My name is Olena and I would love to share my grandma’s cabbage rolls that I grew up eating in Ukraine as a kid. Her cabbage rolls recipe is very simple using basic ingredients. My only change is I add a tablespoon of Italian seasoning which adds so much flavor to the cabbage rolls. I have also tried to add pot roast seasoning to the filling and cabbage rolls were to die for with a bit of a heat kick!
What Are Cabbage Rolls?
Cabbage rolls are a dish where tender cabbage leaves are wrapped around meat and rice filling, then baked in tomato sauce. Cabbage rolls are a staple in many Eastern European cuisines and recipes vary greatly. Some prefer to use fermented cabbage leaves, and some like to add more rice than meat or use just rice in the filling. There are cabbage rolls even with buckwheat and barley. In our household, we like Ukrainian cabbage rolls on a meaty side, with both meat and rice in the filling, served with lots of flavorful tomato sauce.
And on busy weeknights, Ukrainians often make unstuffed cabbage rolls which are more of a casserole type of dish made in one pot.
Can You Use Different Meat In Cabbage Rolls?
To make cabbage rolls, I recommend using a combination of ground beef and ground pork for maximum flavor. However, you can use only ground beef or only ground pork, if that’s all you have on hand.
If you would like to make cabbage rolls more lean, feel free to mix ground chicken or ground turkey with more high fat content ground meat like ground beef or ground pork. Cabbage rolls made with only poultry will turn out dry.
Can You Make Them Ahead Of Time?
Yes, you can make cabbage rolls ahead of time. You can roll cabbage rolls, assemble in a single layer in a baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. Or just use the Dutch oven if you have enough space in your refrigerator. Then bake with tomato sauce mixture as per recipe.
You can also cover the baking dish with a few layers of plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze cabbage rolls for up to 3 months. You will have to fully defrost frozen cabbage rolls before baking. Thaw them in the fridge for 24 hours.
To freeze cooked cabbage rolls leftovers, bake and cool them completely. Transfer cooked cabbage rolls and sauce, leaving some room for expansion, to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
How To Reheat Cabbage Rolls
Store cabbage rolls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To reheat cabbage rolls, microwave them for 2-3 minutes. You can also reheat them on the stove. In a small pot, add cabbage rolls and the sauce, cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until warmed through
What To Serve With Cabbage Rolls
Cabbage rolls are a one pot meal that has meat, starch and vegetables in it. In Ukraine, we serve cabbage rolls with generous amounts of sauce, topped with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill. With a hunk of fresh rye bread or crusty bread like baguette for sopping up the juices. Ukrainian garlic bread will go so well with cabbage rolls as well.
Tips for Best Results
- Buy a large head of cabbage, so you have larger leaves to work with and extra ones, just in case.
- When cooking the cabbage, do not remove it from the pot with boiling water to cut off the leaf every time. Instead, hold it with a big fork, cut the leaf off and remove it from the pot with the same fork.
- As the head of cabbage gets smaller, dump some of the boiling water from the pot, so the head of cabbage is peeking out for easy leaf removal.
- Large rimmed baking sheet works very well for holding cabbage leaves. It helps them cool faster and holds water.
- When you remove the rib on each cabbage leaf, overlap each side covering the empty triangle and closing the gap.
- Combine 2-3 smaller cabbage leaves overlapping each other to create a bigger leaf for rolling.
- Keep rolled cabbage rolls on a side. If you end up with leftover stuffing mixture, unroll larger size cabbage rolls, add more stuffing to them, and roll them back.
- If you don’t have a Dutch oven, a large deep baking sheet tightly covered with a double layer of aluminum foil will work. Your cabbage rolls will need a bit more cook time though.
- If you do not love boiling cabbage, consider buying savoy cabbage. Its leaves are soft and require no pre-cooking before rolling.
- 1 large head cabbage ($2.23)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
- 2 large onions, finely chopped ($0.76)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced ($0.34)
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning ($0.30)
- 2 tsp salt ($0.10)
- 2 tsp Freshly cracked black pepper, divided ($0.10)
- 1 lb. ground beef extra lean ($6.49)
- 1 lb. ground pork ($2.27)
- 1 cup white rice, uncooked, rinsed & drained ($0.37)
- 1 28oz can tomato sauce ($1.79)
- 4 cups chicken broth, low sodium ($0.68)
- Preheat oven to 425ºF. Bring a large stock pot with salted water to a boil. Add a head of cabbage to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. Use a large fork to partially lift the cabbage from the water, then with a paring knife, remove the softened outer leaves. Place the cabbage back in the pot and repeat until all leaves are removed.
- Preheat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the Italian seasoning and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring a few times. Transfer the onions and garlic to a large bowl.
- To the same bowl, add the ground beef, ground pork, uncooked rice, salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper and mix well using your hands.
- Remove the thick stem on the cabbage leaves. Lay the cabbage leaf flat, add 1/4 cup – 1/3 cup of the filling in the center, tuck in the sides and roll the cabbage up. Place the cabbage rolls with the seam side down in a large Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining ingredients, overlapping two smaller leaves if needed to hold the filling.
- In a large bowl combine the tomato sauce, chicken broth, and remaining 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir the ingredients together, pour the mixture over the cabbage rolls and cover with a lid.
- Bake cabbage rolls for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 15 minutes and serve hot with sour cream and dill (optional).
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How to Make Cabbage Rolls – Step by Step Photos
Add a head of cabbage to a large pot with salted boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes.
Use a large fork to partially lift the cabbage from the water, then with a paring knife, remove the softened outer leaves. Place the cabbage back in the pot and repeat until all leaves are removed.
Preheat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add two diced onions and four cloves minced garlic, and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add one tablespoon Italian seasoning and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring a few times. Transfer the onions and garlic to a large bowl.
To the same bowl, add one pound of ground beef, one pound of ground pork, one cup of uncooked rice, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper and mix well using your hands.
Remove the thick stem on the cabbage leaves.
Lay the cabbage leaf flat and add 1/4 cup – 1/3 cup of the filling in the center.
Tuck in the sides and roll the cabbage up. Repeat with remaining ingredients, overlapping two smaller leaves if needed to hold the filling.
Place the cabbage rolls with the seam side down in a large Dutch oven.
Bake cabbage rolls for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 15 minutes and serve hot with sour cream and dill (optional).