Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, also known as Sarmas, are a comfort food I grew up eating on the Iron Range of Minnesota. Cabbage leaves are stuffed with a seasoned mixture of beef, pork & rice and baked in a tomato sauce for a hearty & filling meal.
I will use both the name Sarmas and Stuffed Cabbage Rolls throughout this post, but don't be alarmed, they mean essentially the same thing. Sarmas are the Croatian version of Polish-inspired "galumpkis" and how I've always referred to them.
Sarmas were a popular menu item served at the small cafe I worked at in my hometown during my teenage years. People would return to town after having moved away and would jump at the chance of having them again. Many of our regular customers would call ahead to reserve orders of them to ensure they didn't miss out.
At this cafe, we served many of these dishes that were traditional to our area, but that many people may not have made at home anymore. It's too easy for recipes like these to fall to the wayside to be replaced by easier, more mainstream recipes.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Comfort food - This recipe is everything great comfort food should be: warm, hearty and flavorful!
- All-in-one meal - These little roll-ups contain a vegetable, protein and grain all in one delicious little parcel.
- Tradition - My hope is that by showcasing recipes like these, I can revive their popularity and keep their traditions going for generations to come. This recipe can seem like a labor of love, but the end result is 100% worth it!
Here are a few helpful tips on the ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Cabbage - When selecting your green cabbage, two heads are sometimes best to use depending on the size. You want mostly the larger, greener leaves as the inner leaves can be smaller and tougher.
- Beef & Pork - I like to use a ratio of 2:1 of beef and pork in this recipe. Much like when you make meatballs or meatloaf, using both beef and pork give the filling a great flavor. Adding pork also helps keep the filling moist due to it's higher fat content.
- Rice - For easy cooked rice, use a ratio of ½ cup raw rice to about 1-¼ cup of water. Simmer until water is absorbed and rice is tender. An even easier shortcut is to buy the microwaveable rice packets! A brown rice could also be used if you prefer. Cooking the rice beforehand is key to ensuring you don't end up with crunchy rice in your filling.
Step 1: Cabbage prep. Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Cut core end off cabbage and place in boiling water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cabbage from water and allow to cool. When cabbage is cool enough to handle, separate 12 leaves from the head.
I leave the pot of water boiling while picking the cabbage leaves. As you get further into the head, the leaves may not have gotten as tender. If this happens, I place the head back in the boiling water to soften the inner leaves.
Step 2: Make the filling. In a mixing bowl combine beef, pork, rice, onion and seasonings. Be careful not to overwork the mixture, mix just to combine.
Step 3: Assembly. First, start by making a V-shaped cut on the bottom of each cabbage leaf to remove the thick rib. This makes the cabbage leaf much easier to roll up.
Place ⅓ cup of filling in the center of each cabbage leaf. Roll the leaf like a burrito, bringing the sides in first then rolling it up to seal. Repeat with remaining 11 rolls.
Next, place ½ cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish along with 1 cup of sauerkraut. Place the cabbage rolls in the baking dish and cover with remaining sauerkraut and tomato sauce.
Step 4: Bake. Cover with foil and bake 75-90 minutes until cabbage is tender and meat is fully cooked.
I usually serve Sarmas on their own, as they are quite filling and include a vegetable, protein and grain all in one! You could also serve them alongside mashed potatoes or egg noodles.
Leftovers will keep for 3-4 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Yes! They freeze beautifully. Make a big batch and divide them out in smaller portions to freeze for future meals. They will keep well for 3-4 months.
They can be reheated from frozen or thawed, just the time will vary. I'd stick with 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes for thawed, or 60-70 minutes for frozen.
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Sarmas (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
- 1 large head of cabbage or 2 medium
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ cup onion chopped
- 1 cup cooked white rice
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. onion powder
- 1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
- 1 # sauerkraut about 2 cups
- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil. Cut core end off cabbage and place in boiling water. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cabbage from water and allow to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, combine meats along with the rest of the ingredients besides sauerkraut & tomato sauce.
- When cabbage is cool enough to handle, separate 12 leaves from the head. Make a V-shaped cut on the bottom of the leaf to remove the thick rib of the leaf.
- Place ⅓ cup of filling in the center of each cabbage leaf. Roll the leaf like a burrito, bringing the sides in first then rolling it up to seal. Repeat with remaining 11 rolls.
- Place ½ cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish along with 1 cup of sauerkraut. Place the cabbage rolls in the baking dish and cover with remaining sauerkraut and tomato sauce.
- Cover with foil and bake 75-90 minutes until cabbage is tender and meat is fully cooked.
I've made this many times only without a recipe to follow. It was one of my husband's favorites! He was from Chicago. Exactly the same ingredients. He called them Pigs in a Blanket.
It's been so fun to hear the different names people have for "Stuffed Cabbage Rolls". Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for the great recipe! These were a hit and everyone loved this!