How to Make the Best Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
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!
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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
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 fried cabbage and Polish 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.
Crock Pot 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
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 It
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 Them With
Because this is a pretty hearty dinner already, I like to serve our cabbage rolls with a lighter salad or green vegetable like these easy green beans. My husband likes to top them with sour cream.
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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Get the Recipe: Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe
- 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
- 1 baking dish
- 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.
75 Comments on “How to Make the Best Stuffed Cabbage Rolls”
I’ve never even imagined cabbage rolls to look so stuffed full of deliciousness. I am definitely not doing something right! I have to try your recipe, these look very very good!
Thank you! They are VERY, VERY good! And I’m not a big fan of stuffed cabbage but these are amazing!
These are super delicious!!! My grandparents make a lot of traditionally Polish food and I think I am going to make this for them. Thanks for the recipe!
I am looking forward to trying this but considering leaving out the apple. Why the apple addition? And what type of apple are you referring to?
The apple is just for a little sweetness to offset the tang of the tomatoes. The pectin in the apple also helps the sauce thicken up a bit instead of remaining watered down which can sometimes happen when the stuffed cabbage rolls cook. I like to use a fuji or other semi tart tasting apple.
I grew up with food like this and I love trying new versions. Thank you.
It’s total comfort food!
I need to double check the amount of sauce to be added to the meat mixture. In the early part of the recipe, you say 1/2 cup.
But. later on you say 1-1/2 cups. Please let me know. this will be one of our Thanksgiving dishes.
Thanks so much.
So sorry! Your comment was marked as spam so I’m just now getting to it. You add 1/2 a cup of sauce to the meat mixture.
Looks delish! I will be making tonight but I wonder, should I drain the canned tomatoes?
I drain off some of the juice from the tomatoes but not all of it. It really depends on how thick you want the sauce.
This filling is perfect – these are so good!
Thank you so much! Grandpa knows best. 🙂
Everyone in my family loved it! So tasty and delicious!
Awesome! Thank you so much!
Just like I remember from childhood!
reminds me of what my mom used to make!! thanks!!
This is totally the food I grew up on…..even if I wouldn’t dare touch the cabbage when I was little. LOL!
We love these! Cabbage rolls are the best!
They are!! One pot dinner magic.
Looks wonderful, I am going to try this but which kind of apple do you use?
I used fuji but Gala or honeycrisp work well, too.
This recipe is easy and the rolls themselves are delicious. I was disappointed with the sauce, however. It was way too sweet for us. I wasn’t thinking when I added the whole 1/2 cup and next time will only add about 4 tablespoons or less. I think the apple added a lot of extra sweetness, too.
We love a sweet sauce but some people do nix the sugar and just use the apple for sweetness. Glad you liked the recipe, though!
I agree w the sauce being too sweet. They are delicious and will be eaten, however I will omit the brown sugar next time.
Thank you for your comment! You can make it to suit your tastes….that’s the best part about this recipe.
Oh my gosh! Better than mommas. Only change i made is part gr. sirloin and part Jimmy Dean sausage. 5*****! It!
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you loved them and love the addition of the sausage. Sooooo going to try that!!!
Gulumpkis look good but I use bacon in mine and for my sauce I use a lemon and a tablespoon of sugar with the tomatoe sauce and two cans of tomato puree and I make about thirty rolls
Love the addition of BACON!!!
These are fantastic. The only thing I did differently was add some currants to the sauce. I also cut up some leftover cabbage and put it on top of the rolls and underneath the sauce. I had enough mixture leftover to freeze it for meatloaf or meatballs later. Really excellent.
Love the addition of currants! I’ll definitely have to try that. Thank you for commenting!
Can these be prepared day before and cooked right from the fridge?
Yes! They definitely can be assembled in advance and then cooked right from the fridge. I’ve also frozen them and cooked them from frozen. They do take much longer from frozen, though.
Por FAVOOOOOR! Estos rollitos dicen cómeme! Maravillosos! Sí, me los llevo peeeeeero tendré que tunearlos con especias ya que estoy casada con un saudí y las especias como el cómino, el jengibre, etc, etc no pueden faltar en nuestras comidas. Kellie, muchas gracias por compartir y al igual que tú, me encanta cocinar. Besitos
I have only liked my Grandma’s cabbage rolls
and when she passes so did the recipe. I thought after 40 years I would give it a go and make some myself. All I can say is OMG! They tasted so much like my Grandma’s. I will be making these again.
I’m so glad you loved them! They taste like my grandfather’s so I totally understand how you must be feeling. 🙂
What do you serve with these? I know for my family (years ago) we considered these a complete meal but I’m going to be serving them to a family work group the night before our big (100+ people) Christmas party so thought maybe a tossed salad or rolls? Suggestions welcome!
We, also, considered them a complete meal when I was growing up but I like to serve them with my Iceberg Wedge salad or just a tossed green salad. If you’re doing a special occasion dinner, my Bourbon Roasted Pear Salad is amazing and a great first course. Sometimes I’ll serve them with a side of green beans, too. Just for more veggies. Enjoy!
I have a question. How many rolls does this serve per person? Is it just 12 rolls? Or does it serve 2 rolls per person?
We usually serve two per person but they’re pretty big so I can never finish two myself.
I have not tried this recipe, but anticipate that I’ll be trying this in very early May. I certainly looks good. My wife and I visited Poland as well as some other European countries for three weeks. .We were in a town named Nowe Polaszki roughly one hour and 59 Kilometers SW of Gadansk. Poland on the southern shore of The Baltic Sea. We found the farm my wife’s father and his family were born and raised. Beautiful place. A Polish man lived there and between my wife’s ability to speak Germain fairly well and his Polish they communicated why we were there.. He could not allow us in his home but allowed us to take pictures of the farm from our side of the fence. He went back in the farm house and came out about 10 minutes later with a leather bound book that belonged to one of my wife’s uncles and hand a hand written note by her uncle stating that this was his property. It looked like a bible and had a lot of biblical prayers, etc. It is traditional that young children receive one when they are young. The kind Polish man gave it to my wife. She was so happy to have it.
Anyway I will make your recipe in May. I’ll probably substitute ground pork for the ground beef. I’ve made Asian Lion’s Head Meatballs several times with ground pork and the flavor of the pork is fantastic for these recipes. We ate at several local restaurants in the three or four days in Poland. Fantastic food, and I may add that the Polish Lager was great as well. If any readers go there, just wipe dieting out of your mind. And one of the mot common Lagers there is Zywiec Beer. Truly a good lager without being too heavy or hopsy. https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/623/1666/
Thank you so much!
I WAS TOLD MANY YRS AGO BY A JEWISH WOMAN AND THEN READ IT IN “COOKS ILLUSTRATED MAGAZINE” TO FREEZE THE HEAD OF CABBAGE. DEFROST COUPLE DAYS IN REFRIGERATOR, REMOVE CORE & PEEL OFF EACH LEAF TO STUFF. (CUT A “V” TO REMOVE TOUGH PC. OF CABBAGE ON END. FANTASTIC &MUCH EASIER THAN BOILING OR BLANCHING!
Well, that’s great if you want to wait a few days for cabbage to thaw. By boiling the whole head of cabbage for a few minutes, you get to eat them the same day.
But your way would work well with planning. 🙂
Kelly, making these now. I watched the video. You use a measuring cup in scooping the meat mixture, but do not mention what size. Can you share? I’ll leave a rating after we have them. First time ever trying cabbage rolls.
BTW when I originally downloaded I cut the recipe in 1/2 but I don’t see the calculator to do that now. That’s a great feature – just the two of us at home and it helps. Thx.
It looks like you found the instructions. Thanks so much!
This was very good. I’ve never had stuffed cabbage before – and this was my first attempt in making it. My husband, who normally won’t eat cabbage liked it. I didn’t see the 1/3 c meat mix measurement until I read it thru – so glad that was included. And I found the calculator so I could make 1/2 of recipe – just the two of us. My cabbage did not have any veins to trim so I could stuff them right away. The decreased recipe instruction said to use 15 oz of crushed tomatoes – which is all I had left from another recipe. But it didn’t seem it would be enough so I added a can of Rotel tomatoes. I used 3 loose T of brown sugar. The sauces was delicious!!! I have another 1 1/2 meals left – will freeze.
Thank you for your tips!
This was a favorite as a child, even introduced to non-Polish friends. Now make it for my husband and friends. Luckily we enjoy our own beef, vegetables and tomatoes which makes it extra special.
So glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you so much!
Kellie, you are a “Rock Star”!!!!!, I’m making this recipe for supper tonite!!!! I can tell from your recipe, even with your “tweaks”, that it’s pretty close to the one my grandmother use to make!!! Thank you so much for including this one in today’s mailing!!! Be safe!!!
I’m so glad you found it! It’s definitely what I remember my grandfather’s cabbage rolls tasting like. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
I never post comments on recipe sites, but this recipe was outstanding! I seriously could drink the sauce. The only thing I did differently was use 1/2 cup of applesauce instead of the grated apple(I didn’t have an apple) and I added about 1 cup of shredded carrot to the onion saute for added sweetness. So good!
Love the addition of carrot! I’m definitely try that. Thank you for your kind comment!
Made these exactly per the recipe. Took forever and my teenager absolutely hated them. Will never waste my time again!
Sorry the recipe didn’t work out for you, lots of others have made it with great success. I hope you’re able to find something else your teenager may love.
This looks so good, I will be making this in the future.
RE STUFFED CABBAGE. A POLISH WOMAN TAUGHT ME TO “FREEZE THE RAW CABBAGE”; THEN DEFROST IN COLANDER WITH BOWL UNDER IT FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS IN REFRIG. YOU STUFF EACH LEAF AND FOLLOW THE RECIPE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BOIL THE CABBAGE “FIRST”! THE STUFFED CABBAGE TURNS OUT WONDERFUL AND NO DIFFERENCE FROM WHEN YOU GO THRU THE “OLD WAY”!
That’s a great tip! If you don’t have time to freeze the cabbage, boiling it is a good way to speed things up.
Love cabbage rolls! I like to use stewed tomato’s for the sauce. No apple or sugar needed. So yummy!
We love the sweet/tart flavor of the apples in the sauce but stewed tomatoes are an easier way to make it. It’s just not the way my grandfather made them.
At my daughter’s request, I substituted napa cabbage for the cabbage called for in the recipe. She loved it.
We do love it with Napa cabbage, too!
Definitely not my family’s traditional recipe from Polish/Ukrainian generations. Panko? No. No filler. Etc.
I’m sure there’s several family recipes and this is our’s. I’m polish and this is how we made it, however, my family used regular breadcrumbs and I switched to Panko to keep it less dense.
Tried this recipe for dinner last night and we all loved it. It makes a lovely presentation and is delicious. Thanks for sharing this!
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Very good cabbage rolls.have tried a few of your other dishs,also very good. It seems you have a niche for comfort food,keep up the good work… on the cabbage rolls I will sometimes use rice a roni Spanish rice to mix it up a-bit,so many combonations.
thank you so much! I’m happy you enjoyed it!