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.
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.