Cabbage leaves stuffed with a savoury combination of ground beef, pork, rice and vegetables, then cooked in the oven in a creamy tomato sauce. Making cabbage rolls at home is much easier than you think!
Serve these with our Herb and Garlic Mashed Potatoes for a satisfying and cozy dinner.
Stuffed Cabbage rolls is a dish that every Russian and Ukrainian family makes. It’s a true comfort food for us, while managing to be quite healthy! It might be a little fiddly but not difficult at all.
Do you ever wonder how Russians survive long and cold winters without constantly coming down with colds? The secret is eating a lot of cabbage in the winter.
How is it relevant? Cabbage has LOADS of vitamin C, more than oranges!
How to Make Cabbage Rolls
The recipe I am sharing today is my mother’s. I might’ve tweaked it a bit to make it easier but the taste remained the same.
What cabbage to use
The most traditional cabbage to use in this recipe is green cabbage, however I’ve recently been experimenting with Savoy cabbage and loved the results.
Savoy cabbage is considered to be the sweetest of all cabbages. It also adds more texture to this dish and is a dream to work with as the leaves separate much easier.
Whatever type of cabbage you use make sure it’s fresh and crispy. I found that using cabbage later in the season (around March or April) produces cabbage rolls that could be a bit tough and stringy.
Cabbage roll stuffing
These rolls are stuffed with a mixture of extra lean proteins. Ground beef and pork, caramelized onions, carrots, lots of fresh parsley and rice.
After the cabbage leaves are stuffed and rolled they are baked in a sour cream tomato sauce. It’s a one pot dish, that takes a bit of time to prepare but once it’s in the oven, it cooks hands free!
How to Separate Cabbage Leaves
My mother never did that but I use a new method for separating cabbage leaves, which is much easier and faster.
According to the traditional method you have to boil a head of cabbage for a short time until the leaves soften enough to pull them apart. Sounds easy enough but it turns out to be a lot of pain!
You have to boil it long enough for the leaves to become pliable but not too long so they turn mushy.
Then you have to pull that cabbage out of boiling water, burn your fingers in the process, cut away the outer leaves, then put it back in the water, then take it out again. Pain!
I’ve heard that it’s possible to freeze cabbage instead of boiling it with the same results. Sure enough, I froze it for a couple of days, then defrosted it and the leaves were very easy to separate and perfect for rolling! Success.
This recipe yields 10-12 servings. Basically it makes enough for two full meals.
Can I freeze cabbage rolls?
Yes! They are very freezer friendly. Just pop them in freezer bags and they will keep for at least a month. This way you’ve got delicious dinner put away for a day in the future when you don’t feel like fussing in the kitchen.
More authentic Russian cabbage recipes to try
- Braised Cabbage with Bacon and Mushrooms
- Homemade Russian Sauerkraut (Kvashenaya Kapusta)
- Beef and Cabbage Soup Shchi
This recipe was originally published in 02/2014. Updated and republished in 04/2020.
- 2 cabbage 2 small heads
- 110g/1/2cup rice, any type
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion large, chopped
- 1 lbs ground beef I used 5% fat
- 1 lbs ground pork I used 5% fat
- 25g/1/4 cup parsley chopped
- 2 carrots grated
- 2 tsp salt
- 0.5 tsp pepper
- 2-3 bay leaf
For the sauce
- 250ml/1 cup chicken stock
- 250ml/1 cup sour cream or creme fraiche full fat
- 500ml/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes/passata crushed or Passata- 2 cups
- salt and pepper
- Freeze the cabbages 3 days before you need it. The night before defrost cabbage and keep them in the fridge until you are ready.
- Cook rice in plenty water the same way you would pasta until al dente for approximately 5 minutes after the water boils. It shouldn't be too soft. Drain and set aside.
- In a frying pan heat olive oil and cook onions over low heat for 7-10 minutes until tender.
- Grate carrots. In a large bowl combine beef, pork, parsley, onions, carrots, rice, salt and pepper.
- In a medium bowl whisk together stock, crushed tomatoes and creme fraiche, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Place your head of cabbage on a cutting board, cut off the bottom and pull the leaves away from the stalk. Repeat with the second head of cabbage.
- Preheat your oven to 350F/180C.
- Clear your work space, so all ingredients are within reach. Take a cabbage leaf and cut the rib down, so it's not too thick. Put 2 tbsp of filling at the bottom of the wide part of a leaf (see picture above) and roll it like a burrito, tucking sides in. Your cabbage rolls will vary in size slightly depending on the size of cabbage leaves. You will have approximately 30-32 cabbage rolls.
- Pour a cup of the sauce on the bottom of your cast iron casserole or any other heavy bottom casserole and start stacking your cabbage rolls. Half way through add a couple of bay leaves and 1/3 of the sauce and continue stacking until all cabbage rolls are gone.
- Pour the remaining sauce over cabbage rolls, cover with a lid and bake in the oven for 1 hour. Then take the lid off and bake for 30 more minutes. Serve with additional sour cream or creme fraiche and fresh herbs like dill and parsley.