What to Serve with Cabbage Rolls: 13 Exciting Ideas
The seemingly humble cabbage roll, stuffed with a hearty grain and ground meat, swimming in a tangy tomato-based sauce, is among the most quintessential of all comfort foods.
How can something so primal and soul satisfying also feel like such a high-end indulgence at the same time?
Perhaps it’s because they can take a little bit of effort to pull together, so we’re not likely to just whip them up for dinner every night of the week.
The extra effort is more than worth it, though, once you’ve loaded up your plate with these steaming hot and richly-filling packets of flavor.
On a cool fall evening? It’s like wrapping your soul up in a soft warm blanket.
Stuffed cabbage rolls really do satisfy like few other dinners.
But then it’s nice to round out your rock-star cabbage rolls with just the right supporting act, too -- a.k.a. side dishes.
Don’t worry, we have plenty of ideas to help you find what to serve with cabbage rolls and bring together the perfect dinner menu of complementary and contrasting sides.
What Goes with Cabbage Rolls in a Nutshell
When choosing a side dish for cabbage rolls, we think it’s often best to steer into the “comfort” side of things.
Rich, traditional flavors. Simple, hearty, and rustic are all good words to remember.
It might be nice to add a fancy flourish every once a while, but you really can’t go wrong with humble and unadorned goodness here.
Also, think seasonally fall and early winter flavors. Sure, cabbage is often available all-year round these days, but other flavors of the season are often the perfect match.
A rib-sticking mash, a roasted winter squash dish, or late season greens are enticingly hearty.
Also, think about including vegetables that are related to cabbage such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower. These cousins will augment the shared flavors of cabbage and make the whole plate sing.
For that matter, kale sautéed with caraway seeds and a touch vinegar would be a divine combination.
But we’ve just mentioned just a few thoughts to get the imagination flowing.
There are so many answers for what to combine with stuffed cabbage rolls. Read on to explore an abundance of side dish ideas!
1. GERMAN SPAETZLE
Quite often people think of egg noodles as a side for cabbage rolls.
We thought that sounded good, but you know what sounds even better? A side of spaetzle.
Those pillowy little egg noodles are completely different from what you see in the bagged pasta aisle of the grocery store. They’re not flat, and they’re not flavorless.
Also, no two are identical, which makes them as rustic as they are fantastically delicious.
Check out this quick and easy recipe from Julie at Plated Cravings here: platedcravings.com
2. ROASTED RED POTATOES
Oh, hello! We’re thinking that any type of roasted red potato would be the perfect side for cabbage rolls – but these really fulfilled the mental image we had bouncing around our collective consciousness.
They’re crispy, colorful, flavorful, and simple to prepare.
Do your red potatoes come bathed in Italian seasoning with a kiss of garlic?
Ours do now.
Check out Julie’s recipe over at Tastes of Lizzy T. Find the recipe right here: tastesoflizzyt.com
3. BARLEY PILAF
We love, love, love, love, toothsome barley with cabbage rolls. The compare and contrast really creates a – you guessed it – cool contrast in texture!
Also, the garlicky pilaf contains a healthy amount of pine nuts or almonds (dealer’s choice), so there’s a fantastic amount of crunch, too.
Once you pair barley with meat-filled cabbage rolls, you won’t be able to picture them separately ever again.
Follow the link for Mel’s recipe over Mel’s Kitchen Café: melskitchencafe.com
Mashed potatoes pair beyond perfectly with cabbage rolls.
They’re buddies. They’re pals. They’ve metaphorically ridden across the country together on a moped with a side car.
But, as much as the two of them love to hang – when you add cabbage, bacon and onions into the mix – now we have a party! *raise the roof*
Check out Holly’s colcannon recipe here at Spend With Pennies, and get ready to get your ultimate mashed potato combination on. spendwithpennies.com
5. GARLIC ROASTED CARROTS
Garlic. Balsamic vinegar. Pretty, roasted, and charred baby carrots. Crunch. Flavor bursting forth from thyme.
Those were the things that crossed our mind as something that would be a delight on the plate with a meat and rice-filled cabbage roll.
And we were right. These really are one of the best sides for cabbage rolls.
And we found everything we were looking for in this recipe from Chungah at Damn Delicious. Grab the link here: damndelicious.net
6. COUSCOUS AND CHICKPEA SALAD
Is “couscous-ey-goodness” a term in the panoply of food terms? If not, it should be.
Pearled couscous is just one of those ingredients that dresses up everything it’s surrounded by. Roasted chickpeas? Oh, yes. They’ve gone from the bronze, to the gold. The same goes with cucumbers, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and roasted red peppers.
They all just feel a little spiffier, and they stand a little taller with couscous around.
All together, it’s fresh and hearty, and loves, loves, loves, to hang out on a plate with slowly baked cabbage rolls.
We cruised over to Chelsea’s Messy Apron and found the salad that we knew would pair perfectly with cabbage rolls. Grab the link here: chelseasmessyapron.com
7. HOMEMADE RYE BREAD
What goes better with cabbage rolls than a hearty, caraway studded, savory, and classic loaf of rye bread?
Answer: Not much. Rye bread with caraway seeds and cabbage rolls really do love to be on a plate together.
Bonus: Not only is the bread incredibly flavorful, it’s also simple to make!
Hello, ease of preparation and effortlessness side dish simpatico!
Imagine the bread sitting on a wooden cutting board next to a terrine of lush cabbage rolls with a butter dish between them.
That’s as pretty as a picture.
Watch Rachel’s recipe here:
8. MAKE-AHEAD AND FREEZE PIEROGI
We’re not going to sugarcoat this. Cabbage rolls can be a little tedious to make. And so can pierogi.
However – and we do mean, however – the two of them separately are the perfect homecooked meal.
So, the two combined are absolute bliss.
What we like to do, is make the pierogi ahead of time and freeze it for special occasions. It’s not difficult to make, and the payoff is the culinary equivalent of a King-straight flush in Vegas.
People cheer while you collect the chips and smile.
So, make some mashed potatoes and pasta, combine the two, and then freeze them.
Then smile like a Cheshire cat when you lovingly pull them out of the freezer, drop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, and toss them with browned butter.
“Why yes, I did think pierogi would be perfect with these cabbage rolls! I just threw them both together at the last minute!” *Wink*
Grab Natasha’s recipe for make ahead pierogi here: natashaskitchen.com
9. SAUTEED VEGETABLES
What dresses up your dinnerware more than sautéed veggies? (That’s a serious question!)
It’s kind of hard to mimic the sunny disposition of vegetables lovingly and gently tossed in fat in a skillet.
They just make everything a little brighter.
And this simple combination of carrots, broccoli, and snow peas live up to our imagination.
Give it a shot. You’ll love yourself for it.
Vanessa from the Cheerful Kitchen uses coconut oil in this sauté which pairs insanely well with cabbage. Grab the recipe here: thecheerfulkitchen.com
10. BRAISED LEEKS
Braised leeks are the green Doppelgänger of cabbage rolls. And they’re nearly as luscious and mouthwatering as the main dish.
Think of baby leeks that have spent some time in a pan with butter, wine, lemon, and thyme.
And then picture plating them with cabbage rolls.
You can see it, right? You can nearly inhale their perfumed fragrance, right?
Oh, my. So, can we.
Hold on, we need to run to the farmers market for some of these fresh and tender cousins of the classic onion.
Check out Meghan’s recipe at Fox and Briar here: foxandbriar.com
11. BEST SIMPLE TOSSED GREEN SALAD
Holy crimoli! We do sincerely enjoy a good green salad with cabbage rolls.
The main dish is so rich, so flavorful, so thoughtfully made with attention and love, that a little slapdash burst of color and creativity makes the perfect impromptu yin to yang on the plate.
Think of crisp greens with seeds, veggies, and legumes all tossed into a bowl to shine with a casual newness that just makes you admire the ingredients for what they are – and smile.
Check out Tiffany’s fun round-up of ingredients you may have – or may not have – thought to toss into a bowl with a flavorful apple cider vinaigrette.
Take a look over at Crème de la Crumb: lecremedelacrumb.com
12. BAKED MAC AND CHEESE
Comfort food next to comfort food is one of the best things to see on a plate.
Savory veggie rolls stuffed with ground meat, herbs, rice, and enveloped in lightly steamed or boiled cabbage leaves is decadent in and of itself.
Then when you plate it with ooey, gooey, al dente pasta that’s swimming in a Colby jack and smoked cheddar cheese sauce – oh, my god.
Check out Monique’s fantastic and fabulous macaroni and cheese video, and forget about saving room for dessert.
13. BEET SALAD
How often do you see a side dish that’s so beautiful it brings a tear to your eye? Literally, a tear to your eye.
That’s what we imagined when we thought how delightfully delicious an earthy and sweet beet salad would pair with cabbage rolls.
The colors. The flavors. The combination of the two.
Hold on a minute while we dab our eyes with a handkerchief.
Wow. That’s a beautiful plate.
We found a recipe from Jessica Gavin that lived up to our imagination and more. It involves arugula, maple syrup, goat cheese, walnuts and pomegranates.
Check out Jessica’s recipe here: jessicagavin.com
What to Serve with Cabbage Rolls: So Many Styles, So Many Choices
The classic Eastern European-style cabbage roll is what most of us first think of when we hear the words “cabbage roll.”
But there are also variations from almost every corner of the globe that are worth exploring, so keep your mind open.
First off, there isn’t just one Eastern European variety -- there are variants from across the region.
From Poland to Serbia, Slovakia to Bulgaria and beyond, each region puts its own spin on this much-loved comfort food.
If down in Greece, you’ll find yet a different variation. Pair it with some tasty falafel.
But cabbage rolls also appear in cultures across Europe, not to mention the Middle East and Asia.
Sometimes variations are subtly different – in the grain or the protein used – while others are more fundamentally different, using different spices from their particular regions.
Whatever cabbage roll variation you’re exploring, you’ll want to adjust the flavors in your side dishes to highlight and contrast the main dish in an interesting way.
When you’re leaning into Asian flavors, such as this Vietnamese cabbage roll soup, think about bright, crisp flavors, like a mixed herb salad with an umami-loaded dressing.
If you’re serving lemony and briny Greek cabbage rolls, try highlighting those citrus notes in a side salad with citrus vinaigrette or a light fruit dessert.
If horseradish makes an appearance in your cabbage rolls, consider using other bold flavors like a kielbasa or bratwurst sausage in your side dish or appetizer.
DON’T FORGET YOUR STARTERS AND DESSERTS
Apples and apple cider are also great flavors with cabbage.
Apples are such a versatile ingredient, too, that they can show up in either an appetizer or a dessert – making a beautiful tie-in with the traditional main dish.
A salad course featuring sliced, seasonal apples and a cider vinaigrette would be the perfect start to the meal. Or finish off with a large slice of warming apple pie or an apple crisp.
On the other hand, after a heavy meal, sometimes it’s nice to finish with something lighter, like a fresh fruit salad or cups of sorbet.
Ultimately what to serve with stuffed cabbage will be up to the flavors in your base recipe, but also – and most importantly – your imagination.
We hope we’ve given you some inspiration -- choosing what to serve with cabbage rolls can actually be a lot of fun!
Related Meals, More Great Sides
Check out these side dishes for your other favorite, similar meals.
- Stuffed Peppers sides: Another popular stuffed veggie you surely love.