Cabbage Rolls

$15.49 recipe / $1.94 serving
by Olena Osipov
4.67 from 6 votes
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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!

Cabbage rolls in a large stock pot covered with tomato sauce and garnished with fresh dill.

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.

Side view of cabbage rolls served on a black plate with sour cream and fresh dill on top and a fork on the side.

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

  1. Buy a large head of cabbage, so you have larger leaves to work with and extra ones, just in case.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Large rimmed baking sheet works very well for holding cabbage leaves. It helps them cool faster and holds water.
  5. When you remove the rib on each cabbage leaf, overlap each side covering the empty triangle and closing the gap.
  6. Combine 2-3 smaller cabbage leaves overlapping each other to create a bigger leaf for rolling.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. If you do not love boiling cabbage, consider buying savoy cabbage. Its leaves are soft and require no pre-cooking before rolling.
overhead view of cabbage rolls in a stock pot with tomato sauce poured on top and garnished with fresh dill
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Cabbage Rolls

4.67 from 6 votes
These delicious Cabbage Rolls are stuffed with ground meat and rice then baked in a simple tomato sauce for an easy comfort meal.
Author: Olena Osipov
overhead view of cabbage rolls in a stock pot with tomato sauce poured on top and garnished with fresh dill
Servings 8 2 cabbage rolls each
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 1 hour 30 minutes
Total 2 hours 12 minutes

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions 

  • 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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Equipment

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 355kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 28gFat: 18gSodium: 1179mgFiber: 5g
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How to Make Cabbage Rolls – Step by Step Photos

Overhead shot of cabbage in a dutch oven boiling in water.

Add a head of cabbage to a large pot with salted boiling water. Cook for 2 minutes.

Overhead view of softened outer leaves being removed from the cabbage with a pairing knife.

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.

Overhead view of sauteed onions, garlic and Italian seasoning in a large skillet.

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.

Overhead view of large glass bowl with ground pork, ground beef, uncooked white rice, sautéed onion, garlic and seasoning.

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.

Overhead view of parboiled cabbage leaves with middle stem being removed with a pairing knife.

Remove the thick stem on the cabbage leaves.

Overhead view of flat cabbage leaf stuffed with filling

Lay the cabbage leaf flat and add 1/4 cup – 1/3 cup of the filling in the center.

Overhead view of stuffed cabbage leaf with sides tucked and leaf rolled over stuffing.

Tuck in the sides and roll the cabbage up. Repeat with remaining ingredients, overlapping two smaller leaves if needed to hold the filling.

Overhead view of stuffed and rolled cabbage leaves placed side by side in a dutch oven.

Place the cabbage rolls with the seam side down in a large Dutch oven.

Overhead view of tomato sauce mixture being poured over cabbage leaves inside dutch oven.
In a large bowl combine one 28oz. can of tomato sauce, four cups low-sodium chicken broth, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir the ingredients together, pour the mixture over the cabbage rolls, and cover with a lid.
Overhead view of cooked cabbage rolls with tomato sauce in a 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).

Overhead view of cooked cabbage rolls with tomato sauce on a black serving plate topped with sour cream and fresh dill.
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  1. Excellent recipe! I’ll for sure be putting this into the rotation. Flavor was great – wondering if a spice other than Italian seasoning might be more authentic – no complaints however. Bravo!

  2. This was a great easy to follow recipe. It was definitely worth the time and effort. I’ve never made cabbage rolls before, so having the step by step directions and pictures was a great help. I’m not sure why people had trouble with uncooked rice because mine was perfectly cooked. Maybe they skipped the rinsing of the rice before adding to the meat mixture? A couple of things I needed to do (just because I didn’t have the exact ingredients) was pre cook my ground beef, just enough to release some fat, because it was 80% and not extra lean. I also didn’t have ground pork and had substituted Italian sausage. It was good, but I want to make it again as the recipe is written. Thanks for sharing this great tasting recipe!

  3. Some tips: I used a giant stockpot and transported my very large cabbage in and out using a medium sized strainer, which worked really well vs using a spoon or something. The cabbage wanted to float up so I stuck the strainer in the pot to hold it down and then weighed down the lid. I cut off a 1/2 inch slice on the bottom before boiling so the leaves popped off easier too.

    I was worried about another commenter whose rice didn’t cook, so I went ahead cooked it for just half the time before mixing it in— didn’t turn out soggy. I had more tomato broth than I could use too, probably an extra 1.5 cups. I used a Dutch oven and the liquid reduced a lot though.

    My skeptical family said these were really good. Served with sour cream and fresh dill on top (which was awesome) and a side of homemade mashed potatoes. A lot of time/effort but worth it!

  4. I was sceptical about using uncooked rice, because in my family we always used pre-cooked rice, but I decided to give it a try and… I was right. It takes forever for the uncooked rice to cook in the leaves and even then I felt it was still dry in places. YMMV depending on the pot you’re using (I don’t have a Dutch oven, so I had to use a baking tray covered with foil), but I think pre-cooked rice is a safer option.

    Another tip I’ve read, but haven’t tried myself – instead of cutting out the stems, use a heavy rolling pin to beat them into submission.

    1. Thanks for the tip! I don’t have a Dutch oven yet either(on the wish list though!)and I was wondering how it would work if I used either a baking tray or a slow cooker.

      1. You can most definitely use a slow cooker, on low. However, it may take 7 to 9 hours to become fully cooked. I do stuffed peppers (uncooked rice) in my slow cooker and it takes about 8 hours but they are fabulous. I haven’t made this recipe yet. I’m getting ready to try them. I’ve been looking for a more authentic recipe because I LOVE the Ukrainian cabbage rolls. However, the cabbage rolls that I love most are made from fermented cabbage leaves. The rolls just seem to have a lot more flavor. I’m not of fan of the Greek version (grape leaves), just the fermented Ukrainian cabbage roll version. =) Olena, thanks for sharing!

      2. I use a roasting pan whenever I make my cabbage rolls and that works perfect too. Especially if you have very large cabbage leaves I find the cabbage rolls take up more room so easier in roasting pan.

  5. I did the freezing the cabbage trick(listed in previous comments) instead of boiling and it went perfect! I really loved the sour cream suggestion for serving too. So good!!

    I did have too much filling mix and not enough cabbage leaves. The cabbage I got was on the smaller side so I wasn’t surprised I had some left. I also used a 2 lb mix of pork/beef due to the store not having straight ground pork.

    Overall 10/10 recipe!

    1. Allison
      , I use frozen cabbage all the time, no problems & Minute Rice which works great !!

  6. Grew up with my grandmother making these… Halupki, or pigs in a blanket. Never liked them when I was little because I despised cabbage then and I wasn’t allowed to just eat the inside haha.

  7. Pro tip: put the cabbage head in the freezer overnight and then thaw it the next day. This will soften the leaves and is much less hassle than boiling it.

    1. One more tip: If you core the cabbage before boiling or freezing, it makes it easier to separate the leaves without juggling a hot cabbage.