A healthy, filling, and delicious casserole the whole family will love.
I’m guessing most of us have certain foods that remind us of childhood. Certain flavors that deeply connect us to intimate moments from our past. If you are a Finn like me, Cabbage Casserole (called kaalilaatikko in Finnish) is probably one of those foods.
Cabbage casserole is to Finns like spaghetti is to Italians, tamales to Mexicans, and curry is to Eastern Indians. It’s almost as old as Finland itself and is an essential part of the Finnish culinary tradition. I would bet that one forkful of cabbage casserole for most Finns evokes memories of family meals and the scent of baked cabbage, probably made by grandma.
I’m going to have to admit here that this was NOT the recipe I was planning on posting this week. You may have noticed that my last couple of posts have been uber healthy but not exceptionally beautiful recipes. I’ve been focusing on my health and starting the year off with some major liver loving (cabbage is awesome for the liver!) Detox cabbage soup has been a staple for me this January. The food photographer in my wanted to make some amazingly colorful, eye-catching dish.
But life isn’t always colorful and perfect. I’ve learned to just be real and to blog about what’s happening in my life. And this Finnish Cabbage Casserole is what’s happening. Easy real food that’s healing to my body. I’ve eaten more cabbage this month then I’ve eaten in years. I actually really love it.
I’ve made the recipe as authentic as possible, just like I remember my mother and my grandmother making it. It’s basically just cabbage, beef, and rice. It’s all baked together in a good quality broth until crispy and golden on top. It’s savory, hearty, and so comforting. (I don’t usually eat a ton of grains, but I’ve noticed that a bit of white rice has been nice while I’m healing. #teamwhiterice)
Finnish Cabbage Casserole Cooking Tips:
- chop the cabbage instead of shredding it. Many recipes call for shredded cabbage. The texture is much nicer if you chop it instead.
- saute cabbage in covered pot. Many recipe call for boiling the cabbage in water. I find the flavor much nicer if you cook it in a bit of fat instead.
- cook rice beforehand. Some recipes call for uncooked rice to be added. I find that uncooked rice tends to not soften enough for my taste.
- use a cast iron skillet. I’m a big fan of cooking in cast iron. The casserole will cook a bit faster and will stay warm on the dinner table. ( Any regular baking dish will do though. You can use a 9×9 square, 9×11 rectangle or a large oval baking dish.)
- use a good quality broth. Traditionally, this recipe calls for beef broth. I usually use chicken broth because that’s what I have on hand. Homemade veggie broth works as well.
- beef is traditionally used in this recipe, but you can use ground turkey or bison if that’s what you like.
- this recipe is kid-friendly. Unless you are my Little One who HATES onions. I will often make this recipe without the onion and use garlic-flavored ghee instead to cook with. It’s still uh-may-zing.
- the maple syrup is TOTALLY optional, but is part of the authentic taste. Traditionally, the recipe calls for 3 tbsp of golden syrup, which is a bit much for me. But a tiny bit of sweet really does bring out the flavor of this dish.
This recipe may not be the most stunning recipe to look at, but it’s one of those dishes that you’ll want to make again and again. Anyone I’ve ever made it for has really enjoyed it. And it’s so easy to throw together. Makes great leftovers.
Hope you love it as much as I do! Here’s to evoking good memories with food.
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- 1/2 cup white rice (like this OR like this)
- 3 tbsp butter, ghee, or coconut oil – divided
- 1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey or ground bison)
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- one cabbage (about 2 pounds), sliced and chopped
- 1 tbsp maple syrup (like this)
- pepper, to taste
- 1 and 3/4 cup good quality broth (beef, chicken, or veggie)
- Cook rice as you usually would. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400’F. Grease a 12 inch cast iron skillet and set aside. (*see note)
- Melt 1 tablespoon fat of choice in a skillet and add beef, onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until meat is completely browned.
- In another large pot, melt remaining 2 tablespoon of fat over medium heat. Add chopped cabbage and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook covered until soft, stirring occasionally – about 8-10 minutes. Turn down heat if cabbage is sticking to pot or add a tablespoon of water.
- Once cabbage is done, turn off heat and add cooked rice, meat/onion mixture, optional maple syrup, and pepper to taste. Mix to combine. Scrape into prepared skillet or baking dish. Pour broth over the casserole.
- Bake for 45-55 minutes, until golden brown on top. (Casserole will cook faster in a cast iron skillet. Longer cook time is for regular baking dish.) Cover with foil if top is getting overly brown.
- I’m a big fan of cooking in cast iron. The casserole will cook a bit faster in cast iron and will stay warm on the dinner table. Any regular baking dish will do though. You can use a 9×9 square, 9×11 rectangle or a large oval baking dish.
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