How to Make the BEST Stuffed Cabbage Rolls // Video
The real deal, inspired by my Polish family’s recipe, this is the easiest way to make the BEST Stuffed Cabbage Rolls around. Tender beef and rice are stuffed into fresh cabbage leaves then braised in a savory sweet tomato sauce.
The ultimate in one pot dinners and totally freezer friendly!
Originally published October 2018 and updated April 2020.
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I have a ton of food memories from when I was little. Things like vegetable soup and pickled eggs….things my grandfather used to make all the time. I remember him milling around the kitchen for hours on end and, me, sitting in the kitchen watching all the action. Not really sure I was going to like anything he was making….because, seriously, you know what cooked cabbage smells like. Am I right?
But whether I liked dinner that evening or not, all the smells, flavors and memories were permanently etched into my memory. Like his Stuffed Cabbage Rolls….or halupki…..that’s what we called them. (or Golabki or Galumpkis….because I know people that call them that, too!)
And to be honest, whenever I heard that’s what we were having for dinner I was VERY unhappy. Kinda like my aversion to mashed potatoes…..CRAZY….I KNOW!
But now….I crave them. It’s so weird how a dish can just magically be a necessity in your life. I don’t know if it’s my subconscious telling me I NEED to eat Stuffed Cabbage Rolls right now because I think they’re the most delicious thing ever…or if my body just wants something comforting, a little bit of my grandfather sitting there at the kitchen table with me.
Either way, I set out to make my own and added a few things to make them a little more my speed. I’m sure he’s not thrilled with my tweaks but if he tried them today, I know he’d be quite proud.
To start, I added a bit of grated apple to my tomato sauce and then a splash of apple cider vinegar to get that trademark sweet/sour thing going. It totally makes the dish….and I even add a bit of the sauce to the meat mixture which is a simple blend of ground beef, cooked rice, onion and spices.
Then, I wrap them up in blanched cabbage leaves before arranging them in a dish to bake with the tomato sauce.
HOW TO MAKE STUFFED CABBAGE WITH RICE
This recipe version is more of a Polish Stuffed Cabbage recipe I learned from my grandfather. I hope you love it as much as we do!
Begin by blanching your whole cabbage head for a few minutes in boiling water to soften the leaves.
Allow the cabbage to cool to room temperature.
Make the filling by sautéing onions in a pan with a bit of oil. Add tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, apples, salt and pepper to the onions.
Combine the ground beef with the remaining onion, bread crumbs, eggs, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup sauce to the meat mixture.
Using a paring knife, remove the tough triangular rib from the cabbage leaf.
Form an oval meatball shape with the filling and roll up in the cabbage leaf.
Place the cabbage roll seam side down in a baking dish.
Cover with sauce and bake.
CROCKPOT STUFFED CABBAGE
If you want to make your stuffed cabbage rolls in a slow cooker or CrockPot, simply assemble as directed and place the cabbage rolls seam side down in the bottom of the slow cooker.
Cover with sauce and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
We love cooking them this way, too, because it’s a HUGE time saver and you can leave the house to run errands without worrying about the oven being on.
WHAT TYPE OF CABBAGE TO USE FOR STUFFED CABBAGE
We use just your regular run of the mill green cabbage for our stuffed cabbage rolls. Be sure to cut out the thick part of the rib because it can be tough even after cooking.
To soften the cabbage leaves and make it easier for rolling, we like to boil the whole head of cabbage for a few minutes. At that point the leaves will be soft and pliable, easily falling off the core of the cabbage.
HOW TO FREEZE STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
This amazing Stuffed Cabbage Roll recipe is one of the easiest meals ever to freeze for weekday meal prepping! Simply assemble you cabbage rolls and cover with sauce. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and then foil. To bake, follow the instructions below adding 20 minutes to the cooking time since you’re cooking from frozen.
My grandfather always baked his Stuffed Cabbage Rolls in the same baking dish every single time…..a big black roasting pan that was speckled like a hen. I’m sure your grandmother or mother had one of the same but this is one of those things that you hand down because it’s just a workhorse in the kitchen.
He used the same pan for these totally amazingly fabulous Potato Pierogi, too! I don’t have the very same pan but THIS is my favorite all purpose pan for this recipe and soooo many others.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CABBAGE ROLLS
Looking for more flavorful weekday meals? Try these favorites:
- Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup…..a super easy way to get your Cabbage Roll fix!
- Easy Potato Pierogies made from scratch!
- Bacon Cheeseburger Soup is a hit with the whole family.
- Stuffed Cabbage Casserole….also a super simple way to get your fix!
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How to Make the BEST Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion divided
- 2 28- ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup grated apple
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper divided
- 1 large head green cabbage
- 2 1/2 pound lean ground beef
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the 1 cup onions to the pot and cook until softened, approximately 8 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, apple, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper to the onions stirring to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil then turn the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the core from the cabbage and place the head in the boiling water. Boil the cabbage for approximately 5 minutes or until the leaves come off easily with tongs. Boil for 1-2 more minutes until the leaves are soft and flexible. You will need approximately 12-14 leaves depending on the size. Remove the leaves from the pot and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, remaining onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, rice, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup sauce to the meat mixture.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Ladle 1 cup sauce into the bottom of your braising pan or baking dish.
- Using a pairing knife, remove the thick triangular rib from the base of the cabbage leaf. Using clean hands, shape 1/3 cup filling mixture into an oval meatball shape and place in the center of the cabbage leaf and begin to roll up to the outer edge folding in the sides as you go.
- Place the cabbage rolls seam side down in the pan. Cover the rolls with the sauce.
- Cover the dish with the lid and bake for 1-1.25 hours or until the meat is cooked through.
- Serve immediately.