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How To Make Stuffed Cabbage

Updated on January 17, 2011

Learning to Cook

A long time ago, or, once upon a time :) (take your pick) as a young married woman, I discovered that my husband loved stuffed cabbage. Both his mom and mine used to make it a lot. Being relatively new to cooking, that was one meal I didn't know how to make. I had seen my mom make it many times, but never paid attention as to how she put it all together, nor did I bother to ask.

So, as the months went by, every now and then my hubby would say why don't you make stuffed cabbage? I thought, ok, I guess it's time I learned how.

So off to my mom's I went and got my first lesson in preparing this seemingly complicated meal. The things I knew how to make were rather plain and simple, such as meatloaf, meatballs, pork chops and lasagne. Making stuffed cabbage seemed like an awful lot of work and was not something I was looking forward to learning.

In any case, much to my surprise, it was not as complicated as I imagined. So, after getting lesson number one under my belt, I went home with recipe in hand. I'm not sure how much longer I waited before I attempted it on my own. I just knew that I wanted to surprise my hubby. I finally picked a Sunday and prepared it. Although I felt my solo attempt with this was not nearly as good as my mom's, my hubby was impressed.

So with the boost of confidence he gave me, I made the meal many, many times, much to his delight. The ultimate compliment I got was from my mom, who stated that mine tasted better than hers. Along the way, I had made a variation or two in the recipe, but not so much that it didn't taste like the original, just better.

Should you try this, my advice to you would be to put a morning aside to put it altogether so that you can have it for dinner that night. While this is relatively simple, it is time consuming. The plus is, it can be frozen to serve at another time.



2 or 3 lbs ground beef

2 cups white rice

2 cans tomato soup

1 small can tomato paste

1 16 oz can of sauerkraut, drained

1 large white onion

3 or 4 strips of bacon

2 heads of cabbage, medium to large, but not too large

small can of tomato sauce (optional)



2 large stew or spaghetti pots

2 large bowls


1 medium saucepan

1 small frying pan

2 large 2-pronged forks

1 sharp steak or paring knife

cutting board


Prepare the white rice according to directions and set aside.

Fry the bacon in the small pan, then cut the bacon into small pieces and set aside. Retain the bacon grease.

Chop the onion into small pieces. Minced is good. Set aside.

Open the cans of tomato soup and tomato paste. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, the cooled rice, the chopped onion and bacon, the bacon grease, tomato paste, and salt and pepper and mix it all together. Set aside.

Rinse the two heads of cabbage thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels.

Place one on the cutting board. You can remove the 2 or 3 outer leaves from the heads as they tend to be bruised or ripped. Set aside.

Using your sharp knife, cut approximately 1 inch down around the core. This will allow the leaves to separate from the head while par-boiling.

Repeat this on the second head.

Place each head in a pot of water. Turn the heat (gas or electric) on high and bring to a boil, then lower the flame/element to low.

You'll be par-boiling the cabbages as you don't want them fully cooked. They should be just soft enough so that the leaves separate easily from the core. Once the first layer of leaves have separated off the head, allow those leaves to boil just a minute or two longer.

Then using your fork, remove the separated leaves and place in the colander to drain. Then, using both forks, remove the heads from their pots. Stab the core on either side and lift the heads out of the pots. Let them drain a bit over the pots, then place on the cutting board.

Taking the knife, repeat the cutting around the core, no deeper than an inch down.

Place both heads back in their pots and let boil, checking for the softness of the leaves. When they are soft enough to pull away from the core, repeat the above process. Be careful not to fully cook the leaves, as this would make them useless for rolling.

You will do this process until you get down to the smaller leaves which cannot be used for rolling.

Once this is completed, take the remaining cores and place in a bowl. You have an option here which is to make a side dish with the remaining core and leaves, or, you can just trash them. I'll explain the side dish near the end of this recipe.

Now, bring your leaves, meat mixture, cutting board and a large pot to the table. At this point, you can take two or three of the largest leaves that you removed from the heads and set aside prior to cooking, and place them in the bottom of the pot. This will help keep the cabbage rolls from sticking.

Now, you will notice that at the base of each leaf the vein that runs down the middle is thicker near the base. Personally, I like to shave a piece off to make it thinner which makes it easier to roll the meat into the leaf. You can save those pieces if you like and keep them with the remaining head cores.

As you will see, the first leaves are the largest. Depending on how large they are, you can opt to cut the leaf in half which will give you two leaves to roll. It's a matter of preference, as some folks like large rolled cabbages. I prefer them small to medium, so I do cut the largest leaves in half.

If you choose to cut the leaf in half, cut down along the center vein.

Take a handful of the meat mixture and place near the bottom of the leaf and just roll it up. As you near the end of the leaf, fold the outer part of the leaf inward and continue rolling. This will create an envelope effect and keep the meat mixture inside. Once you have completed rolling all of the leaves and have them in the pot, it is now time to add the two cans of tomato soup with two cans of water and sauerkraut to the pot. Should you have any meat mixture that didn't get used, you can shape them into little rolls and just add them to the pot. This was the only way my kids would eat them, since they didn't like cabbage :)

Turn the flame/element on to medium and begin cooking. This meal can be cooked without a lid, but just check on any splattering. If it is splattering, you can lower the heat a bit. Allow 45 minutes to an hour to cook, as you want to be sure the meat is fully cooked. Check on the pot approximately every 10/15 minutes to make sure there is enough liquid, which ideally should be just near the top of all the cabbages. If you need to increase the liquid, you can add a small can of tomato sauce and a bit more water.


If you like, buy a ring of kielbasa and slice it up. Add to the pot along with the other ingredients. This will also give the dish a nice flavor.

For those watching sodium intake, omit the bacon and bacon grease. Use a light salt. I use Morton's Lite Salt and use it all the time.

Buy sodium-free tomato soup, tomato sauce and tomato paste

Buy sodium-free sauerkraut.  If you can't find it, you can rinse the canned sauerkraut with cold water and then add it.

Ok, so you would like to try the side dish with the remaining cabbages/cores. This is simple, as you will only need a large frying pan and your cutting board.


leftover cabbage

medium onion

white flour

¼ to ½ cup milk

1 stick butter

salt/pepper to taste

First, cut up all the remaining cabbage into slivers, as you would do with an onion and set aside.

In the frying pan, melt the stick of butter. Add the onion and cut up cabbage and brown a bit, then remove from the pan. To the remaining melted butter, (melt a bit more if it doesn't look like enough) add enough flour and stir, so that it becomes somewhat of a pasty mixture. Once that is blended, add some milk, then stir to get a nice creamy consistency. Once it is the consistency you like, add the cabbage/onions, salt and pepper, and there you have it.

This can be served with the stuffed cabbage, or, you can simply refrigerate it and serve it as a side dish with any dinner. This might be the better option since we know cabbage is a rather gassy vegetable.

So, here you have it. My hope is that you try it just once. I fully realize this sounds a bit daunting, but really, it is well worth the effort. This would be great to try on a lazy weekend when the weather is too cold/snowy or rainy to do anything else. Worst case scenario? If it turns out to be a total disaster, order a pizza and call it a day :)


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    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      hi J Sunhawk,

      That's a great idea. There's nothing like a home filled with the varied, wonderful smells of good homemade foods.

      Thanks for commenting. Hope you enjoy!

    • J Sunhawk profile image

      J Sunhawk 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Love stuffed cabbage and your recipe looks yummy! I'm saving this for an afternoon when the cooking bug bites.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Fiddleman,

      I can only agree :) I love it too.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Bet this is very good, I love cabbage

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi KoffeeKlatch Gals!

      You are certainly not alone. I've always loved this dish, and especially enjoyed the leftovers sometimes even more. I plan on making this myself sometime soon, as I haven't done it in a very long time.

      I'm glad you found this to your liking, and would be delighted to know how it turns out for you.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      trish1048, I love stuffed cabbage. Great looking recipe. Love the way you set the whole thing up. Voted up, useful and bookmarked. I have to try the recipe.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Well, ok De Greek!

      That would be the Greek mafia I presume? I should warn you though, it won't work. I have connections! My late hubby was half Greek :)

      Thanks for commenting.

    • De Greek profile image

      De Greek 

      7 years ago from UK

      If this doesn't work, I shall send the Mafia after you :-))

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Les Trois Chenes,

      I'm flattered, all the way from France! I would love to know how you make stuffed cabbage there. It's always a good thing to expand a menu.

      Hope you try it, and thanks so much for commenting.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 

      7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Stuffed cabbage is fab. Here in Limousin, France we have a slightly different recipe but I'm always game to try something new.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi David,

      I've loved to write ever since I was in grammar school. Through the years, I've written many letters and was told that I write beautiful, powerful letters. I was even asked if I could write a letter for someone because that person felt that I can express what he/she was thinking better than he/she could.

      It wasn't till almost 3 years ago that I even considered doing this, thanks to my best friend, who introduced me to HP. I so enjoy it.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi 2besure,

      This is one of my favorite meals too. It falls into one of my favorite categories, one-pot meals. Glad you're going to try it, and I hope you enjoy!

      Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Russell-D profile image


      7 years ago from Southern Ca.

      Thank you Trish1948. Remember, to be a writer, one has to write. Throw it away if you don't like it, but then write again...and take time to make sure you love the story, regardless of how many re-writes you do. Your story reps you, you want to be pleased with your words before others read them. Writing is not easy work, but it is very satisfying when you finish a piece and are personally happy with it. David Russell

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I really enjoy stuffed cabbage, but I have never made it. Thanks for the recipe to try!

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Russell-D,

      To be quite honest, most times I don't make it with the bacon, but I do every once in a while. It just gives it an extra oomph! :)

      I've written down the name of the wine and will keep it handy for the next time I make my stuffed cabbage.

      And now you'll have another fan! I'll keep writing, I've been pretty lax lately.

      Thanks for getting back to me, much appreciated.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi writer83,

      I, of course, think you should give it a try. I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised :)

      Thanks so much for commenting.

    • Russell-D profile image


      7 years ago from Southern Ca.

      Re: Wine. I would use a heavy sweet red like Malaga. I never heard of using Bacon but there's no way it could hurt; everyone loves Bacon. In the old days, your family probably had available bacon and mine, grapes....since their name was Weinberger, they probably lived where grapes where plentiful and used them wherever they could. Keep writing, it makes life more interesting. By the way I got two new fans from my raisin suggestion. Thanks. David Russell

    • writer83 profile image


      7 years ago from Cyber Space

      They look really delicious to me. I want to try making them at home. I wonder about the taste. Nice hub trish :)

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Wendy,

      It's funny you say that. When I was first married, my hubby was also a picky eater. I'd make a meatloaf with chopped onions in it, and he'd sit there and pick them all out. It wasn't till he hit around 30 or so that he did a complete turn-around. I'll never forget the time he made the stuffed cabbage and, as a lover of black pepper, he seasoned the meat and put the pot on to cook. Well, he put so much black pepper in the meat, not only could you see it, but tasting it? Oh heavens, the taste was so strong it literally over-powered the meat. I ate it anyway, but whew!

      As I noted in the recipe, my kids hated cabbage so all I did when I made the pot was to form the meat into little rolls and add it to the pot to cook along with the cabbage-wrapped ones. That worked well, so maybe your hubby might enjoy just the meat part.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      Wow, that sounds absolutely yummy! I've never heard of that, and I think it is something I'll have to try. Any particular wine?

      This is certainly an old recipe and it's been in my family for as long as I can remember. My grandmother was from Czechoslovakia, and she, along with my mom, were the best cooks I knew :)

      Thanks so much for commenting.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Hi Pamela,

      Thanks so much. I've tried to make this sound as effortless as possible. I think if you make this often enough you won't be spending as much time making it as you did the very first time.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • Wendy Krick profile image

      Wendy Krick 

      7 years ago from Maryland

      I'm a huge stuffed cabbage fan but I don't make it often since my husband doesn't like it. He is a picky eater!

    • Russell-D profile image


      7 years ago from Southern Ca.

      My Hungarian grandmother added another ingredient, traditionally carried on by my mother. They soaked raisins in red wine over night and then mixed in with the meat. Also, mandatory was to have the cabbage as tightly wrapped as possible so nothing spilled out until the fork cut it and let out to heady, pungent aroma. This was long before dietary conscious days. Now at 82, I can still "sniff" that wonderfully explosive aroma on the first fork cut. David Russell

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      So nice to see you :) Hope all is well with you.

      You bring up a good point, in fact, I will add some options to this recipe when I get home from work. I never took into consideration the fact that some people have different dietary needs.

      I do hope you try it. When you do, let me know how it turned out.

      Thanks so much for your input.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      You did a great job explaining how to make stuffed cabbage. As it is a lot of work I haven't made any in a long time but you have some great tips that I think would save time. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      7 years ago from St. Louis

      I love stuffed cabbage, but have never made it. I would face a few other small difficulties due to my low sodium diet. Canned tomatoes aren't a problem since my local store has "no salt added" tomatoes, but sauerkraut is really loaded with sodium. Fortunately, I also make a quick sauerkraut that's salt free. Then of course the bacon, but I love bacon and will sometimes overlook my sodium rules and use it. I think this is doable for me and I can't wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe!

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      hi lilibees,

      I too have heard it called pigs in a blanket, both from my own family as well as from other people.

      If you've never made these yourself, I highly recommend giving it a try.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

    • trish1048 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      You're right. This certainly would be more fun if you had company.

      As far as a twist, once you've made this several times, you can decide if there's anything you'd like to either add or delete from the recipe.

      I'm glad to hear this came across in a way easy to understand.

      Thanks so much dear friend for your kind words.

    • lilibees profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub, I love stuffed cabbage or pigs in a blanket, as my family called it.

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      This is the best description I've ever read about how to prepare the cabbage leaves for rolling. Those great big outer leaves...I never thought of splitting them down the vein, nor of trimming the thicker parts to make a better roll.

      There's always the potential waste of the core, and of the leaves that are too small for rolling, but the creamed cabbage recipe at the end takes care of that, ten-fold! You know I love that creamed cabbage of yours.

      I guess you could put all the leftover cabbage pieces in the fridge for a few days and then make the creamed cabbage.

      Mom adds her own touch by putting lamb, pork, or beef ribs in the bottom of the pot, like you do with the outer leaves of the cabbage. As you can imagine, this lends another flavor.

      You are right, it isn't difficult but it is time-consuming. That's every reason to invite a few friends or relatives over and make an afternoon of it. Everyone will go home with happy containers.

      Super Hub!


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