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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.

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

Trim off the top of the core like this:

how-to-core-cabbage-1Haul out the core, to look like this:

This is how you boil and separate the cabbage leaves:

Trim off the coarse veins from the stem of each leaf, like this:

This is how you stuff and fold the cabbage leaves to form a roll.

place-filling-inside-the-leaf1Fold up the bottom and sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll up, forming a roll like this:


Cabbage Rolls – Vegetarian Recipe & Technique

Cabbage Rolls – Vegetarian Recipe & Technique


  • 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 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 haul out the core.
  3. Fill a large pot 2/3 full with water.
  4. Add 1 Tbs. 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 coarse veins from the stem of each leaf.
  10. If you want to make small rolls, cut each large leaf in half by cutting out the main vain from top to bottom of the leaf.
  11. Prepare filling.
  12. In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.
  13. Sautee 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 tender.
  16. Stir in carrots, zucchini, salt, pepper, and egg.
  17. Let cool
  18. Fill the cabbage leaves to form rolls.
  19. 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:
  20. Fold up the bottom and sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll up, forming a roll.
  21. Line a 9x13 casserole dish with half of the sauerkraut (optional - see tip below).
  22. Arrange cabbage rolls on top, side by side, to form a layer.
  23. Cover with remaining sauerkraut (optional - see tip below).
  24. Whisk tomato paste into tomato juice, and pour over the rolls.
  25. Cover securely with foil.
  26. Bake in 350 degrees F, for 2 hours, or until tender.


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


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