Golubtsi - Cabbage Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Entrée
Serves: 1 large dutch oven cabbage rolls
  • 1-2 cabbage heads (1 large cabbage head - 3.5 lbs or 2 smaller cabbage heads- 1½ lbs each)
  • 3 lbs ground meat (beef, pork, turkey, chicken)
  • ½ - ¾ cup uncooked rice, slightly undercooked to the package instructions
  • 1½ - 2 Tablespoons butter or oil
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, shredded
  • 2 celery stalks
  • ½ cup water, for meat mixture
  • 3 cups tomato sauce or tomato ragu
  • 1 - 1½ cups reserved cabbage water
  • salt, ground black pepper
  • fresh herbs (dill, parsley)
  1. Cut out the core from the head(s) 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. They will pull away easily from the cabbage. You want the leaves to be pliable enough to work with but not falling apart. Take apart the whole cabbage, peeling/separating each of the cabbage leaves as soon as it's soft enough to come away from the cabbage head. Save the water.
  2. When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, cut off the hard rib on each leaf with a paring knife and discard.
  3. At the very center of the cabbage, the leaves will be too small to use. Chop up that cabbage very finely and add about ⅓-1/2 cup to the meat mixture. Coarsely chop the rest of the cabbage that you won't use to roll into golubtsi and set aside. You can use it to line the bottom of the pot or to cover up the cabbage rolls.
  4. Cook the rice according to the package instructions, leaving the rice slightly underdone, drain and set aside to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, make the meat mixture. Heat the butter or oil in a skillet and add the onions. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Cook until the onions are tender. Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and ground black pepper and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender. ⅓ of the vegetables will be for the meat mixture, so cool them slightly, just until they are warm. The other ⅔ of the vegetables will be for the sauce, so leave them in the skillet and add the tomato sauce or tomato ragu to the skillet, heating it through for about 5 minutes.
  6. Mix the ground meat, mixture, finely minced cabbage, rice, ½ cup water, ⅓ of the sautéed onions, carrots and celery, 2½ teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper. If the meat mixture feels very stiff, add a little bit more water. The meant mixture should be soft but stay together. If it feels very stiff, the cabbage rolls will be dry.
  7. For the smaller cabbage leaves, 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.
  8. For the larger cabbage leaves, cut the leaf in half, removing the tough center rib. Place a small amount of meat mixture into the center of the meat, rolling it up into a triangular/cone shape.
  9. Repeat with the rest of the meat and cabbage. I often use the same meat mixture and fill some bell peppers with it too and cook the stuffed peppers along with the cabbage rolls. The bell peppers give a great flavor to the cabbage rolls too.
  10. Spread some of the tomato and vegetable sauce on the bottom of the pot and add some of the coarsely chopped cabbage. Place the cabbage rolls in a tight, single layer over the sauce. Continue layering the cabbage rolls into the pot. Pour the rest of the tomato and vegetable sauce over the cabbage rolls. Pour about 1 - 1½ cups of the reserved cabbage water over the cabbage rolls and the sauce. Bring everything to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 hour on the stovetop. You can also cook the cabbage rolls in the oven, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, for about 1½ hours.
  11. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with sour cream.
To Freeze:
Freeze the cooked cabbage rolls in a tightly sealed container/freezer bag for up to 6 months.
To Reheat:
Thaw and reheat in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for about 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and hot. You can also reheat in a skillet or a pot on the stovetop.
Recipe by Olga's Flavor Factory at https://www.olgasflavorfactory.com/recipes/main-course/golubtsi-cabbage-rolls/