Cabbage Rolls Recipe
This Cabbage Rolls recipe makes buttery, golden on the outside and juicy and flavorful on the inside rolls. Filled with beef and rice filling stuffed cabbage rolls are the ultimate make-ahead comfort food!
When it comes to Cabbage Rolls, we, the people of Eastern Europe (born and raised Ukrainian, here ✋🏻) are particularly picky. This is because we know the difference between a hurried, dry, bland cabbage roll and the melt in your mouth concoction that your grandma used to make! The ultimate comfort food!
And no, we are not Cabbage Rolls snobs 😉 We just appreciate the difference :D.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
The softened cabbage leaves are filled with ground beef, rice, a medley of herbs, spices and lots of caramelized onions. They are cooked in a tomato-based sauce for maximum flavor.
Every bite is consistent and you will find yourself reaching for more. And more. And more rolls.
Cabbage Rolls as Comfort Food
When we say that Cabbage Rolls are the ultimate comfort food, we don’t just mean — make them when the weather is cold.
Cabbage Rolls are a great way to show love to the people you care about. They are a tight hug, or a heartfelt congratulations wrapped up in a cabbage leaf. They are the perfect meal to bring to that friend who just had a baby too!
Cabbage Roll Recipe
Cabbage rolls are not difficult to make, but they are a labor of love. Once the rolls are cooking, the wonderful aroma will make you want to get them out of the oven early for a taste test.
Restrain yourself and remember that patience is a virtue 😊.
Can I Freeze Cabbage Rolls?
This Cabbage Rolls recipe makes 55-70 small rolls, which is about 6 generous servings.
To freeze uncooked cabbage rolls, you can transfer the rolled, uncooked cabbage rolls to a freezer-safe bag, squeeze out all the air and freeze for up to 1 month. Then, transfer to a cast iron, pour the cooking liquid and cook according to the directions adding about 30 extra minutes if cooking in the oven, or 15 minutes if cooking in the pressure cooker.
To freeze cooked cabbage rolls, add cooked and cooled rolls to a freezer-safe ziplock or container and freeze for up to 1 month.
To thaw and serve just microwave until heated through, or better yet, add to a buttered skillet and cook with the lid on over low-medium heat for that beautiful golden crust.
How to Cook Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
When cooking the Cabbage Rolls, I use the low and slow method, the same one they used back in the day when the stuffed cabbage rolls were baked in a brick oven.
Cast iron dutch oven is the best vessel for the job since it retains the heat well. It also allows the edges of the rolls that are closest to the pot to brown up nicely without burning.
Can I Make Cabbage Rolls in the Instant Pot?
Yes! They take less time in the Pressure Cooker, and come out amazing! See the bottom of the Recipe Card below for instructions.
Can I Make This Recipe Ahead of Time?
Yes! Refrigerate raw stuffed cabbage rolls for up to 4 days ahead of time. Prepare and pour over the cooking liquid right before baking.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a spoon of the beet and horseradish root relish. The perfect side dish for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are these creamy mashed potatoes.
Ingredients for the Cabbage Rolls:
*For exact recipe and instructions see the recipe card
For the Rice:
- shortgrain rice
- water + Better Than Bouillon or broth
For the Cabbage Roll stuffing:
- ground beef/turkey/chicken
- shredded carrots
- ground mustard
- green onion, chopped
- Johny’s Garlic Spread Seasoning (optional)
- olive oil
- black ground pepper
Ingredients for Cooking Liquid
- broth or hot water + Better Than Bouillon
- tomato paste
How to Make the Stuffed Cabbage Rolls:
Prepare the Cabbage
- Remove a couple of outer leaves from the head of cabbage and discard.
- Cut out the stem with a long knife; wrap the cabbage with plastic wrap and microwave for about 3-4 minutes. You want the leaves to be softened but not cooked through.
- Remove the plastic wrap and the softened outer leaves.
- Keep removing until you get to the tough/uncooked leaves, then wrap the cabbage again and cook for another couple minutes until you’re able to remove all leaves.
- Cut out the tough middle part of the stem from the large leaves.
- Cut the large leaves in half, then cut each half into halves again giving you 4 pieces. Each piece should be no bigger than the size of your palm. Prepare all the leaves and set aside.
Partially Cook the Rice:
Good to know: adding the partially cooked rice to the stuffing means that it will finish cooking in all of the meaty juicy liquid, absorbing great flavors and imparting amazing flavor to the finished product.
- Rinse round rice in a sieve under cold running water until the water runs clear.
- Add rice to a medium sized pot, cover with hot boiling chicken broth or Better than Bouillion combined with hot boiling water.
- Cover with lid and cook on low heat until all water has evaporated about 10 minutes. Open lid, fluff with a fork and allow to cool as you work on other ingredients.
- Dice onion and sauté in a skillet with oil over medium heat until golden in color, about 10 minutes.
- Add 2 shredded carrots, stir, cover with a lid and continue cooking over low heat mixing several times throughout for about 10 minutes. Allow to slightly cool.
Combine the Ingredients:
- In a bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl, combine ground chuck beef ( or turkey, chicken, or a combination of several of them), pre-cooked rice, sautéed vegetables, salt, paprika, ground mustard, chopped dill, dry garlic, black ground pepper, dry green onion, or chopped green onions and Johny’s Garlic Spread seasoning (optional).
- Using a spoon or a stand mixer on low speed, mix everything together just until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Roll the Cabbage Rolls:
There are several ways to roll the cabbage depending on the shape of your leaves or your preference.
Do not worry if the wrapped cabbage roll isn’t very tightly rolled/wrapped. Once the rolls are cooked, the filling will become one with the leaf and will not fall out. Just trust me.
- Spoon about a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the flaps from the right and left towards the middle. Then roll the roll away from yourself burrito style.
Option #2 – Place the leaf into the palm of your hand, add a spoon of filling and roll it into a tight roll. With your finger tuck, the open ends towards the middle of the roll from both ends.
Option #3 – Place the leaf into the palm of your hand, add a spoon of filling, and roll the leaf into a cone. Now tuck the open end towards the middle with your finger.
- Layer the bottom of a 6 qt cast iron pot (or any large pot) with large cabbage leaves (this will prevent the rolls from burning). Add the rolled cabbage rolls in tight layers into the pot.
Cooking Cabbage Rolls in the Oven:
Good to know: For the cooking liquid you can either use meat broth as the base, or combine Better than Bullion and hot water. I used Better than Bullion with water because I’m able to make it a more concentrated, thus more flavorful.
- Combine Better than Bullion, tomato paste, hot water, and salt and stir until all ingredients are combined.
- Pour the liquid over the rolled cabbage rolls. The liquid should come to just below the level of the top row of cabbage rolls.
- Drizzle oil on top of the rolls. Place a couple of large cabbage leaves on top of the cabbage rolls.
- Cover with lid and bring to a boil on a stove over medium heat. Transfer the pot to the oven and bake the cabbage rolls for about 1.5 – 2 hours over low-medium heat (about 280 – 300F) keeping the Cabbage Rolls at a constant low simmer and not a rapid boil until the cabbage leaves are soft, the rice is cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed.
- When the cabbage rolls are ready, remove the top leaves and discard.
- Shake the pot from side to side to loosen the cabbage rolls one from the other and make it easier to get them out.
Here are some other Dinner recipes:
- Stuffed Mini Peppers – Mini bell peppers stuffed with beef rice.
- One-Pot Easy Beef Stew – The ultimate comfort food!
- Salmon Asparagus Foil Packets – A great salmon dinner recipe.
- Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Casserole – all the great flavor, just easier!
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls - Golubtsi
For the Rice:
- 1 1/2 cups short-grain rice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tsp Better than Bouillion
For the stuffing:
- 1 large sized head of cabbage (choose one that's heavy for it's size, about 3.5 lbs per 1 recipe)
- 1.5 lbs ground beef/turkey/chicken/pork (I prefer grinding my own beef chuck)
- 1 cup diced onion (1 cup = about 1 medium onion)
- 3/4 cups shredded carrots (3/4 cups = about 1 carrot)
- 2 tsp ground mustard
- 1 Tbsp chopped dill
- 1/2 tsp dry garlic
- 1 Tbsp dry green onion OR 3-4 stems of green onion chopped
- 1 Tbsp Johny's Garlic Spread Seasoning optional
- 1/4 cup light Olive Oil
- 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black ground pepper
Ingredients for Cooking Liquid
- 1 1/2 cups broth or 1 1/2 cups hot water + 1 tbsp Better than Bullion
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp salt
To drizzle over the top
- 2 tbsp neutral oil (I use light olive oil)
Prepare the Cabbage
Microwave method: Remove a couple of outer leaves from the head of cabbage and discard; cut out the core of the cabbage with a sturdy chef's knife; wrap the cabbage with plastic wrap and microwave for about 3-4 minutes. You want the leaves to be softened but not cooked through.
Remove the plastic wrap and remove the softened outer leaves. Keep removing until you get to the tough/uncooked leaves, then wrap the cabbage again and microwave for another couple minutes until you're able to remove all leaves.
Boiling method: (use this method instead of microwaving method if preferred) - fill a large 8-quart pot with water to 2/3rds and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, remove the core of the cabbage, then remove a couple of outer leaves and discard. Add the cabbage to the boiling water and rotate it to keep it submerged to help soften the leaves from all sides. Using a large fork keep removing the leaves one by one as soon as they're soft and pliable until all leaves are removed. Typically it takes about 3-5 minutes of boiling the cabbage to get the first 5-6 leaves off, then you need to boil for another 3-5 minutes to get the next 4-5 leaves off. Repeat the process until all leaves are removed.
Remove the tough vein: Cut out the tough middle vein of the cabbage leaf by cutting it out.
Cut the large leaves in half, and then each half into halves again. Giving you 4 pieces. Each piece should be no bigger than the size of your palm. Prepare all the leaves and set aside.
Partially Cook the Rice:
Rinse 1.5 cups of shortgrain rice in a sieve under cold running water until the water runs clear.
Add the rice to a medium sized pot, cover with 1.5 cups of hot boiling chicken broth, or 2 teaspoons of Better than Bouillion combined with 1.5 cups hot boiling water. Cover with a lid and cook on low heat until all water has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Open the lid, fluff with a fork and allow to cool as you work on other ingredients.
Dice the onions and saute in a skillet with 1/4 cup of oil over medium heat until golden in color, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
Add 1 shredded carrot, stir, cover with lid and over low heat continue cooking, mixing several times throughout, for about 10 minutes. Allow to slightly cool.
Combine the Cabbage Roll Filling
In a bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl combine 1.5 lbs of ground chuck beef ( or turkey, chicken, or a combination of several of them), pre-cooked and cooled rice, sauteed vegetables, 1/2 Tbsp of kosher salt (use less if using table salt), 1 tsp of paprika, 2 tsp ground mustard, 1 tbsp chopped dill, 1/2 tsp dried garlic, 1 tsp black ground pepper, 1/2 tbsp dried green onion, or 2 chopped green onions and 1 tbsp of Johny's Garlic Spread seasoning (optional).
Using a spoon or a stand mixer mix everything together on low speed just until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
Roll the Cabbage Rolls:
Layer the bottom of an 8 Qt Pressure Cooker pot or a 6 qt cast iron pot with large cabbage leaves, depending on your preference of cooking.
We will be adding the rolled cabbage rolls in layers into the pot. Do not fill beyond the "Fill" line of the pressure cooker pot, or 3/4 full of the cast iron pot.
There's several ways to roll the cabbage, you will use different type of rolling depending on the shape of your leaves, or your preference.
Option ONE: Spoon about a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the flaps from the right and left towards the middle. Then roll the roll away from yourself into a "burrito". Place in the pot seem side down.
Option TWO: Place the leaf into the palm of your hand, add a spoon of filling and roll it into a tight roll. Now with your finger tuck the open ends towards the middle of the roll from both ends.
Option THREE: Place the leaf into the palm of your hand, add a spoon of filling and roll the leaf into a cone. Now tuck the open end towards the middle with your finger.
Make the cooking liquid and pour it over
Combine 1/2 Tbsp of Better than Bullion, 2 Tbsp of tomato paste, 1.5 cups of hot water, and 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and stir until all ingredients are combined.
Pour the liquid over the rolled cabbage rolls. The liquid should come to just below the level of the top row of cabbage rolls.
Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil on top of the rolls. Place a couple of large cabbage leaves on top of the cabbage rolls, this will prevent the top layer of cabbage rolls from burning while cooking.
To cook the Cabbage Rolls in the Oven
Preheat the oven to 300F with the rack in the middle.
Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil on a stove over medium heat. Transfer the pot to the oven and bake the cabbage rolls for about 1.5 – 2 hours over low-medium heat (about 280F - 300F), keeping the Cabbage Rolls at a constant low simmer and not a rapid boil until the cabbage leaves are soft, the rice is cooked through, most of the liquid is gone and the cabbage rolls are deep golden color.
To make the Cooking Liquid & Pressure Cook
Turn the Pressure cooker to "Pressure Cook" or "Manual" on "Low" for 35 minutes. After the time expires allow the pressure to naturally reduce for 15-20 minutes, then slowly open the steam valve and release the rest of the pressure. Open the lid.
When the cabbage rolls are ready, remove the top leaves and discard or enjoy them separately. Close the lid and shake the pot from side to side gently but confidently to loosen the cabbage rolls one from the other and to make it easier to get them out.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a spoon of the beet and horseradish root relish.
Each serving is about 8 cabbage rolls if served alone.
If serving with mashed potatoes, 1 serving is about 4 cabbage rolls.
When the cabbage rolls are ready, remove the top leaves and discard.Shake the pot from side to side gently but confidently to loosen the cabbage rolls one from the other and to make it easier to get them out. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a spoon of the beet and horseradish root relish.
Each serving is about 8 cabbage rolls.
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Updated March 2020: reduced the recipe portion to make it a more manageable batch.
Hi Marina! I made these today. I cooked rice with beef Boulton. Came out amazing!
Then I kind of tweaked the recipe with my own spices. I used the instant pot as you mention in the recipe card. I was kind of nervous at first, but having g tested other recipes from your blog, I knew it would come out alright.
Sure enough, done it 35 min and NP release for 15 min. Came out amazing!!!
Thank you for sharing your skills!!!
Ukrainian golubtsy are the best
Makes me so happy reading reviews like yours! Thank you for taking the time to share ❤️
I don’t think we have Johnny’s garlic spread seasoning where I am. Can you suggest something to replace it.
You can replace it with either ranch seasoning (dried ranch seasoning) or just simply omit it.
I don’t have a Dutch oven but would like to make these. Can I just use a regular big pot? It’s oven safe, just not as thick as Dutch oven.
Yes, any pot will work for this, even a baking dish will do as well. As long as it has a lid or you can cover it with foil tightly.
Do you leave the lid on or off when you put in the oven?
I cook them covered.
Can you make this in a slow cooker?
Yes you can, I would think about 6-8 hours on low or about 4 hours on high should be good.
I really want to make this Golubzi recipe
Just want to double check on what temperature do I need to cook it once I put them into oven
Is it 300 degrees ?
And I’m trying to figure what Dutch oven I should buy ? Do you really like the one you have ?
For now I have a good circulon brand good pot but it sounds like golunzi come out tastier in a Dutch oven
Yes, the temperature is 300F. This temperature combined with the dutch oven as the cooking vessel produces that flavor that is typical for something that is baked in a brick oven.
The one you see in the pictures it the most basic 5 qt dutch oven by Lodge (here’s the link to it on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2BP3PAJ). It does the job. The only complaint is that you have to constantly be very careful about keeping the pot away from moisture, clean it properly after each use, as it does not have the enamel coating.
My mom has an enameled dutch oven that she bought from Costco (this one – http://amzn.to/2BZ87be) and she really likes hers. Since the upkeep with enameled dutch oven is less, I decided to get myself a similar one.
I scored a deal this past weekend on Amazon for the Cuisinart dutch oven (7 qt) – http://amzn.to/2BMhFDZ. It is typically 159$, but I got it for 69$), which I am really excited to start using.
You can go out and get the really fancy brands (Le Cruset – http://amzn.to/2BioR9U) which will cost you a pretty penny, but they have the brand name behind them.
Also, consider the size when you’re buying the dutch oven. I make golubtsi, sauerkraut with ribs and such in the dutch oven, so for me and my family the 5 qt was a tight squeeze, thats why I got the 7 qt this time.
So there you have it 🙂
Thank you for replying so quick Marina
Ok so I’ll try to get one with enamel and ya I myself have 3 kids and a hubby who works hard so needs good amount of food so I’ll need 7 quart too
I’ll shop around
If you’re looking for something very inexpensive, you can check out the enameled Lodge cast irons as well. Just noticed amazon had them. Good luck and thanks for commenting!
By the way, I was shopping at TJMax couple days ago and did see a couple Cuisinart dutch ovens there too. So stores like that might be a good place to check too.
Thank you Marina for your recipe. I’m going to try your method of microwaving the cabbage for prepping before assembling the cabbage rolls. My mother and I always gently boiled our cabbage. She taught me to also reserve some of the cabbage water to add to the pot of rolls with a tomato sauce for cooking.
Most of the time I do boil the cabbage just like you describe. In the case that I do, I also use the cabbage water for the cooking liquid for the golubtsi. It’s a great hack! you get the extra flavor, without the extra effort. Since this one I made the cabbage by microwaving, I had to use water 🙁
Marina, Just made a batch of golubtsi following your recipe. I should say, these are heavenly good!!! I definitely am starting a new batch as soon as this one is gone :))) Despite the fact that at the end of recipe I forgot to add 1tsp of salt to liquid, and I can taste the lack of salt, they still turned out simply amazing! For the meat, i used ground chicken, beef and pork. Can you please share what degree where you cooking them in oven? I cooked mine on stove top until they started boiling (about 10min), then 20min at 400F, 40min at 350F, and another hour at 300F. I could potentially use more liquid in my golubtsi, but I am not sure if I cooked them too long, and that affected that there was almost no liquid left. Thank you for putting together such a masterpiece-recipe! God bless you and your family! Have a yummy day :)))
Thank you so much for your feedback, I am so happy you liked them!
You actually probably did everything right because there should not be any liquid left in the end (just like in the rice when you cook it), since all of it should be absorbed by the rice itself, making the golubtsi very nice and soft. This also means that all the juices from the meat are absorbed by the rice as well, giving you the best flavor possible 😀
Thank you for visiting my blog and using my recipes!
Have a good night, God bless you dear!
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