Lazy Turkey Cabbage Rolls

Back when I first started this site, I shared with you my prized recipe for my Grandfather’s Cabbage Rolls. I taught you some valuable Polish words like Dziadzia (jah-jah), which means grandpa, and Gołąbki (ga-whump-ki), which is the traditional Polish cabbage roll.

Speaking about my Dziadzia is always bittersweet. It has been about five years since he passed away, and I still miss him. I know my entire family still misses him too. He is always in my heart and on my mind though, especially with one of my favorite holidays, Easter, approaching.

Over Christmas, I succumbed to the impulse purchase of a small rosemary bush. He would probably be sad that after all the time I spent around him, watching him garden while growing up, I barely kept that plant alive for a week or two at most.  But I can make a mean batch of pickles, which he would be proud of.

I always regretted not learning Polish. I know it is a difficult language, but I think that would have just made him so proud. I actually live in a predominantly Polish area. In fact there is a Polish bar/club Mike and I stumbled into without really knowing it was a Polish club. We thought, from the name, it was a sports bar, so we dressed accordingly. Oh boy, when we walked in and that techno music was blasting… We were so wrong. I can say that he did teach me enough to know when some Polish princesses are talking crap about me. The fact that I ignored them would have made him happy.

My Dziadzia lived through WWII, made it to America, was a wonderful father to my Mom and Uncle, worked hard labor for most of his life, and never had a complaint… except for maybe about slow ladies in the check-out lane at the grocery store. Every time I think about him, I picture him smiling.

My favorite memory (and I know my brothers will say the same thing) is when we were in middle school and my Dziadzia was in his eighties. My Dziadzia jumped on my brother’s bike and rode it around the driveway with ease while saying in a sing-songy sort of way, “Toot, toot!” My brothers and I were laughing and smiling so wide. We didn’t even know he could ride a bike!

I try to live with his vigor, happiness, and general appreciation for life. Of course it is hard not to let the little things get you down. Like I said, I try. Sometimes I just need to slow things down. The way for me to do that is to think about my Dziadzia from time to time.

I wonder, if he could see me now, what would he say?

Even though he is probably so annoyed that I took his precious recipe and turned it into something healthy and jammed it in a crockpot, I know he would be happy about the fact that (even though sometimes we want to kill each other) my brothers and I are always there for each other, the fact that we are all generally happy and healthy, and the fact that we all still think about him with smiles on our faces to this very day.

Lazy Turkey Cabbage Rolls
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


Recipe type: Entree/Crockpot
Serves: 4-6

  • 1 Pound Lean Ground Turkey
  • 2 Teaspoons Grated Onion
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • ½ Cup Cooked Brown Rice
  • ½ Head Cabbage, core removed and sliced
  • 2, 15 Ounce Cans of Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Slice of Bacon, cut into six pieces (optional)
  • Note: Bacon adds a hint of smoke to the dish. It tastes just fine without it.

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, use your hands to mix the ground turkey, grated onion, salt, pepper, and brown rice until combined.
  2. Place three pieces of bacon on the bottom of the crockpot, if you choose to use it. Pour one can of tomato sauce over the bacon or if you aren’t using bacon, just pour it into the bottom of the crockpot.
  3. Layer half the sliced cabbage on top of the tomato sauce. Gently press the cabbage into the sauce.
  4. Next, add the meat and rice mixture. Don’t press it down too much.
  5. Pour another can of tomato sauce over the turkey/rice layer. Layer the remaining half of the sliced cabbage over the sauce. Gently press it into the sauce. Add the three remaining slices of bacon, if you are using it. Put the lid on and set the crockpot to low. Cook for eight hours.
  6. Store dish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Recipe adapted from my My Grandfather’s Cabbage Rolls and inspired by Lazy Cabbage Rolls

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  1. Agata says

    I bet your Dziadziu would be proud :)
    I love that you keep your Polish recipes very traditional. Love your blog!

  2. says

    Aw, what a great post. I know your grandpa is proud of you and I bet he would love all of your delicious food. I always think of my Ma-ma when I’m in the kitchen. I know they’re watching us and loving us (and I always think making their recipes is the best kind of tribute).

  3. says

    I loved reading about your grandpa. My grandparents were Czech (kinda similar to Polish! hah!), and I miss them dearly. We also lost my grandpa 5 years ago.
    I made Aimee’s lazy cabbage rolls a month ago and loved them! I bet your version with bacon is killer! Can’t wait to try it!

  4. says

    I always love hearing your stories!!! I read a ton of foodie blogs and your stories are by far the best written and personal. Whenever I see a counter at restaurant or a sail boat, I think of my grandpa. Your grandpa sounds fantastic. I’m glad you got to have a relationship with him and please treasure your memories. I only knew one of my four grandparents.

    I also love this recipe! I’m far from Polish, I’m an Irish girl at heart but my live-in BF is part Polish and loves the food and does not get to eat it much since we now mainly eat low carb. His pierogies have been pushed back to the back of the freezer for now. I really want to try this recipe and just leave out the rice. Keep the yummy recipes and stories coming!!!

    • Stefanie says

      Thank you for your wonderful words! You made my day! If you are looking to take out the brown rice, you could always replace it with quinoa, that would be a lower carb count.

      • says

        That makes me feel so good that I made your day! :-)

        I actually used 1/4 of a cup of Planko bread crumbs but quinoa would work too.

        Please feel free to visit my blog ‘Holly’s Tiny Kitchen.’ It’s still a bit of a baby and I have not so great pictures, but I’m learning more every day.

      • says

        I made this recipe and it turned out WONDERFUL!!! My BF and I gobbled it up and had hardly any leftovers. I will definitely make this again!!!!

    • Stefanie says

      Thanks Amanda. I always hated blanching the cabbage leaf and then rolling everything together. It takes too much time! This is so easy, definitely not packaged as pretty, but the flavors are all the same. You should try it!

  5. says

    What a wonderful tribute and remembrance of your Grandpa. I really like cabbage rolls and am excited to try them in the crockpot. This recipe looks delicious and healthier which is great.

  6. says

    Stefanie, could you please post a photo of the finished dish? This sounds wonderful…stuffed cabbage rolls is one of my very favorites (mine tend to be Slovak style though…from my Mom’s side of the family). Thanks!

    • Stefanie says

      I actually didn’t take any pictures of the finished product. It cooks down so much and becomes beautifully caramelized, it is just that said beauty does not translate to a blog-worthy picture. Sorry.

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