
  10. Pour tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls.
  11. Cover roaster pan with lid and bake in 350°F oven for 2 hours.
  12. Let sit overnight and reheat the next day for an extra amazing flavor treat.

Here’s another tip for you guys. Make sure you have a baking sheet lined with aluminium foil placed on the rack under the roaster pan. I hate cleaning my oven. Like, who actually enjoys cleaning their oven anyway? So if you also hate cleaning your oven, do this. There’s a chance there will be some bubbly overflow.

I do intend on continuing to experiment with other fillings for cabbage rolls. Those include seasoned rice, a rice/buckwheat mixture, a TVP and rice mixture, and any other suggestions you guys might have for me. So, yeah, suggest please!


  1. says

    That is creative to put buckwheat in the rolls! It looks like a hardy dinner for a cold fall evening. Oh wait…it isn’t cold here…but when it finally gets cold. :-)

    • says

      I am jealous of your warm weather. I was skeptical of using buckwheat at first. But really and truly happy with the result. I am still eating leftovers! Yum.

  2. Denise says

    I just ran across your site looking for quantities/ratios to make a buckwheat & rice cabbage roll, just like my Newfounlander mum used to make.

    I know how to cook the buckwheat. It’s one of my favourite things to eat. But I don’t use “buckwheat”, I use it’s toasted sister “kasha”. So if you have raw buckwheat, toast it in a dry pan on the stove or in the oven before you cook it. It will retain some of its chewiness.

    My mum used a mix of kasha, brown rice, mushrooms & sometimes brown lentils. By reading your recipe, I’m guessing it was 1:1 for the kasha and brown rice, 1/2 cup of cooked lentils and 8 oz of finely chopped mushrooms (sautéed with garlic and onions until soft).

    Thanks for the recipe. I know what I’ll be making this weekend :)
    (I’m sure you came across this in your research, but layering the cabbage and the filling is known as the “lazy” method, but equally delicious as the rolled method 😉

  3. Ewelina says

    it’s weird that you had such a hard time finding such recipe as there are two main variations of golabki (cabbage rolls) and the one with buckwheat filling is actually made with mushroom sauce and buckwheat, mushroom, parley, onion filling. i recommend adding some greens inside like spinach: it actually doesnt get that bland :)

    • says

      Thanks for the heads up Ewelina. Maybe I wasn’t searching using the right keywords. Glad to know there’s a common variation out there.

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