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4.56 from 9 votes

Classic Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Tender cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, seasoned ground beef and caramelized onions simmered in a rich tomato sauce
Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Course: Main
Cuisine: Hungarian
Keyword: beef, dinner, main
Servings: 8 Servings
Calories: 259kcal
Author: Tricia


For the cabbage rolls:

  • 18 large cabbage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ pounds lean ground beef (95% fat preferred)
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • ½ cup milk

For the sauce:

  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves for garnish


  • Preheat oven to 375°F.

To prepare the cabbage rolls:

  • Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat until boiling. Drop the cabbage leaves, a few at a time, into the boiling water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes or until wilted and pliable. Remove with tongs to a strainer to drain. Repeat until all leaves are par-boiled. Remove the thick central ribs by cutting along both sides of the rib in a long narrow triangle. Discard ribs. Set leaves aside. (SEE NOTES  BELOW)
  • Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté for 30-seconds. Remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer half the onion to a large mixing bowl.
  • Off heat, add the ground beef, cooked rice, salt, pepper, egg and milk to the remaining onion mixture in the skillet. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Divide the ground beef and rice mixture evenly between the 16 cabbage leaves. Overlap the cut ends of the cabbage to prevent the filling from spilling out. Place the filling over the area that overlaps and fold in the sides. Roll the leaf tightly around the filling to create a tidy roll. Place the cabbage roll, seam side down, in the now empty skillet, Dutch oven or baking dish. Repeat until all filling is used.

To prepare the sauce:

  • In the mixing bowl with the remaining onions, add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar. Pour over the cabbage rolls. Cover the skillet with a lid or foil and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the rolls are heated through, about 45 minutes. Remove the lid and spoon some of the sauce over the cabbage rolls. Continue to bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Carefully remove the cabbage rolls to a serving plate. Put the skillet with the sauce on the stove top and heat on medium. Whisk together the 1/4 cup water and cornstarch then slowly add to the sauce in the skillet. Heat until thickened. Pour the tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls and serve immediately garnished with parsley.


There are two different methods I can recommend for preparing (precooking) the cabbage leaves.
Core the cabbage and carefully peel off the leaves taking care not to tear them. For this first method you can boil the leaves for a few minutes in a stockpot of salted water.
If you have a hard time removing the tight leaves from the head of cabbage, place the whole cored head in a large mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. Microwave for 3 minutes on high until the outer leaves of cabbage are pliable and translucent. Carefully remove the wilted, outer leaves with tongs and repeat the process until you have enough for the recipe.
You can do one method or the other, or a combination of both. Whichever method you use, make sure you can bend and roll the leaves easily to form the rolls.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. When multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.


Calories: 259kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 739mg | Potassium: 785mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 1083IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 88mg | Iron: 4mg