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Homemade Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are an ultra-cozy Dutch oven dinner idea. Learn how to make beef- and rice-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls on the stovetop, plus how to make baked Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and slow cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls all using the same simple formula.

Stuffed cabbage rolls in a casserole dish.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, also known as stuffed cabbage leaves, Golabki, or Golumpki, are considered a delicacy in Eastern Europe and beyond, but every region has its own special recipe. Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, for example, feature sauerkraut in the tomato sauce, a generous amount or pork or bacon in the filling, and a hearty dollop of sour cream on top.

My recreation of Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls call for a secret ingredient in this recipe that you’d probably never guess by looking or even tasting the comfort food dinner. Even though it’s unusual, this magical ingredient has been used by generations of cabbage roll makers: crushed gingersnap cookies.

Stick with me here; they simmer into the tomato sauce and offer a subtle sweet spicy flavor note and slightly thicken the texture. Tasting is believing, and my family can’t get enough of this ground beef entree.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step-by-step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for stuffed cabbage rolls.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Onions: You’ll need two; one for grating into the filling, and another for the fragrant Onion Piqué.
  • Ground beef: Or substitute, ground pork, turkey, or sausage.
  • Lemon juice: Apple cider vinegar also works. We’re just seeking a little acidity to brighten things up.
  • Gingersnaps: Trust me! Crush up the cookies then add them to the tomato sauce for an unexpected yet totally welcome kick of spice and sweetness.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a Dutch oven or large stock pot over high heat, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add cored head of cabbage and cook until the outer leaves just begin to wilt, about 3 minutes, turning as needed. As each one wilts, use tongs to remove the outer 20 leaves from the head of cabbage, one at a time, and transfer to a colander to cool. Remove the remaining blanched head of cabbage and let cool. Do not discard the water.
A cabbage head being boiled and separated in a silver pot.
  1. Return cabbage water to a boil over high heat. Add rice and cook until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain rice through a strainer or fine mesh sieve, rinse to cool, and drain thoroughly. In a medium bowl, combine cooked rice, grated onion, beef, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Stuffed cabbage roll ingredients in a clear bowl.
  1. Trim any tough ribs from the cabbage leaves and tightly roll 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into each leaf (you should have 20 rolls). Shred remaining blanched cabbage (both the head and any remaining leaves).
Cabbage rolls being stuffed and rolled on a wooden cutting board.
  1. Scatter half of the shredded cabbage leaves in a large Dutch oven. Arrange the cabbage rolls , seam-side down, on top of the shredded cabbage, fitting them snugly to prevent unrolling. (If you are using a smaller pot arrange the rolls in two layers). Sprinkle with remaining shredded cabbage over the rolls.
Cabbage rolls in a silver stock pot.
  1. In a medium bowl, add diced tomatoes and juice, tomato puree, water, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, then pour over cabbage.
Red sauce being poured onto stuffed cabbage rolls in a silver pot.
  1. Push the whole cloves into the whole, peeled onion and submerge it in the liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
Cloves being poked into an onion.
  1. Discard the clove-studded onion. Sprinkle the crushed gingersnaps into pot and shake pot gently to incorporate them without disturbing cabbage rolls. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 hour.
Stuffed cabbage rolls in a silver pot.
  1. To serve, gently transfer the cabbage rolls to a serving dish using a slotted spoon. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of brown sugar to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon some sauce over the rolls and pass the extra sauce separately.
Stuffed cabbage rolls in a white baking dish.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: My Stuffed Cabbage Roll recipe makes 18 stuffed rolls. I usually estimate about 3 rolls per person (keeping in mind that leftovers reheat beautifully).
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Freezer: Place cooked and cooled cabbage rolls in an airtight container and freeze for up to one month. When you’re ready to dig in, thaw the Cabbage Rolls in the refrigerator overnight. Place them in an oven-safe dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake the cabbage rolls in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees, then remove the foil and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until the rolls are heated through.
Stuffed cabbage rolls in a casserole dish.

Recipe FAQs

Can I make slow cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls?

You can! Follow the instructions below through Step 1 of “to assemble the cabbage rolls,” then follow the rest of the assembly steps using a slow cooker pot instead of a Dutch oven. Tuck them snugly into the slow cooker, layering with shredded cabbage, then pour the tomato sauce over the rolls, sprinkle on the gingersnap cookie crumbs, and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or HIGH for 4 to 5 hours. Proceed to Step 5 and serve.


Can I make baked Stuffed Cabbage Rolls instead of stovetop Cabbage Rolls?

Absolutely. If you prefer to bake your Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, follow the instructions below. After adding the gingersnap crumbs in Step 4 of “to assemble the cabbage rolls,” transfer the Dutch oven into a preheated oven set to 350 degrees. Bake the uncovered Cabbage Rolls for 1 hour. Then proceed to Step 5.

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A classic Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe with beef, rice, and tomatoes. Assemble them a day or two ahead for a quick 30-minute meal during the week!

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Stuffed cabbage rolls in a white baking dish.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Homemade Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are an ultra-cozy Dutch oven dinner idea. Learn how to make beef- and rice-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls on the stovetop, plus how to make baked Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and slow cooker Stuffed Cabbage Rolls all using the same simple formula.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins
Servings 18 rolls
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 180

Ingredients 

For the cabbage:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 head green cabbage cored (about 3 pounds)

For the meat filling:

  • 1/4 cup white rice long grain
  • 1 onion grated on the large holes of box grater (see note 1)
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (see note 2)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato purée
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar divided
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (see note 3)
  • 1 onion peeled
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 3 ounces gingersnaps coarsely crushed (see note 4)

Instructions 

To make the cabbage:

  • In a Dutch oven or large stock pot over high heat, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add cored head of cabbage and cook until the outer leaves just begin to wilt, about 3 minutes, turning as needed.
  • As each one wilts, use tongs to remove the outer 20 leaves from the head of cabbage, one at a time, and transfer to a colander to cool. Remove the remaining blanched head of cabbage and let cool. Do not discard the water.

To make the meat filling:

  • Return cabbage water to a boil over high heat. Add rice and cook until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain rice through a strainer or fine mesh sieve, rinse to cool, and drain thoroughly.
  • In a medium bowl, combine cooked rice, grated onion, beef, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

To assemble the cabbage rolls:

  • Trim any tough ribs from the cabbage leaves and tightly roll 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into each leaf (you should have 20 rolls). Shred remaining blanched cabbage (both the head and any remaining leaves).
  • Scatter half of the shredded cabbage leaves in a large Dutch oven. Arrange the cabbage rolls , seam-side down, on top of the shredded cabbage, fitting them snugly to prevent unrolling. (If you are using a smaller pot arrange the rolls in two layers). Sprinkle with remaining shredded cabbage over the rolls.
  • In a medium bowl, add diced tomatoes and juice, tomato puree, water, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine, then pour over cabbage. Push the whole cloves into the whole, peeled onion and submerge it in the liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Discard the clove-studded onion. Sprinkle the crushed gingersnaps into pot and shake pot gently to incorporate them without disturbing cabbage rolls. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 1 hour.
  • To serve, gently transfer the cabbage rolls to a serving dish using a slotted spoon. Stir in the remaining 3 tablespoons of brown sugar to the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon some sauce over the rolls and pass the extra sauce separately.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Onions: You’ll need two; one for grating into the filling, and another for the fragrant Onion Piqué.
  2. Ground beef: Or substitute, ground pork, turkey, or sausage.
  3. Lemon juice: Apple cider vinegar also works. We’re just seeking a little acidity to brighten things up.
  4. Gingersnaps: Trust me! Crush up the cookies then add them to the tomato sauce for an unexpected yet totally welcome kick of spice and sweetness.

Nutrition

Calories: 180kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 9gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 80mgPotassium: 474mgFiber: 3gSugar: 10gVitamin A: 302IUVitamin C: 27mgCalcium: 56mgIron: 2mg
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I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Comments

  1. I made the cabbage rolls last night, fully anticipating disaster after I over cooked the cabbage when separating the leaves, but boy was I very pleasantly surprised! The cabbage rolls turned out absolutely delicious!! I’ve been looking for a sweet/sour cabbage roll recipe that included gingersnaps and now that I have found it, these will be on the “favorites”
    rotation. I like that the recipe makes plenty … and leaves you wishing for more! It seems a very “forgiving” recipe as I had to switch up burners and eventually finished the rolls in the oven as one of the other reviewers mentioned. It makes my mouth water just thinking of them!! Thank you Meggan for the great recipe.5 stars

  2. Best cabbage roll recipe I’ve ever made! One question, the recipe notes the 6 Tbl. of brown sugar is divided. 3 Tbl goes into the sauce – does the other 3 go in the meat mixture?5 stars

    1. Hi Ruth, I’m so sorry about that!!! The last 3 tablespoons of brown sugar are supposed to get stirred in to the sauce at the very end. So when the rolls are done, you take them out and put them in your serving dish (or wherever). Then you stir the rest of the brown sugar into the sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. And then you pass that sauce separately or spoon it over the rolls. Adding it to the meat mixture would be fine – is that what you did? I’m sure that was good too! And whether the sauce NEEDS the extra 3 tablespoons at the end is probably a personal preference thing. Either way, I fixed the recipe and I’m so sorry about that. It’s always horrifying when someone discovers a typo like that. Thanks for letting me know! -Meggan

  3. They take a while, but they’re soooo worth the effort! After 30 minutes on the stove, I removed the onion, added the gingersnaps, then put the uncovered Dutch oven in the oven for an hour to be sure they didn’t burn on the bottom. But I never did see when to add the other 3Tbs brown sugar. It really didn’t need it. The sauce was sweet enough without it. Really really good!5 stars