Healthy Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are the best appetizer or side dish you will make from leftover turkey, barley or rice, dried fruit and spicy nuts.
Healthy Turkey Tapas
Roasted turkey with barley, nuts and dried fruits, wrapped in a lightly blanched cabbage leaf.
I’ll be honest. I have never been a fan of cabbage, but when I saw this stunning cabbage at the market, it was calling me, ‘experiment, try something new, try to like me’!
After tweaking a turkey filling with Mediterranean flavors, suddenly I have a new love for cabbage!
Mediterranean Influenced American Food
Having grown up on stuffed grape leaves, I decided I had to at least try to stuff the oversized, lovely cabbage.
The holiday season seems to have an abundance of these beautiful savoy cabbage, and so once I blanched the leaves, I treated them like grape leaves.
With Thanksgiving in a few days, I knew there would be a need for some easy, delicious, and new turkey leftover recipes.
I created this recipe just for the occasion, and now I must admit, I am a new fan of cabbage!
Cabbage: Cooked Or Raw
Coleslaw was about the only way I had ever eaten cabbage in my life.
Sauerkraut, though I hear is good for you, is also not something I have eaten.
But one thing I do remember, as a kid eating cabbage in the form of Coleslaw, was that I only liked it when my mother (a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern cook), put raisins in it.
Actually, raisins and nuts; I know, but trust me.
A Mediterranean Twist To Cabbage
Must sound weird to most but something about the salty crunch of the nuts, and the sweetness of the raisin just made the cabbage taste better to me.
Probably, since many of the savory Mediterranean dishes I grew up with, have dried fruits and nuts in them, the familiar flavors I already love, won me over on these cabbage rolls.
While I used cooked barley in this recipe (which I prefer over rice), my Moroccan Rice Pilaf with Dried Fruit is what inspired this recipe.
Another familiar dish that inspired this recipe (since I am new to cabbage), are the many variations of a Lamb Tajine, usually cooked with dried fruits.
Cooked cabbage? Once, while visiting my Swedish grandmother, I remember walking into her house and smelled something horribly disgusting cooking in the kitchen.
It was a smell I only remember the boys in school, who always tried to get attention in class, smelled like; I’ll leave you to your imagination!
There was no way I was going to eat something that smelled like that!
So I never ate cooked cabbage.
Amazing how our taste buds mature when we grow up and try various different cuisines.
Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
One day while shopping at a farmers market I noticed the most beautiful huge balls of cabbage.
Some were purple, others green and some just looked pretty enough to wear as a hat!
So, now as an adult, you know… we adults try to make ourselves eat healthy things even though we may not like them, I knew it was time to discover cabbage.
I couldn’t think of a better filling for a stuffed cabbage than our beloved leftover turkey, which coincidentally is abundant at about the same time cabbage is.
Healthy Cabbage – Raw Or Cooked
First, I needed to know if it was healthier cooked or raw.
Having already determined that raw tasted kind of sweet, while cooked just smelled bad, I probed more.
I somehow knew that the bad smelling cabbage was going to be healthier.
I knew it was time I found a way to enjoy them.This recipe comes together quickly, and believe it or not, I actually REALLY like cabbage now.
I chose to use cooked barley since I find it’s texture creamy and flavor a bit nutty but rice works well too.
Great as a side dish, perfect to serve for a luncheon, or simply to grab and go, since the bundles hold together all the way to the last bite!
Let’s face it, one can eat only so much turkey soup or turkey sandwiches when having roasted a huge turkey!
Shredding the cooked turkey and wrapping it with barley, nuts, and dried fruits gives leftover turkey a whole new meaning!
In fact… I will buy turkey thighs throughout the year, roast just that luscious dark meat and use the meat just to make this recipe!
- Large pot or pan – to blanch leaves
- Cutting board
- Chopping knife
- Measuring cup
- Basting brush
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
Ingredients For Turkey Cabbage Rolls
- Cabbage leaves
- Cooked barley or rice
- Cooked turkey
- Spicy cashews or almonds
- Dried fruit
- Olive oil
Healthy Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- 8 Toothpicks
- Sheet pan with parchment paper
- Basting brush
- 8 Large cabbage leaves savoy works great
- 2 cups Cooked barley or rice
- 2 cups Cooked turkey finely chopped, or any other cooked meat or smoked fish
- 3/4 cup Spicy cashews or any other nut, crushed
- 1/2 cup Dried apricots chopped, dried cranberries or raisins optional
- 1/4 cup Olive oil
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and brush lightly with olive oil.
- Each cabbage leaf will need to be blanched. In a pot of boiling water, carefully press one leaf at a time into the water, count to 8 and remove it to drain. This can be done in advance, wrapped, and chilled until ready to use.
- In a large bowl, mix cooked barley, chopped turkey (meat or fish), crushed nuts, and finely chopped apricots, with olive oil. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Lay out one cabbage leaf, place about ¼ cup of filling at one end of the leaf, roll up like a cigar, place a toothpick gently in and out of the leaf to hold it closed. (Or simply place the bundle, open side, down)
- Lay on a baking sheet, brush olive oil across each bundle, sprinkle a little salt (preferably coarse ground) across the tops, and bake for about 10-minutes.
- Remember, everything is already cooked, and so you only need to heat the bundles through to the center, taking care not to lose the color of the leaf, through over baking.