Old-Fashioned Cabbage Rolls Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep: 25 min. Bake: 1-1/2 hours
Call them old-fashioned, but these stuffed cabbage rolls are just as cozy and comforting as they've always been. Once you've got the hang of the rolling technique, you can stuff them with just about anything.

Updated: May 08, 2024

My grandparents lived in New York City’s Brighton Beach neighborhood, known for its population of immigrants from Poland, Russia and Ukraine. At their local grocery stores, you could fill takeout containers with a dozen kinds of smoked fish. Street vendors sold potato knish on the boardwalk. And cabbage rolls were a staple on dinner tables.

The exact origin of the cabbage roll is unknown, but it has been around for at least two millenia. Some claim that the stuffed leaves originated in Turkey, then spread north to Eastern Europe. In Ukraine, cabbage roll recipes use buckwheat; in China, minced chicken and shiitake mushrooms; and in Egypt, lamb blended with aromatic spices. Golabki, the Polish cabbage rolls, can be stuffed with beef or pork and either rice or barley, and are topped with tomato sauce or plain sour cream.

These old-fashioned Polish-style cabbage rolls are like the ones my grandmother used to make. The filling includes a mixture of ground beef and pork with rice, and they bake in the oven with a savory tomato sauce. There’s a debate over the best way to prepare them. Some recipes use cooked rice, while others add it uncooked. Many recipes use no tomatoes, and some use condensed tomato soup for the filling and sauce.

But the mechanics of making stuffed cabbage are essentially the same. Once you learn the technique for this classic winter comfort food, you can stuff your cabbage rolls with almost anything, and serve them any time!

Ingredients for Cabbage Rolls

  • Cabbage: I generally make this dish with firm, medium-sized green cabbage, but you can make it with red cabbage—or a mix of the two—if you prefer the color and flavor. Curly and tender cabbages, like Napa and Savoy, can be used to make Asian-inspired shrimp cabbage wraps, but aren’t well suited for this recipe due to the lengthy baking time.
  • Ground beef and pork: Two types of ground meat add a variety of flavor, but it’s fine to use all beef if you have trouble finding ground pork. You can also use ground lamb in part or on its own.
  • Parsley: Our recipe calls for dried parsley, but fresh parsley is an even nicer addition to the cabbage rolls. When making the fresh to dried herb conversion, 1 tablespoon of dried parsley is equal to 3 tablespoons of fresh.
  • Dill: Nothing says “I’m an Eastern European dish” like the green, aromatic flavor of dill. Generally when cooking with dill weed you use the slender little dill fronds, but there’s nothing wrong with using some stem—as long as it’s not too tough. It’s worth hunting down fresh dill; it’s more fragrant, and said to be great for digestion.
  • Canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes: The cabbage rolls cook in a savory tomato sauce, so use your favorite high-quality brand or the best San Marzano tomatoes. Make sure you read the recipe carefully; some of the tomato sauce goes in the filling, while the rest is used for the sauce.


Step 1: Prep the cabbage

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and (gently) drop in the entire head of cabbage. Cook the cabbage in boiling water just until the outer leaves pull easily away from the head. Using tongs, remove and set aside 12 large leaves for your rolls. Remove the remaining cabbage from the pot, and set it aside.

Editor’s Tip: Before cooking the cabbage, remove the main portion of the stem. With a paring knife, pointing the knife towards the center of the cabbage, cut around the stem so that you’re removing a cone-shaped piece. Check out the video to see what the cabbage will look like once you do this.

Step 2: Make the filling

In a small bowl, combine the beef, pork, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, onion, rice, parsley, salt, dill and cayenne, and mix well. (Clean hands are the best tool here!)

Editor’s Tip: Making the filling and the sauce while the cabbage cooks is a great time saver. If you’re unsure about your seasonings, cook up a tiny piece, taste it and adjust the seasonings accordingly.

Step 3: Trim the cabbage leaves

Cut out the thick vein from the bottom of each leaf, making a V-shaped cut.

Editor’s Tip: You can also shave off the toughest part of the stem, making it more flexible without fully removing it. Start at the thinnest part of the vein on the exterior side of the leaf, and carefully run a paring knife towards the bottom of the leaf, shaving off the thickest part.

Step 4: Stuff the cabbage

Place about 1/4 cup of the meat mixture in the center of a cabbage leaf. Overlap the cut ends, and fold in the sides. Beginning from the cut end, roll up the leaves into a cute little envelope. Repeat with remaining leaves.

Step 5: Prepare the Dutch oven

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice the remaining cabbage and place it in a Dutch oven, lining the bottom. Arrange the cabbage rolls, with the seam side down, over the sliced cabbage. Combine the tomatoes, sugar and remaining tomato sauce, and pour it over the rolls.

Editor’s Tip: A Dutch oven is one of the best things to have in a kitchen. It’s sturdy and cooks food evenly. And our Test Kitchen’s picks for the best Dutch oven brands can be used for a wide variety of recipes.

Step 6: Bake the rolls

Cover the Dutch oven and bake the cabbage rolls until the they’re tender, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

overhead shot of cabbage rollsTMB Studio

Recipe Variations

  • Mix up your meats: You can stuff cabbage rolls with ground lamb, turkey or chicken. Sausages make great fillings as well (kielbasa and chorizo are particularly delicious). Even leftover braised meats like pot roast can work well.
  • Stuff other vegetables: This filling can be used to stuff hollowed-out zucchini or bell peppers. You can also stuff other leafy greens such as chard or kale with the meat-and-rice filling.
  • Make it vegetarian: There are plenty of stuffed cabbage recipes around the world that are based on vegetables and grains. Try using cooked buckwheat with mushrooms and onion, or brown rice and lentils. You may need to adjust the cooking time when making vegetarian cabbage rolls, depending on your filling.
  • Amp up the flavor: I love to add Hungarian paprika or smoked Spanish paprika to cabbage rolls, and will often include some garlic, too. If you’re into heat you could incorporate chili flakes or add diced hot peppers to the filling. Mixing sauerkraut into the meat is a wonderful, traditional way to make the flavor of your cabbage rolls pop.
  • Stuff a whole cabbage: If you want to get really wild, you can stuff a whole cabbage instead of filling individual leaves!

How to Store Cabbage Rolls

Store leftover cabbage rolls in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Can you freeze cabbage rolls?

Yes! You can freeze unbaked cabbage rolls and cook them from frozen later. After stuffing and rolling the cabbage leaves, store them in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag for up to four months. To cook them, partially thaw the rolls in the fridge overnight, and take them out about 30 minutes before baking. Make the sauce and pour it over the cabbage rolls. Cover and bake them at 350° until they’re cooked through, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Cabbage Rolls Tips

overhead shot of old fashioned cabbage rollsTMB Studio

How do you cut cabbage for cabbage rolls?

To make sure the cabbage rolls are tender and not tough, you need to remove the thick edge of the leaf before rolling. To do this, use a paring knife to cut out a narrow triangle from the bottom of the cabbage leaf, removing only the thick ridge. You could also run a paring knife along the outer part of the vein to shave off the thickest part—your cabbage leaf will be flexible and remain fully intact.

What can you serve with cabbage rolls?

Cabbage rolls can stand on their own as a full meal, but they’re wonderful when accompanied by a fresh, crunchy vegetable side dish that offers a counterpoint to the soft texture of the rolls. For instance, try a chopped garden salad or creamy cucumber salad. While there’s rice in the filling, mashed potatoes are a classic comfort-food side dish for cabbage rolls. To end the meal, go for plum cake or other traditional Polish desserts.

Watch how to Make Old-Fashioned Cabbage Rolls

Old-Fashioned Cabbage Rolls

Prep Time 25 min
Yield 6 servings.


  • 1 medium head cabbage (3 pounds)
  • 1/2 pound uncooked ground beef
  • 1/2 pound uncooked ground pork
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce, divided
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon snipped fresh dill or dill weed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


  1. Cook cabbage in boiling water just until outer leaves pull away easily from head. Set aside 12 large leaves for rolls. In a small bowl, combine the beef, pork, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, onion, rice, parsley, salt, dill and cayenne; mix well.
  2. Cut out the thick vein from the bottom of each leaf, making a V-shaped cut. Place about 1/4 cup meat mixture on a cabbage leaf; overlap cut ends of leaf. Fold in sides. Beginning from the cut end, roll up. Repeat.
  3. Slice the remaining cabbage; place in a Dutch oven. Arrange the cabbage rolls seam side down over sliced cabbage. Combine the tomatoes, sugar and remaining tomato sauce; pour over the rolls. Cover and bake at 350° until cabbage rolls are tender, 1-1/2 hours.

Nutrition Facts

2 cabbage rolls: 260 calories, 10g fat (4g saturated fat), 50mg cholesterol, 694mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate (5g sugars, 3g fiber), 18g protein.

It was an abundance of dill in my garden that led me to try this. My family liked the taste so much that, from then on, I made my old-fashioned cabbage rolls recipe with dill. This is how to make easy cabbage rolls. – Florence Krantz, Bismarck, North Dakota