How To Make Golabki - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Traditional Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe (Polish Golabki) combines ground beef, ground pork and rice and topped with a sweet and tangy tomato sauce. 

Two Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) topped with crushed tomatoes on a plate

I have been on a quest to recreate my husband's grandmother's Golabki recipe.  Golabki, pronounced gowumpkee is also known as Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and it's a Polish dish consisting of cabbage leaves stuffed with a savory mix of beef, pork and rice. The rolls are covered in a tomato based sauce and baked in the oven. This quest of mine has been more of an exploratory journey. One filled with many trials and quite a number of errors.  But after all, what fun is arriving at the desired destination if not by traveling through the maze of highs and lows, right?

A forkful of Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) topped with crushed tomatoes next to another golabki on a plate

Ingredient Notes

See recipe box below for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions.

  • Cabbage: You can use one large head of green cabbage or 2 small green cabbages.
  • Olive oil: I use extra virgin olive oil in this cabbage roll recipe as well as in every other recipe on ZagLeft that calls for olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the least processed form of olive oil. It is an unrefined oil and the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. Because of the way extra virgin olive oil is made, it retains more true olive taste. It also contains more of the vitamins and minerals found in olives. It's my favorite type of olive oil to use but you may use a lighter olive oil instead.
  • Chopped onions, garlic, and tomato: These ingredients cook together and add tremendous flavor.
  • White wine vinegar: Can be replaced with red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar - whatever you have on hand.
  • Sugar: Provides the perfect amount of sweetness.
  • Salt and Pepper: For flavor. Feel free to add a little more or use a little less based on your preference.
  • Tomato Paste: Used for the base of the sauce.
  • Red wine: 2 tablespoons of red wine.
  • Ground beef and ground pork: The mixture of ground beef and ground pork is the most flavorful, but you can also use ground turkey if you would prefer.
  • Egg: One large egg will help in binding the meat mixture.
  • White rice: I like to use white rice, but any short grain white or brown rice will work just fine.

How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

The stuffed cabbage roll recipe starts out by choosing a large leafy head of cabbage.

Step 1: Peel the large leaves off carefully, trying to keep them whole. Some leaves will fall apart and although not ideal, you can still use them.

A head of cabbage and cabbage leaves scattered on a large cutting board

Step 2: Blanch the cabbage leaves in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes.

Step 3: Run the leaves under cool water and lay them out to use later.

Step 4: The next step is to make up a sweet and tangy tomato sauce by adding 2 cans of diced tomatoes with their juices to the saucepan. Stir and cook for 3 minutes.

Step 5: Add the vinegar and sugar. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Tomato sauce in a large pot

Step 6: After you finish with the tomato sauce, make the filling by combining ground beef, ground pork, cooked rice, an egg, sautéed onions and garlic with a bit of the tomato sauce.  Mix the filling together (with your hands works best), season with salt and pepper and place about 1/3 cup of this filling mixture in the center of each cabbage leaf.

Ground beef, ground pork, cooked rice, an egg, sautéed onions and garlic with a bit of the tomato sauce mixture squished into a circle on a cabbage leaf

Step 7: Starting with the stem-end, fold the sides in and roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling.

Scooping Golabki mixture into a cabbage leaf

Folding Golabki into cabbage leaf

Presenting Golabki mixture inside a folded cabbage leaf

Step 8: Place the cabbage rolls side by side in rows, seam-side down, in a casserole dish.

Golabkis in a large casserole baking dish

Golabkis in a large casserole baking dish

Step 9: Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls.  Cover and bake.

Golabkis in a large casserole baking dish topped with crushed tomatoes

These Golabkis were perfectly seasoned and most importantly, they were exactly the way EJ remembered them to be.

Two Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) topped with crushed tomatoes on a plate on a metal tray

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Have to Add Sugar to Cabbage Rolls?

No. Instead of sugar, you could use honey, agave nectar, or brown sugar, or you could leave out the sweetener altogether. I find the sugar balances out the acidity of the sauce. It's a matter of personal preference.

How Can I Make a Low Carb Version of This Recipe? 

If you would like to make this a low carb cabbage recipe, do not serve with rice and leave out the sugar.

Can I Freeze These Cabbage Rolls?

Yes. Wrap each cooked cabbage roll individually with aluminum foil and pour the sauce into a separate container with a lid. Or, you can freeze the cabbage rolls and the sauce altogether in a single container. Freeze up to 3 months.

Expert Tips

  • You can use either white or brown rice in this recipe.
  • You can prepare these cabbage rolls ahead of time by making the recipe and not baking them. Cover the unbaked rolls and place them in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, then cook as directed in the recipe.
Golabki Recipe - Cabbage Rolls - from ZagLeft

Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) Recipe

How to make traditional Polish Golabki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) combining ground beef, ground pork and rice and topped with a sweet and tangy tomato sauce...
4.5 from 10 votes
Print Pin
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Main Dish
Servings: 16 Rolls
Author: Joanie Zisk

Ingredients

  • 1 large head green cabbage (or 2 small green cabbages)

SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , chopped
  • (2) 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

CABBAGE ROLLS

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg , lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  • Remove the large, damaged outer leaves of the cabbage and discard.
  • Carefully peel off the large cabbage leaves from the head of the cabbage, setting aside the leaves that are whole and big enough to stuff.
  • Blanch the cabbage leaves in the pot of water, boiling for 4-5 minutes.
  • Drain the cabbage in a colander and run the leaves under cold water. Lay the leaves out on a cutting board and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • MAKE THE SAUCE
  • Coat a large saucepan with oil and place over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute' for 1 minute.
  • Add the 2 cans of diced tomatoes with their juices to the saucepan, stir and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add the vinegar and sugar; simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • Season with the salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
  • MAKE THE ONION AND GARLIC MIXTURE
  • Place a skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Saute' the onion and the garlic for about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, red wine and 3/4 cup of the prepared tomato sauce, mix and remove from the heat.
  • PREPARE THE FILLING
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef and the ground pork. Add the egg, the cooked rice, the sauteed onion and garlic mixture and the salt and pepper.
  • Stir or toss the filling together using your hands to combine. Set aside.
  • TO ASSEMBLE
  • Pour 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking dish. Spread the sauce with a spoon so it covers the entire bottom of the dish.
  • Take each cabbage leaf and place 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the filling in the center. Fold the base of the leaf up and over the filling until it's completely covered.
  • Fold the sides in and roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling.
  • Place the cabbage rolls side by side in rows, seam side down in the baking dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour until the meat is cooked.

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

About The Author

39 thoughts on “How To Make Golabki - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls”

  1. These cabbage rolls are so Instagrammable and adorable! As you know I made it a short while ago and it was lovely! Thanks, Joanie for sharing!

  2. Barbara J Mroz

    I cut out most of the core of the cabbage and place this side down in a large plastic bowl with about a half a cup of water. Cover with plastic wrap in microwave for 10 minutes. Remove from bowl with meat fork, placing it on a plate to cool.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your version of the recipe, Joanie. I think it is awesome that you worked to recreate a family tradition for your husband! As a native Polish speaker, I thought you might like to know that Gołąbki is plural. One cabbage role is a gołąbek. Same with pierogi, which is plural. One is a pierog.

    I've been craving cabbage rolls and so yesterday my husband and I decided that we would spend our quiet Thanksgiving Day making a huge batch together and sharing them with some friends the next day. I'm going to experiment tonight by throwing a head of cabbage in the freezer, a tip from Nana, above. Sounds brilliant!

    A Green: my mom also shaves off the thick part of the cabbage rib, and I will do that as well.

    Joanie, I'm going to try your version of the tomato sauce. It sounds tastier than my mom's. She uses a large tin of tomato juice mixed with a can of cream of tomato soup. (I can't eat the canned soups.)

    And I adore sauerkraut, and will see if I can talk hubbie into layering at least some of the rolls with it, perhaps in a small casserole. Thanks for the commenters who suggested that!

  4. 4 stars
    I boil my cabbage in water with vinegar added. I have also tasted some made with whole sauerkraut cabbage and they were delicious, too.

  5. 4 stars
    Another trick is to shave off part of the "vein" on the cabbage leaf. Otherwise that one part is very thick. Just a tip my busia taught me when making these. I also cook the onions first, and add some beef bouillion.

  6. I use sour crout in between layers in a clay baking dish. Line it with unusable cabbage leaves and also pour some brine from dill pickles over them. If no dill pickles available use dill herbs in the filling. Also cover the rolls with left over cabbage rolls. And must be served with sour cream on the side..

  7. I freeze the head of cabbage instead of boiling. It makes the outer leaves limp and pliable and the inner part of the cabbage head is still usable.

    1. YES!!! My sister told me this and it saves a ton of time and burnt fingers from any boiled water. Keep them in the freezer and then take them out and let them thaw out. The leaves wilt and come off more easily. Making about 4 dozen for our multicultural church dinner this weekend. Of course, I am not bringing ALL of them to the dinner…..gotta save some for home use.
      Na zdrowie!

    2. What a great idea! I will def. try this. My Polish mom makes amazing gołąbki and she always cuts the core out of hte head of cabbage and steams it in the boiling water until she can remove one leaf at a time. Freezing is sooo much easier. We're making cabbage rolls for Thanksgiving and I will try this tomorrow.

  8. Fr. George (Yuri) Kuzara ,C..PP.S.

    5 stars
    Delicious! Thanks. I always have trouble with the rolling of the leaves. This will help me very much.
    Also I never thought of pelling the leaves first instead of blanching the head irself. This sounds so much easter and faster.

  9. Polish by marriage

    My husband’s family was Polish and Hungarian on his father’s side. I was told that I had to learn how to make this dish since it is a family favorite. My trick is to blanch the cabbage with out the core. As the cabbage softens, I dip them in water. I tried the ice water but found it made the cabbage too brittle. I prefer tap water. Once it cools a bit then I drain the leaves and remove the core. I also squeeze the leaves dry. Martha Steward uses a tea towel but I found it damage the leaves too much. I prefer to roll the leaf up and gently squeeze out the leaf. Then I fill the leaf with the stuffing. I also try to squeeze more liquid from each cabbage roll and then line them up in a baking dish with the seam side down. I also make my own sauce or gravy. I pack the cabbage rolls as close as possible so when it cooks they don’t break apart. Make sure the sauce covers all of the cabbage rolls so they don’t burn. I cover with foil for 45 min and then uncover so the sauce will reduce by half. It may take another 15 min.

    These are my tricks to make a moist cabbage roll. I love making them on cold days.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your tips. My husband has been requesting this dish again, next time I make it I will try your suggestions. Thank you.

  10. The Polish Prince

    Does anyone have the recipe for what I believe is called, “Zazi”? It’s a thin strip of meat with onion, bacon and a bread filling that’s rolled into each other and held together with a toothpick? Please send that to my facebook page at Scotty Andrew Gustafski, Thanks!

    1. There is an Italian dish called Braciole which is thin flank steak rolled with a similar stuffing and held together with toothpicks. It is cooked and then sliced into pinwheels. it is made for special occasions as it is quite a big deal to make. I hope this helps as I have never heard of Zazi.

  11. 5 stars
    I was looking for a recipe for golumpki which seemed to be close to what I remember my mother and grandmother making when I was young. I never made them before and of course paid little attention to how they were made when I was young. This recipe looked closest to what I remember so I made it. I made two small changes as I did not have any kosher salt (used sea salt) or white rice (used 2 cups of whole grain brown rice). I was very happy with the result. They were very similar to what I remember and my wife and I enjoyed eating them.

    1. Walter,

      I’m so glad you liked the recipe. I remember when my husband’s grandmother came to stay with us and made golumpkis and perogies, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the process and now years later, I regret that. This was recipe was very close in flavor to hers, but it would have been a lot easier had I watched and learned. Have a great week!

      1. 5 stars
        Try it with – PAPRIKA – in the meat mix.. even if you just make a couple on the side to try…

        1. Thank you for your suggestion, John. I’ll be sure to try paprika. You’re making me crave golabkis again, I just may have to make a batch next week.

          1. 5 stars
            my mom was polish…rip….she always made golabki…..and i always remember her using salt pork….and boiling the whole head less the core…much easier to fill&roll….I just made some last night…..mmmmmm…. out delivering them to kids today….they love them….so good…..thank you for wanting to keep these great foods alive

  12. Leonard Churilla

    4 stars
    This recipe sounds great and close to what my grandmothers would make but both of them and my mom also used sauerkraut to fill in the crevices of the rolled cabbages and I believe that really gave it the tangy taste. My grandmothers were from Slovakia but a couple of my uncles married Polish women and the recipes were almost identical. I made them perfectly the first time my mother gave the recipe over the phone but later I experiment with different seasonings and they tasted terrible! Never use cumin or strange things like that for cabbage rolls. My father also loved her stuffed peppers but I hated them as a kid–wouldn’t mind having them now though. Leonard

    1. Leonard,

      When I was researching the recipe, I was surprised at how many different ways there were to make cabbage rolls. It seems each family had a unique ingredient they liked to use. I like the idea of using sauerkraut, my husband likes a more tangy flavor. I’ll have to give it a try when I make them again. Thank you for your suggestion. Have a great week.

  13. 4 stars
    You should try putting the whole head of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and then core it and then remove the leaves. It will result in a lot less damage to the individual leaves.

    Also, can you tell us what the ingredient was that was missing that you finally figured out at the Polish restaurant?

    1. Thank you Lucie for the tip. I’ll have to try cooking the cabbage that way next time.

      It’s hard to say exactly what specific ingredient the other cabbage rolls were missing, only that my husband and I remembered a heartier sauce with a stronger tomato flavor.

      Thanks again for the tip!

      1. 4 stars
        We use salt pork in the sauce and make it kind of sweet and sour. And yes, boil the head and the leaves are easier to peel off.

    2. 5 stars
      So do you mean that you just blanche the cabbage to soften the leaves near the base or are you saying we should cook the cabbage?

  14. Thank you! I’m a major lover of cabbage rolls and I’ve been on a quest to find a good recipe. I’ve made them about 5 times and finally got it right with your recipe! These are amazing and perfect and my family cannot stop raving about them. Thank you!!

    1. Linda,
      I’m so happy you liked the recipe. It took me a while before I finally found the combination of flavors I remembered from my husband’s grandmother’s recipe. I’m glad your family enjoyed them.

  15. Oh these look wonderful! Pinning this one to make later. Thanks for sharing. Visiting from Sits. Have a great week!

  16. Wow, those look good. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I am def going to be trying these.
    Stopping by from #SitsGirl

  17. So you have my curiosity…. what was missing??? You gave us a beautiful recipe, story and tutorial, but left out what was the one thing you figured out that needed to be tweaked? I’m dying to know 🙂

    1. The secret ingredient is bacon i put a pound of bacon diced up to two and a pounds of 80 20 chop meat and i use two large cans of puree with a little sugar and a half of squeezed lemon for the sauce

  18. Kelly @ Leafy Not Beefy

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried cabbage rolls. The story behind this is interesting – it’s so neat to connect recipes to memories and especially to family!

  19. I love cabbage rolls yet I have never attempted to make them myself. My grandma use to make them and my mom does. I like them saucy with bacon on them

  20. Joules (from Pocketful of Joules)

    These look so delicious. My grandmother also had a recipe for cabbage rolls that I haven’t tasted in more than a decade but is still living in the back of my mind. =)

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