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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, 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.

For another variation of stuffed cabbage roll filling, please click on this link to view the recipes for Meat/Rice filling or Mushrooms/Rice filling.

Cabbage Rolls are not the easiest dish to prepare, since they require a lot of prep work beforehand, especially the cabbage, but if you love them, it’s well worth the effort.

### Please scroll to the bottom of this post for a printable recipe ###

Also, please read the notes below the recipe, for helpful hints and tips.

Trim off the top of the core like this:

how-to-core-cabbage-1Cut out the core from the head of the cabbage, so it looks like this:

This is how you boil and separate the cabbage leaves:

Trim off the thick spine from the stem of each leaf, like this, or see another method just below this one:

You may use these snippets, and the leftover very small leaves to add to the bottom of your pan, before layering the cabbage rolls over them.

You may also use the kitchen scissors to use the above method to trim off the thick spine of each leaf, then cut the larger leaves in half, to make smaller, cone-shaped cabbage rolls.  I prefer this method now since it allows me to make more uniform-looking rolls, hence smaller serving portions.


This is how you stuff and fold the cabbage leaves to form cone-shaped rolls.



This is the other way to fold up the whole cabbage leaves, rather than cutting them in half, to make oblong cabbage rolls.

Fold up the bottom and sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll up, forming a roll, always placing them seam down in the pan, to prevent unraveling and losing the filling during baking.

This is how to layer the cabbage rolls, add the sauce, cover with the remaining large (usually the green outer leaves), wrap with foil, cover, and bake.

Click on this link to check out the meat or mushroom filling for holubtsi.


Cabbage Rolls – Vegetarian Recipe & Technique

Cabbage Rolls – Vegetarian Recipe & Technique


  • 1 medium size cabbage head
  • 1 1/2 Tlbs. 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 seeds, crushed (optional)
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • ¼ tsp. salt (or to your taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. black ground pepper (or to your taste)
  • 1 egg
  • 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)


  1. Remove and discard a couple of the outer leaves from the cabbage head, since they are usually damaged.
  2. Trim off the top of the core and cut out the core.
  3. Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water.
  4. Add 1 Tlbs. of salt, and bring to boil.
  5. Place the cabbage in the water, with the hauled out end down, and boil it for about 5 minutes.
  6. 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 they become somewhat transparent looking.
  7. Using the same long fork, start removing parboiled leaves onto a platter.
  8. Once all the large and medium size leaves are all parboiled and removed, let them cool off.
  9. Trim off the thick spine from the stem of each leaf.
  10. If you want to make small rolls, cut each large leaf in half by cutting out the thick spine from top to bottom of the leaf.
  11. Prepare filling.
  12. In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.
  13. Saute onions, garlic, oregano, thyme, and caraway seeds for 5 minutes, or until softened.
  14. Stir in rice.
  15. Add vegetable stock, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Do not overcook.
  16. Place the cooked rice in a large bowl and cool off slightly.
  17. Mix in the carrots, zucchini, salt, pepper, and egg.
  18. To fill the cabbage leaves to form rolls cup your hand, place a cabbage leaf in your cupped palm, with the outer edge of the leaf towards your fingers, spoon 1/3 cup of filling onto the bottom of each leaf, fold up the bottom and sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll up, forming a roll.
  19. Line a 9x13 casserole dish with half of the sauerkraut (optional - see tip below).
  20. Arrange cabbage rolls fitting them side by side, to form a layer.
  21. Cover with remaining sauerkraut (optional - see tip below).
  22. Whisk tomato paste into the tomato juice, and pour over the rolls.
  23. Cover securely with foil.
  24. Bake in a preheated oven to 350 degrees F, for 1.5 hours with vegetarian filling, or 2 hours with meat filling.


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 plus the cut off thick leaf spines. If you do not have any leaves left to cover the top layer of the cabbage rolls, the tomato sauce will be sufficient.

For the Mushroom/Rice filled cabbage rolls, you may also use only water and canola oil for the liquid rather than the tomato sauce, then serve them with brown or mushroom gravy poured over them.

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 tried this method, but was not very fond of the flavor of the leaves....I still prefer boiling them the usual way.

For mushroom/rice filling or meat/rice filling please check the link at the bottom of this post.


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