Layered Cabbage Casserole - Kyabetsu no Kasaneni (an everyday favorite)


(From the archives. A perfect leave-to-cook, warming dish for a cold evening! Originally published December 2008.)

Some dishes dazzle you with their prettiness. Others may look plain, but are just plainly delicious. This simple, filling yet healthy winter dish belongs to the latter group.

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a staple of Japanese home cooking, believe it or not. I've loved it ever since I was little, but I would beg my mother to make it for me. It's a perfect winter dish, but it can be just a bit fiddly to make.

This stovetop casserole type dish is called キャベツの重ね煮 (kyabetsu no kasaneni) or stewed layered cabbage. It's basically a deconstructed cabbage roll, made into a round dome and served sliced into wedges. I've called it Layered Cabbage Casserole, because 'stewed cabbage' in English brings back memories of the greyish limp stuff served in a pool of water that I occasionally had for school lunch in England. (I usually ate lunch at home, since we lived next door to my school, but sometimes when my mother had to go out she'd pay for me to have school lunch. The only things I remember from those school lunches were terrific sausages, and that grey cabbage goo.)

Layered Cabbage doesn't look very pretty on its own, though it does make an impressive lump. Sliced into wedges though and served with the cooking liquid, it almost looks like a cake, doesn't it? The cabbage becomes meltingly soft and infused with the flavors of the stuffing and the poaching liquid, which also becomes the sauce. layeredcabbage2.jpg

Here is the big lump (which looks like a rather flat cabbage), with a wedge cut out of it.


It's a perfect main dish for a cold winter's night. It's also very well suited for the slow cooker.

Recipe: Layered Cabbage Casserole (kyabetsu no kasaneni)

This makes a big 'cake', enough for at least 8 servings. This is sort of intentional, because leftovers taste even better the next day. You'll notice that it combines both Western and Japanese flavors, so it belongs in the yohshoku (imported and adapted Western food) category of Japanese cooking.

  • 1 medium to large cabbage

For the stuffing:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 lb (450g) ground beef, or mixed ground pork and beef (In Japan all pork is used, but in this case I prefer the flavor of beef or a mix)
  • 1 small firm tofu (about 300g / 10.5 oz), crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or use about 1 cup cooked rice)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

For the sauce/cooking liquid:

  • About 4 cups Chicken stock (canned or homemade or even stock cubes will do)
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. sake or sweet sherry (you can leave this out if you can't use alcohol)
  • 1 Tbs. white wine or rice vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme, or a sprig of thyme
  • Pepper, and additional salt to taste

Equipment: One of the following:

  • A slow cooker/crockpot
  • A heavy enamelled cast iron casserole pot such as a Le Creuset
  • Any heavy-bottomed pot

Plus, a pot lid or heatproof plate that is a bit smaller than the circumference of your pot.

Peel off the cabbage leaves, in as large pieces as possible. Don't worry if some get torn up though, you can still use them. For presentation purposes, you may want to have at least one or two big, intact leaves to place on the top. You will want to have about 20 leaves worth or more. If the stalk part is very thick, shave them down a bit with a knife or vegetable peeler.

Reserve some of the torn-up cabbage leaves. Blanch the rest of the cabbage leaves for a few minutes in plenty of boiling water. Drain and cool.

While the cabbage leaves cool, make your stuffing by combining all of the stuffing ingredients well.

In the bottom of your pot, put down the uncooked cabbage leaves in a layer. This uncooked cabbage layer will prevent the bottom of your stack of cabbage from burning (if the protective layer burns, you can just throw it out). On top of the uncooked layer, put a layer of cooked cabbage, then a layer of stuffing, and repeat until the pot is almost full. The top layer should be a below the top of the pot, with space enough for that small pot lid or plate to sit on top. For aesthetic purposes, try to make the shape of your stack round like a cabbage, and finish up with a large, intact leaf.

Combine the sauce/liquid ingredients, and pour around the cabbage. The liquid should just barely cover the top of the cabbage cake - add some water if it doesn't. Add the bay leaf, thyme, pepper and salt if needed. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and place the small pot lid or plate on top of the cabbage. This is to weight it down a bit and ensure that it stays intact. (This technique is used often in Japanese cooking; the small lid is called an 落としぶた (otoshibuta), meaning 'dropped lid'.)

Simmer gently for at least 1 hour, or longer. (If using a slow cooker, you can set everything and let it cook all day.)

Taste the sauce/liquid again before serving and adjust the seasoning.

Slice into wedges and serve in a shallow bowl or soup plate with some of the sauce, with plain rice (the Japanese way), or bread.


The tofu in the stuffing mixture lightens it up. You can omit it and use a bit more meat or vegetable instead.

I have not tried it, but you could probably cook this in a heavy casserole dish in the oven too. Just make sure the surface doesn't dry out.

Try putting a little bit of miso in the liquid (about a tablespoon) to make it richer.

Filed under:  winter yohshoku favorites meat cabbage slow cook

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this recipe comes at just the right time! in my weekly CSA basket there is always a cabbage in winter, and besides okonomiyaki, i don't know any fancy recipes (western or japanese) based on cabbage! here in france they make stuffed cabbage rolls as well (they call it "choux farci"), but you need only one or two leaves for each roll, whereas for me the aim is to use as much cabbage as possible!!
i wonder if one could freeze a couple of wedges (separately) and use them for future bento lunches...?

oh cool... weirdly enough i have never heard of this or seen this and i grew up in japan... my mom's cooking was never too creative though. i think i have seen it in the basement of sogo or one of those big dept. stores.

looks delicious... definitely gonna try it!

Cabbage rolls - a universal dish? I never would have thought it.
This brings back good memories from my childhood - visiting relatives in Sweden and getting home-made, juicy cabbage rolls dripping with broth. Why is the humble cabbage so despised when it brings such goodness to us all?

Why is the humble cabbage so despised? Because if it's not cooked properly, it stinks. See Maki's remark upthread about greyish goo; but she doesn't mention the miasma that spreads through the whole house, of elderly badly cooked cabbage. Not only is the smell nasty in itself, for many people it's associated with grinding poverty.

I like to put cabbage, cut in wedges, on top of the rest of a meat/vegetable stew when everything in it is almost done, and let the cabbage steam till it's cooked but not gooey.

There's also RØDKAAL,which is basically sweet-and-sour shredded red cabbage. There are a zillion recipes, ut because my husband and I both have diabetes, instead of adding vinegar and sugar to the cabbage, I put in about a cup of homemade no-cal cranberry sauce (cranberries stewed in water with Splenda), and simmer until it's all tender. Turns a lovely purple.

I think I might actually try to make this in a couple days for dinner. I'll tell you how it goes ! It looks so delicious. I love stewed cabbage inside dishes, so one that highlights it sounds great.

That looks really good, I will have to try it :)
I like the idea and taste of cabbage rolls but like you said, way too fiddly. This is a great solution!
And.. savory cake? I'm IN!!!

I love cabbage rolls, but don't enjoy rolling them. So this is great, because not only do I not have to roll, but it's really pretty too. NO MORE ROLLING, YAY!

... could this be vegetableized? That is, could you substitute tempeh for the ground meat and vegetable stock for the chicken? I think it should be possible, but I'd like to hear what you have to say on this. Cabbage is so delicious!

For a veggie version I think I would try a mix of various aromatic vegetables (onion, celery, etc) and maybe crumbled tofu, or seitan, or a grain like barley (cooked), mixed together. Adding a bit of miso to the mixture will boost its flavor!

My mom used to make stuffed cabbage rolls with some kind of soy-sauce-based sauce. (I'd have to ask her about the ingredients.) As a kid, I would pick out the meat, and leave the cabbage, much to my mom's annoyance. I was a picky eater. :P

Exactly what would your cooking instructions be for using the slow-cooker? Still use the dropped plate? Just put everything in and set it to low? or high? I've only used my slowcooker a few times, so I'm nervous to try it with anything other than soup. But this looks so good!

(What kind of cabbage would you recommend?)

Yes, use the dropped lid on top of the cabbage, and then put the regular slow cooker lid on. High until the liquid is hot then low. (I'll add that to the instructions). Any kind of cabbage will do - I used a regular white cabbage, but a savoy cabbage would be green and prettier.

Thanks Maki. :D

Yum. This looks right up my street. I'm going to try it sometime, thanks!

Cabbage rolls are quite common in many different cuisines. I first tried them when I was in Romania and fell in love. Then I found them again while I was in Little Istanbul in Vienna. I haven't yet tried the recipe for sarmale, but I wonder if your recipe tastes similar?

My rice cooker claims to have a slow cooker function. I wonder if this recipe would work?

If it can hold a constant heat for some time (the longer the better but at least 1 hour after the liquid has come to a boil - follow your cooker's instructions) it should work.

hmmm, that looks really warm, yummy, and filling. i love cabbages (almost all veggies) but i am afraid i won't be trying this since i only cook for one. maki, do you have any cabbage recipes for one or for bento? thank you!

There are quite a few cabbage recipes in Just Bento and Just Hungry. Try the search box at the top of this page!

this is so cool. i am always looking for fun cabbage recipies. the pie look is so awesome. i feel like it could be adjusted to be a half-karaben half-70s retro presentation....lots of possibilities there.

it looks really really good. You said above (in reply to someone else) that a savoy cabbage would be greener and prettier - but won't it be terribly bitter?

I made a vegan version of this for dinner tonight and after eating his portion, my husband announced, "I am in love with what I just ate." And then proceeded to eat several forkfuls from the pot. Thanks for the recipe, I will definitely make it again!

that looks so good. i LURVE cabbage. thanks for the recipe.

that looks so good!

It's like cabbage lasagna! It looks beautiful, you did a great job.

I made this dish for my skeptical kids last night. Fortunately, they were really hungry when they came home so they tried it (and liked it). When my husband came home, my daughter happily told him, "Daddy, we had a delicious Meat Cake for dinner!" This will now always been known as Japanese Meat Cake! I used a combination of ground pork, ground chicken, and a large block of tofu. It was great! Thank you for another delicious recipe that rescued me from the "what's for dinner tonight?" dilemma.

This looks delicious and I am making it tonight. I am so cold and I am hoping it will warm me up!

As you embrace this wonderful winter vegetable, though you might be interested in a recipe I will soon be posting for roasted cabbage.
Great recipe & useful that you give alternate cooking ingredients to choose from.

Maki -

I made this tonight and it was delicious!

This kind of reminds me of my Mom's 'Lazy Man Cabbage Rolls' where she basically mixes the meat, onions, rice and tomatoes with chopped cabbage, puts it all in a casserole dish, and just throws it in the oven. It's not as good as rolled cabbage rolls, but is still very tasty with mashed potatoes or crusty bread.
This layered version looks really pretty. I might have to tear myself away from using the cabbage roll filling I'm used to, and give your filling a shot, because man oh man, this looks good.

I'm not clear from the recipe if the filling is cooked prior to assembly of the cabbage stack? This looks yummy, I love cabbage. Thanks!

The filling isn't cooked prior to assembly, unless you are using some cooked rice instead of breadcrumbs.

That layered cabbage casserole looks really good!

Mmmm! I have been trying one cabbage recipe after another on my veggie-resistant husband and they all flopped. I think I could get this one past him if I promised that it would be full of meaty meaty meat. Ground beef and tofu are both very expensive in my town unless one is lucky enough to score a nearly-expired package at 50 percent off. Do you think I could replace the beef and tofu with ground turkey? It's cheaper, but extremely juicy, so I would be sauteing and draining it, then adding it to the recipe.

sorry, forgot to answer this. Well my answer is, if it is gelationous enough and has a decent amount of fat it should work. I hope you have given it a try!

omg i am DEFININTELY going to try this! can't wait!

Made this last night for dinner using ground turkey. Served it over hapa sticky rice (1/2 brown rice, 1/2 white rice)and it was DELICOUS. The perfect warm and soothing meal for a winter night, and the husband loved it too! I did it on the stove, but will try the slow cooker next time...

Thanks for such a great recipe!!

Also, to Jenny Islander- I used ground turkey instead of the beef/pork, and mixed up the stuffing raw, just like the recipe said pre-cooking at all, and it came out great!

(I also bought the silken version of the low fat tofu instead of the firm by mistake, and didn't notice anything bad about it...) Great meal!

Like others who've posted I tried the veggie version using a 250g block of crumbled tofu mixed with an egg, a few Tbs each of cooked barley, lentils and rice, browned onions/carrots/celery, a few Tbs of miso and tomato purée with herbs/spices.
I left the tomato purée out of the cooking liquid to keep the savoy cabbage as green as possible and cooked in a small casserole dish (8 inch) in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours. When turned out it looked absolutely scrumptious!!!! And tasted incredible XX
Thanks for the veggie suggestions Maki! I'm in love with cabbage again... After hating it for far too long...

It puzzled me a bit because my grandma had a similiar recipe..just without tofu but rice in the mix.

I think that is one of the all over the world recipes just like noddles in a sauce.

Originally it was a hungary/poland dish i think

OK,Its simmering now.
I think most countries have a cabbage comfort food.
Cabbage rolls,corned beef and cabbage.The Italians in southern Italy do a spicy cabbage with bread .You soak day old bread ,rip it into hunks,and fry it all up with either left over cabbage or broccoli rabe,and toss a bunch of hot pepper flakes,a bit of garlic and salt.
Voila.Delish ...

Id never have thought Japan would have one with cooked cabbage though.
I'm used to raw cabbage over ton katsu ,or in okonomiyaki.

I have to admit,given my background ,I got creative with this one.
I hope that's ok.Ill let you know how it comes out.
I made the filling with all the ingredients but the breadcrumbs.Rice seems a much better choice.
And I had no tomato paste.I'm Italian mind you,and I just prefer to use tomato sauce when I cook Italain ,but I opted for a substitution of worstershire sauce .

I salted and peppered it,but I sprinkled some whole peppercorns on the top .
I also used a mixture of 2 different kinds of cabbage,and 1/2lb pork and 1/2lb beef.
That's how my family make meatballs.

I also put a few chicken thighs on the top of the plate,to steam while it all cooks below .My cats loved boiled chicken,so if for some reason its not palatable (doubtful) they can have the chicken,otherwise I will share.

I also used the left over cabbage water to fill out the liquid instead of just tap water.
I'm going to let it simmer a good long time.
Turn out report after tomorrows lunch.
But this should be perfect for a snowed in weekend .

Oyasumi .

I appear to be a huge fibber.
Not only didn't I last until lunch tomorrow,I'm on my second helping tonight.
I cannot believe how delicious this is ....

The chicken thighs also steamed up moist and tender and yummy.
I will have those tomorrow .
Thank you Maki !


Looks like another great recipe! So adaptable that I'm already mentally adjusting with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes or leftover tomato bits, maybe some raisins. But is there any problem with getting the cabbage cake out of the slow cooker? When it is hot, doesn't it have a tendency to fall apart? And in order to get nice slices, you usually let meats and casseroles cool before cutting.

I just made this today n it came out gorgouse! it was soo good but the sauce/soup was even better! n it's healthy too! soo much veggies. it's a lot of prep work thou cause we decided to make out own ground pork too. but in the end after the taste testing i decided that it was worth all that work! it seriouly is a great warm dish for any time of the year reall!

In our neck of the woods, Pennsylvania, Cabbage rolls are made with a tomato sauce over them which gives them a nice color and flavor. I'm not sure if the recipe comes from the Pennsylvania german residents or the Italian settlers but Someone began it and it is a favorite. This would be good with a tomato layer or sauce or both

Thank you for yet another delicious recipe. We made this over the weekend and it was a hit. Instead of doing the dropped lid I just put the regular lid on half-cracked, and it still came out perfectly. I had quite a bit of broth left over - about 2 or 3 cups, and I used it for a great minestrone the next day.

I love the number of layers in the picture of the wedge. It is Goldilocks -- not too few but not too many.

Since I would love to replicate that, can you give me an idea of how big the final product is? There is nothing in those wonderful pictures to give a size reference.

If I knew about how large (diameter) to make it, and about how high it would be, I could make it "correctly" and also know in advance which pot to put it in so the cabbage and liquid both fit.

Thanks in advance for any pointers. Can't wait to make this!

Maki, I am a secret lurker and devoted fan of yours. I decided I had to post because I tried this cabbage dish and it was absolutely wonderful! I am allergic to soy so I made it without the tofu, used ground pork but added a little more rice to lighten it (~1 cup). I also searched the fridge and added an extra carrot, fresh shiitake mushrooms and some spring onions. It really was so wonderful. Although I made it late at night for the kids' dinner tomorrow, my husband and I couldn't stop cutting wedges for ourselves. And the soup/sauce was amazing.

I have a question though -- I only made 3 layers of meat and 4 layers of cabbage. Do you usually make it more layers?

Love your site and can't wait for your cookbook!

My grandmother (from Germany) used to make something quite similar, as did my mother. The only thing I remember about it is, that both of them always said you have to add caraway, to make it easier on your stomach - might be a good idea to add, if you're ok with the taste. I will make this tomorrow, I think :)

Love your blog!
I was trying to figure out how to arrange the separated leaves. Do you arrange them just like you are reconstructing the whole cabbage? Does that mean you have to put at least 3 leaves the 1st layer so that it resemble a bowl where to put the stuffing?
Thank you. Will definitely try this one, it looks very appetizing!
More power to you.

I assemble it so it looks like an inverted half-cabbage. The bottom layers will cook down, so they won't stay round, but you can arrange the top in a slight dome shape, which looks really nice when you serve it.

Wow, this was absolutely delicious. This recipe is a keeper, for sure. Maki, do you store the leftovers in the pot? I'm afraid to lift it out for fear it will fall apart.

OMG -- I just made this yesterday in my crockpot and it came out SO GOOD. Thanks for posting this recipe, it's one of my new favorites!!

If you try this, don't forget to put something heavy in your crockpot to weigh it down, though -- the top of my cabbage cake was floating! I used half pork and half ground chicken to make it a little lighter.

I've made this dish with just a few alterations to the recipe a couple of times. Thanks, it's now my favorite way to make stuffed cabbage. I use a small, deep ceramic casserole dish with a lid and cook it in the oven at 325 F. Savoy cabbage works very well. I've also used ground turkey and added a little ginger and soy to the filling.