Stuffed cabbage is a Polish dish that consists of cabbage leaves wrapped around a hearty filling of ground beef and rice, onions and garlic, then coated in a homemade thin tomato sauce and cooked until they are mouthwatering and tender.
Stuffed cabbage, or Golabki, is a cabbage roll common in Polish cuisine made from lightly soft-boiled cabbage leaves wrapped around minced pork or beef, chopped onions, and rice, which can be baked in a casserole dish, made on the stove top or even in a slow cooker. They are usually topped and served with a tomato based sauce.
They are fairly easy to make and can be made ahead of time or as I like, as leftovers.
Be sure to check out the tips I’ve shared at the end of the post to help soften the cabbage leaves, among other helpful tips.
How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Step by Step:
- To get started, you will need cooked and cooled rice. This can be prepared the night before. To get the most tender and perfect rice every time, try our Perfectly Baked Rice recipe. It’s super easy to make rice this way and I’ll never make it on the stove again.
- The next step is to remove the white hard part of the cabbage with a sharp knife. This will leave the leaf with a V shape cut out. But that’s ok. You just want to remove it because it’s a little tough.
- Next comes the filling. May I suggest you use 90% lean ground beef. A fattier cut of beef can result in a lot of grease. Keep in mind the beef is rolled uncooked so there isn’t a way to drain the grease and it will pool on the bottom of the baking dish. This recipe uses only ground beef, however, adding ground pork is delicious as well. The ratio of beef to pork is a personal preference so feel free to tweak this to your liking.
- Combine the beef(s) with the cooked rice, onions and garlic and place it into the cabbage leaf like a small log.
- Rolling it like this keeps it compact and helps the cabbage keep it’s shape as the stuffed cabbage is cooking. Put the beef mixture towards the core and then fold it up once, grab both sides and tuck them in and continue rolling, as shown below.
- Finally, cover the cabbage leaves in a tomato sauce. The majority of stuffed cabbage recipes called for Campbell’s condensed tomato soup which left me very frustrated since I didn’t want to ruin these great little cabbages with preservatives, MSG, etc. so I played around until I made my own.
You can click here for that recipe.
The Method Used to Cook Stuffed Cabbage
There are a few different options when it comes to actually cooking the stuffed cabbage. They come out quite well using a slow cooker or in the oven. The instructions for both ways are in the recipe card below.
- Try removing as much of the core as you can before putting the cabbage in water. Place the leaf flat on the counter and shave the rib down until it is almost flat. Remove the leaves with a pair of tongs.
- Make sure there is a good ratio of meat to rice. You want more meat than rice. A 3:1 ratio (beef to rice) was a nice balance.
- Grab a spoonful of the beef and rice and roll it into a little meatball before placing it in the leaf. This will give a nice firmer center.
- Layer some extra cabbage leaves on the bottom of the pan and in between the rolled cabbage. This extra layer will help prevent them from unrolling and staying moist.
- Once the rolls are fully cooked and taken out of the oven, let them stand at least 30 minutes. This gives the flavors a chance to combine and it gives them a chance to cool a little.
- Be sure to use a lean beef otherwise a fattier meat can make the cabbage rolls greasy.
- One of my favorite ways to eat stuffed cabbage it is topped with sauerkraut !
- A great side dish would be something bland such as steamed potatoes.
FOR THE FILLING:
- 1 lb. Ground Beef (lean)
- ½ lb. Ground Pork
- 1 Cup Cooked Rice (see our Perfect Rice recipe)
- ½ Cup Onion, diced
- 1 Garlic Clove, minced
FOR THE SAUCE:
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 Tablespoons White Whole Wheat Flour (I use Bob Mills)
- 1 ½ Cups Tomato Juice
- 2 Tablespoons Ketchup (or Tomato paste)
- 1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
- ¼ teaspoon Sea Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
12-14 Cabbage Leaves softened in boiling water, core removed
FOR THE SAUCE:
- Begin by making the roux for the tomato sauce by melting the butter in small saucepan over low/medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and continue cooking another minute or two while whisking to prevent burning.
- Add the tomato juice and the rest of the ingredients and let simmer for 15 minutes.
FOR THE CABBAGE:
- In a large pot of boiling water, place the cabbage and let it boil for 5-7 minutes, turning over occasionally. Remove outer leaves as they soften with a pair of tongs or remove the entire head of cabbage and once cool enough to handle, remove 12-14 leaves.
- Using a sharp knife, remove the hard white core in a V shape
FOR THE FILLING:
- Combine the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl and using your hands, gently mix until it is combined.
- Using a large spoon shape the meat mixture into a log shape and continue until all meat is used.
- Place the filling in the cabbage leaf close to the core. Fold once, then grab both sides and fold in, continue rolling.
- Lightly spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Place a few cabbage leaves (broken or whole) on the bottom of the dish and layer with a little sauce.
- Place the cabbage rolls on top. Cover with remaining sauce, and additional leaves if desired.
- Cover with foil and bake for 50 min – 1 hour.
Spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray. Lay down some cabbage leaves. Top with sauce. Place cabbage rolls on top. Seal the lid and cook on low 6- 8 hours, checking at 6 hours.