alex’s mom’s stuffed cabbage

I have been promising you my mother-in-law’s recipe for stuffed cabbage or “golubtsy”, which was her mother’s recipe for stuffed cabbage, for ages but do you know what is even sadder about how long it has taken me to get to this? That if I remember correctly, I jotted this recipe down on a page from my planner (a planner! with pages in it! many moons ago, my friends.) while sitting in the back seat as we drove to check out some wedding locations. Alex and I got married in 2005.

steeping the cabbagesauteing the fillingmixing the fillingcabbage rolls, ready to be cooked

And really, I have all sorts of places to blame for how long it has taken me to actually make the recipe at home. The first is Neptune on 1st Avenue, only my favorite place to sit outside for beers in the summertime and if you think that stuffed cabbage can’t taste good after a few Polish beers on a warm night, you obviously haven’t tried it yet. (With a side of kielbasa and pierogis, thank you.) The second is Veselka, also in the East Village — this is where I go for my winter stuffed cabbage fix. (Also cabbage soup. Small hands… smell like cabbage. Nobody else gets that, do they?) And the third is Alex’s mom herself, who often brings us extra that she has made, rendering it completely unnecessary for me to make any effort whatsoever to decipher my four year-old notes.

Alas, this week it brutally cold and officially Time to break it out. And of course my notes made no sense but fortunately with some phone counseling I think I did alright for a newbie. What I forgot to do — dry the cabbage leaves — led to a too watery sauce and also I under-seasoned it — I hate that. But it’s not like you could test uncooked beef. — and yet it was still totally delicious. And I love it when I try to break recipes and they still come out well. I consider it a good omen.

stuffed cabbage

One year ago: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Squares
Two years ago: Miniature Soft Pretzels and Sour Cream Bran Muffins

Alex Mom's Stuffed Cabbage

Notes go here!

  • 1 head Savoy cabbage
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small to medium onion, chopped small
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 parsnip, shredded
  • 1/2 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 to 4 cups of your favorite simple tomato sauce, tomato juice or V8

Cut the core out of the cabbage but leave it whole. Place it, with the empty core area facing up, in a large bowl. Boil a small pot of water and pour the water over the cabbage and let it sit for ten minutes.

Heat the oil in a saute pan. (I like to use the large one I will cook the final dish in — a deep 12-inch saute pan — to save dishes.) Cook the onions until they are soft, add the carrot, celery and parsnip and saute them for a couple extra minutes — until they are also soft. Season the mixture with salt and pepper, transfer it to a bowl and let it cool a bit. Mix in the meat, rice and tomato paste and season again with salt and pepper.

Drain the head of cabbage. Pull off large leaves, cut out the large vein — if the leaf is very large, you can make two rolls from each, if it is smaller, you can cut the vein out partially and pull the sides to overlap before you roll it into one roll. Pat the leaves dry with towels. Roll about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of filling in each leaf (depending on the size of your leaf) and arrange in a large, wide pot. Pour in enough juice or sauce to cover the rolls. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, letting them simmer covered on the stove on low for about 45 minutes. Serve immediately. If sauce has thinned a bit, you can heat up any additional sauce you didn’t use and pour it over as you serve the rolls.

[These also freeze very well.]

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367 comments on alex’s mom’s stuffed cabbage

  1. May

    I read this on eGullet somewhere, I think, but I remember a chef suggesting that you take a bit of the meat (which is easy to do since you’re using mince here), sticking it on a plate and microwaving it.

    The texture won’t be right, but you should be able to taste for seasonings that way.

  2. 1 small to medium onion? chopped small? Can’t think of what else the mystery ingredient might be. :-)

    May – I do that with any meat mixture I am making for meatballs, stuffing, etc. I make a tiny patty and saute it to check for seasoning – especially for salt.

  3. Looks very very good! Cabbage is not sour (pickeld), is it? I know a course (cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and minced meat) named “sarma” made from sour cabbage – it is a dream:)

  4. Oh how I miss my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage.

    She made it for Rosh Hashanah, and it was Jewish style, stuffed with meat and rice, but with a cinnamon stick and crushed GINGERSNAPS!!! The sweet way with raisins too!
    Have you ever heard of that one? in a tomato sauce.

    It was my favorite. I have never attempted it.

  5. I am so glad that you mentioned these freeze well. We have my father-in-law for dinner every Sunday. My hubby and father-in-law love anything cabbage- but they’re the only ones. I think I will make this for them next Sunday and put the rest in the freezer. Perfect! And I just may have to try it as it is filled with such yummy stuff!

  6. JC

    Would a garlic clove and maybe 1/4 cup of parmesan be out of place here?

    What kind of rice are we talking – brown, long grain white, “quick cooking”? I wonder if we can substitute quinoa since it cooks just like rice but has more protien?

    I’m going to put this on next weekend’s menu!

  7. I’ve cooked cabbage rolls Scandinavian style: filled with rice, shredded cabbage and ground beef. Thanks for the idea to switch things around a bit, and use veggies and tomato sauce. Cabbage rolls are usually under-appreciated , they are really good and worth the work!

  8. Cal

    My nana makes awesome cabbage rolls, but they are called halupki and slightly different. They add sauerkraut to the tomato sauce and don’t include carrot or parsnip in the mix. Soooo good. I keep looking for large heads of cabbages in the Farmer’s Markets down here, but they’ve been too small all winter.

    Though nana would kill me if I made someone else’s recipe, I think that the addition of veggies in the mix is something worth trying.

  9. I just woke up and am still pretty groggy, so I was so confused when I saw this.
    My fiances name is Alex, I posted version of his (Hungarian) mother’s stuffed cabbage in November, and when I saw your post, I was like what? Who made Alexs moms stuffed cabbage??
    Anyway, yours look delicious, I might try grating the veggies next time.

  10. These are “go??bki” in Polish. I made them hundreds of times with my mom when I was a kid. Yours look really impressive!!! May I ask, from where does your mother-in-law come from?

  11. Nadia

    It also helps to put a heatproof plate on the cabbage and press it down before you cover the pan and leave everything to simmer — to weigh the cabbage down and keep it compact and under control. I find it incredibly difficult to stuff cabbage and vine leaves elegantly, so my hat off to anyone who’s got the knack.

  12. maja

    My aunt makes such lovely cabbage rolls, I don’t think hers has veggies though. Since leaving home I’ve not had any (as she used to routinely bring extra to my parents). I’ve been looking at the cabbage heads in our supermarket longingly the past while, I think I might try this! With the addition of garlic. My life is not complete without garlic. heh. And it’s really good to know they freeze well as it’s just the two of us!

  13. I’m glad you finally got the chance to make these. They look great! My Hungarian MIL sometimes adds a can of tomato rice soup to hers too. Weird, but very tasty. I’m wondering what kind of rice you used. Does it matter?

    Also, I love Stacey’s idea of adding cinnamon & raisins. That sounds really nice!

  14. Betsy

    Deb, I’ve never had stuffed cabbage before – but they look great. Question: how are they rolled… Like burritos, with one set of edges folded in and the other edges folded over? And the they just stay stuck together after cooking? Or am I missing something? Thanks!

  15. Yael

    May: (and in a way, also Deb) I don’t get it. What’s the problem with tasting a little uncooked meat? It’s not gonna kill ya. And can actually be pretty tasty. :)

  16. YUMMmmmmm. These are a staple in my very large Polish family. It makes me want to make them myself. Our ‘secret’ is to line the pot with bacon (just for flavor) while cooking. It adds a fantastic, smokey richness to them. We also freeze the whole head of cabbage for about an hour, then peel the leaves off before steaming them — it allows the leaves to come off perfectly without burning your hands. My grandmother uses a mixture of beef, pork and veal for the filling, but we ususally use whatever is available. Your pictures are gorgeous, by the way. Totally mouth-watering. I’ll have to try it with the veggies inside! It looks delicious!

  17. Cat

    Interesting…my Polish/Lithuanian grandmother has a recipe quite similar to this but we call them stuffed pigeons (don’t ask me why…). She substitutes condensed tomato soup (campbell’s) for tomato sauce/paste and doesn’t use parnsips.

    1. Lauren L.

      In Polish golabki means “pigeons”! As for pronunciation, the “l” here is actually a Polish letter that looks like an “l” with a slash through it; it’s pronounced “w” and the “a” has a little hook on it’s tail and it’s pronounced as a nasal “an” sound, so it should sound like “go-wam-key” with emphasis on penultimate syllable. (They really love pigeons in Poland; they don’t get the bad rap they get here in some US cities…)

  18. Jennifer

    I love stuffed cabbage. We call it “piggies.” I’m also a fan of “fake piggies,” where you make meatballs out of the stuffing, chop the cabbage, put everything in a pan with the sauce and stick it in the oven. All the flavors, none of the work!

  19. ACA

    Deb, I adore you, but this is stuffed cabbage sacrilege!! Being Romanian and having my own recipe, I of course assume that every other recipe is an abomination. Melrose probably had our version – sarmale.

    First you pickle the cabbage leaves by boiling the entire heads in a huge lobster pot with lots of salt and lemon. The stuffing is made by grinding your own lamb shoulder (beef?? atrocious!), then mixing it with a mixture of sauteed onions, rice, tomato paste, and VEGETA! (It’s the secret ingredient that ensures a perfectly seasoned dish. I have no idea what’s in it, but it’s magic. I get mine at the local middle eastern market. It comes in a blue can.)

    Next, roll the mixture in the pickled leaves. One leaf should yield at least 2 rolls – they should be the size of your pinky, not a coke can! A friend of mine who makes the most perfect sarmale learned her rolling technique from Romanian monks. Layer them in your biggest Le Creuset (sauerkraut optional); then cover with a mixture of water, tomato paste, and more VEGETA! (Mixture should be very runny, not pasty at all, and use water, not chicken broth!)

    Boil them on the stove for half an hour, then finish them off in the oven until most of the liquid has evaporated. I eat them with gallons of sour cream and polenta, but I don’t think that the sour cream is traditional.

    Sarmale are a labor of love, and one batch takes me around eight hours (rolling 500 pinkies does not go quickly!) They freeze like little miracles of deliciousness. This is a traditional Romanian holiday dish, and I’m still eating through my Christmas batch. Thanks for sharing your recipe, and thanks for letting me vent about my own. It makes me so happy to think of my traditional Romanian dishes. :)

  20. Amanda

    I find it so fascinating how all of these (for me) comfort foods are make differently from one person/culture to the next. My family are very Ukrainian and our pierogies and cabbage rolls are different from most Polish ones. I even discovered that Canadian/Ukrainians do things differently still… My Aunts and Uncles would occasionally have family competitions to see who makes the best :) I always preferred my Mom’s cabbage rolls though… she uses rice, ground beef, bacon, and onion in the filling – that’s pretty much it but it’s OH SO TASTEY! She also cooks the onion beef and bacon first and then tosses in the rice just to brown it slightly. That would allow a person to check the seasoning too. Thanks for sharing and making my hungry!

  21. I have never heard of stuffed cabbage- i like that you have two places that you regularly visit for such a dish. They look good though- kind alike egg rolls. = )

  22. Irene

    This is very, very close to my Mom’s recipe, something I haven’t had in years, unfortunately, due to both distance and her arthritis. She would also add some of the real link breakfast pork sausage to the pot and they would be come out oh-so-tender. and I think maybe stretched out the pot for a family of 8. Add some mashed potatoes and it’s dinner! Thanks for the memories!

  23. Memories…like the corners of my mind

    My mom used to make these when I was a kid, but I have never made them and haven’t eaten them for years. I will add them to the menu for this week. Thanks for the memories…

    Oh, that third ingredient is an onion, right?

  24. deb

    The third ingredient is an onion — now fixed!

    Rice questions: Just general, everyday rice works — Uncle Bens, whatever you have. I am sure other varieties would work, but we just use the basic stuff.

    I now can’t find the question but: Alex’s family is from the Ukraine, so that would be the origin of this dish.

    Betsy — Yes, like a burrito.

    Thanks ACA — I’ll be sure to tell my mother that her recipe is a “sacrilege”.

  25. I was just talking to a friend about how I don’t like cooked greens – collard greens, spinach, cabbage, etc. Truthfully, I’ve never had them made well or in a good recipe. I should make this for my mom, she loves cabbage.

  26. I can’t find parsnips here at this time of the year (Spain), and I don’t think I’ve seen them around in the market for some years now. Can you think of any substitution?

    I’ve read most comments. I’ve tried Romanian and Egyptian style cabbage rolls, and they tasted different, though I loved both. I’d like to give Polish cabbage rolls a try too :-) Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Shirley

      Patri, since you cannot find parsnips in Spain at the moment. Wonder if you should try something else of the same texture, i.e., grated sweet potato. I haven’t tried it but could be interesting.

  27. Sairis

    This actually looks a lot like Dominican stuffed cabbage. We also do rice, tomato paste and ground beef in the filling, though ours has garlic. We don’t cook in in tomato sauce, just water, and we put whole allspice in the liquid. My Mom just boils the cabbage for a bit to separate the leaves.
    It’s one of my favorite foods, especially since it doesn’t get made that often.

  28. Lovely! This sounds like another case of technique over recipe. Bet you could stuff any number of fillings in those lovely, living wrappers (unless, you were going for replicating specific flavors). Glad you finally tackled it and learned from it as well. I always learn at least one new thing whenever I cook or bake, even if it’s just an idea for a variation later on. Thanks for this:)

  29. Val

    Wow! I haven’t thought of stuffed cabbage in a very long time. Now, I can’t stop thinking about them. I’m off to the store for ingredients..

    Thanks for sharing.. finally!


  30. Anna

    My mum does golabki in a similar way, however she fries the meat first and then adds some sausage/ smoked bacon to the filling.
    Never gave me the recipe, though. So… Thank you Deb :)
    Maybe sometime in near future I shall master the art of putting things together ;)

  31. These bring back mouthwatering memories of last November’s trip to Eastern Europe. I had both Polish and Hungarian takes on golwubky that left me burstingly full but wanting more! This looks amazing and I’ll be making it soon. The Hungarian stuffed cabbage was covered in a paprika spiced sauerkraut that defied criticism and would have convinced any pickled cabbage non-believer.

  32. Jen

    Hi Deb,
    I just sat down with my bowl of leftover stuffed cabbage for lunch…typed in your website and there it was…my lunch! My recipe is my Mom’s and quite simple: ground meat, rice, parsley flakes, salt and pepper, and paprika…rolled and cooked in the oven in a bath of diced tomatoes and thinned tomato paste…topped off with sour cream. Even on a warm afternoon in Florida it is delicious. What a nice surprise to be in sync with Smitten Kitchen. Thanks for all your great posts! *-)

  33. I stumbled on to your blog today and couldn’t stop reading! I love your writing/recipe/picture! Thank you for putting together such a wonderful food blog.

    The cabbage roll looks so good. The recipe seems simple enough to make a quick dinner. I grew up in Taiwan. We actually eat a similar cabbage roll. The only difference is that we don’t cook it in tomato sauce. We just cook in regular stock/soup. Then the cabbage roll is eaten with a sweet chili sauce. I shall try your recipe very soon. ^^

  34. Susan

    Oh man! I do love cabbage rolls. The ones I’ve eaten aren’t an ethnic icon though. I just make my BettyCrocker porcipine meatballs recipe and roll the mixture into wilted cabbage leaves and simmer them in a tomato based sauce. I’m going to use part of Alex’s Moms’ recipe next time, the grated veggies part, and add it to my mix. Thanks, Deb.

  35. Katya

    I haven’t had golubzy in years now; mum used to make them while I lived at home, but honestly I think they are a bit too much hustle :) However, there is something called ‘lazy golubzy’, don’t wag your fingers please:), which tastes almost the same and you don’t have to burn your fingers separating the cabbage leaves or wrap them! You just chop the cabbage leaves into large chunks, boil the same way as you do with the ordinary ones, make smallish patties out of the mince mix, then layer with cabbage and cook.

    As for the tasting, I remember mum tasting the raw mince with no consequences at all. You can always spit it out:)

  36. I also make these, my grandmother’s recipe handed down from generations and I always like to see how other people make stuffed cabbage. My Great Grandmother who came here from Poland was unbelievable in what she cooked, and of course my father swears her Golabki were the best, even to his own mother! I try not to stear away from the recipe and always find that the cabbage ususally is the culprit, whether it is off season, not tender or too small. I think I will have to repost my recipe. I can tell you that I use a lot of kitchen space, a lot of time and a lot of pots for one final pot to cook them in!

  37. rebecca

    Yum! I grew up on these from my Hungarain grandmother (Bubee). She calls them ‘halupchkas’. I think she uses a drop of sauerkraut and brown sugar/gingerale? perhaps in the sauce. A mild mild pich of cinnamon perhaps in the meat. Don’t know exactly. This is a staple at our Jewish holidays. (then there is the humbler weekday hungarian dish of fried cabbage and onions mixed in with pasta called kapostasz . . . something). When I lived in Israel I grew to love the mediterranean version of this East European/Ukranian stuffed cabbage dish–the yaprach or yabra–it is vegetarian and delicious!!! Stuffed grape leaves or onions with a very lemony rice. Then there is the mediterranean (Syrian) meat version called kubbeh–yum!!! ground lamb/ crushed pine nuts stuffing wrapped by fried buckwheat! On Friday’s I always went to the open aired market in Jerusalem, to Zidkiyahu’s, for these gastronomic delights . . .

  38. This looks like the perfect stuffed cabbage recipe! The last version I made was vegetarian with a lentil and rice filling. I just love savoy cabbage, I really prefer it to traditional green cabbage.

  39. I am entertained by all the debates over which ethnicity truly OWNS this dish . I am truly shocked, though, that no one has brought up the smash top 40 hit by the Schmenge Brothers, Yosh and Stan, aka the Happy Wanderers – “Cabbage Rolls and Coffee”!

  40. mmmh, looks great. i remember my mother making a variation of these a few times as i was growing up, i believe she used two kinds of meat and some kind of spice, maybe cinnamon (but it was not any kind of ‘authentic’ eastern european recipe).
    i go to veselka often, but i have never had their stuffed cabbage. i will remember next time.

  41. Becky

    My mother-in-law is Serbian and she taught me her recipe about 5 years ago. It’s my husband’s all time favorite and I am delighted to have it. Our recipe differs in a few ways. Rather than cutting the rib out, we just shave the raised part off, leaving a whole leaf with no gaps to work around. The meat is a mix of 75% ground beef and 25% ground sausage, plus a couple handfuls of uncooked long grain rice. Diced sauteed onions, but no other veggies. Tuck garlic cloves in amongst the cabbage rolls, and add saurkraut with it’s juice to the tomato sauce. I just dump it on top of the rolls and the simmering action helps the shreds work their way down through. We serve them with mashed potatoes. Don’t boil too hard or they’ll unwrap themselves. Fabulous on a cold day! I make a huge batch in the fall and freeze multiple containers to pull out throughout the winter.

  42. This look great, very similar to what my Polish grandmother made, but a lot healthier. She used pork, beef, and veal for the meat mixture. She also used bacon in the bottom of the pan. I’ll have to try this recipe – thanks for sharing!!

  43. I so love cabbage roles. Aren’t they called “Gwumpkies”? Okay – don’t laugh …the spelling is prob. WAY off.. but they are great! My ex-mother in law made,what I thought, were the best. I think I still have the recipe but since then, I’ve gone vegetarian so when I attempt YOUR recipe (or rather your Mother in law’s), I’ll have to sub. with a vegetarian “beef” substitute. They look delish!

  44. Valarie

    I wait with bated breath for every recipe from you, Deb. So I was especially pleased and surprised to see this recipe. My German mother who would have been 100 a couple of Fridays ago made something very similar and called it “Halluption”. Not an appealing-sounding name for such good food. This is one of the recipes that I didn’t inherit, so I’ll give yours a try, and probably add sauerkraut. I could make my own sauerkraut with the “schliessl” (?) I did inherit, along with crocks and cabbage stomper. Cabbage being out of season, however . . .

  45. Eunice

    There must be a million different recipes for cabbage rolls, but all of the ones that I’ve tried have been wonderful. In my family, we layer the rolls in the pot with bacon or slices of pan fried pork and sauerkraut along with tomato juice. Great eating on a cold winter day. Deb, your recipe looks fabulous and I will give it a whirl next time I make cabbage rolls. The veggies look great.

  46. Linda

    Our family makes stuffed cabbage “Jewish Style”…the family was from Poland and Russia. Always ground beef, raw rice…the inside very similar to yours except no vegetables in it except onions…and then the tomato sauce has some brown sugar and lemon juice to make it sweet and sour and some raisins thrown in….delicious!
    I freeze the whole head of cabbage over night…works great, the leaves just come right off and are soft enough to roll…
    Joan Nathan has a very good recipe that uses cranberry in the sauce….something a bit different…

  47. Piroska

    Oh, dear Deb! This is such a great topic! Stuffed cabbage that connects all these European nations! (well, I didn’t know about Egyptian stuffed cabbage).
    This is the way MY Hungarian mother makes it: she uses a whole head of sour cabbage (that was pickled with the regular sauerkraut) to wrap the filling.
    The meat is pork (talking about sacrilege, spec. for Jewish people), mixed with rice, salt pepper and paprika. In a BIG pot she makes layers of sauerkraut, stuffed cab., some smoked pork (ham hocks or sausages or both!!) sauerkraut, stuffed cab, and some more kraut on top,+ few bay leaves, some extra peppercorns, water and she cooks it VERY slowly for many hours.Serves it with sour cream.Tasted even better the next day. It is a typical dish when a pig gets slaughtered and also at Christmastime OR anytime throughout the year.
    One thing is sure: my mom never EVER uses VEGETA. That is a commercial spice mix also available in Hungary but one of the ingredients is MSG.
    Reading all these comments so far I think we shouldn’t criticize other folks’ stuffed krauts/pigeons/rolls/cabbages but rather be happy that we are “citizens” of this giant melting pot of Culinaria. After all , this dish alone is different from one part of Hungary to another. And it is a small country……

    Wishing you many more stuffed cabbages no matter what language they speak! Piroska from sunny New Jersey via Hungary

  48. Tip: To test uncooked beef/pork/chicken filling, I always fry up a little spoonful in a small pan before stuffing. Works for cabbage, dumplings etc. That way I assure that I always get the seasoning right. Thanks for the recipe.

  49. I have a large cabbage in the freezer waiting to be made into golompki, It takes a few days for the cabbage to freeze through. Takes overnight to defrost. The leaves becomes very limp and make rolling a breeze. My secret is using alot of fried onions and lots of ground pepper, but no vegtables. I found that tomato soup makes a nice smooth sauce but tomato juice separates and is more watery. I add extra water to my soup sauce and bake it in the oven for at least 2 hrs. starting the job at 350 then reducing to 325 and then 300F. The sauce will almost disappear during the bake.

  50. Mimi

    Wow! I love stuffed cabbage and I am Chinese. My mother used to make them and they were stuffed with pork, a bit of dried shitake, onion. Hers were a bit on the sweet and sour side, using ketchup I think as a base, but always delicious. I think she had them at some Jewish deli in Los Angeles and created her own version (she tried burritos Chinese style with less success). I have always dreamed of making them but have not had a chance. All the comments are wonderful and I’m completely inspired. Thanks to everyone for the many variations.

  51. My Mum used to make something very similar to these too and I wonder where she learnt because her family is Scottish!

    I love all kinds of stuffed cabbage rolls, these ones, middle eastern style ones and a local vietnamese restaurant does a fantastic version with a plum sauce instead of tomato. All so good!

  52. Oona

    My boyfriend loooves stuffed cabbage, but he is restricted from eating meat for medical reasons. Any suggestions for a different filling for stuffed cabbage, but one that still works?

  53. You can make meatless cabbage rolls. You just need alot of fried onions to give that wonderful flavour. You mix the onions with cooked rice, of your choice, salt & pepper. You can also use buckwheat which is very healthy. Finish baking the same way you would if using meat.

  54. katie

    About how many rolls does this typically make? I’m trying to calculate how many weight watchers points it would be :-) Looks delicious and healthy!

  55. Becky

    As usual, I love your recipes, Deb! I get hungry just looking at and reading your blog-always a pleasure during my day to catch up on your new posts.
    Anyway, my mother-in-law essentially makes the same dish but it is “reconstructed” (perhaps “exploded”?!) like Katya’s (#51) and she also adds a sweet and sour twist to it with brown sugar and lemon juice. She uses beef (ground sirloin) most of the time, but has made it with fresh ground lamb. My grandmother used to make the stuffed version, also with a sweet and sour touch. My family and that of my husband have grandparents that are from Ukraine as well as Jewish, I have always thought that is why sweet and sour notes appear in so many of our family dishes.
    And I just want to add that I love cabbage in any form: stir-fried, steamed, baked, stuffed, in soup, or raw.
    (BTW-do you have any knockout borscht recipes? Another one of my favorites!)

  56. I’m curious what you think of Veselka’s pierogis … I went there for the first time this past summer and was surprised at how bad they are. Maybe it was just an off night.

  57. Joelle

    Deb, I’m starting to think we’re related. This looks incredibly similar to my Zaide’s stuffed cabbage…though, I don’t have the recipe in front of me (Kosher dairy kitchen…no point in having meat recipes around), so I’m not positive. We make it once a year on Rosh Hashanah.

    We also have the same honey cake and apple cake – though, I think one of those might’ve been an old recipe from the NYTimes.

  58. James

    My family makes these… we are Hungarian and we call them “halupki” or “haloopkey”.

    It’s interesting to see how common they are.

  59. Dana

    Another variation for this food: use brined cabbage (like Sauerkraut, but whole leaves), add also marjoram and thyme in stuffing and between rolls, and for a smoked taste spread some large pieces of smoked meat between rolls.

  60. I love it when you post these wonderful recipes that are gluten-free by default! No tweaking, no substituting — just ready to go. This looks wonderful. Can’t wait to try it. Thank you, I appreciate it!

  61. chavi

    Deb – I just made these last week and I also use my mother-in-law’s recipe. The one piece of advice I can give you is that you should put the whole cabbage in the freezer for a day or two and then take it out and leave it in a huge bowl to defrost. The leaves are so soft and easy to work with. Then you dry each one carefully before stuffing and rolling. My tomato sauce has some sauteed onions, lemon juice and brown sugar in it and it makes a really delicious sauce. Try freezing the cabbage – you’ll thank me.

  62. Joanna

    Yum! I’ve never had cabbage rolls but I just happen to have a cabbage in the fridge. I bought it with the intention of picking up a corned beef but forgot. I was just wondering when I would have time to get back to the store when I saw your new post! We will be having this for supper tonight. I love reading all the comments about the different European cultures and their versions of this dish. The only dish I ever had cabbage in while growing up was cole slaw (I grew up in Alabama). As an adult I have learned to make a fabulous corned beef & cabbage dish. I’m excited to have a new page added to my recipe collection!

  63. Kate

    I love these and once you get the hang of rolling and tucking they’re so easy (and cheap!) to make. I know them as holubky or golabki, which I believe means “little doves” in Slovak–because of the size & shape. We make them without the carrot, celery & parsnip, and with the sauerkraut and sometimes some kolbas in the sauce though. I always add some garlic and Hungarian paprika to the meat as well.

  64. twyla

    One thing you can do to test the flavoring of the beef is to take a walnut sized piece of the mix and put it in the microwave for a minute until cooked through. The texture will be different then in the cooked dish of course but the flavor should be a very reasonable approximation. I do it all the time to test meatballs.

  65. My dad used to make these. He called them galumpkis…a real Polish specialty. I always knew he was making them because I could smell the cabage from outside the house. I never actually ate them. Maybe now I’ll give them a try. :-)

  66. Becky

    My mom makes cabbage rolls but uses beef broth as a base and adds cinnamon to the ground beef mixture–more lebanese style. both versions are great. I’ve been making what I call cabbage roll soup lately. Tastes just like cabbage rolls, but without the time commitment!

  67. sarah

    oh yum. my husband’s family is romanian and we love eating these, though the recipe is a little different. i might try this recipe because i hate pickling the cabbage first. I’m pregnant and I can’t tell you how delicious this looks. I love how many variations there are for this dish and how everyone thinks their own is the only “authentic” way to do things…

  68. Kathy

    My grandmother used to make these and always called them “pigs in a blanket”, they were so delicious! Another old friend calls them “halupsi”. Thanks for the memories AND the recipe!

  69. DCA

    Just made a version of these and had about 2 cups of the meat filling left – any ideas what I can do with it? I’m afraid if I stick it in the freezer, it will get forgotten…

  70. Marie

    Wonderful to see all the variations on a theme. My Mother was born in Russia (Siberia), and I use ketchup for the sauce. I saw Martha Stewart’s Polish mother using Campbell’s Tomato Soup. I also used pre-cooked rice, Uncle Ben’s. It needs to be pointed out — this is one of those recipes where an extra set of hands is a big help. It is time consuming. NOT eight hours like one of your readers spends. That post says she makes them the size of a pinkie finger. Mine were the size of a small burrito, and I roll them exactly like a burrito. Also, NEVER eat raw ground beef to check for seasoning. NEVER NEVER EVER. Just pinch off a small piece and fry, then taste. Please.

    I also wanted to recommend a recipe for escarole, since it’s your new favorite. Google “Braised escarole with garlic and lemon”. It was a Tyler Florence recipe on Food Network. I skip the garlic and red pepper but try it, you’ll like it.

  71. Linda

    I learned this trick … core cabbage then place in freezer bag and freeze till frozen (overnight). Take out and let thaw for a non-cooked wilt for rolling. You will still have to slice off hard stem in middle of leaf but it works.

  72. don

    It’s a tossup whether the Polish or Ukrainian influence is stronger here but whichever it is, halupchis, halubkis, etc, etc are on the menu for almost every civic feast. Usually with at least 20 different recipes – each touted as the world’s best. After all what monster is willing to admit that anyone has better recipes than his or her grandmother. One of my fondest memories is of a end of term party at the Sokol Hall (Polish organization) catered by the ladies group there – cheese, bread, sausage, kielbossa, a hundred varieties of pickles, halupchi, pirogies, all the beer you could drink over a period of six hours. Wow.
    One of the bar snacks at the Hall was a “Polish chicken sandwich” – fried kielbossa with raw onion on black bread.
    Aw memories.

  73. I’ve actually never been tempted by stuffed cabbage before, but these look lovely! I recently made homemade pierogies… these would make a great addition to my Polish cooking repertoire. Thanks!

  74. deb

    I am surprised to see so many suggestions (well over a dozen now!) that one freeze the cabbage first, for either a day or overnight. I always err on the side of what is faster and easier, and steeping it for 10 minutes certainly seemed like it is. Perhaps someone could clarify the benefit of the other method.

    1. Bonnie

      Hi Deb. When vegetables are frozen, the ice crystals which form puncture the cell walls and this make them very floppy when they are later defrosted. Same reason why frozen berries end up in a puddle of juice and retain no texture upon defrosting.

  75. I haven’t the patience to read through all your commenters cause there are soooo many and all terrific comments…this has probably been said but in our house these are known as Holishkas (?) and I had lost the exact recipe from my mother-in-law who is a polish Jewish lady- so a great thanks cause now I know what I am going to make for Sunday dinner this weekend.

    She has been known to chop up any remaining cabbage and spread them out to cook too, so there is no waste; BUT make sure you use the Beano first!!!

  76. *stepho*

    This recipe (as with all of your stuff) looks amazing! Just a tip — a great way to test any uncooked meat mixture that you’re worried about the seasoning level (e.g. meatloaf, filling for Deb’s mother-in-law’s delicious stuffed cabbage, etc.), is to cook a tiny piece in a small skillet. I often do this for meatloaf and meatballs. Even with tried and true recipes, I just feel so much better about the end result if I’ve tasted a small amount of the mixture first. I’ll just add a tiny spoonful to a skillet on medium or medium-high until it’s safe to eat, give it a taste, and adjust the seasoning from there. Hope this helps! :)

  77. Becky

    I was told by MIL that freezing works just finel, but there is a slight textural difference in the cabbage. Her personal preference was to simmer the head, so that’s what I do. Never tried freezing, so I can’t say.

  78. mister worms

    I think I have to make some of these in the next week. They’re such a great winter food. I make mine with ground turkey – talk about sacrilege! – onions, salt and pepper. My grandma used mostly pork in her meat mixture but also left out the rice. I’ll have to try them with savoy cabbage. I always use green.

    I know them as golabki (pronounced “gowombkey”). Cat, you probably know them as pigeons since golabki is the word for pigeons, diminutive.

    re: Veselka, I think their Polish food is so-so. The stuffed cabbage is too mushy and has too much rice. For the price, the pierogi are mediocre… too dough-y, imo.

  79. Becky

    DCA If I have extra filling I usually make small meatballs and tuck them in amongst the rolls to cook. Just as tasty, and they will appeal to the fussier eaters that don’t like cabbage. The filling does freeze well if you make them regularly (and remember to get it out to thaw) It seems to be a take on the lazy version above.

  80. Julia

    “But it’s not like you could test uncooked beef.”
    Haha, I love that you said this, because I majorly cringed when my Mom was teaching me how to make golabki two years ago and she told me the only way to test the seasoning in the raw beef/pork mixture was to taste it. I’ve only made the recipe once since and I just couldn’t bring myself to test the raw meat. Maybe one day!

  81. Lenore

    Deb, thanks for the recipe; it’s still winter-food season here, and believe it or not I’ve had stuffed cabbage on my mind, even though I haven’t had them in decades because my Polish step-grandmother Frieda died. She served them as one of about a dozen courses on Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Hers were a little sweet, so if I do get to invest the time in these I’ll try a little brown sugar. I always assumed it was a Polish recipe, but it sounds like it got scattered around the region.

  82. Dear Deb – I love your blog and get raves from guests on your recipes. In your head notes you mentioned that you forgot to dry the cabbage leaves, but I did not see any mention of how to dry them in the recipe itself, other than draining the cabbage head. Is that all that is needed. Great winter comfort food recipe!

  83. Joy

    That looks absolutely delish. We have a lot of ground beef from our grocery shopping yesterday — this will definitely be one of the things I’ll be making from it! Thanks!

  84. deb

    Linda — I mention in the recipe that right before you roll them, you should pat them dry with a towel.

    Sheryl — Bread? I’m not sure I’d eat bread with a dish with rice. But, if you’re going for Russian Traditional, black bread is always welcome. My favorite favorite favorite recipe is over here. I seriously think that anyone with an even slight interest in black bread should make it — it is perfection.

    1. Bonnie

      Deb – have you checked out Kachka in Portland? They have the most amazing Zakuski. Their cookbook is coming out later this year.

  85. elizabeth

    Hi all – just a very quick comment. There are a couple of posts about recipes that include ginger snap crumbs. Oddly enough, I went to a chef demo this past weekend at Chicago’s green market and the chef, Hans Letz, I believe was his name, from the Intercontinental in Chicago, did a demo of german sauerbrauten. His recipe also included ginger snap crumbs. He said that it was traditional – that sauerbrauten was usually made around the Christmas holidays and that every house would have ginger snaps or ginger bread, and you would use it up by putting it in recipes. So that could be the origin of the ginger snap crumbs in these recipes as well.

  86. Mala

    Oh, I’m hungry just looking at your beautiful pictures! I love stuffed cabbage and have made them a few times (being from Polish decent), but it takes so long! My MIL makes an unstuffed cabbage which is basically delicious meatballs, sauce and chopped cabbage. Her sauce is a mixture of tomato sauce, vinegar and sugar. I can’t seem to get the proportions of the sauce right and she just does it by taste (like many MIL’s do). Do you think yours would be good “unstuffed” dropping the meatballs into the sauce to cook and just cutting up the cabbage?

  87. My mom makes rolled cabbage every year for Rosh Hashana. Like other commenters, she just uses beef (or ground turkey) and rice for the filling, and the sauce is a sweet and sour one. She freezes the leftovers in individual Ziploc containers and wraps them in foil. Just let them defrost and heat up and they are great.

  88. Ohh I am so glad I found your blog and this recipe for halupchis (my mother’s family is from the Ukraine and I grew up going to a Ukrainian church..that is how they pronounce them). She always tries to tell me how to make them…because she knows how to make them without a recipe and can’t give me a good recipe. SO…THANK YOU!!! I am going to make this recipe and freeze them and send them to her to taste! Of course, regardless how good they are..they’ll never be as good as her’s or my grandmothers!

  89. Crashhooligan

    I just made these on saturday…and failed miserably.
    BUT, this definitely gave me some technique ideas. Thanks!
    My recipe is a Bulgarian version, but it’s very, very similar.

  90. My goodness, Deb – my mom used to cook these! She loved them, and so did my father. When I was single, I used to make these sometimes for him, for good old day’s sake.
    Thank you for the lovely trip down memory lane, darling.

  91. Joanna

    It was a success! I posted a comment yesterday that I was going to attempt these last night. I did and they were so YUMMY! Now I definetly am going to practice this dish a few more times before I make them for anyone else. I live in CT and there are a lot of people here of European decent. I am sure I would give someone a heart attack to see how poorly I wrapped my cabbage rolls! So even though mine were not nearly as pretty as yours – the taste was FANTASTIC! My husband and kids practically licked their plates clean (after filling them 2 or 3 times)! I did not have the type of cabbage you recommended and I found that the leaves were too stiff to work with after soaking the head in the boiling water. So I just put some plastic wrap over the bowl and them microwaved it for a few minutes – worked like a champ. THANKS!

  92. Joanna

    OH – I forgot to tell you that I also made your chocolate chip cookie recipe as an after-school snack for my sons and their friends. They are awesome! They are the most chocolatiest ones I’ve ever had!

  93. Rich

    My mother in-law occasionally makes her golubsy (can’t spell that word properly in English, unfortunately) as (again, can’t spell this properly) lenevia golubsy, or, ‘lazy golubsy’, which involves just shredding the cabbage instead of making little packages. Cuts prep time down by quite a bit, and leaves it tasting just as wonderful.

  94. Sue

    Why, I have had a cabbage roll with beers, thank you :) Cabbage is excellent for drinking! There is some sort of enzyme that helps prevent hangovers in it.

    Love cabbage rolls – my past attempts have not gone well; might try this one.

  95. so neptune is better for stuffed cabbage than veselka. good to know. (have never been to neptune)
    this inspired me to make cabbage (for the second time ever!) and i made cabbage and ground lamb for dinner last night. delicious.

  96. Sarah

    A question: Does the rice get cooked when the stuffed cabbages simmer in the tomato stock, or should it be cooked prior to adding it to the stuffing mixture? Many other recipes I’ve seen call for cooked rice. Thanks for another great recipe!

  97. oh wow, too weird!…I saw there’s another comment above from a Natalie who grew up in a Ukrainian family and know these as holubchi…me too! :D

    I’ve been avoiding making these so far (Ukrainian food-making is time-consuming! So far I’ve mastered varenyky, yum! But not much else). But it looks like I’ll have to try this recipe – it looks delicious!

  98. Heather

    I love stuffed cabbage, being the Polish person that I am. My mom sometimes makes a stuffed cabbage casserole. You can cheat and buy a bag of cole slaw and basically layer the ingredients in a deep skillet, cover and simmer.

  99. chavi

    Deb – just to clarify why freezing the cabbage is easier. Even when soaking the cabbage in water, when you try and remove the leaves, they often tear. They’re still stiff and when the cabbage leaves are kind of folded into each other, it makes them hard to remove carefully. Freezing then defrosting them makes the leaves simply fall apart, leaving whole, perfect and untorn leaves to work with. Also the center rib is as soft as it can be and it makes them a cinch to roll up.
    Hope that helps!

  100. Deb – this is the first time I’m leaving a comment here…. have been a fan of your website for a while now and I had to leave a comment after I saw that. It instantly took me home to Poland:) My mum and nana make the best golabki in the world (i guess you can translate golabki as ‘little pigeons’ – no idea why, I remember when I was a kid I used to think they are made out of pigeons… haha) – I was always scared to make them but I guess I should try… Ohhhh, it’s 12 am now and I’m drooling… the taste of golabki with boiled new potatoes and tomato sauce…aaaahhhhh….

  101. Sara

    The leftovers are now in the freezer. We loved! this dish and it has been added to the list*.

    I had a problem soaking the cabbage as you suggested – the hot water did not seep throughout the head, so I eventually removed all the leaves and boiled them for 5 minutes (lots of tearing). Next time I’ll boil either boil it or try the microwave method Joanna used – my freezer is way too small to try putting a cabbage in there.

    I look forward to the next time I make this, when hopefully, the rolls will look as good as the dish tastes!

    * – Acceptable recipes for frequent rotation.

  102. Kelly

    Made this recipe tonight. Was delicious. Planned to freeze the second batch (didn’t have a big enough pan for them all), but everybody wanted seconds!

  103. Michelle

    I get the quote . . . it’s from Something About Mary.
    Just wanted to let you know that I LOVE your blog. I love to cook and hardly ever make the same recipe twice. My husband always talked about his gramma’s stuffed cabbage. I’m going to make this for him this weekend as a surprise. (And we just got a brand new big fridge so I now have room to freeze leftovers!)
    Thanks again!!!

  104. My favorite Polish restaurant with knock-out stuffed cabbage (we pronounce it something like “gwompke”) is in the Greenpoint neighborhood in Brooklyn, called Kings Feast on Manhattan Avenue (there is a life size knight in armor outside!). It trumps Veselka without a doubt! And, the Kings Feast has a “Polish Plate” entre option that comes with three pierogi’s, two gwompkes, two large and lovely potato pancakes, and a small hunk of kielbasa. Before your meal they bring you warm pickled beets and onion coleslaw. All for $8! I grew up on Polish food, and this place is really good and homey (and you can not beat the price, either).

  105. Elizabeth

    May (poster#1), thanks for the great tip! Makes me say duh! Why didn’t I ever think of that?
    Deb, thanks for the recipe. It’s a great time of year for stuffed cabbage. St. Patty’s isn’t too far off..

  106. Kristy

    I made this tonight and it was delicious! I wasn’t expecting it to be because I had a really hard time rolling my leaves. They weren’t the prettiest, but they sure were tasty. I used a pork/beef combo. Thanks for the recipe!

  107. Georgie

    This is a wonderful comfort food recipe. My mom would use the tomato soup instead of tomato sauce and after putting the stuffed cabages in pot would top it with a can or two of drained sauerkraut–delicious! I’m not sure where this sauerkraut addition originated though. My mother was of irish and english decent. It’s the way her mom made it and now I make it this way too. We never used carrots, parsips or celery in it but we do add the minced garlic and a little chopped onion.

  108. these were fantastic — made them saturday night. my only problem? the rice seemed to take forever to cook. we were in no hurry, and enjoyed the aromas as this simmered away on the stove. even tastier the next day. (and the next!!)

  109. Yodel

    Excellent recipe! I added some caraway seeds to both the filling and the sauce for a bit more Eastern European flavor… some quality sauerkraut (as mentioned above) would also be a good idea.

  110. Jason

    This didn’t work for me. After 40 minutes the cabbage was soggy and burnt and the brown rice never cooked through. Prep was east enough but parsnip dominated and meat underseasoned. Thankfully I also made the gingersnsp & chocolate thing wow!! Rocked my world.

  111. deb

    Brown rice takes longer to cook. Also, if the cabbage burnt, there may not have been enough liquid in the pot. It should cover the cabbage rolls. Simmering on low in a covered pot for 45 minutes should not burn it with adequate liquid.

  112. Karen

    I also err on the side of faster and easier (#107), which is why I don’t stuff the cabbage at all. I cut it into 1/2″ strips and put it on the bottom of the pan. Make the filling as usual and form it into egg shaped and sized “balls”. Lay those on top of the cabbage, pour the tomato/liquid over and cook as directed. Presentation isn’t quite the same, but the taste is and it’s easier and faster to prepare.

  113. Miss Vicki in GA

    I’m so lazy. I make the meat filling using lamb, onion, garlic, and middle eastern spices. Layer Savory Cabbage and the filling until baking dish is full. Top with Tomato Soup and bake until cabbage is done.
    Serve with rice that I cooked in my NEW Zojirushi Fuzzy Logic Rice Cooker (such a neat new appliance).

  114. Great blog. My mother’s recipe added 1/4c brown sugar and two lemons, sliced very thin, to the sauce. The lemons were layered with the cabbage rolls. This gives a lovely sweet and sour flavor- very Eastern European Jewish. I make it the same way, usually with beef, sometimes with turkey, and sometimes with a vegetarian filling- rice and cracked wheat, rice and beans, etc.

  115. you know whats really scary about this
    is my fiances name is alex and his mom makes exactly the same thing

    itssss ooo goood
    but we’re both kinda freaked out here cause we NEVER see this anywhere

  116. Hipengr

    Great recipe! The wife and I are looking forward to trying it.
    One question: at the end of the post you mention the they freeze well. Is this cooked or uncooked?

  117. S from Bucharest

    hi, this is my favourite recipe in the world! Here in Romania it’s a traditional dish that we serve to weddings and Christmas , it’s called sarmale and it’s eaten with mamaliga (polenta) . we stuff the cabbage ( pickeld cabbage in salty water) with pork , rice, onion, carrots , tomatoes and i personally boil them in wine mixed with tomato juice for several hours, in a clay pot. it’s has the same look though ;)

  118. I’m so excited this is my first post on ANY blog! Reading all of your comments and ideas made me crazy to make these. I froze the cabbage 3 days. Great idea! It took 2 days to thaw. The cabbage was soft and easy to roll and fill. I used an ice cream scoop for even size and the rolling directions I read,(roll once fold in 1 end finish rolling and tuck in other end with finger) worked perfectly. I made 2 fillings. Beef, pork, onion, carrots and rutabaga ( I forgot parsnips, Oh well) precooked seasoned brown rice. Awesome. I made two pans of these, one with just tomato sauce the other also had sour kraut and bacon. The second was Asian style. Pork, beef, onion, green onion, red pepper with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. These were simmered in an Asian style soup broth. They were a knock out with hoisin sauce on the side. Thanks for the inspiration everyone!

  119. TATYANA

    I always make Golubtzy for Rosh ha Shana. I toss a bunch of raisins in the sause and a spoon of plum/prune preserves and brown sugar to give it a touch of sweetness. In Russia we used to roll stuffed cabbage, then fried them briefly on both sides till the cabbage leaves browned and then put them in the sause.

  120. Kristine

    OK, two months later, but I just ran across this. My mother also made great cabbage rolls, so I had to comment. I’d have to look at her recipe again, which she hand wrote for me before she passed away, thank goodness, but it is pretty similar to this. I do know she added a boneless pork rib to the pot to add flavor to the sauce. Thanks for the memories.

  121. deb

    Dear Deb,

    I made these tonight, with….wait for it… soy crumbles instead of meat protein. And you know what? Amazing. I’m sure it’ s a “sacrilege” of some sort make these vegetarian (or even, really, vegan) but wow. Fantastic and very much like I remember my friend’s mother making them. I paired them with your quick pierogies and this was a meal fit for a queen. So good. So, so good. Thank you.


  122. Veggiesaurus

    I tried to make these vegetarian with firm tofu rather than beef. Final outcome: disappointing. In one batch I added in some feta which helped, but the overall lack of rich flavor still made them mediocre. However, I had left over mix which I simply didn’t have room to stuff into cabbage in the pan, and the next day I broke in an egg and fried the “batter” up like latkes. Topped with plain Greek yogurt (substitution for sour cream), they were yummy! I may attempt the stuffed cabbage recipe again, this time using a soy protein with a flavor closer to meat or maybe with eggs. But then again, considering the effort and my previous result, I may not.

  123. I just made this last night for my husband and our 4 sometimes picky boys. OMG they were amazing!!! We are now going to include these on our favorite meals list…yeah something new to do w/ ground turkey!!! Oh I should say that I used ground turkey because we try to eat healthy and I added 2 garlic cloves (minced) to the meat mixture. I also used my homemade spaghetti sauce and then we sprinkled parm cheese on top. UMM UMM!!! Thank you!

  124. Robin

    I’ve only recently discovered your site – and I’m completely addicted. Thank you! Have you ever stuffed a whole cabbage? I’m planning to try it this weekend, but every recipe I’ve seen leaves the tough bottom on. I know cooking with soften it, but I’m curious if you’ve ever tried cutting core from the bottom. I’m not sure if the leaves will fall apart without the thick bottom. If you’ve never tried, I’ll let you know if I end up with fallen cabbage layers instead of stuffed whole cabbage :-) Keep up the great work – you’re a great inspiration for us cooks-in-small-spaces.

  125. madfelice

    I just made this using Kangaroo mince and a little sausage mince, added some chilli flakes(goes great with kangaroo!) with a tomato and eggplant passata sauce and cooked it on low in the slow cooker which I lined with cabbage leaves first. Can you say, delicious?

  126. I just had to say that these are very similar to my grandma’s rolls (Polish). I decided to try your recipe, however, because hers does not have carrot and celery. And I’ll do just about anything to get some extra veggies into the kids.

    Thank you. :)

  127. elaine

    Jewish/ Hungarian verson: Add saurkraut and brown sugar to taste before baking. I just use ground beef, eggs and rice for the filling. If you are worried about the rice being fully cooked, use instant. People love, love, love this dish!

  128. Liz

    My mom is full blooded Italian and she made these without the veggies and rice. She says rice is just filler. She called them pigs in a blanket. If you want the real deal, mix together the ground beef, garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, one egg and some straight tomato sauce. Then stuff your leaves with that. You can even add some ricotta cheese to the meat mixture. I like to mix egg, ricotta, and garlic and let set overnight. Then mix it up with the rest of the stuff before stuffing. Mom also added more juice to the pot and threw in quartered potatoes so you just scoop and eat. OMG!!!! I’m going to make some right now!!!!

  129. to stop Golabki burning put large leaves of cabbage on the bottom of the pan so its completely covered, i usually use ones from outside that were to ugly to get stuffed :) mniam

  130. Deb I just made this tonight and OMG it was good. Different recipe from the last one I used and it was unbelievably delicious. I once had it at a friends and they got the bottom layer all crispy and I’m wondering if you have a suggestion as to how to get it like that. Will cooking it in the oven make the bottom layer crispy?

  131. grace

    oooooooo :)
    you should try to put cut cellophane noodles it this recipe too….
    I use leftover mandoo* stuffing, and put it in the cabbage.
    *mandoo is a korean dumpling

  132. mrs.h

    I have made these several times now. They come out just perfect EVERY time. These are now a part of regular menu at home. I love love love them. I could eat them everyday.
    Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  133. Noosa

    My mom used to make us this dish and stuffed grape leaves all the time. Now, these are emotional foods for me and my favorite foods.

  134. technikat

    Cat said that her Polish/Lithuanian family called stufed cabbage rolls “stuffed pigeons”. That’s probably because in Ukrainian “holubtsi” are “pigeons”.

    The recipe sounds lots like my mom’s with some differences. She would always pre-cook the rice about half done. Also she often used pork instead of beef.

  135. Nicole

    Mmm, comfort food. I followed this recipe exactly after several mishaps with other more elaborate stuffed cabbage recipes; my search ends here. This was the flavor I was looking for all along. Thank you and thank you to Alex’s mom for sharing.

  136. Natalie

    My grandmother’s trick is to put sliced apple at the bottom of the pot when cooking the stuffed cabbage. I can’t remember what kind, I’m guessing something tart or sour like McIntosh or Granny Smith so it gives the stuffed cabbage a tart sweetness, but the next time you make stuffed cabbage it might be worth your while to try :) .

  137. I made this exactly as written, and it was delicious. And surprisingly quick to make on a weeknight – the stuffing didn’t take nearly as long as I’d feared once I got the hang of it. It made 16 rolls – my five year old ate FOUR of them! Mine burned a little, which I didn’t realize until I took them out of the pot, so next time I need to watch the heat a little more. But other than that – perfection! I especially loved the extra veggies in the stuffing, which added so much yumminess to the normal beef and rice mix I’ve had in stuffed cabbage.

  138. Carly

    My grandma used to make us halupkis when I was little. My mom has Alzheimer’s disease and I’ve been trying to recreate my grandma’s old recipes to see if they might spark some memories. Halupkis were one of her favorite dishes but I’ve never been able to figure out how to make it. Your recipe looks like a very similar version so i’ll be trying it next weekend.
    The only thing I remember my grandma doing differently from yours is that she added the leftover cabbage, chopped, on top and there were always pieces of kielbasa cooking in the pot along with the stuffed cabbages.
    Thanks for the recipe!!

  139. Karkidio

    We also make them in Greece. ‘???????????????’ without tomato though which looks like an interesting addition. we make a thickish lemon sauce instead..Classic food served around the Christmas holidays

  140. Regina

    OMG – these are so good. My husband is 50% Polish so I’ve been looking for a good Golumpki recipe for years. I made these last week and they were a big hit,even with my kids ages 8 to 16, and not very hard to make. I’m making them again tonight (they’re simmering on the stove as I type). I made a couple of minor tweaks though. The rice was a little on the crunchy side so this time I added a little water to the meat/rice mixture. Also, the cabbage did not blanch all the way through, making the inner layers difficult to peel off. I just kept the water simmering and dunked it as I needed to get all the layers off. Thanks for a great recipe!

  141. Jayne Crayton

    I have been making stuffed cabbage for years and just want to add a few tweaks. I mix rice, ch. onion, egg, bread crumbs, ch. garlic and grated apple to my meatball mixture. I found that reg. ground beef not lowfat seems to work better. I use tomato soup and some bouillon as a base for a sweet and sour sauce and the best trick I learned from a restaurant chef was to wring the cabbage rolls in a damp cloth or cheesecloth. It hold them together tightly throughout the whole cooking process. The recipe came from a neighbor born in Poland and I love these with creamy mashed potatoes.
    Thanks for all your great recipes

  142. Donna

    Hi Deb,

    Just discovered your website recently and love it! Everything I’ve cooked from it so far has been fantastic. Quick question on this – I’m a vegetarian – what do you think might be good substitutes for the ground beef? Two cups of lentils? Chopped mushrooms? The recipe sounds great and I would love to try it. Any ideas would be appreciated!

  143. Tallya

    Great recipe! I’m making this tomorrow! I am the odd one here but I always taste my meat before cooking, but only for ground meat, meatloaf, meatballs, etc. I dont actually eat the ground meat (gross!) I just mix it very well after salting/seasoning and then take a little bit and barely touch my tongue to it. I only taste the seasoning and salt, not the meat and I have never had any food poisoning or anything :)

  144. Good recipe, delicious. I ended up swapping out the carrot and parsnip for beets for a nice deep red color and taste, thought it would be fun since tomorrow is Valentine’s day. The rice didn’t quite cook throughout int he 45 mins so I kept them simmering for another 20 mins.

  145. Aggie

    Im Polish living in Ireland and this is one of my favourite dishes. They are actually called “golabki” which means small pigeons. hence stuffed pigeons :)

    I only discovered your blog today and I am loving it. Ive spent the last three hours on it and can’t get enough! Will definately be coming back for more and the recipe Ive picked today is the NY rye bread. In Poland rye bread is very popular and here in Ireland you can only buy it in organic/health shops. Ive been trying to make my own but most of the recipes require the starter which never comes out right for me. So fingers crossed your recipe will work this time.
    Thank you so much!

  146. Love this recipe. I made mine without celery or parsnips and used ground turkey. Your instructions were great!! Never eaten cabbage rolls before, but had to try. Yum! Love your site! Love your humor! Off to make the matzoh crack! ;)

  147. Angi

    Do you mean they freezer well when they are completely made or do you just freeze the filling? How long do they keep in the freezer and how do you recommend defrosting/heating them up again?
    Thank you! I can’t wait to try this recipe

    1. deb

      Angi — You can freeze the cooked dish. Or the filling. It’s up to you. No idea how long it keeps in the freezer, I’ve never checked.

  148. Sara

    This is something my grandma makes every time we go to visit and I think they are one of my FAVORITE meals. This recipe seriously sounds just like hers. Is your husband German? She does that and a bunch of other German dishes, I was wondering yesterday if you had every had Cabbage Soup and here you are talking about it! Also a favorite :D There’s also this Cottage cheese pocket thing she would make with onion covered with gravy served with some type of sausage. IDK, childhood memories surfacing :D I never knew her secrets (like lightly cooking the cabbage and taking out the vein things before wrapping them). Thanks for sharing!

  149. Roseanne

    My daughter altered my recipe by adding italian seasoned bread crumbs as well as instant rice. Natures season and rotel chopped tomatoes and chiles add flavor to the ground beef.we use dried minced onions and precook the cabbage whole and peel it. I tried to cut core and do leaves separate and it was too done. Try v8 juice or tomatoes in juice,blended. it is ok to experiment!

  150. Thank you for this! I love your blog and was looking for something to make for my husband who has been sick all week. He just happens to be Ukrainian and named Alex. When I showed him the recipe his face lit up. “My mom does that too!” he said of various steps. I can never make anything Ukrainian as good as his mom can, according to him, but I’m hoping this will come close.

  151. Jane

    Deb, this is my first comment on your blog, but I’ve been a long time lurker. I just want to say thanks for this recipe, I fell in love with cabbage rolls at my old boss’ wedding reception (of all places!) and I’ve been dying to make them ever since, I’ve never been game since I thought they would be so complicated but you have inspired me and I’m giving them a go tonight! Thanks again :)

  152. eunice

    Sounds delicious. I’ve been trying to find a good recipe for stuffed cabbage, or sarmale, the romanian name for this dish, which my bf loves oh so much.

    So, it’s not necessary to cook the beef before putting in pot?

  153. Greg

    Thanks so much for the recipe. We made this last night with a few variations necessitated by our pantry situation (it was delish). If anybody wants to mix it up, go ahead and substitute kasha (buckwheat) for the rice and zucchini (grilled and chopped) for the parsnip. We also threw some chopped scallion and cilantro into the mix.

  154. Hi Deb, I was looking through your recipe index for freezer-friendly recipes, and I found this. I’m excited to try it, and make it to freeze, and eat it another time when I don’t feel like cooking. However, my question is to you, how should I reheat it? Should I put it back in a pot and slowly warm it? I am worried that the cabbage might get too soggy, or the sauce and cabbage could burn. Any suggestions? Thanks, Rachel

  155. rich b.

    First time comment. Anyway you make them, there is nothing more satisfying
    than stuffed cabbage rolls. I have tried them all, but I’m sure there are more.
    Just made a 5 pound batch for a party using ground turkey and just plain tomato soup with a little ketchup mixed in. Everyone raved about them and wanted the recipe. The hardest part is waiting for them to finish cooking, the aroma just fills the house.

  156. Lizzy

    I made these for Rosh Hashana last night and everything was great EXCEPT my rice never cooked. Next time I will put already cooked rice. My dear guests never said a thing so I’m blessed for another sweet year!

  157. Meghan

    I’ll have to give this a try. Last year I went with my husband to Babcia’s house so she could teach us to make her golumpki, and learned that they taste so good because she uses a metric ton of butter, cream, “Vegeta” seasoning, and bacon fat. We also witnessed her tasting hunks of the raw beef/pork mixture for seasoning several times over the course of the afternoon. Ahhhhhhh! I was not expecting Fun With Trichinosis, although it was fun to spend time with her in the kitchen.

    But yes, these look very tasty and way less artery-busting, so I’ll have to give them a go.

  158. Shelly

    Grew up in Northern Alberta, Canada where there is a large Ukrainian population ….. no holiday or wedding was complete without cabbage rolls and perogi. These are perfectly satisfying my craving for cabbage rolls, thanks for a great recipe. Now, I also remember my German grandmothers cabbage rolls that were made with soured cabbage ….

  159. Boomdog02

    Looks great..but my (mothers/grandmothers) version has a sweet and sour sauce. Try adding equal amounts of sugar and vinegar to the sauce, and some raisins. It really adds another flavor dimension.

    Carneys….too funny. “looks like a man, baby!”

  160. Lauren

    I made this tonight and they were really good! I love trying new (to me) ethnic/peasant type foods.

    I made the recipe as followed, with 1 jar of 365 fat free pasta sauce and 1 can of Amy’s low sodium tomato soup (it was what I had on hand). I was able to make 15 small rolls with a fairly small head of cabbage.

    After reading the 1st commenter idea, I did a taste test of the meat mix by cooking some. I decided I needed a bit of a kick, so I added good sprinkle of coriander – came out great!

    I used short grain brown rice, it was a tad under done, so next time, I will use either a long grain (brown) rice or maybe pearl barley. Or maybe even soak the the brown rice with the cabbage in the initial steps…

    keeper, totally make again!

  161. CJ

    Google brought me here, nice simple recipe. I just wanted to let you guys know, you can safely taste raw beef for seasoning, by just dropping a small bite of it in a hot pan, both sides will cook in seconds and you can wipe it clean. :)

    I do that with any meat mixtures … meatloaf, meatballs, meat patties, etc.

  162. Joanne

    Made these last night. They were delicious. Kids even ate them after complaining for the hour before dinner that they didn’t like cabbage. Looking forward to leftovers tonight!

    Followed the recipe with no substitutions. For me, the hot water bath on the cabbage softened the first 3-4 leaves I pulled off and the rest were too stiff to roll and I had to re-bathe them. Also, I used a 14-oz can of Muir Glen tomato sauce and a small can of Hunt’s tomato sauce because that’s what I had in the house and in the end there was a small amount of thickish sauce on the bottom of the pot. I would have liked more/thinner sauce so I would err on the side of 4 cups of tomato sauce – probably a combination of tomato sauce and juice.

  163. Jess

    I made these last night to go with the Sharlotka. I come from plain American stock and I’d never had stuffed cabbage before. It’s probably sacrilege to the Russians, but I used a mix of ground chicken and ground chicken sausage in the filling instead of ground beef. I also used most of a large can of V8 to bathe the rolls. It was delicious. My husband and I enjoyed our first Russian food experience. Thanks, Deb!

  164. Hi Deb,

    I noticed that you said you under seasoned your dish, but I was wondering what you seasoned it with…in the recipe, I only see tomato as a seasoning….did you use anything else?


  165. Matt

    We made this over the weekend and LOVED it! We included kielbasa, too, as stuffing instead of beef. We also started by cracking fennel seeds in oil before sauteing the vegetables and added heavy garlic. Brilliant. Easy. Delicious. Thank you!

  166. Nadine

    Deb, I’ve recently discovered your blog and like it very much. You have some wonderful recipes and a lovely conversational writing style. I was scanning the recipe archive and the stuffed cabbage caught my eye. I liked reading your MIL’s rendition and it made me think of the one my Jewish grandmother used to make (sweet and sour tomato sauce and raisins.) I also really enjoyed reading all the comments here. Clearly many people have grandmothers, mothers and aunts who make this traditonal dish and you gave them a place to remember and compare. I think I’ll be trying my grandmother’s and Alex’s mom’s versions this winter. Thanks for sharing with all of us.

  167. HI Deb. we tried your recipe last weekend and the result was amazing!!! So tasty and easy to follow. I posted the result pics on my blog if you wanna check them out. ;)

  168. Donald

    I don’t understand….These are called golabki (pronounced “gowombkey”) nothing else! You must put a small amount of choped cabbage in the mix and place the large outer leaves on the bottom of the pot for, one, flavor and, two, so to buffer the bottom “golabki” from sticking on during the long, slow. simmer. also add a pork chop on the bottom for more flavor. No carrots or parsnips but add whole chopped tomatoes and maybe some minced green peppers into the mix. Oh, and don’t ever leave out the garlic!

  169. Bernadette


  170. Faye

    Corn Bread is amazing with these cabbage rolls. While spending time in egypt i to was fortunate enought to be taught on how to cook these their way as well as grape leaves. They use lamb and or beef, usually lamb. Roll them and of course with allspice in mixture. Use broth or water with allspcie. Plate on top and let them boil them simmer until done. FANTASTIC and cheap.

  171. mina

    you said you’d forgotten to dry out the cabbage- maybe i read it wrong, but when would you do that? after cutting the core, or after pouring the boiling water?

  172. deb

    In the last full paragraph, I suggest that you pat the leaves dry before using them. It works either way, but the final result will be less watery if you pat them dry.

  173. Julia

    I am Russian and was very pleased to see that you recipe is clearly very authentic. So glad that good examples of Russian food are becoming known. Have you ever tried mixing beef and pork for the stuffing? I usually do 3 parts beef and 1 part pork. Also, I miss crushed tomatoes with sour cream for the sauce. The sour cream seems to soften the acidity of the tomatoes.

  174. Kathryn

    I’m glad you’re still answering comments on this recipe!

    I want to make this next week, but I also want to make one of your slaws (I haven’t decided which yet…). Did you actually use the whole head of cabbage to make these? The head of cabbage I bought is pretty big (9 inches diameter)… do you think it’s big enough for these and a small batch of slaw?

  175. deb

    I can’t remember but I think this recipe makes 10 to 12 rolls. So, you’d definitely have cabbage leftover but it would be the smaller leaves (not that this matters for slaw). Happy slaw-ing!

  176. Lynn

    I love your recipes!!! (I’m thinking of the WONDERFUL zucchini bread I made for Christmas… yummy!!!)
    I was looking for a baked stuffed cabbage recipe to remind me of temperature and how long to leave them in the oven. When I saw smitten kitchen had a recipe, I didn’t go any further.
    Although I didn’t use your recipe this time, I wanted to pass along a couple tips from my mother from many years ago, when my cabbage rolls, although delicious, were hard as rocks!!!! Hmmmm…. I wonder if that’s why my son still calls them ‘grenades’? Anyway… she told me to mix the meat only enough to incorporate all the ingredients and roll the cabbage leaves loosely. Apparently, if uncooked rice doesn’t have sufficient room to expand, the cabbage rolls tend to be tough.
    BTW… I cut around the core then put the cabbage in hot-to-boiling water. With this method, I find that by NOT cutting out the core it can be a ‘handle’ to hold with tongs. The leaves fall off with very little coaxing once they’ve been completely cut from the core. Then I put the loosened leaves in the roasting pan I’m going to bake them in, lined with a single layer of paper towels to collect excess water. I don’t pat them dry… a little extra extra water won’t hurt anything or change the flavor.
    Thanks again for the zucchini bread recipe!!!!

  177. roxy

    OMG, I can’t believe you made this. It looks sooooo yummy! I didn’t know it’s popular in Russia too. I am Romanian and this is one of our traditional foods (although it appears it originates in Turkey, according to some). We cook it for Christmas and Easter, along with other goodies. I’ve been living here for 2 years and still havent found the courage to do it…. until running into your recipe. It’s 11 pm and im drooling so this has to be done :) We also use grape leaves instead of courage (i think this comes from the Greek dolmadas) and I actually like it more than the cabbage (which, by the way, in Romania is usually pickled. It just gives the roll a sour taste – love it!!!) So I got a friend here and she makes them in the crock pot. Takes longer but they taste amazing. Im gonna try your recipe and probably throw them in the crock pot. Thanks for the motivation :) I have to buy your book!!

  178. Jess

    I was pressing the “Surprise!” button the other night and saw this, so it inspired me to make my family’s version (I do a couple times per year, anyway, and had a cabbage sitting in the fridge). I am from Slovakian descent and Slovaks call stuffed cabbage ‘halupki.’ Our recipe is almost the same, minus the vegetable addition, but over the years, I’d started adding more vegetables anyway. What I make looks just like your pictures above. (And I might have added your carrots if the grater hadn’t been dirty! ;D ). Next time.

  179. Mary

    My grandmother used to make these. We pronounced them go-wump-keys, but my dad would always say, go-lump-keys. Interesting how food can bring back such fond memories.

  180. Michele

    I know I’m far too late to really comment much on this, but this is almost the exact recipe that my family uses (my mom’s from Russia, and my dad is from Ukraine) but my family also makes a very simple deconstructed version of this, where you saute’ the onions and the beef until cooked and then toss everything into a pot with the veggies, cabbage and juice and cook it for 30 minutes. It’s a quick fix dinner that’s hearty and delicious. If you ever happen to have the ingredients on hand but don’t want the manual labor, I recommend the deconstructed version :)

  181. The other day, a friend who I frequently share my kitchen exploits with, mentioned Stuffed Cabbage. It was a not-so-subtle hint and I began as I always do when pondering something new and foreign to my kitchen: I Google it to death. Several hours and recipe perusals later, I just now did a quick visual of all the Google images. I went back and started with the very first image that appears when you google “Stuffed Cabbage”. I had to smile with I saw that it was Smitten Kitchen. After 2 years, I know I should know to come here first but my kitchen OCD compels me otherwise. Funny that the last commenter is Michele too. I was meant to make these Cabbage Rolls!

  182. Abeer

    Despite the huge number of comments, no one has yet mentioned the Arabic version of this dish :)
    We use about a cup of soaked basmati rice, a little minced meat, tomato cubes, finely chopped onions, dill leaves and fresh coriander.
    At the bottom of the pot we put the remaining cabbage leaves and the removed veins and we cook them either with tomato paste deluted in water, or in another variation with pomegranate molasses, and yet another variation is to cook it with deluted tamarind and about a quarter of a cup of sugar … yummy.
    Sometimes we stuff vine leaves, cabbage leaves and we core whichever vegetable we have (zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers, onions and even chilis). We would never settle for 15 rolls, there has to be at least 5o rolls in the pot :) lol, lots of hard work
    I can go on and on and on telling you the different varieties that we have, hehehe
    Yeah, and one more thing, if available, we add a layer of chopped lamb ribs at the bottom on top of the cabbage veins but under the stuffed rolls and they serve as both, a taste improvement agent and a delicious portion of protein :)

  183. Ivriniel

    This summer, Mr. Ivriniel and I decided to make some cabbage rolls using a “sour head” cabbage. Sour head cabbage is like sauerkraut, only the cabbage head is left whole through the fermenting process.

    They turned out delicious. And the best bit? You don’t have to boil the cabbage leaves beforehand, because the fermenting process has already softened them.

  184. Noragene

    I use the regualr cabbage not the savoy type, and instead of covering it with water as suggested I just stick mine in the freezer overnight and then thaw it a little and its ready to stuff, and the leaves and just perfect. I do not eat beef so I use either groung turkey or chicken. I also cook my rice before time and then stuff the leaves.
    Another option is not using any meat and flavoring the rice with different herbs you have on hand, cilantro, parsley, green onions, you can use what ever flavors you think go together and its all good! they are really easier to roll and very tastey.

  185. SMA

    Eating them now, and they’re so yum! I used quinoa instead of rice for that low-carb feel. Also, not having savoy cabbage, I had to simmer for about 90 minutes to get really tender cabbage (but in a dutch oven, the meat isn’t tough). Yummmmmmmy!

  186. Victoria

    1. Love your website, you are a joy to read [especially at work 0:-)]

    2. I have never commented before, but couldn’t help it on this one. I am Russian (born in the Ukraine) and my grandma makes the BEST Galuptsy, so I feel for you on “never having the need to make them myself”. I am quite embarassed that I have never made them. Also, curious, does Alex speak Russian/Ukrainian?

    1. deb

      Victoria — Thank you! He understands it but never speaks it. He also will sometimes tell me when people on the subway are speaking it and then refuse to translate. It’s so rude. :)

  187. shoshana

    with divine inspiration from this ah mazing blog, i made a vegetarian version of this last night. the filling was 1 lb mushrooms (used shitakes and baby bellas) and 1 cup cooked french lentils. i made my own tomato sauce – sauted onions, carrots, garlic chili flakes and hand crushed tomatoes with some minced fresh herbs. to thin out the sauce and have it cover more of the cabbage packages, i used some chicken stock (homemade, of course). i was surprised at the hearty and delicious flavor from the simple filling. i think it helped that i sauted the mushrooms by themselves first, and then added them to the lentils. thanks for this recipe, deb!

  188. Haha, sarma rulz!Try adding tiny slices of bacon in filling and between rolls, or try putting them in the oven for last 20 minutes…and bread is there for dipping in that yummy sauce, of course.

  189. Fagel

    The technique of freezing the cabbage first is interesting, especially as this is a traditional peasant dish, dating from long before refrigeration. This suggests an intriguing origin and common-sense logic: What can you do with your cabbage if it has frozen in the cellar or in the field? Make cabbage rolls. Lots of them, or you’ll be wasting precious assets. Invite friends over if you need help eating them, or bring them to a party.

    I find it fascinating and instructive to deduce the origins of old recipes and techniques from the standpoint that tradition is born from necessity and practicality. This approach usually leads to authenticity, and enhances the pleasure of the cooking and eating.

  190. Pat

    I made stuffed cabbage tonight. I did not use parsnips only because I forgot to buy them. I added garlic to the ground beef and they were great. I did however use your recipe for the most part. Thank you. It was the first time I have ever made them and it did take awhile but the wait was worth the time.

  191. Caterina

    I was in the mood to make stuffed cabbage for my family and came across this recipe. I, unfortunately, purchased the regular cabbage and had a hard time getting whole leaves peeled – even after after pouring boiling water over the cored cabbage and letting it sit. I was about to use the whole batch of ripped up cabbage for mulch. But, I just couldn’t waste that cabbage. So, I cut the torn leaves into half inch strips and put those in my sauce. I then shaped the meat mixture into meatballs (omitting the tomato paste and rice) and placed those in the sauce with the strips of cabbage. It came out great and my family enjoyed it – was like a stew. I know this is not traditional stuffed cabbage, but I just couldn’t waste that cabbage!

  192. Jane

    I have made this recipe a few times, and it has always turned out great. I have been eating a lot of collards since the new year and it struck me to try this with collards instead of cabbage. They looked so beautiful in the pot before I covered them with sauce, reminded me of the leaves that wrapped the lembas bread in Lord of the Rings. They were delicious, in fact I will probably never go back to cabbage!

  193. Jennifer

    Just made these for dinner and they were great and my family loved it too. I only had vodka parm sauce in the pantry and I just added a bit of water and it worked really well. Tell Alex I said hi. We worked together in his TMP days.

  194. My Polis mother made these with a can of tomato soup but I use tomatoe paste and diced tomatoes. It is almost a golumbki soup. Absolutely FABULOUS! We add onion, egg and bell pepper to the meat with a little rice.

  195. Christine

    Reading this many moons later, and just have to say that I totally get the Joe Dirt reference, and I say it all the time when either 1) carnivals or 2) cabbage enters into any conversation. Excited to try both stuffed cabbage recipes!

  196. Marie M.C.

    My Russian mother made this, too. Loved it. She was a horrid cook — unless she was making Russian or Russian Jewish dishes. Those sang. I NEVER wrote them down. Some I come close in taste to her’s, some not so close. This recipe is very close to her recipe. She used regular cabbage and pre-cooked rice. And I’m pretty sure she used Ketchup. Heinz 57. Had to be Heinz. She used Ketchup in her spaghetti sauce, too. No long cooking — just browned some ground beef, added some canned mushrooms then ketchup. Viola. Spaghetti sauce. No salt, no pepper, no garlic or onions, no herbs, no long simmering. Now I think it’s funny. Then I ate it. Or else. Because there were all those starving children in China. Never heard about the starving adults, only the children. Am I the only adult who was admonished to clean her plate because other children, in other parts of the world didn’t have enough to eat?

  197. I’m always on a hunt for good stuffed cabbage recipe. will definitely try this one. you are soo funny Marie M.C. You are not the only one who were required to clean the plate. But my mom was always mentioning all the starving children in Africa….

  198. Susan

    I was going to try your latest cabbage roll version, but I have this sweet sour version stuck in my head so I riffed on this one.
    I used my large dutch oven and sauteed the veggies first (added some thyme), removed them and set aside. Then, added water and rice to the pot parboil for 10 mins. Put that with the meat and vegetables and set aside. Nuked the water in my 2 qt measuring bowl and added the cabbage to steam. Put the sauce ingredients in the pot and heated through. I was going for sweet and sour sauce, so I added a scant 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar, handful of raisins and about 8 crushed gingersnaps and some caraway seed to the sauce, plus thinned it with some leftover beef broth. I then mixed a spoonful of the sauce in the meat mixture for moisture. Assembled them from there with half the sauce and chopped cabbage on the bottom of the pot, then the rolls then rest of sauce and baked it for an hour and a half at 325. Not exactly what I was going for, but very, very good. Next time I think I might mix some saurkraut with the chopped cabbage to sour it up more. Soon as I get this right, I’ll move on to your newer version. Not like you care or anything..but it your fault I got going on cabbage rolls again, so you had ot hear me out! So there…

  199. Susan

    …Oh, btw…I had made some of your russian black bread the other day, so we had that with this, too! I have way too much time on my hands…

  200. Lora

    I just used this recipe to make my own first ever stuffed cabbage, absolutely Awesome! I was a little leary about using the carrots and parsnip but it was the best tasting stuffed cabbage I have ever had, Thank You for Sharing.

  201. Kelly

    I want to thank you for sharing this recipe. I’ve made it several times for my (Russian) husband and it is true comfort food for him. I also want to share my own little tip – I’ve started adding just a squeeze of sriracha to the tomato sauce prior to simmering and it is divine! Fusion golubtsy :)

  202. Patricia

    Yes–re: Jewish version with raisins, etc. I remember my mom’s was a bit sweet too-she was Czech and she knew lots of Jewish recipes. Anyone else remember a slight sweet version?

  203. Susan S.

    Gingersnaps! That’s the secret ingredient in my mother’s stuffed cabbage, crumbled and added towards the end, along with vinegar and brown sugar. Susan on February 21, 2013 worked on a recipe that is similar to the one my mother always used – if you call it a recipe. It’s a little of this and a little of that and is always delicious. Trial and error on the quantities…This freezes very well and is fantastic on a cold night.

  204. joy

    I love Russian/Ukrainian food, but usually when I make Russian dishes, they don’t taste quite right. At last, at last, I have made golubtsy that tasted right! My Russian husband loved them. Thanks so much for this recipe.

  205. Buzz

    I was reading the history of cabbage rolls (yes they are historical), and they were spread by the turks (ottomans and other empires) all over eastern,western europe, russia, etc. Variations came about by region, ethnicity, religion, and local dietary laws. Christians included all sorts of meats like beef, ham, sausage, veal, etc. Jews used only beef, veal, and sometimes lamb. Polish or hungarians might have different recipes due to jewish or christian etc. Many cultures referred to them as doves or little pidgeons, or pigs in a blanket in their local language.Greeks eat stuffed grape leaves and I am sure there is a relationship.
    Do a (google, bing, internet explorer) searchon them or other “ethnic” foods. See if your background used that dish during religeous holidays like Simchas Torah for Jews or Easter for some Christians.
    I didn’t read this, but assume, since spread by Turks, that Muslims must have a version (no pork, like the Jews).

  206. I make stuffed cabbage rolls, it helps to freeze whole cabbage head in advance. When you are ready to prepare the, defrost it in a room temperature. Don’t have to soften the leaves in water no more :)
    We (Russian) cooks prepare this dish for every holiday celebration.

  207. Meaghan

    hi Deb! First time poster, long time reader. I just tried this recipe and it received rave reviews. However, the rice was, at best, half cooked. Since the recipe specifically called for uncooked rice, and there was no instruction to cook the rice separately, I put the uncooked rice in the meat mixture. Is that correct? I used brown basmati rice…perhaps that had something to do with it. What type of rice do you usually use/ I also forgot to add the tomato paste to the meat mixture, which may have contributed. There was plenty of liquid for the rice to absorb, though. What do you think?

    1. deb

      Meaghan — It was the brown rice. My MIL just uses white rice and it cooks quickly. I should have made that more clear. Hopefully you can put it back in the oven for a while until the remaining rolls cook their rice.

  208. Hi Deb, wonderful post, as always! ;) This is similar to another post you did on Italian stuffed cabbagewhich conjured up warm and fuzzy feelings of my childhood. (I suppose the starch is rice rather than bread just like my mum would make.) My mum used to make this often (she got the recipe from a lovely Jewish woman we were neighbours with when I was growing up) and I adored eating this in Winter months. I’ve recently evolved her recipe to include a luscious (heavenly, in fact!) tomato cream sauce to douse the rolls with when they come hot out of the oven:

  209. SuzyJC

    Hi Deb, I stumbled onto your website today by way of your “Jacked-Up Banana Bread.” I have recently moved to Colorado (well, it has been seven and all of my recipe books are still packed away in storage in California.. I was searching for a great Banana bread recipe.. then I saw a link to your site and stumbled upon this wonderful recipe.. I make this every fall, but usually have to follow my recipe from my grandmother..(half Cherokee and half European??) She was always very quiet about her past and where her family was from for many reasons.. but her stuffed cabbage was to die for and I can never get it right.. but after reading your wonderful recipe and all of the comments from other faithful followers.. I can now remember some of the things she would do to season the dish.. After I try it myself I will share (if I get it right).. But, like everyone else here I would like to add my two cents if you don’t mind.. As for the cabbage.. I cut out the core as deep as I can of a green cabbage (although next time I am going to try the savoy cabbage) I then place the whole cabbage in a huge pasta pot full of hot water, making sure to hold it down with tongs.. As the outer leaves get soft and start to fall away I take them out and place them in a 9X13 pyrex lined with a towel. Once I get all the leaves off that are big enough to stuff I stop and take out the remainder of the head from the hot water and let it cool(this takes a while as I usually do 2 to 3 heads at a time to freeze extra for a cold day).. My meat is just ground beef, onion, garlic, bell pepper & long grain white rice cooked aldente.. seasonings are usually whatever I am feeling at the time.. but I love reading all the comments above about the different ways that others have seasoned their dish. (all of them sound wonderful). Where I usually go wrong is the sauce, and I am very thankful to all of you for giving me many ideas as my sauce is usually lacking something and I think it may be the pinch of cinnamon or allspice and even possibly the brown sugar.. I am going to keep trying as this is my favorite cold winter meal (I also roll them like a burrito).. I place everything in a big roaster and chop up the remaining cabbage to line the bottom of my pot as well and the top of my cabbage rolls, I then cover everything with Campbells tomato juice & V8.. and I cook them at 325 for about 3 or 4 hours.. they are de’lish. I love your addition of the carrot but am not familiar with using the other vegetables you mentioned.. Next time I make these I am going to follow your recipe and see how they turn out.. sounds like a fun weekend for me and my husband.. Thank you so much and I can’t wait to look around the rest of your blog and a couple of others that were mentioned.. ~Good Eating & Blessings from Colorado~

  210. Julia

    Hi Deb,

    I love that you have a Russian section but oh how I wish it were longer! My mother didn’t cook particularly well so I’ve missed out on actually learning any Russian recipes from her and now don’t know where to even begin (or what things are called! Or what they should taste like!) are there any other Russian dishes that your mother in law frequently makes that you’re a fan of? I wanted to do an all Russian dinner but got stuck after borscht for menu options! Any suggestions on great dished hugely appreciated!

  211. Michelle

    I, too, LOVE stuffed cabbage. The recipe I was raised with calls for strictly ground beef but I now use a beef, pork, veal mix – I love the texture as well as the taste. Last time I made these, I used brown rice which I cooked in the water the cabbage was softened in, and then mix with the meat and veggies (the brown rice worked out well!). I bake mine in the oven in a foil covered deep dish for about an hour. Once I pull them out, I drain off the fat and add the tomato sauce which is made sweet and sour with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, and brown sugar and back in the oven – uncovered – they go. If making ahead of time I’ll wait to add the tomato sauce. Wonderful childhood memories surrounding these!

  212. Margaret

    My mom always lined the bottom of the pot with beef neck bones. The cabbage rolls never stuck or burned. The sauce was tomato sauce and beef broth and becomes my husband’s favorite soup after he eats all the cabbage rolls!

  213. megan

    thank you loads for the recipe!!!! didn’t realize how simple it can be and sooo DELICIOUS! whew- i’ve always loved you smitten kitchen- your recipes never fails me! HUGS!

  214. These are called “gołąbki” in Polish. There exist a lot of gołąbki varieties here. Those with meat usually call for beef, pork, veal. The stuffing contains ground meat and rice although old recipes require kasha (buckwheat, barley). Vegeterian versions are stuffed with groats mushrooms or potatoes.

  215. Sheena

    Delicious! Made this for my Czech husband almost as written except used half ground beef/ground pork, added some garlic to the sautéed veggies, essentially doubled the recipe, and added a few allspice berries to the sauce as it simmered (I recommend fishing them out after as biting into them is a little unpleasant). Thank you for another great recipe!!

  216. Barbara Qualls

    I have always made these by cooking the meat, onion, spice mixture BEFORE adding it slightly cooked rice, to which I add a bit of the tomato sauce. Then I roll ’em, sauce ’em and bake. This may be a sacrilege to some but it has always yielded a very tasty result and you can taste the mixture before mixing with the rice (which is still slightly hard at this point). I would love to know if anyone else had done it BOTH ways and finds one superior to the other…..I am not too old to learn!

  217. Mari

    The first time I made these, I completely misread the recipe: ‘turnip’ for ‘parsnip’ and ended up substituting daikon radish for the supposed turnip. It was delicious, and I found out that there’s no local grocer selling parsnips anyway, so I’ve made it that way since. As an inveterate ingredient-substitute-er, I’ve made a few other discoveries, too: It’s better with white, long-grain rice rather than the last bit of your bag of calrose or nishiki, which tends to get mushy and lose integrity when reheated in the sauce. Also, regular green cabbage leaves work just fine.

  218. Heather

    My first attempt at making them last night, even though I come from good Ukrainian stock. If my grandfather were still alive, I think he would have been proud.

    And…these were super tasty. I’m not the biggest fan of raw cabbage, but have been getting it in my CSA (with, I am sure, more to come), so I am glad these were so good. And I even forgot to add the celery and the tomato paste!

    My only problem was that they kinda ballooned in the pot and a couple fell apart. I think next time I may try baking them instead. And I don’t think I blanched them enough – they weren’t quite as wilty as I think they should have been for rolling purposes. But great base recipe! I have a couple turnip that need used – another veg I’m not overly fond of – so if I get another cabbage, they are going in!

  219. CC

    Thank you so much for this recipe. Just made it earlier today as it has been very chilly here in Chicago recently. I never thought I would eat so much cooked cabbage.

  220. I made this for a work-related potluck last night. I had never made anything like them but thought the individual servings would be perfect for a potluck. My wrapping technique needs work, but I dug deep into my little-known Polish heritage and… my coworkers sang praises. My boss said, “They were delicious. I kept thinking, ‘my grandfather would have LOVED these!'” Another coworker, a former chef and dear friend whose face I kept imagining as I fretted over the loose wrappings, said “It’s not a potluck til someone brings the cabbage rolls. They were GREAT!” My coworkers are obviously not your typical southern church ladies, but still… #Winning. Thank you, Deb!

  221. mary

    This recipe is still winning converts. I wanted to recreate my Slovak mother’s halupke and used this as inspiration. I also read through all the comments (obsessed much?), and added a few things, like the crushed gingersnaps. A total success. Also, I am firmly in the freeze your cabbage camp.

  222. Megan

    A photographic how-to-roll the leaves guide would be most welcome. I have made this recipe a few times and it is always delish, but I’m not confident I’m rolling them right.

  223. Katie

    Do you think you can do this with red cabbage? I got a whole head from a CSA and I don’t know what to do with it (besides make cole slaw) — and this looks so delicious!

  224. I somehow messed up working with the cabbage. Maybe it’s because I used a purple one? The leaves all broke when I tried to peel them off….

    So instead, I simmered the meat and rice mixture in tomato sauce and it was delicious! I ate leftovers the next day and it was even better. I do hope I can get the cabbage to work out next time.

  225. Sue


    Did you cut out the core of the cabbage before steaming? It helps to pull off the leaves. I boil the head of cabbage first. Also, ketchup mixed with a little water makes a very good sauce.

  226. Mimi (another one :)

    If you brown the filled “cabbage rolls” in a pan with oil, they taste even better (in my opinion). My mom fills them like a Swiss roll, just a thin layer of stuffing, then roll them up – and brown them nicely in a pan.

    The browned cabbage has a different taste, I love them like this. But then, they are not cooked in tomato sauce afterwards, so it is really a totally different recipe :-D You can eat them just like that, with a salad.

  227. NPSLC

    I am Armenian and grew up eating my mom’s golubtsy (beef/pork/white rice filling inside of grape leaves or steamed collard greens), but I used this recipe in my first-ever attempt at making golubtsy. So yummy! Maybe I’m weird because I love the slightly stinky smell of cabbage cooking, but I absolutely loved how these turned out. I’ve since made my mom’s version(s), vegetarian versions (mushrooms/carrots/brown rice), grape leaf and collard greens and kale wraps, and a few interesting hybrid versions, but this version is still very high up on my list of must-makes, especially as a hearty winter dinner.

  228. OK = I’m very late to this party, I know. But I came across a simple idea that makes it quick and easy to enjoy the stuffed cabbage flavors with less than half the effort, no dripping counters, scalded fingers and bad language when the cabbage leaves tear. Shred the cabbage, blanch it quickly for a minute in boiling water, and layer it in a baking pan with the meat sauce. Bake at 350 till everything is hot – say 30 minutes. Cover with foil at first if it looks dry, uncovered if wet. That’s it!

    1. deb

      Cathy — I’ve actually never made stuffed cabbage with it. I suppose if you blanche it long enough, it will become floppy enough but I can’t give more help without try it.

  229. Shannon

    Cathy- I use purple cabbage. And although the rolls don’t come out perfectly, they’re more like cups, i don’t even cook the cabbage first. Still delicious!

  230. Carol

    The minute I saw these, I knew they were authentic. My mother used to make them and I still remember the tell-tale “cooked cabbage” smell coming from the kitchen. I can’t wait to try them..they are very, very close to my mom’s.

  231. Linda Derovan

    A quicker way to leaf the cabbage – put the whole head of cabbage in a plastic bag in the freezer for three days. Let it defrost completely which will take about a day. Then cut out the core and the leaves will pretty much fall off and be pliable enough to fold and fill with the chopped meat filling. It does take planning ahead, but is better than trying to peel off the hot cabbage leaves when you use boiling water which burns your fingers. I have been doing this for almost forty four years , and my husband, children and grandchildren all love it. We have them for the Succot holiday (Feast of Tabernacles) and call them ‘hulupchas.’

  232. Barbara Hayden

    I have always made my cabbage rolls with cooked rice. I would assume uncooked rice would double in size and burst the rolls during cooking. Does everyone used uncooked rice? I assume quinoa would work fine, and also couscous.

    1. deb

      My mother-in-law uses uncooked rice (although this is not the place for brown rice or anything that will take much longer, unless you give it longer). It doesn’t expand that much or break; mostly it keeps the filling from being too watery.

    2. Ksenia

      I use cooked rice and so did my grandmothers and mom. My mom often made these with buckwheat instead of rice or a mix of buckwheat and rice. Both good!

  233. Terri Milloy

    Any chance I could do these in the oven. I’ve been desperately trying to find a recipe like my Mom did and this is close. I don’t really have a suitable stove top pot and I prefer using the oven but if you don’t think I should I will make do. Also does it have to be a Savoy cabbage ? I know nothing about different kinds of cabbage.

    1. deb

      Savoy cabbage has the stretchiest, most pliable leaves. If you see it, you’ll see it has deeper ripples and so when softened with water, it wraps well. I am sure people use regular cabbage too, but imagine it needs more time to soften/may not wrap as easily. I definitely think you could braise this in the oven. Maybe in the 300 to 350 range for an hour?

  234. Charlotte in Toronto

    This is a very similar recipe to my mother’s, except she had a bit of a fetish with caraway. She put caraway in everything. It was a bit out of control. Her family is German. I’m interested to see that it is so much like the Russian version. You can avoid steaming the cabbage in advance by freezing the whole head of cabbage and then defrosting at room temp. It’s way less work and mess that way.

  235. Ksenia

    I love holubtsi and am making a very similar version tomorrow! If your MIL is Ukrainian and these are Ukrainian why not put them under “Ukrainian” label in your collection instead of under “Russian”? I also like Veselka :)

  236. Sarah

    I am going to make these tomorrow and try cooking in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low. Other recipes I have seen suggest a slow cooker, so it seems like it will work using this recipe too, no? Has anyone attempted it?

      1. Katie

        Thank you so much! I am trying it with lamb this time and LAST TIME I made it I cooked just a little because I wasn’t sure. Huge fan by the way!

  237. Claudia

    I make this at least twice a year. It’s one of my husband’s favorites and on his list of requested meals. His mother made “pigs in a blanket” and his ex girlfriend made “pigeons”. Thanks for offering your family recipe, that I call me own.

  238. This is delicious, but I’m too lazy to make the rolls (I tried it once and took way too long). I now leave out the rice, chop the cabbage, simmer the whole thing on the stove until it’s done, and then serve over rice. Tastes the same to me!

  239. You can change any ingredient and it’s still will be tasty. I tried all kinds of varieties in my childhood. With rice, buckwheat, with meat and without it. My grandmother even cooked the rolls with grape leaves instead of cabbage. Quite interesting option, I like even that more than the usual recipe.

  240. Rose

    This was just weirdly great and satisfying comfort food. I omitted the parsnip, just added a bit more carrot. I did try the trick of freezing the cabbage and then thawing it ahead of time, but still ended up needing to pour boiling water over anyway, as it does a great job of separating the softened leaves. I used green cabbage and the leaves were soft enough that I didn’t bother removing the ribs, and they rolled easily and held up well. I added a few good dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to the meat mix, and I only had jasmine rice. I used a jarred pasta sauce but I wish I’d just used plain canned tomato sauce to let the other flavors shine more. While it was cooking everyone was gushing about the smell. I always thought that was supposed to be a bad smell.


    I followed this recipe exactly and the cabbage rolls were PERFECT. That has never happened to me before as usually I feel like I need to tweak it a bit, add something, take away something…But these were just right, delicious, and my family loved them. I will be making them again. Thank you!!

  242. esthereoh

    Unfortunately when I made this (exactly) the rice was not cooked through.. used just plain white rice too. Not sure why that happened. I also made the mistake of underseasoning. Oh well!

    1. esthereoh

      I would also omit the parsnip, the flavour didn’t really sit well with my family and was a bit intrusive almost.

  243. Meg

    I am wondering if anyone else has had trouble with rice not cooking? I simmered for 45 minutes and let it rest before serving, and the rice was very crunchy, so much so that I double checked the recipe to make sure it called for uncooked rice!

  244. Louise

    Incredible recipe! Comfort food without the heartburn. I made this a week ago and my husband is already asking for it again. Doesn’t require a lot of tweaking. Thank you so much for sharing this one!

  245. Pamela OConnor

    These were absolutely delicious! My market didn’t have parsnips so I substituted with an equal amount of rutabaga (and I think turnip would work as well). I used 1 can of tomato soup, 1 soup can water and a 14 oz sized can of whole tomatoes mashed for the sauce.
    The best stuffed cabbage I have ever had, I will definitely make this again.

  246. Michelle

    I apologize no disrespect intended but oh my God stop talking and just give people the recipe people don’t want to read all that and hear all that when they’re trying to find a recipe so they can make something quick and fast and they’ve only got of you know a couple hours what are you thinking you totally ruined it for me I can’t do it now. I’m still trying to figure it out where the recipe starts and where you stop. This is absolute torture. You have me in tears out of sheer frustration no joke

  247. Kit

    You said that you accidentally under-seasoned the beef, because “it’s not like you could test uncooked beef,” but you can (sort of). Just pull off a bit of the ground beef filling and fry it up quickly in a small skillet, then taste!

  248. Alexandra Hubenko

    Made this recipe for a belated Ukrainian Christmas celebration and they are fabulous!!! full disclosure: I did a mashup of this recipe with my grandmother’s – so cooked the inion in bacon (since it’s after January 6 and we don’t have to fast), parboiled the rice, and omitted parsnip (subbed for an extra carrot) – oh – and sauteed some garlic also (I’m Ukrainian, how could I not?). Instead of pouring boiled water on cabbage, I put the cored cabbage in a pot and let water boil (because that’s how my mom and grandma did it)- the leaves came off super easy and were easy to roll- cutting the stem from large leaves is key! Used a 28oz can of tomato sauce – good flavor but plain enough to let everything else shine through! thank you – my grandmother did not measure anything so your recipe is a very helpful guide for proportions :)

      1. Susan Brown

        If, by any chance, you know the right balance for sweet and sour, i’d love to know it. I think my mom and grandmother used gingersnaps and lemon juice. Was sour salt part of the occasion?.

        1. deb

          I actually never had it sweet/sour so it’s just not my thing. But if you do a word search in the comment section here, gingersnaps and sugar come up a few times.

  249. Susan Brown

    I saw the Italian cabbage rolls and clicked on
    Alex’s mom’s recipe. No sweet and sour? I have never duplicated my mom’s, with ginger snaps, lemon juice, sour salt. Any suggestions which just might include the correct balance/measurements of whatever ingredients makes them properly sweet and sour ?

  250. Nancy

    Can I adjust the recipe to use cooked rice instead of raw rice? Please let me know how to do that if possible. Thank you.

  251. Grace

    I made this “deconstructed” because I’m lazy. I just diced and chopped everything up and tossed it into a pot to simmer for about 45 minutes and it was perfect and delicious. I also used sticky rice because that’s all I had and I think it added a creaminess to the texture which I personally loved.

  252. They look delicious. One of my fond memories of a cabbage roll is enjoying homemade sarmale (Romanian version) in 2000.

    If I had someone make them for me, I would eat them all of the time. But since I don’t, I’m going to try your recipe. Thanks for taking the time to post.

  253. Lynn

    Do you freeze this when the cabbage rolls are filled but uncooked? Or do you cook and then freeze the tools with some sauce? Just made them on this frigid night in MA and they were delicious! But man it sure makes a lot. So I wonder if I can freeze some now.

    1. Lilly Beauchamp

      I would also like to know the freezing instructions please. From what I’ve seen googling, people will freeze the rolls before cooking, thaw, and then continue on with the sauce separately.

  254. Megan

    First time commenter! I love this recipe and have been making it for years. Yesterday I tried it for the first time in the slow cooker—on high for 3 hours and low for 1. Rice wasn’t cooked through so it definitely needed more time in the slow cooker. I never had that problem making this on the stove as directed, and honestly it’s not any less work to do the stovetop version, so I’ll probably just go back to that in the future.