Wondering what to cook when you only have some ground meat, a head of cabbage, and some curry spice blend? Make my Garbage Stir-Fry with Curried Cabbage! You can magically transform all the odds and ends in your fridge and pantry into a simple and delicious one-pan gluten-free supper!
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Cabbage stir fry to the rescue!
I rarely have time to make a big production out of weeknight meals. Between work and parenting, my cup runneth over and I’m not about to make a special weeknight trip to the market to hunt down some exotic ingredients for a complicated new recipe.
Instead, when pressed for time (which is just about always), I rummage through my pantry and fridge and MacGyver something together–usually something just like this cabbage stir fry! With a fridge and pantry stocked with paleo staples (cabbage + meat + curry blend), you can make a clean-out-your fridge dinner (a.k.a. garbage stir-fry) in a jiffy.
Keep a defrost bowl in the fridge
Over the years, I’ve gotten lots of questions about my Defrost Bowl, but there’s really nothing all that magical about it. It’s just a big bowl in my fridge that I use to thaw a bunch of frozen meat. (Note: It’s a bowl – not a colander. I certainly don’t want to clean up the bloody goo that inevitably oozes out of my packages of meat.) Ever since I was a nightshift hospital pharmacist, I would routinely transfer some frozen protein from my freezer to my trusty Defrost Bowl; then, when it was time to get cooking, I’d grab whatever protein’s no longer icy, and then decide on a cooking method.
My Defrost Bowl serves another purpose, too: It forces me to cook my meat before it spoils, and keeps me from stuffing my face with take-out. Win-win!
Curry Powder + Ground Meat + Cabbage = Magic!
This fragrant and zesty cabbage stir fry recipe—made with ground meat, curry powder, and cabbage—is one of my go-to one-pan dishes when I’m craving Indian food. Don’t worry about the name, by the way; I call it Garbage Stir-Fry, but once you taste it, you won’t want to throw any of it away! Trust me the flavor to effort ratio is off the charts!
I always keep ground meat in my freezer. It’s budget-friendly, versatile, and perfect for stir-frying. Combine it in a hot, greased skillet with alliums, spices from the pantry, and whatever vegetables you have lingering in your refrigerator, and you’ll soon have a big batch of food that you can shovel into your mouth whenever necessary.
Other Garbage Stir-Fry Variations
The whole point of a garbage stir-fry or clean-your-fridge-out meals are to use what you have on hand. Any ground meat (e.g. beef, pork, chicken, turkey, bison, etc.) will work and you can substitute any green leafy vegetable (fresh or frozen) for the cabbage. Although I prefer Madras Curry Powder for the seasoning, it also tastes fantastic seasoned with Magic Mushroom Powder or my All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce. If you’re using a spice blend, don’t forget to add a splash of acid at the end, either with citrus or vinegar, to add some extra zing.
- Ground beef, pork, lamb, bison, or turkey: No ground meat in the fridge? Just toss in some scrambled eggs for protein!
- Green cabbage: I normally remove the stem and slice up the leaves into thin ribbons. Napa cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, and coleslaw mix also work!
- Onion: I know I don’t have garlic or ginger in this recipe, but you can totally throw them in the pan with the onions!
- Indian curry powder (salt-free)
- Fresh lime juice: The acid helps add some zing to this stir fry. No lime juice? Lemon juice or a splash of rice vinegar also works!
- Green onions / scallions
- Ghee, avocado oil, or cooking fat of choice
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
How to make Garbage Stir Fry
Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat on your stovetop. Swirl in the ghee when the pan is hot.
Add the onions and a sprinkle of salt. Cook the onions, stirring frequently until they’re soft and translucent.
Plop in the ground meat and break it up with a spatula or wooden spoon.
Cook the ground meat, stirring frequently, until it is no longer pink.
Sprinkle the curry powder on the beef and onions…
…and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to incorporate the seasoning.
Toss in the cabbage leaves, and cover and cook for 2 to 5 minutes or until the cabbage softens to your desired consistency. I like the stir fry cabbage crisp-tender but you do you!
Add a spritz of lime juice, and taste and adjust the seasonings as desired.
Garnish the top with the minced cilantro and scallions.
What side dishes can you serve with it?
This one-pan dish is already filled with meat and veggies, so you can eat it as is! If you insist on making another side dish, you can serve it with these veggies:
Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to four days or freeze in the freezer for up to 4 months. I reheat leftovers in the microwave in my Anyday bowls!
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).
Garbage Stir-Fry With Curried Cabbage
- 1 tablespoon ghee or fat of choice
- 1 small onion diced
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 pound ground beef pork, lamb, bison, turkey, or whatever meat suits your fancy
- 1 tablespoon Madras curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound green cabbage thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- ¼ cup minced cilantro
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the ghee when the pan is hot.
- Add the onions and a sprinkle of salt. Cook the onions, stirring frequently until they’re soft and translucent.
- Plop in the ground meat and break it up with a spatula or wooden spoon.
- Cook the ground meat, stirring frequently, until it is no longer pink.
- Sprinkle the curry powder on the beef and onions and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to incorporate the seasoning.
- Toss in the cabbage, and cover and cook for 2 to 5 minutes or until the cabbage softens to your desired consistency.
- Add a spritz of lime juice, and taste and adjust the seasonings as desired. Top with the minced cilantro and scallions.
- Remember: this is just one example of how you can throw together a Garbage Stir-Fry. You could easily substitute your favorite seasoning blend for the curry, or a couple of cups of fresh or frozen vegetables for the cabbage. Don’t be afraid to improvise. Just sample the food as you cook, and stop seasoning when it tastes right.
- Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to four days or up to four months in the freezer!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.