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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Hungarian stuffed cabbage rolls are hearty comfort food at its best! Cabbage leaves are stuffed with ground pork, onions, garlic, egg, rice, and spices, and braised in a tomato sauce.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe
Elise Bauer

Have you ever had stuffed cabbage rolls with sauerkraut? It's a classic Hungarian dish that takes some time to prepare, but the result? Fabulous!

What Are Stuffed Cabbage Rolls?

True to their name, stuffed cabbage rolls are little bundles of cabbage leaves that have been stuffed and cooked with a mixture of ground pork, onions, paprika, and other spices, and braised in tomato sauce. They are typically served with a sour cream-based sauce with plenty of sauerkraut.

This is comfort food at its best. The interplay of sweet, sour, and savory flavors — tangy sour cream and sauerkraut with sweet tomatoes and savory onions and pork — make for a heavenly combo. It's no wonder this dish never goes out of style.

How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This recipe has several steps, but it is totally do-able, and worth it!

Cabbage leaves are not particularly bendy when raw, so you have to boil them for several minutes until they soften enough to stuff and roll.

Once the cabbage leaves are softened, stuff them with a mixture of ground pork, cooked rice, eggs, onion, garlic, and spices, and roll them up into tight little packages.

Place the cabbage bundles on top of rinsed and drained sauerkraut, add diluted tomato purée, and simmer for an hour.

Making the sauce is easy. Just remove the cooked cabbage rolls from the pot and stir sour cream into the tomato-infused sauerkraut. Serve the stuffed cabbage rolls with the sauce.

Stuffed Cabbage rolls add tomato puree to stuffed cabbage rolls in the pot
Elise Bauer

How to Season Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This dish tastes best with sweet Hungarian paprika, but regular paprika will work if you can't find Hungarian paprika at the market.

Note: paprika can go flat if it's old. Make sure you taste test your paprika before cooking with it in this recipe. If your paprika doesn't have a strong flavor, it's no longer good and you'll need to replace it. There is nothing sadder than taking the time to make this dish, only to bite into it and have it taste bland because the paprika has lost its oomph. (Been there, done that.)

If you want, you can add caraway seeds to season the stuffing, and if you don't have marjoram, feel free to use oregano instead.

What Kind of Sauerkraut to Use?

For this recipe we recommend a high quality sauerkraut such as Bubbies, which you'd find in the refrigerated section of your supermarket.

Can I Make Ahead and Freeze Cabbage Rolls?

You can make ahead and freeze the pork stuffed cabbage rolls, without the sauce or sauerkraut. Place the individual raw cabbage rolls, space apart so they are not touching, on a large baking pan lined with parchment or wax paper. Put in the freezer.

Once frozen put the cabbage rolls in a freezer bag and remove as much air as you can from the bag. They'll last about a month in the freezer.

Let them defrost overnight in the fridge before cooking with the sauerkraut and tomato.

Cabbage Is Good Food! Here Are More Ways to Cook It

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 90 mins
Total Time 115 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings
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. Recipe adapted from The Cooking of Vienna's Empire, Time Life Books, By Joseph Wechsberg, 1968. Out of print, but often available on eBay.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds 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 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3/4 cup cooked white rice (from about 1/4 cup of dry rice)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons 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
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream

Method

  1. Prep the sauerkraut:

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

  2. Cook the cabbage:

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 tablespoon 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.

    boil a head of cabbage for making stuffed cabbage
    Elise Bauer
    peel off cooked cabbage leaves from the cooked head of cabbage for stuffed cabbage rolls
    Elise Bauer
  3. Sauté onions and garlic:

    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.

  4. Make pork mixture:

    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.

    make pork stuffing for stuffed cabbage rolls
    Elise Bauer
  5. Stuff the cabbage rolls:

    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 pork stuffing in cabbage for stuffed cabbage rolls
    Elise Bauer
    fold cabbage leave edges over pork stuffing to roll up for stuffed cabbage
    Elise Bauer
    continue rolling up cabbage for stuffed cabbage rolls
    Elise Bauer
    finish rolling up cabbage rolls
    Elise Bauer
  6. Layer stuffed cabbage rolls on top of sauerkraut:

    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.

    layer sauerkraut in a pot for stuffed cabbage rolls
    Elise Bauer
    add the stuffed cabbage rolls on top of the sauerkraut
    Elise Bauer
  7. Simmer the rolls:

    Mix the cup of water with the cup of tomato purée and pour 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.

    Stuffed Cabbage rolls add tomato puree to stuffed cabbage rolls in the pot
    Elise Bauer
    simmer stuffed cabbage rolls for an hour or until done
    Elise Bauer
  8. Make the sauce:

    Remove the stuffed cabbage rolls from the pot and place on a warm dish. Slowly stir the sour cream into the sauerkraut. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes.

    add sour cream to sauerkraut to make sauce for stuffed cabbage rolls
    Elise Bauer
  9. Serve:

    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.