Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Each year when my grandmother would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, my answer was always the same, “stuffed cabbage rolls“. It is not exactly what a young girl might want for a special occasion but I absolutely adored those little bundles of goodness and continue to do so to this very day.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Garlic Chive Mashed Potatoes

I wish I could say that I sat on a kitchen stool and watched as my grandmother made them for me but unfortunately that never happened. One of my parents would drive to the nearby town and pick up my grandmother from her little apartment. She would arrive at our house carrying a big enameled roasting pan filled to the brim with stuffed cabbage rolls. While I didn’t watch her make them and I don’t have her handwritten recipe, she did tell me how she prepared them. Over the years, my version of her cabbage rolls has changed very little. Instead of sauerkraut juice which my grandmother used, but I can’t find in our markets, I use fresh jarred sauerkraut. I also add a can of petite diced tomatoes so that there is extra sauce to serve with the stuffed cabbage rolls.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Serves 4 to 6, adjust recipe according.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • 1 large, loose head of cabbage, core removed
  • 2 Tbsp. oil plus 2 additional Tablespoons
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped and divided (about 1 c. each)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 lb. lean ground veal or beef
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground pork
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 c. long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 1 egg, beaten (if meat mixture appears dry, a second egg can be added)
  • 1 container (16 oz.) refrigerated sauerkraut, drained and juice retained

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Discard any damaged leaves from the cabbage. Break off the large outer leaves and boil until transparent and pliable enough to roll, remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Add the remaining cabbage head to the water and cook until outer leaves become soft. Remove loose leaves, drain, then repeat the process. When all the leaves are cool, trim the center vein of the leaves that are large enough to stuff, being careful not to tear the leaves. Retain small and torn leaves. While the leaves are cooling, prepare the sauce.

Sauté one half of the chopped onion  in oil until soft but not brown. Add the bay leaf, tomato paste, diced tomatoes and their juice, the water and the retained sauerkraut juice. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.

Heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan, add onion and sauté until soft. Add the rice and garlic, stir until nicely coated and cook for a minute or two, remove from heat and cool. Combine the cooled onion and rice mixture, meats and egg in a bowl, season generously with salt and pepper and mix gently until blended. Put a mound of meat mixture on the stem end of each large leaf. Fold in the sides, then roll and place seam side down on a tray. Continue to fold and roll, two smaller leaves can be joined to hold the filling. Chop the smallest or torn leaves and mix with the sauerkraut.

Spoon a little of the sauce in the bottom of the Dutch oven then spread the sauerkraut cabbage mixture on top, this will keep the rolls from sticking. Layer the rolls seam side down, spooning sauce over the cabbage rolls and cover with the lid. Place the Dutch oven on the stove top and bring to a simmer. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Remove the lid, spoon any accumulated juices over the cabbage rolls and return to the oven uncovered. Bake another 30 minutes or so until brown, hot and bubbly.

The cabbage rolls can be prepared a day in advance and reheated. Just take them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you put them in the oven to reheat. You will have more than you can eat for one meal but the good news is that they are even better the next day. They also freeze well, just thaw before reheating.


When I think of this delicious comfort meal, I can’t help but think of the love my sweet grandmother put into the stuffed cabbage rolls that she made me each year for my birthday…always  along with a wonderfully wrapped present. They are not a quick and easy thirty minute meal to have on the table on a weekday night but when you have the time, definitely make a big roasting pan full of stuffed cabbage rolls.  When served to your family, you will perhaps be making memories for them just as my grandmother did for me. “Thank you, Nanny”.


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129 thoughts on “Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

  1. What fond memories! My grandmother and mother also made these stuffed cabbage rolls for special occasions. Always a roaster full. Just the other day my brother asked if I had the recipe so I will send him this one. I don’t think we used sauerkraut, although it was a staple in our house. Mom made her own, of course. I have changed the family recipe for me as I don’t eat meat but omitting the meat hasn’t made any difference, they are still yummy. When I make them I get to eat them all by myself as hubby doesn’t like them. Thanks so much!!

    1. Hi Darlene, It is nice to know that stuffed cabbage rolls were also made in your family. My grandmother used sauerkraut juice but since I can’t find it in our markets, I use sauerkraut instead to try to get a similar taste. I hope your brother will enjoy the recipe.

    1. Hi Susan, I have seen recipes for both ways where the rice is concerned so if your mother’s recipe called for cooked rice and you like them, I don’t see why you should change. Uncooked rice will become tender in this dish because it is cooked covered and the liquids in the recipe will steam the rice in the hour and a half or so that the cabbage rolls bake. I just follow the way my grandmother made hers. 🙂

  2. I love that you requested cabbage rolls for your birthday! Half of the fun of making food is the memories that each recipe evokes, and it’s really great how this recipe reminds you of your Nanny. 🙂 And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had cabbage rolls…so clearly I need to fix that soon! This looks like the ultimate comfort food recipe!

    1. Thank you for your compliment David, I believe you would enjoy cabbage rolls. I totally agree with you about recipes that evoke memories. I couldn’t eat cabbage rolls without thinking about my Nanny. 😀

  3. My sister is always asking me to make stuffed cabbage rolls, maybe I will surprise her with a pan full. And the mashed potatoes go well with them. It’s almost breakfast time, but I could eat them now.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment David. Yes cabbage rolls are a bit of work but my grandmother always made them for me…that is true love. 🙂 I think you would enjoy them.

    1. Hi Amelia, Yes the stuffed cabbage rolls are true comfort food. It might take two heads to get enough big leaves but you can certainly use Napa cabbage.

  4. They sound delicious Karen and we need to make a batch soon. We always used just tomato sauce until my cousin made us some but she uses both the kraut and the juice in hers and they are very good.

  5. My grandmother made cabbage rolls for the whole family, too, but sadly I never bothered to get the recipe or look over her shoulder while she made them, even though she lived just two doors down.
    These days, about once a year, my godmother makes them, and seeing your recipe I think I should ask her for the recipe pronto before it’s too late…

    1. Hi Kiki, Yes I would definitely ask your godmother for her recipe. My mother-in-law made madel bread (the recipe was from one of her friends) that she made whenever we visited her but I never got the recipe. We definitely need to ask for recipes for the dishes we love that others make for us.

  6. So often we cook to show love, and this dish sure demonstrates that. Terrific recipe, but more important, terrific memory. Lucky you!

    1. You are right Ronit, I can not make cabbage rolls without remembering how much I enjoyed my grandmother’s stuffed cabbage. Thank you for your lovely compliment.

  7. What sweet memories you have of your grandmother. Cabbage rolls are a labor of love , I make mine a little differently but yours look delicious and comforting. Thank you for posting this recipe.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment Gerlinde. I’m sure I would enjoy your version as well. I think that every family that made them prepared them a little differently. I think they varied from country to country, even from village to village.

  8. What a wonderful and novel idea to use cabbage! It sort of reminds me of cannelloni, but healthier, and I bet it is utterly delicious. It is always lovely to have family recipes, not just for the taste of the meals, but for the memories they bring. Thank you for sharing yet again.

  9. I enjoyed your story of your grandmother, what fond memories. I also like the addition of the saurkraut to the bottom. Next time I’m craving a dish like this and have the time, I would love to try your grandmother’s recipe.

  10. They look great, Karen! I’ve never had them with sauerkraut, but will soon! Sounds like a good birthday dish to me. Just wondering, is it by any chance your birthday now! 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Hi Pam, I’m glad you want to give my version of cabbage rolls a try, I hope you will enjoy them made with sauerkraut. Thank you but no, my birthday isn’t until this summer. 🙂

  11. I would love to try these. Sauerkraut is something I have never found in France (or not in our area), though I have looked and looked!! Have a good week, Diane

    1. Hi Diane, I’m glad you like the recipe, thank you. My grandmother’s version used sauerkraut juice which is hard for me to find so I change her recipe to include sauerkraut. I know that sauerkraut is popular in the Alsace region of France but I guess it might to hard to find in other regions. You could skip it or add a little lemon juice or vinegar to brighten the flavor of chopped cabbage that goes on the bottom.

  12. My neighbours were Ukrainian when I was growing up and I loved it when they made these cabbage rolls. nothing like this was ever made at my house. A lovely recipe karen

  13. I had to sit at my mother’s table and take copious notes. She doesn’t cook any more but if I asked for the recipe it was a pinch of this and a cup of that. The cup was a small picnic cup.
    Mum made stuffed cabbage rolls too, I’ve never tried making them. But I do make stuffed peppers.
    I’m sure that lovely memories of your gran come flooding back whenever you make those cabbage rolls.

    1. Hi Mary, Yes when we ask for recipes many times they are given without exact amounts. Nice to know that your mother made stuffed cabbage rolls, I’m sure they were good.

  14. Thank you Karen! I grew up eating copious amounts of cabbage rolls also and make them to this day. And your recipe is definitely better than mine so a swap will be made in my folder! Don’t think sauerkraut somehow entered the equation . . . ? Don’t normally eat much in the way of potatoes but with garlic and chives again we have a different proposition . . . .

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment Eha but I’m sure your version of cabbage rolls are delicious. My grandmother’s version just used sauerkraut juice but it can be hard to find so I’ve changed my version to include sauerkraut.

  15. Lovely memories! I never knew my own grandmother but was lucky enough to share my husband’s grandmother. She would often call me to say she had something ready for me for dinner that night. It was such a treat and she was so thoughtful. I love your story!

  16. I did watch my grandmother prepare this dish, and she did it just like you describe. One tiny difference: she used some of the tougher outer leaves of cabbage to line the bottom of the pan. But other than that, this sounds just like her recipe. So I know it’s delicious!

    1. Hi Jeff, Yes my grandmother would sometimes line the bottom of the pan with the tougher outermost leaves too. The markets here tend to tear off those outer leaves but they do work well to help the cabbage rolls from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  17. That’s such a sweet memory, that you loved these as a child and your grandmother made them for you. I can’t remember having them as a child but I love them now!

  18. My father’s parents were Polish and he loved cabbage rolls. I learned to make them at an early age and they became a favorite of mine as well. When I ate meat, I’d also put slices of bacon between the layers before baking. Now I make a vegan version which, while healthier, isn’t quite the same.

    1. Hi Peter, it was my mother’s mother who was Polish in our family. I’m sure your new version is healthier but definitely wouldn’t be the same as adding layers of bacon. That sounds great, by the way. 😀

  19. Not my idea of a birthday treat. But, what do I know? I used to eat sugar sandwiches when I was a kid. If I tried it now, I would be off to see the heart man.
    Lovely recipe Karen.

    1. Hi Conor, you are right…I’m sure I was the only little girl requesting cabbage rolls on my birthday. Maybe that was the start of my becoming a foodie. My mother used to make me toast that was buttered and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon so maybe we are not too different in our tastes. 😀 I’m glad you like the recipe, thank you.

  20. Such good memories we have of times past and how wonderful we attempt to duplicate the effort. I do much the same with things my grandmother and mother made. Cabbage rolls are high on my list of comfort foods.

    1. I’m glad you feel the same way Linda. Good food memories lead us into cooking and sharing those memories with others. I’m happy you agree about cabbage rolls being comfort food as well.

  21. What wonderful memories ♥ There really is nothing like the love of a grandmother for her grand kids… definitively a labor of love. I am sure these cabbage rolls must taste amazing! Thanks for the tip on the juice. Have pinned to try the recipe.

    1. Thank you for your compliment Mimi, I’m always happy to inspire my readers to make a dish that they haven’t had in a long time. Now as to brains in white sauce in puffed pastry shells…I have to say I’ve never had the dish.

    1. Hi Tricia, This is a good time of the year to make cabbage rolls. Enjoy yours when you get a chance to make them. Thank you for your nice compliment, I’m glad you like my version.

  22. So fantastic, the loving memories that is everlasting.
    Never really had the pleasure of my grandmother but through my mother she lived. I loved her cabbage dishes and yours sound like it’s worth trying. I will be cooking. thank you.

    1. Hi Johnnie, Thank you for stopping by for a visit. I loved your comment about your mother sharing her memories of your grandmother through her cooking.

  23. What a beautiful memory of your Grandmother, it really is too bad you were not able to watch her create your favourite meal. My Mom used to make cabbage rolls too but she didn’t like a lot of rice in her cabbage rolls and your recipe looks like it may be very similar to hers. I love them but cannot stand the way cabbage stinks up the house so I don’t make them.

    1. Hi Eva, I never got to watch my grandmother cook but I did get to enjoy a few of her dishes. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and I’m happy that it brought back memories of your mother’s cabbage rolls.

  24. Oh how I love heritage food — the comforting aroma that stirs memories like little else. Cabbage rolls are one of those meals, like S.O.S., which was some version of meat bits in a country gravy. Economical, filling, and if you grew up on it, comfort supreme. Thanks for sharing your grandma’s cabbage rolls with us. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment Judy and yes, I agree with you about the wonderful memories that come back to us when we enjoy a meal that our families so proudly served us. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the post.

  25. There is nothing better than a shared recipe that has a story attached to it. I love the story of your Grandmother bringing cabbage rolls, I bet they were delicious!

    1. Hi Jan, My grandmother’s cabbage rolls were indeed delicious and I still enjoy them when I prepare her version. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  26. Yum, yum and yum! Cabbage rolls are one of my husbands favorite meals and your grandmother’s recipe sounds absolutely wonderful, Karen! I’ve never added sauerkraut, but I’m going to try it your way next time.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment, Marcelle. I’m glad that you like the cabbage roll recipe. I think you would enjoy adding sauerkraut the next time you make it.

    1. Hi Monica, I agree with you about cabbage rolls being comfort food and perfect to serve on the dark cold days that so many have been going through. Good news is that spring is about the corner. Thank you for you nice compliment.

  27. How interesting, Karen – similar memories and associations for me, as well! In fact, when I was a little under the weather last week, this is exactly what I craved/had to eat 🙂 Your recipe sounds delicious!

    1. Hi Susan, While cabbage rolls do take some time to prepare, I love them and think you would enjoy my grandmother’s version. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi Sherry, I know what you mean as our Florida weather can be similar. This is a dish you need to save until your weather cools off. 🙂

  28. Oh cabbage rolls! Now these bring back memories. My mother used to make them often, and I thought they were the most delicious thing ever. Sometime over 30 years ago I made a massive (massive!) batch of them for the freezer, and I think I used up all my cabbage roll mojo, as I haven’t made them again. But I do enjoy them, although I’m always disappointed when I have some and they don’t taste like Mom’s. I guess I know what I have to do about that, right?!

    1. Hi Marlene, I can see how making a massive amount of cabbage rolls would be time consuming and discourage you from wanting to make them again. And yes you are right, the ones our loved ones made for us were the best. 😀

  29. Your cabbage rolls look lovely and sound delicious! I literally grew on cabbage rolls and sauerkraut, but never had them together! My mum’s rolls were always filled with meat or meat and rice. I love your sauerkraut version!

    1. Hi Sissi, I’m glad you like my sauerkraut version. My grandmother used sauerkraut juice but I can’t find it here so using a container of sauerkraut gives a similar taste to what I remember. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi Jean, I think it is a great idea to make cabbage rolls with your friend as four hands are always better than two and it is nice to have some in the freezer. Enjoy!

  30. My maternal grandmother was Ukrainian and she also made the most delicious stuffed cabbage rolls! I have often tried to replicate them but can never make them as well as she did. It may have something to do with the fact she used her old-fashioned cast iron wood-fired stove to make them.

    1. Hi Pat, I think you are right…I’m sure that wood fired cast iron stove made the cabbage rolls have a special flavor and texture. I bet they were delicious.

  31. I ADORE stuffed cabbage rolls! I have my own non-handed down recipe but now I’m going to try your Grandmother’s. They sound wonderful, and like such great comfort food. They’re a bit of a chore to make, I know, and it sounds like such a labor of love 🙂

    1. Hi Mollie, I agree with you about cabbage rolls being a little time consuming to make but they truly are a labor of love as far as I’m concerned. I’m hope you will enjoy my grandmother’s version. Thank you!

  32. Hi Abbe, It is funny how we can enjoy food prepared one way but when cooked differently, we don’t care for it. I think cabbage is one of those ingredients that can be liked or not depending on how it is cook. 🙂

  33. Stuffed cabbage for a birthday? what a rare request for a birthday. I hated cabbage growing up and even now, I prefer kale or other leafy vegetables. So green and nice. The cabbage was always overcooked so it smelled terrible. I have never made or had cabbage rolls. I should give it a go!

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