Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Cabbage rolls are a traditional preparation of Eastern Europe so popular that people have made them their own over time and there are plenty of variations for the filling and cooking liquid. Sometimes cooked in just broth, and others in tomato sauce, cabbage rolls look harder to make than they really are. With a little planning and some patience, even a novice cook can make these little pockets of flavor. Beef—or a combination of beef and pork—eggs, rice, and seasonings make a thick and unctuous filling to the soft cabbage leaves.
There are plenty of great side dishes for these rolls, from mashed potatoes to soak up the sauce to dinner rolls, a fresh tossed salad, potato pancakes, spaetzle, or a side bowl of creme fraiche or sour cream. If you want, prepare ahead of time but don’t bake, place in the fridge, covered, and bake one hour plus before dinner time—the cooking time can vary depending on the thickness of the rolls and how much stuffing you used.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
This stuffed cabbage rolls recipe is cabbage leaves filled with beef and rice, coated in a homemade tomato sauce and baked to perfection. A comfort food classic that's hearty, delicious and simple to make.
- 12 to 14 large cabbage leaves
For the Filling:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 3/4 cup rice, cooked
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup milk
For the Sauce:
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons of water
Make the Rolls
Core and peel the leaves from the cabbage.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Drop the cabbage leaves into boiling salted water. Cover and cook for 3 minutes or just until pliable. Drain well. Reserve.
Combine the ground beef with the cooked rice, onions, egg, sweet paprika, pepper, salt, and milk. Mix well and divide into 12 portions.
Place a portion of the ground beef mixture into the center of a cabbage leaf.
Tightly roll the leaf around the filling, fastening it with a toothpick.
Place the formed rolls in a baking dish or Dutch oven. Repeat the process with the remaining filling and cabbage leaves.
Prepare the Sauce, Assemble, and Bake
In a medium bowl, combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, sugar, apple cider vinegar, and water.
Pour the sauce over cabbage rolls.
Cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cooked through and cabbage is tender.
Remove the cabbage rolls to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Remove the toothpicks and discard them.
Thicken the Sauce
Place the pan juices in a pan over medium heat. Combine the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of cold water and mix until smooth. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thickened.
Pour the sauce over the rolls. Serve hot and enjoy!
Can I Freeze Cabbage Leaves?
You may freeze the uncooked cabbage rolls for later use. Thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as directed.
Other Ways to Retrieve the Cabbage Leaves
Although it looks intimidating to use cabbage leaves as the wrapper for the rolls, there is an easy way to retrieve the leaves from the cabbage head:
- Place the whole head—colored or not—in a microwave-safe dish with a small amount of water and microwave it on full power for about 10 to 15 minutes. The leaves should peel off nicely.
- Alternatively, remove the stem root and place the whole head core down into a pot of salted boiling water, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes; this technique also makes removing the leaves an easy task.