There are two kinds of people in this world, those who know and love Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, and those who haven’t tried stuffed cabbage rolls. Either you’ve grown up with your family’s coveted recipe, or you haven’t. If you are among the latter, then you are truly missing out on a wonderful savory cabbage recipe.
Cabbage Roll Origin
Although their specific origin is lost to the ages, stuffed cabbage rolls are most definitely European, probably from the East and certainly from the underprivileged. There are many variations including Greek, Hungarian, Italian, German, and Polish.
You will even find Lebanese and Ukrainian versions too.
But don’t let their humble beginnings deter you from their wholesome taste. Recipes for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are as diverse as the peoples who carried them through generations.
Cabbage Rolls with Ground Beef and Rice
When the meat was scarce during the war, or too expensive after the war, people used grain, usually rice, to stretch the portions. Cabbage has always been inexpensive despite its nutrient punch.
The cabbage roll filling is almost always a mixture of grain, meat, spices, and egg to bind it all together. Some recipes call for cooking the ingredients on the stovetop before stuffing the cabbage leaves, others are stuffed raw.
Some cabbage rolls are then baked in a sauce, others are fried. They can be savory or sweet, meaty or vegetarian, hot and spicy, and don’t even get me started on the folding techniques!
Although one can create a lot of variety by changing up the meat and the grain, it is the combination of spices that makes each region’s and each family’s recipe unique. Well, that and the folding…and sauce.
Cabbage Roll Sauce
The region one’s grandmother came from often determines the choice of sauce. Hungarians and Romanians are partial to gravy made from flour and broth. Every second year, together they hold a Stuffed Cabbage Roll festival, called the Töltött Káposzta Fesztivál, featuring cooking competitions and cabbage roll tasting among regional, folk entertainment.
Ukrainians prefer a sweet sauce made with brown sugar and raisins. Western Europeans bake their Stuffed Cabbage Rolls in tomato sauce.
But for all the variety, one thing is always agreed upon: stuffed cabbage rolls always taste better the next day!
The Humble Cabbage Roll
Stuffed Cabbage rolls have an unpretentious appeal. They are simple food with basic ingredients. And the end result is something special.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls were a favorite around my childhood house. Growing up, my Mother often made them, as so many women did, trying to stretch the family budget. The family recipe I’m sharing with you is one of my Mother’s specialties.
Here’s a list of what you need:
- Ground beef chuck
- Green bell pepper
- Ground black pepper
- Tomato sauce
How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- Blanch cabbage leaves in a large pot of boiling salted water.
- Combine tomato sauce with water in a small bowl.
- Combine ground beef, onion, green pepper, rice, crackers, salt, pepper, egg, and fourth of the tomato sauce.
- Spoon the filling on blanched cabbage leaves.
- Roll the leaves up, and place them in a baking dish.
- Pour the remaining sauce on top.
- Sprinkle sugar on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
You can add any or all of these ingredients to the sauce for extra flavor:
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Minced garlic
Love cabbage? Try these recipes!
- Boiled Cabbage
- Cabbage Roll Casserole
- Cabbage Soup
- Fried Cabbage and Sausage
- Roasted Cabbage
- Skillet Cabbage
Popular Dinner Casseroles
- Chicken and Dressing Casserole
- Chicken Casserole
- Hamburger Tater Tot Casserole
- Old Fashioned Tuna Casserole
- Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
- Reuben Casserole
- Sausage Casserole
Check out more of my easy casserole recipes and favorite family recipes here on CopyKat!
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- 1 large green cabbage
Cabbage Roll Filling
- 1 pound ground beef chuck
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 1/2 cup green bell pepper chopped
- 1/4 cup rice
- 1/4 cup crackers crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 egg
Cabbage Roll Sauce
- 4 ounces tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cabbage Leaf Preparation
- Clean the head of a cabbage. Gently pull off about 12 to 15 of the largest leaves of cabbage.
- Drop the cabbage leaves into a large pot of boiling salted water.
- Cook the cabbage for 3 minutes to blanch it. Blanching it will make it tender and pliable.
- Combine tomato sauce with water in a small bowl.
- In a mixing bowl, combine ground beef, onion, green pepper, rice, crackers, salt, pepper, egg, and 1/4 of the tomato sauce.
Cabbage Rolls Preparation
- Spoon the filling mixture into the blanched cabbage leaves, roll the leaves up, and place them in a deep baking pan.
- Pour the remaining sauce over the rolls.
- Sprinkle sugar on top.
- Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
- 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
Hungry!! This looks tasty ? Is an egg a must though for the ingredients? Can’t replace it with something? Eggs gives me pimples ??
You could use 3 tablespoons of flax seed combined with 1 tablespoon of water. You should use something to bind everything together.
Lori @ RecipeGirl
I used to buy a frozen version of these when I was in college. Happy to make them at home now!
Toni | Boulder Locavore
This looks SO good!
Wonderful, classic flavor with these!
These look amazing! I haven’t made these before and now I need to!
Such a classic recipe for a good reason! Yum
Trish - Mom On Timeout
Oh man do these look good! Perfect fall comfort food!
We loved these, fantastic
We LOVED these cabbage rolls, thanks!
These are just like my mom’s! Magnificent!
Oh what a stunning dinner recipe. I have always seen others do it but never knew that it was this easy to make. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Gwen M Benson
I have eaten cabbage rolls based on a recipe (or speaking directions) passed down in my family and extended family all my life.. I NEVER had cabbage rolls with ANY tomato anything on them until I was at least 30 years old—and that was a frozen Stouffer’s roll. My heritage is Polish and we always referred to the cabbage rolls as Holubschzkee (sp?).
The ingredients are: As large a head of cabbage as you can get, rice, breakfast sausage or ground pork, salt, pepper, and bacon. We cook the rice, we brown the sausage and par cook the bacon separately. Mix the rice and sausage and seasonings together, and roll heaping spoonful(s) in steamed and de-ribbed cabbage leaves into tidy little bundles. With a piece of the bacon, rub the bottom and sides of a roaster or deep casserole dish. Then we load the bundles into the roaster and put a couple of slices of the bacon on top of each layer and on the top layer, and add a few more pieces of bacon. We cover it and put it in the oven at about 300 degrees for 2-3 hours. These are a completely different and wonderfully cabbage-ey roll.They are pretty stinky while cooking–most people think–not me, though–I love that aroma. We usually make and eat these when Dad’s 15 to 20 pound cabbage heads are ready from his garden—it takes a BIG canning kettle to steam the cabbage, Several of us do the cooking, steaming rolling, baking the cabbage rolls and then more members of the family come over and feast on them-sometimes as many as 35 or so of us!
We love these flavors together so much,and no tomato sauce to kill the cabbage flavor. I have devised a way to get by the rolling bundle part, and make a sort of casserole with the ingredients—-I’m still developing that, but I have learned that the cabbage still needs to be steamed, and layering them in in a casserole with the sausage/rice mixture seams easy enough, but don’t skimp on the cabbage!..and of course, remember to place the par cooked bacon on the layers as well—I don’t use as much bacon on each layer because the layers are thinner than the rolls. Still very good, but when we have the gathering we stick to the real thing!! Yum, de yum, yum, yum !!!!
I can’t believe that I have waited until now after over 60 years to put this ‘recipe’ in writing. I have searched high and low for a similar recipe, but outside of my extended/married family, I have never found it—also never even in a Polish restaurant here in Minnesota….there may be some Eastern European heritage folks up in NE Minneapolis that still cook these, but I just haven’t met them yet!!!
My wife and my mother both have made cabbage rolls and they too used all the ingredients that you have shown….with one exception. They always precooked the ingredients in a skillet on the top of the stove before spooning them into the cabbage leaves. We use a rice steamer to prepare the cabbage. Placing the whole cabbage in the rice steamer it separates the leaves without any problem. I pre-cut the leaves away from the core or the stem as it might be called. Place the cabbage directly under the water facet in the kitchen sink and allow flowing water to remove the leaves and this eliminates splitting or breaking the leaves. By placing the cabbage head with the stem facing the bottom of the sink and allowing the water pressure from the facet to force itself under the leaves they will lift over almost by themselves very gently and whole.