Healthy Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

by | Appetizers & Tapas, Side Dishes

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!

Healthy Mediterranean 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, and see if it was a yummy as stuffed 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

Cole slaw 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 Cole slaw was that I only liked it when my mother (a Mediterranean, Middle Eastern cook), put raisins in it. Actually, raisins and nuts. I know. 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. So I suppose that raw, was the only way I had eaten cabbage.

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; farts! There was no way I was going to eat something that smelled like that! So I never ate cooked cabbage.

Stuffed Cabbage

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.

First, I needed to know if it was healthier cooked or raw. I had already determined that raw tasted kind of sweet while cooked just smelled bad. I somehow knew that the bad smelling cabbage was going to be healthier. Sure enough, just like other veggies such as asparagus, or carrots, cabbage when cooked (gently steamed or lightly cooked), was higher in carotenoids and antioxidants, and is a great aid in digestion. 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. 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!

Leftover Turkey

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!

Healthy Turkey Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Recipe by Robin DaumitCourse: Appetizers & Tapas, Side DishesCuisine: American



Roasted turkey with barley, nuts and dried fruits, wrapped in a lightly blanched cabbage leaf.


  • 8 large cabbage leaves, carefully removed from the cabbage head

  • 2 cups cooked barley

  • 2 cups cooked turkey, or any other cooked meat, or smoked fish

  • ¾ cup spicy cashews, or any other nut, crushed

  • ½ cup dried apricots, chopped (dried cranberries or raisins work too)

  • ¼ cup olive oil

  • salt to taste

  • 8 tooth picks


  • Preheat oven to 350
  • 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 and wrapped, and chilled until ready to use.
  • In a bowl, mix cooked barley, turkey (meat or fish), nuts, and apricots. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated. (The barley will be a bit wet and sticky so it will hold everything together nicely.)
  • 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 10-15 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.


  • While leftover turkey was my first choice, since I made this around Thanksgiving, other meats or smoked fish will taste great in this recipe as well.

My Muffin Madness


In my family, I’ve always been known as the ‘Muffin Queen’. Out of necessity, I created muffins for breakfast, lunch, on the go snacks, sometimes dinner and a sweet yet healthyish treat for dessert!

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