This stuffed cabbage rolls recipe is cabbage leaves filled with beef and rice, coated in a homemade tomato sauce and baked to perfection. A comfort food classic that’s hearty, delicious and simple to make.
I’ve been eating stuffed cabbage since I was a child, and I’ve been working on this recipe for a long time to create the ultimate rendition of cabbage rolls. Serve your stuffed cabbage rolls with a side of mashed potatoes and broccoli, and watch the rave reviews pour in!
I grew up eating cabbage rolls, and I’ve had enough in my time to know the difference between a good cabbage roll and a less than stellar cabbage roll. My version of cabbage rolls features a flavorful beef and rice filling, and the rolls are cooked in a simple homemade tomato sauce for fabulous results.
How do you make stuffed cabbage rolls?
The first step is to make your filling. The filling is a combination of ground beef, cooked rice, onions, garlic, egg and seasonings. Everything gets mixed together to form the base of your dish.
The meat mixture gets wrapped up inside cooked cabbage leaves, then the cabbage rolls are layered in a baking dish on top of homemade tomato sauce and baked. This dish takes over an hour to bake because to want to make sure your meat is cooked through, so plan accordingly!
How do you get cabbage leaves off the head?
If you try to remove raw cabbage leaves from the cabbage head, you’ll want to slice off the root end and very carefully peel the leaves off to avoid tearing. Sometimes tearing is inevitable no matter how careful you are, so I’ve found the best method is to cook the head of cabbage first. Cut off the root end, then submerge your cabbage head in a pot of boiling water until the leaves are tender and can easily be peeled away.
Tips for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- You’ll need to cut thick part of the cabbage leaves away before you start rolling them up. I’ve found it’s easiest to take a paring knife and cut a V-shape out of the bottom of each leaf to remove the tough rib.
- Place the cabbage rolls seam side down in the baking dish.
- The homemade tomato sauce does contain brown sugar and vinegar, as cabbage rolls are traditionally baked in sweet and sour style sauce. If you don’t want to use brown sugar, you can omit it, but the flavor won’t be as authentic.
- Cabbage rolls can be assembled and stored covered in the fridge for up to 8 hours before you plan to bake them.
How long do you bake stuffed cabbage rolls?
You’ll want to plan on baking your cabbage for a minimum of one hour. The cabbage should be tender and the meat cooked all the way through. I typically start checking at the hour mark, but have found that sometimes it can take as long as 1 hour 30 minutes for cabbage rolls to be ready.
Cabbage Roll Soup
Love cabbage rolls but don’t want to go through all the effort of peeling and folding and baking? Try my easy and wildly popular cabbage roll soup instead!
These stuffed cabbage rolls may be a little more work than your typical dinner, but they’re totally worth it the extra effort!
More great dinner options
- Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
- Pizza Stuffed Shells
- Stuffed Pepper Soup
- Beef Noodle Casserole
- Chicken Parmesan Pasta
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Video
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
For the tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup onion finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes do not drain
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
For the cabbage rolls
- 1 pound ground beef I use 90% lean
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1/2 cup onion finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves chopped, divided use
- 1 egg
- 1 head cabbage
- cooking spray
- For the tomato sauce: Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes or until translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt and pepper to the pot.
- Stir in the brown sugar and red wine vinegar. Bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While the sauce is simmering, assemble the cabbage rolls. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Immerse the cabbage head in the boiling water. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until cabbage leaves are pliable. Peel 12 large leaves off the cabbage.
- Place the ground beef, rice, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons of parsley and egg in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce to the bowl. Stir to combine.
- Lay each cabbage leaf on a flat surface. Use a small knife to cut a V-shaped notch to remove the thick part of the cabbage rib.
- Shape 1/3 of a cup of the meat mixture into a log shape and place in the center of a cabbage leaf. Roll the cabbage leaf around the meat mixture. Repeat with remaining meat and cabbage leaves.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Coat a 9"x13" pan with cooking spray. Place 1/2 of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Place the cabbage rolls, seam side down, in the dish. Top with remaining sauce.
- Cover with foil. Bake for 60-90 minutes or until cabbage is tender and meat is cooked through.
- Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, then serve.
This is a really excellent recipe. I double the recipe and use only 2 -,28 oz cans of San Marzano. Rince lightly the two cans of tomatoes to pull out the remaining sauce. I modify this recipe by making flattened meatballs and add cilantro to the meat and sauce and a 1/2 sweet red bell finly diced for both meatballs and sauce as well.This time I baked the meatballs to drain the oil out. So instead of rolled leaves I cut 1″ cubes of cabbage and layered cabbage and meat and sauce. Same recipe just different presentation. For the meatballs I use bread crumbs and 2# ground beef and s 1# roll of Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage and other ingredients also with additional TBS of dried hot crushed red peppers.
Can your use half italian sausage and half ground beef. We like spicy food so wondering if adding a little bit of a hot flavor would change anything?
Yes that would be totally fine!
what kind of rice
Long grain white rice
This recipe turned out great. I think I’ll use the microwave method for the cabbage next time. Used meatloaf mix (ground beef, veal & pork). Made enough for two meals easily. Froze half of it to enjoy later!
Can I make these the day before?
Yes that’s fine!
Excellent recipe. I use two 28 oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes but not tomatoes sauce can since there is plenty of sauce. Oh, I doubled the recipe for this and I use a whole cabbage. I use bread crumbs instead of rice. I also use two pounds of ground beef mixed with a pound of Jimmy Dean hot pork sausage. I have enough meat left over for two small meat loaves. This recipe is exxxxxxcelent.
These were delicious. I made these for dinner guests and everybody raved. I served with a beet and orange salad and pirogies. I didn’t change a thing except I took the advice of several others and microwaved the cabbage. That is a game-changer!
it is traditional food of Slovakia named Holúbky
We love this recipe! I make it with ground Turkey instead of beef. I also add about 1 lb of sauerkraut to the sauce mixture and it adds an extra tanginess. Have also boiled the cabbage, but prefer to do the microwave method. This recipe is delish! Thank you
Loved it, but the sauce was a little runny. Do you know a way for the cabbage not to get waterlogged–I think that was the problem.
You can pat the leaves dry with paper towels after you cook them!
I will be making tomorrow but am already wondering about freezing? Any suggestions if it is possible?
Yes it’s fine to freeze them!
Sounds delicious!!! Do I cook the rice first?
The rice should be cooked!
Delicious! Very filling. I could only eat one, for now. Only my husband and I and there is plenty for later and for tomorrow. Great meal for meal planning I’m sure. Can’t wait to eat the rest and make it again. Sauce was amazing!
I just made these for our New Years dinner and it was AMAZING!! I followed the recipe 100% and even my pickiest eaters LOVED it! Thank you 🙂
I’m making this for Christmas dinner on Sunday. Can I preassemble today or tomorrow?
Yes that’s fine.
I don’t like rice what should I use
You could try a different grain such as quinoa but I haven’t tested the recipe this way.
It takes a little work but one of my favorite recipes and well worth it