Traditional Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, no canned soup, straightforward with step-by-step images, to help you cook as close as possible to my Polish grandmothers kitchen!
Stuffed cabbage, or Golabki in Polish, is very common in Polish cuisine. It is 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.
Please be sure to read the tips below on how to easily soften and roll 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 ahead of time. You can use white rice or brown. But in order to get the most amazing rice every time, try our Perfectly Baked Rice recipe. It’s super easy to make and I’m pretty sure once you bake your rice, you’ll never make it on the stove again.
- Bring a LARGE pot of SALTED water to a boil and submerge the whole head of cabbage in it for 5-7 minutes. The leaves will begin to separate. As they do, pull them off using a pair of tongs and set aside.
- Once the leaves are cool enough to handle, using a sharp paring knife, cut out the very hard white part (called the rib). This can also be ‘shaved’ down if you don’t want a V shaped leaf.
- Once the leaves are all softened, cooled and shaved down, next comes the filling. (See our tips below on our suggestions.) 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 a log 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.
- Place the cabbage leave seam side down in a baking dish.
- Finally, cover the cabbage leaves in a tomato sauce to keep them moist as they steam and cook. See below for our homemade condensed tomato soup 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.
Our tips for the BEST stuffed cabbage:
- Try removing as much of the core rib from the cabbage as you can before putting the cabbage in water. Place the leaf flat on the counter, and using a sharp paring knife, shave the rib down until it is almost flat. Remove the leaves individually.
- Make sure there is a good ratio of meat to rice. You want more meat than rice. A 3:1 ratio (beef to rice) is a nice balance.
- We 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.
- Grab a spoonful of the beef/pork and rice and gently roll it into a meatball/log shape 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 as they steam.
- 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 our homemade recipe for condensed tomato soup. It is in the recipe card as well.
- 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.
- One of my favorite ways to eat stuffed cabbage it is topped with sauerkraut !
If you want to freeze these cabbage rolls, there are 2 ways to go about it. You can freeze them uncooked or you can freeze them fully cooked.
- To freeze uncooked: Once you’ve finished rolling all the leaves, place them on a baking sheet and place them in the freezer. Don’t let them touch. They should be individual. Place some plastic wrap on top. Once they are frozen, place them in a Ziploc bag and label with the date. When you are ready to cook them, they should stay individually frozen so you can cook the desired amount.
- To freeze them cooked: Cook the cabbage rolls as directed. Once completely cooled (they can be placed in the fridge overnight), put them in a Ziploc bag (or desired container) and freeze for up to 2 months.
What to Serve with Stuffed Cabbage:
- Pierogis – I don’t have a recipe for this. I wish I did but I simply don’t have the patience to make them. Our neighbors make pierogis every holiday by the HUNDREDS. Sorry, but I buy mine already made and they go perfectly alongside stuffed cabbage.
- German Spätzle – spätzle is simply homemade fresh egg noodles and are simply to die for!
- Rye Bread – simple but there is something about the caraway seeds that goes with the stuffed cabbage.
- Sauerkraut – I will have my (semi) homemade sauerkraut recipe coming shortly. It’s one you don’t want to miss!
- Potato Salad – if this is served during the warmer months, a cold potato salad would be a great addition.
Traditional Polish Style Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (no canned soup)
Delicious, authentic Polish stuffed cabbage rolls like Grandma used to make, only WITHOUT the condensed canned soups!
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:
- 6 Tablespoons Butter
- 4 Tablespoons White Whole Wheat Flour (I use Bob Mills)
- 3 Cups Tomato Juice
- 4 Tablespoons Ketchup (or Tomato paste)
- 2 Tablespoon Brown Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Sea Salt
- ½ 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.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- 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.
* 2/2/22 – the sauce portion of this recipe has been updated to be DOUBLE of the previous recipe based on viewer feedback.
FIVE STARS !!!
I lined the bottom of a foil pan with the extra leaves and more sauce. I like a LOT of sauce on my stuffed cabbage and these came out perfect! Truly perfect. Thank you Debi. My grandma would be proud of what I made today. Thank you
I’m so glad I made this recipe Debi. I have been looking for one that tasted like my grandma used to make and this brought back such good memories with the very first bite. I will cherish this recipe. thank you
I had to scroll through a lot of comments to leave a review – shows how popular this stuffed cabbage is. Not only were the instructions super helpful and easy to follow, but the cabbage was simply the best I’ve ever had. I’ve bookmarked this recipe and already called my mother and sister in law to tell them to make this!
I took the time (and yes, they take time) to make these last weekend and they were absolutely delicious. I love how close the sauce was to what I remember growing up. We usually go to a Polish restaurant to get these but my husband had COVID and we couldn’t leave the house so I figured I would surprise him and make them at home. What a treat! I didn’t plan on making them again, I thought it would be a one time thing, but now that I’ve made them I’m doing it regularly now.
I think you might want to reread and edit this part? I think you might have meant to say place them in the freezer, not the oven?
To freeze uncooked: Once you’ve finished rolling all the leaves, place them on a baking sheet and place them in the oven. Don’t let them touch. They should be individual. Place some plastic wrap on top. Once they are frozen, place them in a Ziploc bag and label with the date.
thank you AnnaMarie – I corrected it!
Never ate them with sauce. My mother used to put a pc of salt pork on each roll, cover em n bake for an hour. She’d take the tin foil off and let them bake another 20-30 minutes. They came out a little brown and moist because she added a little water to the bottom of pan. Served with mashed potato’s and her homemade pickled beets
My Polish Mom would turn over in her grave if she was told I put Tomato Sauce of ANY sort on them. She would just put the finished rolls back into the water used to cook the cabbage head. She would cook them about an hour and after cooling for 10 minutes or so, serve them. Dad said the only way to eat them is with salt and pepper.
I f you are truly Polish, you would know at the time these recipes were most common people were forced to use what was available which gave the recipes have a wide range, I personalty like the sauce and after the main cook I top the dish with mozzarella cheese, it thickens the sauce a bit and add’s an extra flair.
for less work – I use marinara sauce – thin and tasty. My Dad made incredible cabbage rolls but he fried them first before loading into the roasting pan. I find this softens the cabbage and makes it sweeter., Today I did 10 cabbage rolls without frying and the rest fried. I will see if the extra work and grease of frying is worth the effort. thanks for sharing your recipe.
Do it the exact same way. Great technique. But I throw two cans of tomato soup on top. Maybe not as natural, but ton of flavor..
I’ll be using vegan meat (Beyond Meat) and home made tomato sauce. Are you cooking the rice before rolling it with the meat? And boiling the whole head of cabbage first, right?
If your eating vegan meat no need to cook the rice before hand
Made this for a birthday dinner. Delicious! But I ended up doubling the sauce, because it didn’t seem like enough.
Gabriele B Curry
Hi my name is Gabriela and I go by Gabe I used all the items on your list (oh did I forget an egg) I will let you know how it comes out. I hope it comes out as well as everyone else says!
Thanks for the hint for making my own sauce. Mom always used canned tomato soup but I had none at home. I used your roux with my home canned tomatoes. Not a fan of ketchup, but I added a couple bay leaves for flavor and it worked great. My mom also sautéed the onions and garlic in some olive oil before adding to the ground beef&pork. Don’t know if it matters much in the flavor, but it is how I learned to make it. And cooking the rice the night before saved me time this morning. For the side dish, I usually like potato salad. Maybe that’s from always having It with the holubke at reunions and weddings. Thanks again, the sauce was very good.
Thanks Susan! Yes, adding sauteed onions and garlic will always up the flavor of any dish.
Can I use to tomato puree vs tomato sauce?
What oven temperature do you bake them?
I line the bottom if the roasting oan with the leafs and befire input the rolls into it I take 6-9 rolls and fry them a bit in butter so they’re just a bit brown then mix them in with the other rolls. With the drippings in the pan I add 2 chicken bullion cubes and water let them dissolve and pour the whole thing over the rolls and in the oven they go for an hour at 350. I use a can of Tom. Sauce and thin it out really good, add some sugar and pour it all over the rolls and back in the oven for another 30-45 min.
My polish mom in law taught me this and everyone is cartwheeling when they hear I’m making them. Mine are 40-50 at a time.
I found that the easiest way to remove the rib is to shave it with a cheese cutter.
Great tip Robert – thank you!
I think I have had this recipe with sour cream. Have you heard of that. I am making this now and wondered where I should add sour cream.
We eat our cabbage rolls in my house with the sour cream on top when you serve them. We like a nice generous dollop on top!
I am making your cabbage rolls. You say make in oven for 50 minutes to an hour. You never say at what temperature.
I am cooking mind at 375. Is that close?
sorry about that Steve. it’s 350.
Use ground veal along with your ground beef! That is how the Hungarians did it! There are so many ways to make these wonderful rolled cabbages. My mom used tomato soup Plus tomato paste. Also brown sugar to sweeten it just a tad! I was raised on this.
I have yet to find a sauce I like better than my moms She used a combination of tomato juice and tomato soup. My mom also used a small amount of uncooked white rice as she neer liked the rolls to be too ricey. LOL. She also said it was necessary to cover all the rolls in the sauce. No rolls peeking out from the top. She covered top of pan with cabbage leaves before covering with sauce. The rolls must have a lot of “gravy” as we serve with mashed potatoes and use the sauce as the gravy. Sooooo AMAZING!!!! The sauce is what makes the cabbage rolls so good. NO chunks of tomatoes, not thick but more runny like a gravy. Trust me and try this. You will never go back. I do not have a website to post her recipe but if I did, it would for sure be 5 star!
Been making for years. I add a pinch of nutmeg to sauce and cook with saurkraut
One never uses cooked rice for cabbage rolls. Perhaps you can parboil it, but not fully cooked. It cooks in the roll! Second, if you’re creating a v-cut in your leaves, your not shaving the rib off carefully with a paring knife. Shave the thick rib down and your leaf is intact.
Anne De Blasio
It sounds wonderful I would use a Italian tomato sauce
It is easy and make plenty cabbages told and have friends in for a snack
And discuss recipes Enjoy Anne
This recipe sounds great, will be making it very soon. I had a recipe from a Polish friend but have lost it! Was not keen on the tomato sauce in it but I make my own sauce so will use that. Another polish friend mixes the sauce with cream and that is really nice. I like the idea of having the side dish of sourcrout!
Did not like the tomato sauce with the roux. Just use a plain tomato sauce or a doctored up tomato juice. The roux was okay but an unusual addition to a tomato sauce. I am half Polish and believe it or not this is the first time I ever made my own Golabki. I’m 71.
When my other wrote out her recipe for stuffed cabbage for me, I added notes about what she did during various parts of the preparation. I am delighted to find that all of this wisdom is captured in your tips.
She sometimes used the canned tomato soup, but usually used home-canned tomatoes from her garden.
Her side of the family called these halupki (Lemko/Turhtenian), while my father’s side said golumki (Polish).
no canned soup ,….correct
not a fan of the roux, makes it not gluten friendly which is a huge issue nowadays as a Chef, i suggest canned tomatoes, it’s what my Grandma used to use, you can add some tomato paste and some stock as well if you like, enough to cover all the rolls.
Another tip is line the pot/pan with all the trim cabbage leaves, the really green ones, and the ones too small to roll, prevent sticking.
Ive been making cabbage rolls for a long time too now. I love them. I put the sticky rooster brand of rice in my cabbage rolls. Which its softer and more moisture. I love mine but i do use campbells tomatoe soup. Im stuck on that as my mom use to make it like that. So im following my tradition.
I was tempted to leave the butter out and even just use tomato soup. Wish I had. The roux came out on the greasy side, which might often be a good thing, not this time though.
Looks like a great recipe. I am polish in heritage and my grandmother made the best! I love that you use sour kraut! I will try this and let you know how it turnes out. I also have to use skinned and seedless tomato purée. But I can’t wait to try it tomorrow!
I would not use ketchup fresh. Tomatoes better but not a bad recipes I been making them since I was 9 yrs old
Cabbage rolls and coffee
Mmmm Mmmmm good !
Can I substitute ground turkey for the ground pork?
I don’t see why not Julie. Let me know how it turns out. I’m sure there are others who are interested in your variation as well.
I was tempted to, but opted out because turkeycan impart a slightly gamey flavor. Pork is pretty neutral.
Your recipe comes very close to our Czech recipe. I have 12 rolls in the oven now. Give me a suggestion as to what side dishes go with. Mom always fried some potatoes.
My usual side dish are my roasred beets and hard boiled (pickled) eggs and pearl onions or just roasted beets with a basamic vineager reduction.
My grandmother used a very large can Heinz Tomato juice flavoured with salt, pepper and a dash of sugar.to make a thicker sauce you can include some tomato paste. Just pour it over the rolled cabbage rolls and add more as needed.
how do i use the slow cooker instead of oven??
You can put a little of the sauce in the bottom of the slow cooker (or spray) and place the stuffed cabbage leaves in 2 layers. Pour the sauce over them and cook on low. I’d start poking them to see if they are cooked at about the 6 hr mark. If you want to do it on high, start poking at the 3 hr mark.
I’m trying your recipe right now. But you don’t specify when to use the tomato sauce.
Or maybe I missed it?
Some recipes call for adding the sauce to the meat mixture and some want you to pour the sauce on top of the stuffed and rolled cabbage before baking.
I’m Polish and grew up eating these but unfortunately, I didn’t pay too much attention when my Babcia was making them. I just remember her Golumpki had a nice but light tomato sauce base.
I hate using canned tomato soup. So I’m hoping your sauce will do the trick! Thanks,
Hi Linda I just added the sauce to the bottom of the pan so they didn’t stick and on top of the cabbage rolls. I hope that helps
I was looking for a Golumki recipe (the way my Polish friend and relatives called it) that didn’t have Tomato Soup in it – I really, really detest canned Tomato Soup – gross. Too sweet and too full of “God know what”! So glad I found your post. I plan to give it a shot for tomorrow night’s dinner. This looks awesome!
Let me know how your family likes it Jane
I freeze the cabbage head and dethaw for easy removal and easy rolling. Trying ground turkey with ground pork tomorrow. This was a staple in our house. Gramma always called it Gwemke.
Can these be done in a dut oven pot on stove then places in over to cook? I guess what I’dije to know can the cabbages be layers in pan or pot for cooking?
they most certainly can be done in a Dutch oven, that is my preferred method. I am a HUGE fan of this cooking vessel and you can also layer the cabbages on top of each other. This helps them stay moist as they steam and cook. Thanks for your comment!
Your recipe does not include the rice. Was this an omission or a variation???
omg … how did that happen? lol If I remember correctly it was a cup of rice, but I also feel it’s up to you. Some people prefer more rice to meat ratio and vice versa, but start with a cup and I’ll reflect that in the ingredients. Good catch, thanks! 🙂
This is so good! I used ground turkey and brown rice for the filling to and followed the sauce recipe. Amazing!
oh yay!!!!! Love the substitutions too
I enjoy reading how others make these and this is the closest recipe to mine especially with how you make the sauce. I didn’t think anyone would go the French route to make it.
Add in a tablespoon or so of Carraway to the meat and rice mix and tell me what you think.
I boil the rolls in a pot with a smoked hock which gives a nice flavour. I then shred this through the tomato sauce to serve.
I loved the title (no canned soup). Why? My Polish dad used canned tomato soup. Your tomato sauce looks good. My personal tweak was to use a good marinara sauce which is probably equivalent to the sauce you came up with here using ketchup, juice, garlic powder, etc.
The local meat market here has a 50/50 ground beef and bacon I use sometimes which is good. I usually mix it down so that it is 75% beef and 25% bacon. I will try your tomato sauce – looks very rich in the pics