This vegetarian take on cabbage roll soup will stick to your ribs and warm you right up!
Around this time two years ago I shared a recipe for Russian cabbage roll soup. I LOVED that recipe, but since meat isn’t really my thing anymore I haven’t been able to make it.
I decided that it was about time to remedy that problem by coming up with a meatless version of one of my favorite soups!
There were a few problems I had to consider when I was developing this vegetarian cabbage roll soup recipe.
First, the issue of umami. Sourness, bitterness, spiciness, and saltiness are easy to manage in any kind of diet. Umami, the “savory” flavor, just isn’t.
There are a few vegetarian sources of umami, namely seaweed, fermented products (like miso), and mushrooms.
I decided to replace the ground beef in my original recipe with ground mushrooms.
Okay, maybe they’re not exactly *ground*, but they are minced into a near-paste status in my mini food processor.
There was one other element that I felt was missing from vegetarian soups. For me, it’s the way that a good broth coats your mouth and leaves a glossy flavor on your lips.
Usually that comes from the gelatin in meat, but I’ve used a seaweed derivative (agar agar) to achieve a very similar effect.
Since it’s a cabbage roll style soup, it’s also filled with rice, tomatoes, and… cabbage.
Coupled with the silky broth and the savory mushrooms, this is a soup that will stick to your ribs and quickly fill you up.
Even just a cup of this soup served with a piece of bread is enough to fill my belly, so I saved the rest in freezer jars.
One note about using the agar agar powder: When the soup cools to room temperature or lower, it will thicken quite a bit to an almost jello-like substance. If you’ve ever made a really good meat stock, you’ll have seen this phenomenon before. Once you heat it up it will melt back into delicious broth!
Here’s the Recipe!
Vegetarian Cabbage Roll Soup Recipe
- 1 1/2 teaspoons agar-agar powder - optional
- 3 cloves garlic - peeled
- 8 ounces brown mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion - 1 large onion
- 1 cup diced carrot - 1 carrot
- 4 cups chopped green cabbage - hearts removed (about half a head of cabbage)
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 1 14 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
- 3/4 cup long grain white rice - uncooked
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves - divided
- Place the agar-agar in a medium saucepan along with 3 cups of water until hydrated (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, place the garlic and mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely minced.*
- Once the agar has hydrated and "bloomed", set the saucepan over medium-high heat and allow it to come to a full boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low.
- Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart or larger Dutch oven (or other lidded pot) over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots; saute for 4 to 5 minutes; until they begin to soften. Push the onions and carrots to one side of the pot and add the mushroom-garlic mixture to the pan. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for 1 to 2 minutes; until browned. Mix the mushroom mixture into the carrots and onions. Add the cabbage, broth, tomatoes, rice, salt, pepper, paprika, and bay leaf to the pot. Stir in the warm agar-agar mixture.
- Allow the pot to reach a boil over medium heat. Once it has reached a boil, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.
- Stir in the honey, vinegar, and half of the parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with remaining parsley leaves.