Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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Stuffed cabbage rolls are made with a simple blend of ground beef, onions, and rice topped with rich tomato sauce. Vegetarian, freezer + crock-pot options!

Today I’m going to show you how to make stuffed cabbage rolls. Delicious and savory, these stuffed cabbage rolls are made with a simple blend of ground beef, onions, and rice topped with a rich tomato sauce. The “optional” sour cream and splash of red wine vinegar are the crowning jewels of this simple, yet delicious meal.

Whenever I make stuffed cabbage rolls I can’t help but think of my mother-in-law’s dear friend, Steve Sobeck. Gosh, I miss Steve. He was the sweetest man you ever met with a thick northern accent. I loved to listen to him talk and the way he said “be-u-ti-ful”. 

stuffed cabbage rolls

I think about Steve when I make this dish because David says he could kick himself for never trying Steve’s polish stuffed cabbage, although Steve called “Halupki”. David used to watch Steve make them but it just wasn’t anything he thought he would like, so he never tried them. Now, we both wish we could try them.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure about this dish at first either. I knew we liked all the ingredients, but I just didn’t know if we’d like them combined together in the same dish. This dish seemed too simple to be good. I had to fight the urge to add in more spices and ingredients which I thought at the time would make it better. 

Oh my goodness, these cabbage rolls are so good! This simple recipe is unbelievably good and I know you will think so too. 

Let’s make some!

cabbage rolls ready to cook

What are Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and Where do they come from?

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a traditional Polish dish made from lightly boiled cabbage leaves wrapped around ground beef (or pork), chopped onions, and rice baked in a casserole dish with a delicious tomato sauce.

Stuffed cabbage rolls have several names:

  • Golabki – the most common
  • Golumpki – more than one referred to as “golumpkies” or “golumpkis” 
  • Gwumpki
  • Halupki

No matter what you call them, they are good!

I found it interesting that according to Polish myths, the Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland Casimir IV Jagiellon fed the army with golabki before a key battle of the Thirteen Years’ War. Victory stemmed from the strength of the hearty meal.

We have all heard those Pollack jokes that begin, “How many Pollack….?” Well, I guess the real question should be: How many Golabki did the Pollack eat before kicking your ass for telling such awful jokes? 😉

cabbage on cutting board

Selecting Cabbage

When selecting a head of cabbage, make sure it is a fairly large head of cabbage. The larger the leaves, the easier they are to stuff and roll. 

Use the smaller leaves to shred and fry like this!

ingredients to make recipe

How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

(Skip this step if you intend on cooking the cabbage rolls in a crock-pot.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray or butter.

onions cooking in pan

Cook the Onions

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onions and cook until softened; about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat a pour them into a sieve to drain and cool.

onions cooling in sieve

Prepare the Cabbage Leaves For Stuffing

While the onions are cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 

Use caution: Make sure there is enough room for the cabbage to float inside the pot, but do not overfill the pot with water to avoid overflow.

Using a sharp knife, core the stem of the cabbage. To do this, cut a circle around the base of the stem on the bottom of the cabbage, as you would a pumpkin stem. Remove the core and discard it.

cored cabbage

When the water comes to a boil, using tongs, carefully lower the cabbage down into the boiling water. Within a couple of minutes, the outside leaves will come loose. Use the tongs to peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage. Pull them out of the pot and lay them on a platter lined with paper towels or inside a colander to drain.

placing cabbage in pot

After another minute or so, the next set of leaves will come loose. Remove and repeat this process until you have at least 8 to 10 cabbage leaves.

pulling cabbage leaf out of pot

Pat the leaves dry with paper towels.

cabbage leaves draining

Trim thick stems at the bottom of the leaf. This will not only make the cabbage rolls easier to roll, but the stems tend to be bitter. Just don’t cut any more than a third of the way into the leaf, to ensure it will roll well.

Stuff the Cabbage Leaves

Prep the cabbage rolls up to two days prior to cooking. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, cooled onion, rice, and season with salt, to taste. 

Tip: Use clean wet hands to mix the stuffing mixture like you would a meatloaf, being sure not to overwork the meat.

Now, let’s stuff the leaves!

Grab one of the prepared cabbage leaves. Place onto a clean workspace with the stem side facing you. Scoop ¼ cup of the beef mixture onto the center of the leaf. 

scooping beef mixture onto cabbage leaf

Next roll up the leaf. The technique is similar to rolling a Mexican burrito. First, fold the two sides of the cabbage leaf over the mixture. Then fold the stem over the bottom part of the leaf and roll it into packet tucking in the edges as you roll upward. Place the cabbage roll, seam side down, inside the prepared baking dish (Or crock-pot. See Crock-pot Instructions). 

rolled cabbage leaf

Repeat the same process for the remaining stuffing mixture or you run out of cabbage leaves. When you are done, you should have 8 to 10 stuffed cabbage rolls ready to cook (Or freeze – Freezer instructions to follow).

ingredients to make sauce

Prepare the Tomato Sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, broth, and paprika. Pour the sauce evenly over the cabbage rolls.

pouring broth into tomato sauce

How To Bake the Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cover the dish with a lid or wrap with foil. Place the casserole dish in the preheated oven. Bake until the leaves are tender and the meat is cooked through; about 60 to 90 minutes.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls baking in oven

How To Serve Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Serve the delicately warm and cooked through stuffed cabbage rolls with a ladle of tomato sauce poured over the top, big dollop of sour cream and a splash of red wine vinegar. The contrast of the tangy vinegar and the savoriness of the rolls is amazing!

Stuffed Cabbage Roll in bowl

How To Cook Stuffed Cabbage Rolls In A Crock-Pot

The stuffed cabbage rolls do amazingly well in a slow cooker. Here’s how:

Up to two days prior, prepare the cabbage rolls and place them seam side down inside the bowl of a crock-pot and pour over the tomato sauce mixture. Then place the bowl in the refrigerator, until ready to cook.

When you are ready to slow cook the rolls, place the bowl inside the slow cooker, set it to cook on low for 6 ½ to 7 hours or on high for 4 ½ to 5 hours.

crock-pot with hot cabbage rolls

How To Freeze Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Make a batch of cabbage rolls for freezing to keep on hand for an easy weeknight meal. Here’s how:

Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, onto a plate. Place the plate inside the freezer for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour, for the rolls to set. Basically, they should be frozen enough to keep them from unwrapping when placed inside a freezer bag.

rolls on in freezer drawer

When the rolls are set take them out of the freezer and place inside a freezer bag. Squeeze as much air out as possible.

Place them inside the freezer and freeze for up to 4 to 6 months.

cabbage rolls in freezer bag

Freezer-To-Oven Cooking

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray or butter.

Mix up the sauce ingredients first. Pour about half of the sauce mixture into the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Then lay the frozen cabbage rolls, seam side down, directly on top of the sauce. Now pour the remaining sauce over the rolls. Use a spoon, to scoop and spread sauce to ensure each cabbage roll is covered in sauce.

Cover the dish with a lid or wrap with foil. Place the casserole dish in the preheated oven. Bake until the leaves are tender and the meat is cooked through; about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

pouring sauce over frozen cabbage rolls in crock-pot

Freezer-To-Crock-Pot Cooking

The night before you cook the cabbage rolls pour all of the ingredients of the sauce mixture together inside a quart-size mason jar. Place it in the refrigerator overnight. (This takes out the mixing and prep in the morning before leaving the house.)

The next morning, take the pre-mixed sauce jar out of the refrigerator and grab a bag of the cabbage rolls out of the freezer.

Give the jar of sauce a good shake to mix it up. Pour just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the crock-pot.

Next, lay the frozen cabbage rolls directly on top of the sauce. Then pour the remaining sauce over the rolls. Use a spoon, to scoop and spread sauce to ensure each cabbage roll is covered in sauce.

Set the crock-pot on low for 6 ½ to 7 hours or on high for 4 ½  to 5 hours.

How do I make this recipe vegetarian?

To make this recipe vegetarian, swap the beef broth for vegetable broth and replace the meat with one or more of the following:

  • Sauteed mushrooms (saute with onions)
  • Red Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
splashing red wine vinegar onto cabbage roll

They first appeared here on the blog in June of 2013. I have been making stuffed cabbage rolls for years now and have combined three blog posts into one so that you can have all the information you could possibly need about cabbage rolls in one place.

I hope you enjoy this recipe! If you do, please leave a star-rating and comment.

Love cabbage? Try these other delicious recipes:

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed cabbage rolls are made with a simple blend of ground beef, onions, and rice topped with rich tomato sauce. Vegetarian, freezer + crock-pot options!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Polish
Keyword Golabki, Stuffed Cabbage
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 538kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 1 green cabbage Large head (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 pound beef ground chuck
  • ½ cup white rice cooked
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 16 ounce canned tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup beef broth
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • sour cream to taste, for serving (optional, but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
  • red wine vinegar to taste, for serving (optional, but HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)

Instructions

  • (Skip this step if you intend on cooking the cabbage rolls in a crock-pot.)
    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray or butter.

Cook The Onions

  • Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onions and cook until softened; about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat a pour them into a sieve to drain and cool.

Prepare the Cabbage Leaves For Stuffing:

  • While the onions are cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. 
    Use caution: Make sure there is enough room for the cabbage to float inside the pot, but do not overfill the pot with water to avoid overflow.
  • Using a sharp knife, core the stem of the cabbage. To do this, cut a circle around the base of the stem on the bottom of the cabbage, as you would a pumpkin stem. Remove the core and discard it.
  • When the water comes to a boil, using tongs, carefully lower the cabbage down into the boiling water. Within a couple of minutes, the outside leaves will come loose. Use the tongs to peel off the outer leaves of the cabbage. Pull them out of the pot and lay them on a platter lined with paper towels or inside a colander to drain.
    After another minute or so, the next set of leaves will come loose. Remove and repeat this process until you have at least 8 to 10 cabbage leaves.
  • Pat the leaves dry with paper towels. Trim thick stems at the bottom of the leaf. This will not only make the cabbage rolls easier to roll, but the stems tend to be bitter. Just don’t cut any more than a third of the way into the leaf, to ensure it will roll well.

Stuff The Cabbage Rolls

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, cooled onion, rice, and season with salt, to taste. 
    Tip: Use clean wet hands to mix the stuffing mixture like you would a meatloaf, being sure not to overwork the meat.
  • Now, let’s stuff the leaves!
    Grab one of the prepared cabbage leaves. Place onto a clean workspace with the stem side facing you. Scoop ¼ cup of the beef mixture onto the center of the leaf. 
    Next roll up the leaf. The technique is similar to rolling a Mexican burrito. First, fold the two sides of the cabbage leaf over the mixture. Then fold the stem over the bottom part of the leaf and roll it into packet tucking in the edges as you roll upward. Place the cabbage roll, seam side down, inside the prepared baking dish (or crock-pot). 
    Repeat the same process for the remaining stuffing mixture or you run out of cabbage leaves. When you are done, you should have 8 to 10 stuffed cabbage rolls ready to cook (Or freeze – Freezer instructions to follow).

Prepare The Tomato Sauce

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato sauce, broth, and paprika. Pour the sauce evenly over the cabbage rolls.

Bake The Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

  • Cover the dish with a lid or wrap with foil. Place the casserole dish in the preheated oven. Bake until the leaves are tender and the meat is cooked through; about 60 to 90 minutes.

Serving The Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

  • Serve the delicately warm and cooked through stuffed cabbage rolls with a ladle of tomato sauce poured over the top, big dollop of sour cream and a splash of red wine vinegar. The contrast of the tangy vinegar and the savoriness of the rolls is amazing!

Notes

Crock-Pot Instructions:  The stuffed cabbage rolls do amazingly well in a slow cooker.
Up to two days prior, prepare the cabbage rolls and place them seam side down inside the bowl of a crock-pot and pour over the tomato sauce mixture. Then place the bowl in the refrigerator, until ready to cook.
When you are ready to slow cook the rolls, place the bowl inside the slow cooker, set it to cook on low for 6 ½ to 7 hours or on high for 4 ½  to 5 hours.
Freezing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls:  Make a batch of cabbage rolls for freezing to keep on hand for an easy weeknight meal. 
Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, onto a plate. Place the plate inside the freezer for approximately 30 minutes to 1 hour, for the rolls to set. Basically they should be frozen enough to keep them from unwrapping when placed inside a freezer bag.
When the rolls are set, take them out of the freezer and place inside a freezer bag squeezing as much air out as possible.
Place them inside the freezer and freeze for up to 4 to 6 months.
Freezer-To-Oven Cooking: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray or butter.
Mix up the sauce ingredients first. Pour about half of the sauce mixture into the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Then lay the frozen cabbage rolls, seam side down, directly on top of the sauce. Now pour the remaining sauce over the rolls. Use a spoon, to scoop and spread sauce to ensure each cabbage roll is covered in sauce.
Cover the dish with a lid or wrap with foil. Place the casserole dish in the preheated oven. Bake until the leaves are tender and the meat is cooked through; about 90 minutes to 2 hours.
Freezer-To-Crock-Pot Cooking:
The night before you cook the cabbage rolls pour all of the ingredients of the sauce mixture together inside a quart-size mason jar. Place it in the refrigerator overnight. (This takes out the mixing and prep in the morning before leaving the house.)
The next morning, take the pre-mixed sauce jar out of the refrigerator and grab a bag of the cabbage rolls out of the freezer.
Give the jar of sauce a good shake to mix it up. Pour just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the crock-pot.
Next, lay the frozen cabbage rolls directly on top of the sauce. Then pour the remaining sauce over the rolls. Use a spoon, to scoop and spread sauce to ensure each cabbage roll is covered in sauce.
Set the crock-pot on low for 6 ½ to 7 hours or on high for 4 ½  to 5 hours.
How do I make this recipe vegetarian?
To make this recipe vegetarian, swap the beef broth for the beef broth and replace the meat with one or more of the following:
  • Sauteed mushrooms (saute with onions)
  • Red Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
 
Nutrition: Recipe calories are based on cabbage rolls alone, without sour cream. Please visit our Policies and Disclaimers page to read more about nutrition.
 
Recipe adapted from Seeded At The Table

Nutrition

Calories: 538kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 882mg | Potassium: 1177mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 837IU | Vitamin C: 94mg | Calcium: 144mg | Iron: 5mg
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