Pork Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Have you ever had stuffed cabbage rolls with sauerkraut? It’s a classic Hungarian dish. Lightly cooked large cabbage leaves are stuffed with a mixture of paprika-spiced ground pork and pork sausage, and then rolled up into little bundles. They’re cooked over tomato-infused sauerkraut and then served with a sour-cream sauerkraut sauce. So good! Like tamales, they take some time to prepare, but the result? Fabulous.

Pork Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

  • Prep time: 25 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.

Paprika can go flat if it's too old. Make sure you taste test your paprika for cooking with it in this recipe. If it doesn't have a strong flavor, it's no longer good and you'll need to replace it.

Cook the rice while preparing the cooked cabbage.

Caraway seeds can also be used to season the stuffing in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs sauerkraut (preferably a good brand, such as Bubbies, that you would find in the refrigerated section of your grocery store)
  • 1 large head green cabbage
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1/4 tsp of minced garlic
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 cup cooked white rice (from about 1/4 cup of dry rice)
  • 2 lightly beaten eggs
  • 2 Tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika (or plain paprika if your market doesn't offer a choice)
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram (can sub oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup water mixed with 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup sour cream

Method

1 Rinse the sauerkraut in cold water. Squeeze out excess moisture and set aside.

place cabbage in boiling waterspread cooked cabbage leaves out to dry on paper towels

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 Tbsp of salt for every 2 quarts of water). Add the whole green cabbage to the boiling water. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cabbage. Remove the cabbage from the water and let drain until it is cool enough to handle. Pull off as many large, unbroken leaves as you can and lay them on paper towels dry. If the inner leaves haven't cooked enough to bend easily, return them to the simmering water to cook a little longer.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté them until translucent and beginning to color. Add the garlic and cook half a minute longer. Remove from heat.

mix ground meat with spices and rice

4 In a large bowl, place the ground pork, cooked rice, beaten eggs, paprika, marjoram, the cooked onions and garlic, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Mix with your clean hands or a wooden spoon until just combined.

place stuffing in cooked cabbage leafbegin to roll cabbage leaf over stuffing
tuck sides of cabbage leaf in towards stuffingroll cabbage leaves into small bundles

5 Working one at a time, place a couple tablespoons of the pork stuffing in the center of a blanched cabbage leaf. Start at the thick end of the leaf and fold the sides of the cabbage over the stuffing. Then roll up the whole cabbage leaf into a tight bundle. Repeat with the remaining leaves until you have used up all of your stuffing.

place sauerkraut in even layer on bottom of panarrange stuffed cabbage on top of sauerkraut
pour tomato sauce over stuffed cabbage rollscook for one hour

6 Place the rinsed and drained sauerkraut in an even layer on the bottom of a 5 or 6 quart thick-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven. Place the cabbage rolls on top of the sauerkraut. Pour the diluted tomato purée over the cabbage rolls. Heat on high to bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook the cabbage rolls on a low simmer for one hour.

add sour cream to sauerkraut to make saucespoon sauce over stuffed cabbage rolls

7 Remove the stuffed cabbage rolls from the pot and place on warm dish. Slowly stir the sour cream into the sauerkraut. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the creamy sauerkraut sauce onto a serving platter. Arrange the stuffed cabbage rolls on top of the sauerkraut and spoon some sauce over them as well. Serve remaining sauce on the side.

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Recipe adapted from The Cooking of Vienna's Empire, Time Life Books, By Joseph Wechsberg, 1968. Out of print, but often available on ebay.

33 Comments

  1. Rosie

    I am very interrested in trying your version with the sauerkraut and sour cream. It sounds very yummy.

    I had a Hungarian aunt who used a tomato based sauce for her cabbage rolls, as did my mother whose family was Polish. However, neither used sauerkraut or sour cream.

    I recently made cabbage rolls for a friend from Slovenia and he said they were ALMOST as good as his mom’s. I’ll take that as a compliment because his mom is one heck of a cook.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hungarian Cook

    One of the secrets of good stuffed cabbage is to cook it long enough.

    It must undergo a transformation that will change it (in stages) from uncooked to perfect. you will know it is done when the cabbage and tomato sauce change from pale to a rich dark reddish/orange color. Depending on the tenderness of the cabbage, it may sometimes take an extra 30-45 min. cooking time!

    Also, you may increase cooking temp abt 50 deg. or so for the last 20 min. of cooking.

    Many Hungarians prefer it more tangy—-just lightly rinse sauerkraut before using. Another timesaver is to use uncooked rice and for lower cholesterol just leave out egg. the rice always cooks enough and you will not notice the missing egg!

    We have made stuffed cabbage for many many years and it’s a family and church dinner favorite.

  3. zsofi

    Hi Elise!
    I’m Hungarian and this recipe is more or less really authentic and sounds very good. I love stuffed cabbage (töltött káposzta).In Hungary the cabbage leaves are also “pickled” they taste like the sauerkraut. We always make a huge batch because the dish keeps for ages and gets better and better everytime it’s reheated.

  4. EB

    My great aunt was from the hungary/chech region and brought this recipe when she immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900’s. I was raised eating it with caraway seeds in the sauerkraut. We never have drained it and actually prefer the slightly sour taste.

  5. Phyllis

    This looks like a dish that could be easily adapted for use with a slow cooker and have the wonder smell to greet you at the door after a hard day’s work.

  6. Der Chef

    It took 1 hour to prep and 1 hour to cook. The leaves were a b**ch to get off the head of cabbage. My wife and I enjoyed it on Sunday and again on Monday. The sour cream and saurkraut combination is excellent. Will do it again sometime!

  7. Magyar

    Stuffed cabbage can be frozen but the texture of the cabbage will be softer when thawed. The flavor will basically stay the same, though.

    And as mentioned above; it’s true that the flavor will improve the second or third day!

    Caraway seeds or dill weed–either one added is EXCELLENT.

  8. barbie

    My grandmother made stuffed cabbage rolls She migrated from Hungary shortly before the revolution. She made rontosh… for the sauce for the cabbage rolls.. she would heat lard/or oil/bacon grease etc… and add flour which would brown..while stirring she would then add a mixture of tomatoes and sauce.. similar to rue … then she would bake the cabbage rolls in the sauce.. it was yummy…

  9. Magyar

    Never tried making it with the rantas but it sounds like a good variation!

    Rantas cooking in the skillet smells good enough to eat by itself ;)

  10. Paula McGough

    I am very excited to try this receipe. I have made them before but this sounds to good to pass up. I am having an Octoberfest dinner party at my home this weekend and am planning on using it. I will let you know the response from my company. Also, if anyone can help me out with a receipe that my neighbor will not share with me. I think she is German but not sure. A few times during the Easter Holiday she made a delicious rabbit mold made of a buttery eggie tasting cake that is delicious and I have been trying to get the receipe so my family can continue to enjoy it at that time of year…does anyone know what it’s called?? I would ever so greatful!
    Thanks
    Paula

  11. S Rupp

    I love this site and have just a couple of comments about this recipe.

    I wasn’t able to get the cabbage to stay submerged in the large pot of water. I tried pushing it down several times in order to get the leaves filled and then hoped it would sink. Other recipes suggest separating the leaves prior to blanching, though, perhaps, there is a risk of the leaves tearing apart.

    Are the sauerkraut and sour cream to be added to the pan juices, or simmered separately?

    Personally, I wouldn’t wash the sauerkraut so thoroughly next time. It has hardly any taste.

  12. Hungarian Cook

    First, the core must be removed in order to get the leaves to come apart. Then the cabbage is carefully put into the boiling water for a few minutes, rolled around, then taken out. CAREFULLY remove some leaves then put back into water and repeat until most of the leaves have been removed. BE CAREFUL—-easy to get splashed so best with a large pan with not much water in it.After it’s done once (or 100+ times like me) , it’s easy.

    Goal is to remove the leaves and also make them pliable for filling and rolling.

    Lightly rinsed or unrinsed sauerkraut is scattered among the rolls and some of the sauerkraut juice from the can goes in with the tomato juice which is then poured over the uncooked rolls. A little sugar may be added to cut the sourness and a little water can be added if the tomato flavor is too strong.(mix juices first to adjust flavor to liking THEN pour over rolls)

    At our dinners, sour cream is served on the side; but i suppose it can also go on top during the last few minutes and then under the broiler till bubbly.

    Hope this helps!

  13. elina

    I make cabbage rolls the way my mom used to….very similar to the recipe posted here. I often use half pork, half beef. Also, at times, (not authentic) I have used savoy cabbage because it doesn’t take as much steaming, and is easier to mold. Instead of tomato puree, I use either home canned tomatoes, or store bought canned tomatoes. My mother always added a little bit of bacon to her rantas.

  14. Donna

    I’ve never made cabbage rolls before. Can it be made with beef instead of pork? My husband loves them but I usually turn my nose. So now I’m taking the plunge at trying to make his favorite dish.

  15. Alyssa

    Steam the cabbage! It is quick, easy, and retains the nutrients. Core the cabbage and place it core opening down in a steam insert and pot. When the cabbage looks done – don’t burn your nose – Lift the cabbage out with some salad tongs so you don’t burn your hands either. Let cool enough you don’t burn your fingers, and peal a few layers of leaves. Place back in pot with tongs for a little longer, lift, a few more leaves. Usually takes two or three cycles.

    Beef is definitely ok.

  16. Jim Tucker

    My X-wife used to make stuffed cabbage rolls but she called them something else? Was it Hungarian “grape leaves”? Please advise.
    Thanks….Jim T.

  17. Liz Young

    I am Hungarian and Slovak I grew up eating stuffed cabbage and now making it from my Grandmothers recipe. We never rinsed the saurkraut and we also added caraway and a dash of apple cider vinegar. Also my family always used ground beef and uncooked rice We also added potatoes to the pot to cook along with the saurkraut and cabbage rolls. We never used a tomato based sauce. I know everyone uses that in there recipes but I always am amazed to find that.

  18. Viola Laczko

    Ahhhh, its so good to read everyone’s comments. My dad is Hungarian too and also escaped during the revolution to South Africa and I remember him making stuffed cabbage for us when I was a child. The only problem was that I never took notes but I’m grateful for this site. Yippee! Now I’m gonna make my own stuffed cabbage.

    If anyone knows the Hungarian recipe to make noodles I’d appreciate that too. Thanks.

  19. Wendy..Galway NY

    Here’s a tip to cook the cabbage for the rolls.
    Bring the water to a boil with a tsp. of salt in a large pot.

    Do not core the cabbage.
    Carefully place the cabbage in the boiling water.

    Keep the core side up. Let the water return to a boil and cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Then turn the cabbage over in the pot core side down. As the first individual leaf softens from the outside, it will move away from the cabbage. Turn the cabbage back to core side up, hold the cabbage down with a 2 pronged fork and cut that leaf off at the core.
    Place the softened semi-cooked leaf in cold water so that it does not overcook. Continue the process until you only have a small head left at the bottom of the intact core. Remove the remaining cabbage left on the core, chop it up and use it for the layers.

  20. Jarhead

    This is a gr8 recipe!! Like all recipes, I tweek ‘em a bit to suit my palate. 1st, use a lightly drained can of sauerkraut. 2nd, use a quart of pureed tomatos (leave out the water). 3rd, use a peeler with those coarse, serrated teeth to core the cabbage B/4 blanching! 4th, 1 egg’ll do the job. 5th, if you use more than 8 cabbage leaves, your rolls are too small! 6th, add 1 or 2 pounds of 2″/3″ Kielbasa nuggets and let ‘em cook next to your rolls. 7th, nix the sour cream!

  21. Dana

    This recipe is a traditional romanian recipe and the name is “Sarmalute”. I’m glad that you have the original recipe! With one exception: we don’t put sour cream in sauerkraut, we serve as a topping on rolls. And we use thyme in pork mixture.

    I want also to tell you that I like your blog, especially Mex-tex recipes. Great job!

  22. sophie

    I just made this tonight. It’s currently in the oven. (I prefer the oven to the stovetop.)

    I’ve made this recipe before and here are the changes I’m making this time. I do a very, very quick rinse of the sauerkraut. I found that soaking for 15 minutes got rid of most of its flavor and I like a slight sour taste to the dish. Also, my friend’s Hungarian grandma suggested I mix up pork *and* beef for more of a bite, which I did tonight.

    As for the cabbage, I buy a light weight cabbage. (There’s more air in between the leaves that way.) I core it, throw it in the pot, and before you know it, it starts to fan out like a flower and it’s a cinch to unfurl.

    I love this website. I’m always making dishes from here. (The Hungarian goulash is a special favorite.)

  23. h

    I eat rice every day (am Korean) so I’m pretty sensitive to rices used in dishes. What kind of rice is used in Hungarian dishes? I’ll probably be using a long grain here. I looked over the comments too but couldn’t find any hint about the types of rice.

    Regular short grain white rice. You can probably use long grain rice, just make sure it isn’t floral like jasmine rice, which would interfere with the flavor. ~Elise

  24. Tom Keresztes

    We made this last week and it was a big hit. Delicious. We varied the recipe/presentation only slightly by stuffing as much pork filling into the cabbage leaves as possible, to make almost mini cabbage-skinned sausages. Very good.
    Also, I will note that we used canned sauerkraut, thoroughly rinsed and drained, and the dish was very light and delicate.
    Next time we will use fresh kraut and not rinse quite as much. And a shot of cider vinegar seems like a culturally appropriate addition. And use more sweet paprika.
    Also, in scanning the comments above, I can attest that caraway seeds are common in Hungarian cooking and can be added to this one to stay authentic. That said, they are bitter, get stuck between your teeth and not that popular (for me) or in American cuisine, so that explains why it is missing. No loss IMHO.

  25. Florentina

    This is a great recipe. I was born in Romania where this meal is a staple every weekend.We call them “Sarmale” or simply stuffed cabbage. In the summer we use fresh cabbage but from fall to spring we only use sour kraut ,chopped and whole leaves topped with the tomato juice. We serve the sour cream on the side together with fried pork sausages.
    We use the same formula for our stuffed peppers ,another staple of the Romanian Cuisine but also very popular in Italy.
    Thank you for this Delicious site.

  26. h

    Thank you! I asked about what kind of rice you used. I used regular japanese short grain and it was fine.

    I made the dish exactly as given and I must say that it is sooooo comforting on a cold winter day. I made it again this afternoon and I’m looking forward to making it again and again.

    I will probably now try some of the variations suggested here (like maybe not rinsing the sauerkraut and MAYBE not cooking the rice beforehand) but really, your recipe is very good.

    thank you so much!
    thanks again for sharing!

  27. Bill W

    Tried this recipe today and it was great! The sour cream with the tomato puree and saurkraut was excellent; and a suprising mixture. It will be a “make again” recipe in my household.

    Bill

  28. Angela

    I am thinking about altering this for a South Beach diet friendly version. Any ideas?

  29. Kate

    I just made this for the first time tonight. It tasted great! (I could have cooked the cabbage a little bit longer before peeling the leaves though…)

  30. John

    My friend’s mother only ever makes this dish with either home made or bought saurcraut cabbage leaves. She uses croatian vegeta stock instead of the paprika/tomato based sauce. She serves it with sour cream, horse radish cream and mashed potatoes. It’s only served after resting in the fridge for at least 2 days.

  31. Diane Aragon

    I make cabbage rolls like my polish grandmother did. I cut out the core from the cabbage and then steam it in boiling water. After pulling off the leaves, I fry the bacon and onions, cook the rice and add an egg to keep it together. Add salt and pepper. Pour the bacon and onions in and stuff the cabbage rolls. I put them in a roaster and add butter and water, cover and cook at 350 for 1 1/2 hours. I then fry the cabbage rolls in butter. Delicious!!

  32. June

    Elise – I just made these last night for dinner and they are absolutely incredible. They have fabulous flavor and cabbage was perfect- cooked just the right amount! Loved the sauerkraut sour cream sauce too. Thank you so much for sharing such a great recipe.

  33. Lisa

    OMG Awesome. But take 3 hours covered on low. U have to try

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