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Cabbage Rolls – Vegetarian Recipe & Technique

cabbage-rollsMost of you already are familiar with Cabbage Rolls, but to Eastern European cooks, they are known as Holupki, Holubtsi, or Golabki.   All Cabbage Rolls may look the same, yet be very different, depending on the filling used to prepare them. The most popular filling consists of cooked rice mixed with ground beef, turkey, or meatloaf mix, and spices; however you can also use rice or buckwheat mixed with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, or a vegetarian filling, which I will introduce in this recipe. Cabbage Rolls are not the easiest dish to prepare, since it requires a lot of prep work beforehand, especially the cabbage, but if you love them, it’s well worth the effort.


  • 1 medium size cabbage head
  • 11/2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I use a garlic chopper)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. caraway seed, crushed (optional)
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • ¼ tsp. salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 1 lb. sauerkraut, slightly rinsed out and drained (optional – see tip below)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 ½ cups tomato juice (I prefer V-8)


  • Discard a couple of the outer leaves from the cabbage head, since they are usually damaged, thus not usable.
  • Trim off the top of the core like this:


  • Haul out the core, to look like this:

  • Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water.
  • Add 1 Tbs. of salt, and bring to boil.
  • Place the cabbage in the water, with the hauled out end down, and boil it for about 5 minutes.
  • Turn the cabbage head over, so the cored out end is up, and boil for about 3 minutes. Using a long handle fork, such as grilling fork, start separating the leaves from the cabbage, keeping them around the cabbage head, and continue boiling for 2 minutes longer, or until somewhat transparent looking:

  • Using the same long fork, start removing parboiled leaves onto a platter.
  • Once all the large and medium size leaves are all parboiled and removed, let them cool off.
  • Trim off the coarse veins from the stem of each leaf, like this:


Prepare filling.

  1. In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Cook onions, garlic, oregano, thyme, and caraway seeds for 5 minutes, or until softened.
  3. Stir in rice.
  4. Add vegetable stock, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.
  5. Stir in carrots, zucchini, salt and pepper.
  6. Let cool
  7. Fill the cabbage leaves to form rolls.
  8. Cup you hand, place a cabbage leaf in your cupped palm, with the outer section of the leaf towards your fingers, spoon 1/3 cup of filling onto the bottom of each leaf, like this:


  • Fold up the bottom and sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll up, forming a roll like this:


  • Line a 9×13 baking dish with half of the sauerkraut (optional – see tip below).
  • Arrange cabbage rolls on top, side by side, to form a layer.
  • Cover with remaining sauerkraut (optional – see tip below).
  • Whisk tomato paste into tomato juice, and pour over the rolls.
  • Cover securely with foil.
  • Bake in 350 degrees F, for 2 hours, or until tender.

Tip: You may exclude the sauerkraut, if you are not a big fan of this vegetable, or if you do not wish to experience a more piquant flavor of this dish. In that case, line the bottom of the pan with chopped up left over cooked cabbage leaves. If you do not have any leaves left to cover the top, then the tomato sauce will be sufficient.

Someone mentioned to me that instead of cooking the cabbage leaves, they freeze the whole head of cored out cabbage, then thaw it when ready to make cabbage rolls. I have yet to test this one out.

12 thoughts on “Cabbage Rolls – Vegetarian Recipe & Technique”

  1. BusyMom says:

    Thank you especially for the step-by-step directions on preparing the cabbage leaves. The first time I made holubtsi, I was trying to peel the raw leaves off the head of cabbage (rather unsuccessfully) before boiling them! Live and learn… 🙂

  2. Suburban Grandma says:

    Well… and learn is true for all of us. No matter how much you know about something, there is still more to learn. Sometimes the harder you try to make something so perfect, the results are not always reflecting all the effort you put in….how unfair is that..

    I commend you for giving a try to making this dish. Believe me, it gets easier with time, so don’t give up yet!

  3. Olga from AWS says:

    Awe… these are the most delicious! I absolutely love them, especially with sour cream! Thank you for the recipe! 🙂

  4. Suburban Grandma says:

    You are very welcome, hopefully you get a chance to make them sometimes.
    Holubtsi (cabbage rolls) really are delicious, no matter which filling you choose, meat or vegetarian. Sour cream sounds great to top them off with.

  5. vegan groceries says:

    Great post. Thanks for this great recipe. These days it’s getting easier to live a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle.

  6. Suburban Grandma says:

    Thank you for stopping by and for your comment.
    Yes, I agree, it is much easier now to be a vegetarian, but still ways to go for vegans.

  7. sdterp says:

    Is the rice raw when added — the recipe does’t mention if the rice is cooked or raw. The cook time is more than long enough to cook the raw rice but it seems hard to imagine there would be enough liquid for the rice to cook. I have had dishes somewhat similar that cooked the rice as they baked but there was more moisture involved.

  8. sdterp says:

    OMG – Never mind. I overlooked stepped 4 when I read through the steps. (hand on forehead)

    4. Add vegetable stock, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.

  9. Suburban Grandma says:

    Thank you so much for your comments. The rice is raw, when added to the spices and the vegetable stock. One cup of rice and 2 cups of vegetable stock, cooked covered for 20 minutes, as in this recipe, will cook the rice enough to be suitable for the filling.

  10. Suburban Grandma says:

    You are so cute!
    You got it, and I also answered your original question.
    Have fun cooking, and even more fun enjoying the food.

  11. Jackie says:

    As a child, my mother would make stuffed cabbage (calling it phonetically hablookis) at least every other week–I dreaded those days because they were always stuffed with some type of meat and I hated the smell of them cooking for what seemed to me ALL day (yes, even then I was a closet vegetarian). Now, as an adult–and still a vegetarian 50+ some years later–maybe I should give stuffed cabbage a chance. Your pictures and descriptions are beautiful and have given me the opportunity to discard unpleasant memories!

  12. Suburban Grandma says:

    Yes, “holoobki”are not everyone’s favorite food item, but some just love it enough to have it often. It is a time consuming project, but worth it, if you like it. My favorite vegetarian holoobki are with cooked rice mixed with sauteed onions and mushrooms, served with mushroom sauce….one of my kids likes these more than the meat ones.
    If you make these, then you do not use any tomato sauce for baking them,but rather vegetable broth..yum.
    Thank you for your comments, and good luck with making these.

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