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My Polish grandmother’s recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls is an old-fashioned dinner that stands the test of time. Cabbage leaves are filled with meat and rice, and then cooked in a sweet tomato sauce, for a classic crowd-pleasing meal! Pair them with cucumber dill salad, potato pancakes, mashed potatoes, or sauerkraut.

Close up front shot of stuffed cabbage rolls on a plate garnished with bacon and parsley

Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe

My dad’s mother is from Poland, so he was raised on these Gołąbki, or Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. My grandmother prepared the stuffed cabbage for us every time she visited, so the hearty meal has become synonymous with special occasions like birthdays, holidays, and family gatherings.

Gołąbki is the plural form of gołąbek, which comes from the Polish word gołąb, meaning “pigeon.” Apparently the shape of stuffed cabbage rolls resembles a bird, hence the name! You may have also heard the recipe referred to as Golumpki or Kohlrouladen (German Stuffed Cabbage Rolls).

The traditional dish is popular in cuisines of Central Europe, and is often served during the Christmas season or for special occasions such as weddings. German stuffed cabbage is similar to this Polish stuffed cabbage recipe; however, the Kohlrouladen often includes a brown gravy rather than a tomato sauce, and might not include rice. No matter what you call them, you will soon realize why these amazing stuffed cabbage rolls are so well loved!

Long shot of two plates of stuffed cabbage rolls on a wooden surface

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for our favorite stuffed cabbage recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Cabbage: you’ll need one very large whole head of cabbage, or two smaller heads of green cabbage. Remove the tough outer leaves, and use a paring knife to cut off the toughest parts of the rib and stem. Savoy cabbage also works well for stuffed cabbage, since its leaves are somewhat elastic and have a lovely waffle-knit texture.
  • Meatloaf mix: a combination of ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork gives the stuffed cabbage the best flavor. If you prefer, you can substitute with only ground beef.
  • White rice: you’ll need uncooked white rice, which you parboil in salted water for about 4 minutes. The rice will finish cooking in the oven. You can use packets of parboiled rice for a shortcut, if you like (just skip the cooking instructions on the package).
  • Butter: to sauté the onion.
  • Onion: for savory flavor.
  • Stale bread or breadcrumbs: acts as a binder to bring the filling together.
  • Beef broth: adds flavor and moisture to the stuffed cabbage filling.
  • Parsley: fresh herbs are our preference for the best flavor, but you can substitute with a smaller amount of dried parsley flakes.
  • Bacon: serves as a crispy, smoky, flavorful garnish. You’ll also use the bacon drippings to cook the stuffed cabbage.
  • Condensed tomato soup: you’ll need a family-size can of condensed tomato soup, or two smaller cans. My grandma always used the Campbell soup (rather than plain tomato sauce), which is obviously not a traditional Polish ingredient. The soup gives the dish a slightly sweet, rich, tomato flavor, so just trust me on this one. Don’t skip it! If using tomato sauce instead of the soup, you’ll want to season the sauce with salt, pepper, and brown sugar. The sauce will also be thinner than the soup.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: enhance the other flavors in the dish.

Do you put egg in stuffed cabbage?

It depends on the cook! Some recipes call for egg as a binder in the filling; however, my Polish grandmother never used egg in her stuffed cabbage recipe…so I don’t either. The egg is definitely not necessary to keep the filling together.

Extra large family size can of condensed tomato soup

How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Even folks who claim to not like cabbage seem to enjoy this meal! The low-and-slow cooking process results in tender, sweet cabbage that has a very mild (almost undetectable taste), so the leaves just serve to hold the filling together. The meat mixture is similar to a meatball! And while the recipe is definitely more involved and time-consuming than most of the meals that I share on this blog, it’s well worth the effort for a special occasion!

  1. Steam the cabbage leaves to make them soft enough for rolling. I do this in the microwave (thanks to my mom’s easy shortcut tip), but you can also steam the cabbage in a pot of water on the stovetop like my grandmother used to do. Both methods are included in the recipe below! Blog readers have also mentioned that you can freeze the cabbage, and then use the thawed, softened leaves for rolling (no boiling necessary).
  2. Once the leaves are soft, carefully pull them off one at a time and place them on a cutting board.
  3. Sauté the onion in butter in a large skillet on the stove top.
  4. Fry the bacon until crisp, reserving the drippings in the pot.
  5. Prepare the filling for your stuffed cabbage by combining the meatloaf mix, parboiled rice, sautéed onion, breadcrumbs, beef broth, and parsley in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, and up to 1 tablespoon of sugar, if desired. The mixture should be very moist.
  6. How to Roll Stuffed Cabbage: Place about 2 tablespoons of the meat and rice filling onto each cabbage leaf. It helps to trim off some of the stem from each leaf to make the rolling process easier. Then roll up the cabbage leaves burrito-style! Start at the stem-end, roll up slightly, and then fold in the sides and continue rolling. You can use toothpicks to secure the rolls, as necessary.
  7. Place the cabbage rolls seam-side down in a large Dutch oven that’s coated with bacon grease. You can stack the cabbage rolls on top of each other, as necessary.
  8. Pour and spread the tomato soup over top of the cabbage rolls, then cover the pot and simmer over very low heat for about 2 hours. The cabbage rolls will slowly steam in the pot, so the meat cooks through and the rice becomes tender.
  9. Serve the stuffed cabbage on a plate, spoon the sauce over top, and garnish with the cooked bacon and fresh parsley.
Prep shot of how to make stuffed cabbage rolls
Preparing filling for stuffed cabbage rolls
Preparing stuffed cabbage rolls on a cutting board
Stuffed Cabbage Roll on a cutting board before cooking
Stuffed cabbage rolls in a big Dutch oven before cooking
Tomato sauce spread on top of stuffed cabbage rolls
Close up shot of stuffed cabbage roll on a spatula

What to Serve with Stuffed Cabbage

Here are some easy sides that go well with the stuffed cabbage:

Are stuffed cabbage rolls healthy?

This meal includes vegetables, protein, and starch in one dish. It’s hearty and satisfying, full of nutrients, and absolutely delicious! The total number of cabbage rolls prepared will vary depending on how many leaves you get from your head of cabbage. The large recipe yields enough to serve about 10-12 people, with each serving including about 373 calories, 37 grams of carbohydrate, 19 grams of protein, and 17 grams of fat.

Front shot of stuffed cabbage rolls on plates

Storage

Leftover stuffed cabbage will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze the stuffed cabbage rolls, which is great because the recipe yields a very large portion. If you don’t need all of the cabbage rolls for one meal, package the cooked extras in an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. You get two dinners for one effort!

How to Reheat Stuffed Cabbage

To reheat the stuffed cabbage rolls, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, you can warm the cabbage rolls in a Dutch oven (covered) over very low heat, just until heated through (about 20-30 minutes). Alternatively, you can place the cabbage rolls in an oven-safe baking dish, cover with foil, and warm in a 350°F oven until heated through. Individual portions can be warmed in the microwave for 1-2 minutes on high power.

If you want extra sauce for serving the leftovers, simply add another (small) can of tomato soup to the pot!

Front shot of the inside of a stuffed cabbage roll on a plate

Recipe Variations

  • Instead of steaming the cabbage in the microwave, you can boil the cabbage in a large pot of water until tender. Bring 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a boil, and then add the cabbage (stem-side-down). Boil for 10 minutes; turn the cabbage over, and continue cooking for 4 more minutes (or until soft). Allow the cabbage to cool enough so that you can handle it, and then carefully remove the leaves, one at a time.
  • Other cooks suggest freezing the head of cabbage and then thawing before stuffing and rolling. This cuts out the step of boiling the cabbage, because the freezing and thawing process will adequately soften the leaves so that you can roll them.
  • Slow Cooker Method: Assemble the cabbage rolls as described, but place in a slow cooker that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or spread with bacon grease). Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  • If using brown rice instead of white rice, you’ll need to boil the rice for 15 minutes before adding it to the meat mixture.
  • Add extra flavor to the stuffed cabbage filling by including garlic powder or fresh minced garlic. You might also like to add a splash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice to the sauce before serving. Garnish with fresh dill for additional flavor, too!

Tips for the Best Stuffed Cabbage Recipe

  • While you can prepare this recipe using ground beef or ground turkey instead of the meatloaf mixture, I highly recommend using the combination of ground beef, pork, and veal. The meatloaf mixture gives the dish a unique flavor and richness that you don’t get with just ground beef.
  • Make sure that you purchase thefamily size” (23.2 ounce) can of condensed tomato soup. This is larger than the standard 10.75 ounce can. If you can’t find the extra large can, you can substitute with two smaller cans.
  • You do not need to dilute the tomato soup before adding it to the pot. The tomato sauce will thin as it cooks and combines with the steam in the pot.
Close overhead shot of stuffed cabbage rolls on a plate

More Stuffed Cabbage Recipes to Try

Close up front shot of stuffed cabbage rolls on a plate garnished with bacon and parsley

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 45 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
0 minutes
Total: 2 hours 45 minutes
Servings 10 – 12 people
Calories 373.7 kcal
My Polish grandmother's recipe for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls is an old-fashioned dinner that stands the test of time!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ cups uncooked long grain white rice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 very large head of green cabbage (or 2 small heads)
  • 2 lbs. meatloaf mix (a combination of ground beef, ground veal and ground pork)
  • 2 slices stale bread, crumbled (or about 2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (23.2 ounce) can condensed tomato soup, NOT diluted

Instructions

PREPARE THE INGREDIENTS:

  • Parboil the rice by cooking rice in salted boiling water for 4 minutes; drain. Set aside.
  • Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion in the melted butter just until tender (about 7-10 minutes). Set aside.
  • In a large Dutch oven, cook chopped bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Leave the bacon grease in the pot.
  • Steam cabbage in the microwave by placing the cabbage in a pan with about 2 inches of water. Cook for a total of about 10-12 minutes, or until tender. I like to do this increments, every few minutes removing the outer cabbage leaves as they become soft.

ASSEMBLE THE ROLLS:

  • In a large bowl, stir together ground meat, parboiled rice, sautéed onion, breadcrumbs, beef broth and parsley. Add salt and pepper, and up to 1 tablespoon of sugar, if desired. The mixture should be very moist.
  • Place a steamed cabbage leaf on a cutting board. Trim a little bit of the core off of the leaf to make it easier to roll. Place about 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture at the core-end of the cabbage leaf. Start to roll, fold in each side, and then continue rolling to seal. You can use toothpicks to secure the rolls if you like, but it’s not necessary. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling.
  • Place the stuffed cabbage rolls seam-side down in the Dutch oven that has bacon grease in the bottom. Stack the rolls, as necessary, and then season with salt and pepper over top.

COOK THE ROLLS:

  • Spread condensed soup over the top, cover, and cook over very low heat for 1 ½ – 2 hours.
  • Garnish the stuffed cabbage leaves with the reserved cooked, crumbled bacon and fresh parsley, if desired, just before serving.

Notes

  • Instead of steaming the cabbage in the microwave, you can boil the cabbage in a large pot of water until tender. Bring 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a boil, and then add the cabbage (stem-side-down). Boil for 10 minutes; turn the cabbage over, and continue cooking for 4 more minutes (or until soft). Allow the cabbage to cool enough so that you can handle it, and then carefully remove the leaves, one at a time.
  • Other cooks suggest freezing the head of cabbage and then thawing before stuffing and rolling. This cuts out the step of boiling the cabbage, because the freezing and thawing process will adequately soften the leaves so that you can roll them.
  • Slow Cooker Method: Assemble the cabbage rolls as described, but place in a slow cooker that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or spread with bacon grease). Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  • If using brown rice instead of white rice, you’ll need to boil the rice for 15 minutes before adding it to the meat mixture.
  • Add extra flavor to the stuffed cabbage filling by including garlic powder or fresh minced garlic. You might also like to add a splash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice to the sauce before serving. Garnish with fresh dill for additional flavor, too!
  • While you can prepare this recipe using ground beef or ground turkey instead of the meatloaf mixture, I highly recommend using the combination of ground beef, pork, and veal. The meatloaf mixture gives the dish a unique flavor and richness that you don’t get with just ground beef.
  • Make sure that you purchase thefamily size” (23.2 ounce) can of condensed tomato soup. This is larger than the standard 10.75 ounce can. If you can’t find the extra large can, you can substitute with two smaller cans.
  • You do not need to dilute the tomato soup before adding it to the pot. The tomato sauce will thin as it cooks and combines with the steam in the pot.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/12 of the recipeCalories: 373.7kcalCarbohydrates: 36.8gProtein: 18.9gFat: 17.3gSaturated Fat: 7.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 59.8mgSodium: 416.2mgPotassium: 615.8mgFiber: 3.2gSugar: 9.9g
Keyword: Stuffed Cabbage, stuffed cabbage rolls
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: European
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Great shout out to Wanda or Baa Chicago. She was such a nice lady. I too have fond memories of her. Her cabbage rolls we delicious. I could taste them now. You made me very happy today for those memories. love Fredda

    1. Thank you, Fredda! I love to keep our family memories alive through the recipes. ❤️ Thank you for remembering her, too!

  2. 5 stars
    Just had to say that I have always used frozen, then thawed, heads of cabbage for my cabbage rolls! It is a great way to have a head of cabbage on hand. I freeze mine during the Summer when there are lots of available heads of cabbage. The first time I ever made cabbage rolls, I was in a nice grocery store that had pickled (not sweet!) cabbage heads with a recipe for cabbage rolls. That was superb – been making them ever since. I have even frozen some of my cabbages in a pickling solution. I will have to try the meatloaf mix. I have just used ground beef all these years and the mix of different meats sounds good. I, also, use large cans of tomato soup over the top and, sometimes, canned diced tomatoes. Love your recipes! I can find all kinds of ideas and good foods to try!!
    Thanks

    1. Awesome, Sherrie! I’m excited to try the frozen-then-thawed method, since it will cut out an extra step. Your pickled version sounds delish! Thanks for your kind note. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    My mother-in-law made the best tasting & pretty candied sweet potatoes. All she used was butter, sugar & sweet potatoes, I watched her, wrote down every little drop, smidgeon, or just a little that she did. Mine never looked or tasted like hers. The liquid in her potatoes was thick but not stringy it actually was shiny. Please do you have a good easy recipe for candied sweet potatoes? If you have one that you would share I would be forever grateful By the way my mother-in-law died in the early 1990’s so she can no longer try to help me. Thanks, Lizzy

    1. Hi, Lizzy! I’m sorry, but I don’t. Maybe I should create one, though. Thank you for the idea…I’m adding it to my list! 🙂