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Dec 6, 2008 10:13 AM

Cabbage Rolls

I don’t know how popular cabbage rolls are but I’m looking for some ideas. My grandmother used to make them for special occasions, and I’d like to give it a try.

I just bought the cabbage and I have a pretty well stocked pantry and fridge.


Filling – do you use beef, or a mix? I want to put rice in the filling (because my Grandmother did) but aside from that, what other things would keep the filling moist and add some awesome flavor?

Sauce – My grandmother actually never served it with a sauce (at least I don’t recall one) but I think I would really like one. The ones I’ve seen appear to be tomato based, so what is a really good recipe?

There are a few recipes out there (Googled), but they vary greatly. I didn't find any on this site.

If you’ve got some recipes and techniques on how you do them, I’d love to hear them. Thanks!

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  1. I am polish and my husband is romanian so there is a rich heritage of "golabki" and "sarmale" recipes around our house. So this is how we do it - not to say it's the only way - just to say it's how we do it.

    I use a mix of beef, pork and veal. I cook some long grained rice in tomato juice instead of water and add some fresh dill. I fry some onions until golden brown. You mix all these things together. My husband's side adds small chunks of smoked pork or bacon ti give the cabbage roll a smoky flavour.

    You need the soften the cabbage leaves before you make these - the easiest way I've found is to cut the leaves off and put them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. My mother used to boil the whole head, but that's tricky and you risk splashing yourself with boiling water.

    Use decent amount of filling for each.

    For the sauce I use a mix of tomato passata, consomme and water. I also add a lot of dill to this. Cook as long as you want- the longer the better.

    4 Replies
    1. re: maisonbistro

      Thank you. My Grandmother was from the Ukraine. My knowledge is sketchy on that though.

      I have ground beef and pork, but not veal. Sounds good though. What do you cook them in? Do you steam, boil, bake? How long, what temp?

      Sorry these are remedial questions, I know, but I've never attempted these before. Also, as an aside, why do you suppose my Grandmother did not use a sauce? Just curious, because the more I think about it, the more I think there was not one.

      1. re: Rocky Road

        You can put them in a covered casserole (in a 350F oven), slow cooker or Dutch oven (stovetop or 350F oven) and lit them simmer in the sauce. Almost impossible to imagine overcooking (just keep heat low).

        Couple of other suggestions: trim the stem part of the cabbage leaf (it will be tough); add an egg to your stuffing mixture to help bind it together; make lots, since they only get better (especially yummy is on the second or third night, saute in butter and fried onions).

        For some reason, I remember the babis in my Slovak family had several sauces for serving. One was a thin sweet-sour tomato-based sauce (this was what the cabbage rolls were cooked in). The others, served with the leftovers, were a dill-sour cream sauce (sim. to svickova) and a paprika-tomato-cream sauce (referred to as omacka). Sadly, these recipes went to their graves.

        1. re: Rocky Road

          I have made mine both on the stovetop in a big pot uncovered, or in the oven, in the same pot, covered, at 300. Now this might sound excessive but I honestly believe that these little babies get better with time, so I have been known to cook them for 6 hours. Never had any complaints!!

          Good luck

          1. re: Rocky Road

            My grandmother was from somewhere in Russia and not so long ago I went hunting for a recipe for stuffed cabbage that I thought might resemble hers. She cooked her cabbage rolls in a sweet & sour sauce, and that's what I had hoped to find. I did find a recipe that came really close. I substituted rice for the raisins in this recipe and I was very happy with the end result.

        2. Tip from an excellent "Canadian Living" recipe for Cabbage Rolls:

          "To soften leaves, you can also microwave cabbage: Core and place 1 cabbage in 12-cup (3 L) casserole with 2 tbsp (25 mL) water, cover and microwave at High for 12 to 14 minutes or until leaves are softened."

          1. Some tipe re the cabbage: Before cooking the cabbage, peel off and set aside the tough outer leaves - use these to line the Dutch oven or whatever pot you are cooking the rools in. That way, if there's any scorching on the bottom, it will protect the rolls.

            You can boil the whole head for moments at a time, removing it to peel off the softened outer leaves, then resubmerging it to soften more leaves, repeating until you have the number you need. You can also freeze the entire head, then thaw it. The leaves will be soft and you won't need to boil or microwave.

            Martha Stewart's ancestry is Polish and she has demonstrated stuffed cabbage on her shows. I'm sure she has recipes in her books and I recall that her mother worked on a cookbook of the recipes she demonstrated on-camera with her daughter. Mom's name was Martha Kostyra.

            1. My husbands Polish family always used a mix of pork and beef. They also always put a strip of bacon on top of each cabbage roll and would cook it at a real low temperature (I want to say 200 or something) for a couple of hours, then they would add sauce.

              I recently made Tyler Florence's cabbage rolls and really liked them :)


              1. Hi!

                I'm of middle eastern descent, so my answer may be completely off the mark and, if it is, I apologize.

                My Mom made cabbage rolls that were smaller and thinner that the ones I've seen made in the eastern European tradition. Mom made two version of her cabbage rolls. The first, the tomato version was filled with a mixture of ground lamb, rice, tomato sauce, cinnamon, salt and pepper. She also made a lemon version which had the same filling minus the tomato sauce. Her lemon version was very similar to rolled grape leaves.

                First, she cut out the hard core on the cabbage and pulled off and discarded the tough outside leaves. Then she boil the whole head and pulled off the leaves as they soften. Then she rolled the leaves with the filling.

                She made them on the stove top and,as someone suggested already, she lined the pot with cabbage leaves to prevent scourcing. In both versions, the rolled cabbage are packed tightly into a large saucepan and water is added to cover. Mom also used small plates to cover the top to keep the rolls from coming undone. After cooking for awhile, diced tomatos are added to the tomato version and lemon juice is added to the other.

                I've only made cabbage rolls a coupkle of times since Mom died, because it's such a labor intensive undertaking. But, they're very tasty. I should really make them more often.

                Hope this helps-


                1 Reply
                1. re: MEH

                  My mother makes hers like that too!
                  Sometimes we mix our cabbage rolls with other stuffed veggies in our house (Iraqi style)

                  Either way it's good!!