Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe is made with cabbage leaves stuffed with a flavorful mixture of ground meat and rice. After that baked to perfection in a tomato-based sauce. A delicious and filling dinner, which also freezes well, so you can meal plan and prepare it in advance. A complete meal on its own with protein, carbs, and fiber!
Casserole recipes are a staple around here, and this one is definitely a favorite. I like how this classic dish is so easy to prepare, and a great way to use some leftover rice. Since this recipe is so popular on the blog, we have made a slow cooker version for you to enjoy. Also, if you are short on time, we recommend you try this Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe. It has the same great flavors, but it cuts down the prep work.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe or Golabki
The aroma that this dish gives off as it cooks simply brings back memories from my childhood when my mom used to cook it for us!
Each bite is meaty, juicy, and perfectly balanced with the rice. The mixture of herbs and spices also plays an important role in making the flavors shine. The tomato sauce is a real winner in this dish, too. The homemade tomato sauce is outstanding, simmer to perfection with flavorful herbs!
The cabbage leaves themselves are not so flavorful, but they make a nice and sturdy wrap whose flavor simply matches the beefiness. They serve as a blanket and hold together the delicious meat mixture.
Also, I like how you can easily serve each portion of this dish in individual rolls, with no hassle and great presentation.
While the recipe has a few steps, they are totally worth it. First, I encourage you to make a double batch of homemade tomato sauce. Because it is so good, and you can store it in the fridge and use it on pasta during the week. This way you plan in advance and save yourself some extra effort!
For the Homemade Tomato Sauce:
- Olive oil: We use extra virgin.
- Onion: I like to finely dice it, so it almost melts when cooked.
- Garlic: Use fresh for the optimal flavor.
- Crushed tomatoes: Make sure that you use sweeter tomatoes, that is not too acidic, I like San Marzano.
- Tomato sauce
- Tomato paste
- Salt and pepper
- Brown sugar: We add just a little to balance the tangy tomato sauce.
- Red wine vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce: It enhances the meat flavor
- Dried Italian herbs
Classic Cabbage Rolls:
- Lean ground beef: Leaner is better.
- Cooked rice: Use white or brown rice, even other grains, like quinoa or bulgur will work.
- Onion powder
- Garlic: We use fresh, but garlic powder also can be used.
- Seasonings: Salt, pepper, paprika, dried Italian herbs.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Fresh parsley
- A whole head of cabbage: Savoy cabbage works great.
How do you make Traditional Stuffed Cabbage Rolls:
- Make the sauce: First step is to place a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the aromatics in oil, then, add the tomatoes, tomato-based ingredients, and seasonings. Next, add in the rest of the sauce ingredients and allow it to simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Prepare the leaves: Put the head of cabbage in a large pot of boiling water and cook cabbage for about 3 to 5 minutes. After that, remove the cooked cabbage and once the outer leaves are flexible enough to work with, peel off about 12 leaves.
- Assemble: Next, in a large bowl combine the rice filling ingredients along with some of the tomato sauce. After that, lay a prepared leaf flat on a flat surface and using a paring knife or sharp knife, slice the thick vein or otherwise called thick rib. Afterward, put the meat mixture onto the bottom of each leaf and roll away. Do this repeatedly until you consume the leaves and the filling.
- Prepare for baking: Thereafter, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a 9×13 baking pan.
- Bake: Pour half of the sauce into the bottom of the pan and line up the cabbage rolls seam side down. Then, pour the remaining sauce on top and cover the pan with foil. Finally, bake until thoroughly cooked. Keep in mind that the filling must be thoroughly cooked, and it takes about an hour to finish cooking. Therefore, make sure to start checking after 45 minutes or so.
- Ground Meats: An option is to use your favorite meat in these, while we used beef, ground pork, chicken, turkey, or Italian sausage work as well.
- Grains: Alternatively, use brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, couscous, or lentils.
- Vegetarian: Also, if you want a vegetarian option, substitute the beef with more grains, and also beans.
- Veggies: Similarly, add more very finely chopped veggies to the filling, like bell peppers, mushrooms, or zucchini.
- Spicy: Try adding some heat to these by mixing in some chili powder or Sriracha sauce.
- Flavors: Also, try playing with the seasonings to add more flavors, for example, add some Taco Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning.Also, drizzle with a bit of lemon juice for a refreshing flavor.
What sides do you serve with these:
- A side of mashed potatoes goes well with these, choose from this classic mashed potatoes recipe, or save yourself some time and make this slow cooker version.
- Also, serve these with a salad on the side.
- Soft dinner rolls and breadsticks pair well with this dinner.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you fold a cabbage roll?
Put the filling at the center and fold the leaf from one side. Tighten the wrap until the filling elongates and forms a log.
Then, fold in from the two sides on opposite ends of the log to seal the ends. Then, roll away in the direction of the remaining free side.
What nationality is stuffed cabbage from?
Stuffed cabbage, or otherwise called Golabki, is a Polish dish, made from tender cabbage leaves wrapped around minced meat or juicy ground beef, veggies, and rice. The traditional recipe also features a tomato sauce that coats the rolls.
Usually, it is baked in a casserole dish or in a slow cooker. Similarly, this dish is very popular in other Eastern European countries, like Romania and Moldova.
How do you get cabbage leaves off the head?
You can do this by first removing the thick core. Then, submerge the whole head in boiling water. Cooking it slightly will soften the leaves and make them easy to remove.
How to store leftovers:
- Refrigerate in a container: First, let the leftovers fully cool, and after that add them to an airtight container and store them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
- Refrigerate in the baking dish: Alternatively, cover the baking pan tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate the whole thing for up to 3 to 4 days.
- Freeze before baking: Similarly, make this recipe in advance, follow all the steps just do NOT bake it. Also, make sure the casserole dish you are using is freezer-safe. After everything was added to the casserole dish, cover it tightly in plastic wrap, and after that is aluminum foil. After that, freeze it for up to 3 months. We do not recommend baking it frozen, thaw first.
- Freeze after baking: First, make sure to fully cool the leftovers. After that, if you plan on freezing them in multiple layers in the container or freezer bag, first arrange the rolls onto a cutting board covered with parchment paper. Next, freeze for 30 minutes. Then, add them to a freezer-safe airtight container or freezer bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Thaw: When ready to serve, plan in advance and transfer the frozen stuffed cabbage rolls from the freezer to the refrigerator and thaw overnight. After that, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and bake for one hour if previously not cooked, or for 30 minutes to reheat leftovers.
- If you want to make this into a soup wherein you will not need to make individual rolls, follow this stovetop cabbage roll soup version instead!
- As a make-ahead version, you can prepare the rolls first. Refrigerate or freeze them, then, bake in a newly prepared batch of tomato sauce for later.
- When buying cabbage, look for ones that are bright in color and firm to the touch to ensure that you are buying fresh ones.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 onion (diced)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (do not drain)
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 1 pound ground beef (leaner is better)
- 1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley (chopped)
- 1 egg
- 1 head cabbage
- Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil, once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, Italian herbs, salt and pepper, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and red wine vinegar. Stir and bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Immerse the cabbage head in the boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the leaves are pliable.
- Remove from water and peel 12 large leaves.
- In a large bowl, mix until combined the ground beef, rice, onion powder, garlic, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, Italian herbs, 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, and the egg.
- Add 1/2 cup of the prepared tomato sauce to the bowl and stir to combine.
- Lay each cabbage leaf on a flat surface, and using a small knife cut a V-shaped notch to remove the thick part of the cabbage rib.
- Take 1/3 of a cup of the meat mixture and shape it into a log, place it in the center of a cabbage leaf. Roll the cabbage leaf around the meat mixture. Repeat with remaining meat and cabbage leaves.
- Coat a 9x13 inches pan with cooking spray. Pour half of the tomato sauce on the bottom and arrange the cabbage rolls seam side down, in the baking dish. Top with the remaining sauce.
- Cover with foil.
- Bake for 70-90 minutes or until cabbage is tender and the meat is cooked through.
- Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.