Beef Cabbage Recipes Casserole Holiday Food Recipes St. Patrick's Day

Last updated on May 26th, 2024 at 04:04 am

Jump to Recipe

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe [Video]

The Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe uses cabbage leaves stuffed with a flavorful mixture of ground meat and rice, cooked in a rich homemade tomato sauce. This delicious and filling dinner also freezes well, so you can meal plan and prepare it in advance.

Although they look and taste incredible, you will be surprised at how easy they are to make. You can serve them on their own as a family dinner or add some side dishes and salad for a hearty meal. No matter how you serve this delicious dish, everyone will love it.

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! I call this the best stuffed cabbage roll recipe because it is tasty, attractive and 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, made from tomatoes, Italian herbs, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine vinegar. I suggest you double the tomato sauce recipe because you will like it so much that you will want to use it in other dishes. This dish is so full of different flavors and textures, that you will taste something new in each juicy bite.

To mix things up, you can change it to your liking using ground pork, chicken, or turkey instead of beef. If you are in a hurry, you could even use premade marinara sauce. However, to truly enjoy this stuffed cabbage recipe like my family, you should try it with the ingredients I use first. You will absolutely love it.

Casserole recipes are a staple around here, and this one is a favorite. I like how this classic dish is so easy to prepare and a great way to use leftover rice. Since this recipe is so popular on the blog, I have made a slow cooker stuffed cabbage rolls version for you to enjoy. Also, if you are short on time, I recommend you try this unstuffed cabbage rolls recipe. It has the same great flavors, but it cuts down the prep work.

Why you will love this recipe

  • The sauce: My homemade tomato sauce is rich and thick, with a tangy tomato taste and a hint of sweetness.
  • It is photogenic: When done correctly, this dish is attractive enough for social media shots. It will still be delicious if not done correctly, so nobody will care what it looks like.
  • The kids will eat it. They will not even know they are eating healthy cabbage; they know it tastes good.
  • It is versatile: You can easily change it up to make it to your liking.
  • Comfort food: Packed with carbs and meaty goodness, everyone loves this comfort food.

What you’ll need to make stuffed cabbage rolls

Special items:

  • Large pots – For boiling cabbage and making the tomato sauce.
  • Large mixing bowl – For making the meat mixture.
  • Baking pan – I use a 9×13-inch baking pan.

For the tomato sauce:

  • Crushed tomatoes – I use my favorite canned tomatoes, which is Contadina. Do not drain them.
  • Tomato sauce – Canned is what I use. I prefer Contadina extra thick.
  • Tomato paste – Contadina tomato paste with basil, garlic, and oregano for extra flavor.
  • Onion – One small diced onion or half of a medium one will work. I use yellow onion, which has the best flavor profile for this recipe.
  • Garlic – Freshly minced garlic will give this sauce its rich, intense flavor.
  • Olive oil – For sautéing the onion and garlic. I prefer extra virgin olive oil for a mild flavor and less oily texture.
  • Brown sugar – Light brown sugar is enough to give this sauce its hint of sweetness without being too rich.
  • Worcestershire sauce – For that special tanginess from the vinegar and anchovies and a mild molasses sweetness.
  • Red wine vinegar – Perfectly balanced between sweet and tangy.
  • Italian herbs—You can use my easy recipe for homemade Italian seasoning or store-bought. Just make sure the herbs are fresh.
  • Salt – Kosher salt is what I prefer for its clean and refreshing taste.
  • Pepper – Use freshly ground for the best flavor.

For the cabbage rolls:

  • Cabbage – I use savoy cabbage because it is large and has soft, pliable leaves.
  • Ground beef – The leaner, the better. I suggest 85/15 or 90/10.
  • Cooked rice – Whatever kind you like. Brown, white, long-grain, coconut, basmati, etc.
  • Garlic – Minced fresh garlic for the wealthiest and most robust taste.
  • Onion powder – For a flavor between cooked and raw onions.
  • Worcestershire sauce – Adds a bit of rich tanginess with an umami background.
  • Egg – One large egg, whisked or beaten, at room temperature.
  • Parsley – Gives your rolls an earthy peppery taste with hints of mint and citrus.
  • Paprika – Use sweet paprika for a subtle peppery sweetness or smoky paprika for that smoky flavor.
  • Italian herbs – Try the easy recipe I shared above or your favorite store-bought.
  • Salt – Kosher salt for fresh flavor without the additives.
  • Pepper – Freshly ground black pepper for a tingly peppery taste.

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.

Expert tip

The best type of cabbage for cabbage rolls

I like to use savoy cabbage for these cabbage rolls because the leaves are more pliable when cooked and have a mild taste that does not overwhelm the other flavors. They also have deep ridges that hold a lot of flavor. The ruffled leaves are loosely layered, making them easier to remove and look nice. I also use it as a sandwich wrap instead of tortillas for healthy egg rolls.

Green cabbage would be my second choice if I cannot find fresh organic savoy cabbage. It is significant, inexpensive, and easy to find. The leaves are tight, but once boiled, you can remove them quickly, and they hold up to rolling well. The flavor is sweet, but with all the tomato sauce and filling flavors, you will not notice it. 

Copenhagen or flathead cabbage is also easy to use because of its flat leaves. Copenhagen has small crinkly leaves that are a bit sweet, and flatheads are large, mild-tasting, and flat (as the name says). For unique cabbage rolls, use red cabbage. The magenta color turns blue when cooked. Add vinegar to the water if you want them to stay magenta.

Recipe variations and add-ins:

  • Different meat: Use ground turkey or chicken for a leaner meal. Try pork or veal for a more unique taste.
  • Grains: Alternatively, use brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, couscous, or lentils.
  • Spicy rolls: My husband loves spicy food so I add a bit of red pepper flakes in the ground beef mixture and some salsa to the tomato sauce.
  • Add more vegetables: Sometimes, I like to add chopped mushrooms, bell peppers, and zucchini to my cabbage rolls.
  • Sweet and savory rolls: I sometimes add some extra sugar to the tomato sauce and some honey to my meat mixture for the kids.
  • 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.

Serving suggestions:

Stuffed cabbage rolls can be served alone or with side dishes.

  • 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 mashed potatoes version.
  • Also, choose to serve these with a salad recipe on the side. A cold salad like potato or pasta salad. Or you can serve a simple garden salad.
  • Give them something to soak up the delicious rich tomato sauce. Serve with soft dinner rolls and homemade breadsticks pair well with this dinner.
  • For an adult beverage that pairs well, try a pineapple mojito or melon margarita.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are stuffed cabbage rolls?

A stuffed cabbage roll is made with boiled cabbage leaves stuffed with a meat mixture. The mixture I use in this recipe is made with my homemade tomato sauce, cooked rice, and ground beef seasoned with onion, garlic, Italian seasonings, and Worcestershire sauce. Some versions include other meats like ground sausage or turkey and more vegetables such as peppers, corn, and chiles.

Where do stuffed cabbage come 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.

What are the other kinds of cabbage rolls?

German cabbage rolls (Kohlrouladen) are made with cabbage, uncooked rice, ground beef, tomato sauce, beef stock, butter, onion, egg, vinegar, brown sugar, and salt. Polish cabbage rolls (Golabki) have cabbage, ground pork, ground beef, cooked rice, eggs, garlic, onion, butter, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, marjoram, thyme, salt, and pepper. Hungarian cabbage rolls (Töltött Káposztacontain) contain sauerkraut, sweet paprika, caraway seeds, bay leaves, sour cream, flour, cabbage, pork, egg, garlic, onion, and uncooked rice.

Why is my cabbage tough?

There are several reasons that your cooked cabbage can become inflexible and chewy. You may not have cooked it all the way, or it may have been overcooked. Check it before serving. Try cooking it for another five to eight minutes if it is challenging. It may also be from the cabbage itself. It could have been under or overripe. Make sure you get a fresh, ripe cabbage and use it within 24 hours.

Should I freeze my cabbage before using it?

If you are worried about losing the nutrients from the cabbage when boiling it, you could freeze it instead. Freezing breaks down the structure of the leaves, making them pliable and less likely to crack when you roll them for stuffing. However, some say that using frozen cabbage (thawed) can make it soggy, so it may fall apart after cooking. Try blanching it instead. Just boil it for two minutes and then put it into a bowl of ice water for a minute. 

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 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.

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.
  • Reheating: You can reheat leftovers in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F or in the microwave for two minutes.

Cabbage recipes to try:

Recipe tips:

  • Buy a large head of cabbage, so you have large leaves to work with and extra leaves just in case.
  • You do not need to precook the ground beef. However, if you use anything less than 80/20, you can cook it first, drain it, and pat it dry to remove excess grease.
  • Make sure you boil the cabbage first. Rolling one of these nicely is almost impossible when the leaves are raw.
  • Be sure to dry your cabbage leaves well, or the filling may not stick, and the rolls could fall apart.
  • After boiling the cabbage, slice about a half inch of the end off to make removing the leaves easier. 
  • If you do not want to cook your rice first, use fast-cooking rice like Minute Rice.
  • In a hurry to make this dish? Use canned tomato sauce instead of making my fresh homemade recipe.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

The Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe uses cabbage leaves stuffed with a flavorful mixture of ground meat and rice, cooked in a rich homemade tomato sauce.

  • Prep Time30 MIN
  • Cook Time1H 30 MIN
  • Servings 12 cabbage rolls


Tomato Sauce:

  • 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

Cabbage Rolls:

  • 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


Tomato Sauce:

  • Place a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Add the onion once the oil is hot 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.

Cabbage Rolls:

  • 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, combine the ground beef, rice, onion powder, garlic, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, Italian herbs, two tablespoons of fresh parsley, and the egg until combined.
  • 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 cabbage rib's thick part.
  • 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 the remaining meat and cabbage leaves.


  • Coat a 9×13-inch 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.

Nutrition Facts

Already made this?
Share your feedback


Lecia A Blackmon

Lecia A Blackmon

I just made this meal and it was delicious. I added shredded mozzerella and parmesean cheese for added flavor and also added ground Italian sausage to the meat. So Yummy! Thanks for sharing the recipe.



What if you wanted to add lentils? Would you need to cook them first or can you add them raw into the mixture before baking the dish?

Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

Hi, you need to cook the lentils first, and after that use them in this recipe.

Donna T

Donna T

I'm half Lebanese and half Italian. Both sides of my family make Cabbage Rolls. My Lebanese side uses 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon & 1/4 teaspoon allspice. Usually, the meat is beef. On my Italian side we use more Italian seasoning - about 1 tablespoon of Italian seasonings. Your recipe is the closes I've come to my mother's. She was the Italian but also cooked several Lebanese dishes. I do have one question? If you make this ahead and freeze it or keep it for a couple of days before baking, what about the raw egg in the meat. Don't you have to at least partially bake it???

sue edelman

sue edelman

So yummy, love this recipe. The sauce has some bite, it's just delicious.

Catalina Castravet

Catalina Castravet

so happy, thank you for the feedback

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.