Golubtsi – Cabbage Rolls (Голубцы)

Cabbage rolls are a widely known dish in Europe. I’m sharing the recipe that we like to make in our family. This healthy main dish is perfect for making ahead of time. Even though it is time consuming to make, it’s totally worth it, because the leftovers taste even bettter.

Some people are adamant that true cabbage rolls should be made with only cabbage and meat. Well, I’m not a traditionist and don’t mind making additions or subtractions as long as the end result makes my taste buds happy:). I am not a big fan of eating just cabbage and meat, so I add other ingredients that add another dimension of seasoning to the dish.

For the filling, I combine ground pork, rice, onions, carrots and finely minced cabbage and wrap it all around a cabbage leaf. By adding all these other ingredients, the meat filling is tender, juicy and packed with savory flavors. Layering the cabbage rolls in between more carrots and onions, I also use a tomato sauce to cook them in. As they simmer in this aromatic sauce, all the components meld together and create one yummy cabbage roll, that’s SO good with a dallop of sour cream and a slice of Black Bread

Let’s start cooking!

Take out the core from a small head of cabbage. Submerge the whole thing in a pot of salted water.Bring it to a boil and cook until the outer leaves are tender but not mushy. You want the leaves to be pliable enough to work with but not falling apart. Save the water. When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the cabbage leaves. Cut off the hard rib on each leaf with a paring knife and discard. If the center leaves are hard, you might want to return them to the water and cook for a few minutes.

Many times, I peel the leaves of cabbage before cooking them and then cook them. It’s faster that way, but sometimes the cabbage leaves don’t cooperate and I have to cook the whole head first.At the very center of the cabbage, the leaves will be too small to use. Chop up that cabbage very small to get about 1/4 – 1/3 cup. You will add this to the meat mixture. Coarsely chop the rest of the cabbage that you won’t use to roll into golubtsi and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the meat mixture. Melt about a Tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add the onion. Season with salt. Cook until the onions are tender and golden. Put the onions into a bowl where you will be mixing the meat.

As the onions cook, they caramelize. The onions become sweeter and more mild, not the harsh taste of raw onions. This is the secret to these golubtsi. The filling will taste different if you omit this step.

In the same skillet, melt another tablespoon of butter and cook the onion and carrots, seasoning with salt and pepper until they are tender, 5-7 minutes.  Cook the rice according to package instructions. Mix the meat, onions, 1/3 cup carrot and onion mixture, finely minced cabbage,  rice, water, salt, pepper. Take a small portion of the meat mixture and place it in the center of a cabbage leaf. Fold the side edges over the meat. Starting from the folded over cabbage leaf closest to you, roll up the cabbage leaf over the meat to form a roll.

This is  just one way of making cabbage rolls. I shape them depending on the cabbage that I’m using. Sometimes, I make the cabbage rolls into triangular shapes. Repeat with the rest of the meat and cabbage. Fill the pepper with the meat mixture also, if you’re using it.   Spread some of the carrots and onions on the bottom of the pot and add some of the coarsely chopped cabbage. You can also add a chopped bell pepper, if you’d like. Place the cabbage rolls in a tight, single layer. Cover with more carrots and onions. Repeat with another layer of cabbage rolls. Cover with carrots and onions. Pour the pureed tomatoes and cabbage water over the cabbage rolls. You can use just cabbage water without the tomatoes, but I like the flavor better with tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Serve with sour cream.


Golubtsi - Cabbage Rolls
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entrée
Serves: 12-15 small golubtsi
Ingredients
  • 1 small-medium cabbage head
  • 1-1/2 lbs ground pork
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, shredded
  • ¼ cup uncooked rice, cooked according to package instructions
  • ¼ cup water, for meat mixture
  • 1 small bell pepper, center removed
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, pureed in the food processor
  • ⅓ cup reserved cabbage water
  • salt, pepper
Instructions
  1. Take out the core from a small head of cabbage. Submerge the whole thing in a pot of salted water. Bring it to a boil and cook until the outer leaves are tender but not mushy. You want the leaves to be pliable enough to work with but not falling apart. Save the water.
  2. When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the cabbage leaves. Cut off the hard rib on each leaf with a paring knife and discard. If the center leaves are hard, you might want to return them to the water and cook for a few minutes. Many times, I peel the leaves of cabbage before cooking them and then cook them. It's faster that way, but sometimes the cabbage leaves don't cooperate and I have to cook them first.
  3. At the very center of the cabbage, the leaves will be too small to use. Chop up that cabbage very finely to get about ¼ - ⅓ cup. You will add this to the meat mixture. Coarsely chop the rest of the cabbage that you won't use to roll into golubtsi and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile, make the meat mixture. Melt about a Tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add the onion. Season with salt. Cook until the onions are tender and golden. Put the onions into a bowl where you will be mixing the meat.
  5. In the same skillet, melt another tablespoon of butter and cook the onion and carrots, seasoning with salt and pepper until they are tender, 5-7 minutes.
  6. Cook the rice according to package instructions.
  7. Mix the meat, onions, ⅓ cup carrot and onion mixture, finely minced cabbage, rice, water, salt, pepper.
  8. Take a small portion of the meat mixture and place it in the center of a cabbage leaf. Fold the side edges over the meat. Starting from the folded over cabbage leaf closest to you, roll up the cabbage leaf over the meat to form a roll. Repeat with the rest of the meat and cabbage. Fill the pepper with the meat mixture also, if you're using it.
  9. Spread some of the carrots and onions on the bottom of the pot and add some of the coarsely chopped cabbage. You can also add a chopped bell pepper, if you'd like. Place the cabbage rolls in a tight, single layer. Cover with more carrots and onions. Repeat with another layer of cabbage rolls. Cover with carrots and onions.
  10. Pour the pureed tomatoes and cabbage water over the cabbage rolls. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Serve with sour cream.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Natalka says

    Olga thank you so much for your website, its really helping to make every day something new for my family, I check you website every day, and I LOVED (because you have beautiful pictures step by step and great recipes) thank you so much….Have a ? for this recipe golubtsi, do you think can I use beef and pork for the meet, or with pork taste better? thanks

    • says

      Thank you for your kind words, Natalka! It means a lot to me:)
      You can make this with any kind if meat that you like. I prefer pork, but I’ve made them with turkey and chicken too. I’venever made them with beef, but I’m sure if would work too.

  2. Donna Taylor says

    I love your site and recipes. I have always wanted to know how to make cabbage rolls like this! Would you mind giving me some suggestions for what you serve with them? I was thinking of preparing them for a family get-together.

    • says

      That’s great, Donna! I’m so excited that you’ll be giving cabbage rolls a try. Whenever I make cabbage rolls, we serve them simply with bread and sour cream on the side. You can serve it with a salad. I usually make some sort of soup to serve as a first course.

  3. vik says

    Great classic recipe! I love these warmed up the next day in the skillet, crisping the cabbage in the process.
    One question: do you have an easy way to print just the basic recipe?
    Thanks!

    • says

      That’s a great way of reheating them, Vik. I made the Printable recipe for you. Some of my older recipes don’t have the printable recipe since I was using another program, but I am trying to change all of them to include the Printable version as well. If you see any others, please let me know.

  4. Susanna says

    Just made these. After taking my first bite I couldn’t help but smile, as it reminded me of eating these as a little girl in Odessa. So good! My husband is very excited to try these too. I admit I was intimidated at first to work with the cabbage, but it was so easy!

    Thanks Olga AGAIN! Now I an making the kotleti with mushroom stuffing.

    My only question is: What do I do with all my Food and Wine and Bon Appetit magazines? I stopped reading them once I discovered your website. Ha ha maybe I’ll give them away.

    Bolshoe Spasibo!

    • says

      What a sweet comment, Susanna! I’m thrilled that you are enjoying the recipes:).
      I stopped all my magazine subscriptions a few years ago because there are so many options for recipes online. You can donate your collection to the library:).

  5. DCFan says

    Olga, thanks for a wonderful and easy to follow recipe! My boyfriend said these were better than his grandma’s!! We really enjoyed making and eating them last night.

    • says

      Wow! That’s quite a compliment:). Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know. I love reading comments like yours, DCFan.

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