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Main dish • Savoury

Carmen C’s Sour Cabbage Rolls

Carmen Craciun, Habanero Consulting Inc.
Carmen Craciun

Infrastructure Architect

This is a traditional dish that everyone enjoys. I always associate these cabbage rolls with large family gatherings, love, joy, good times and belonging.

Sour Cabbage Rolls


  • 500 g lean ground beef
  • 500 g lean ground pork
  • 100 g smoked bacon, chopped (optional)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon black or white pepper (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 250 g white rice
  • 1 large head sour cabbage
  • 5 to 6 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1000 ml tomato sauce or tomato juice


Step 1

In a frying pan with a little bit of oil, sauté the onion until light brown. Add 100 ml tomato sauce, spices, herbs and rice. Simmer for 5 minutes.

Step 2

Remove from heat and leave it to cool down before mixing it with the meat until homogeneous. If necessary, add a bit more tomato juice so the mix is easy to shape/manipulate.

Step 3

Drain cabbage and cut out the core. Rinse the cabbage to remove the smell, salt and sourness. Separate the leaves and cut out thick center ribs or trim them thinner. This makes the cabbage leaves easier to roll.

Step 4

Line the bottom of a deep baking dish with a single layer of cabbage leaves. Broken leaves may be used for this. Reserve the same number of leaves to cover the top after you shape the cabbage rolls.

Step 5

Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of meat mixture ( based on how large you want your cabbage rolls) onto the bottom edge of a cabbage leaf, prepared as per above instructions. For each cabbage leaf, fold the bottom edge over filling, fold sides to centre and roll up to enclose filling.

Step 6

Layer cabbage rolls in the prepared baking dish, working until no meat concoction or cabbage leaves remain. The above recipe makes about 50 cabbage rolls.

Step 7

Pour the remainder of the tomato juice and boiling water over cabbage rolls so that it reaches halfway up the top layer of cabbage rolls.

Step 8

Add the chopped bacon and bay leaves if so desired.

Step 9

Cover with a single layer of reserved cabbage leaves.

Step 10

Baked at 385°F covered, until cabbage is soft – approximately 2 to 2½ hours.

Serving options:

  • Serve hot, topped with sour cream or fresh parsley, and pickled or fresh chili pepper.
  • Makes about 50 cabbage rolls.

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Photos are for inspiration only and do not represent the talents of the Habanero test kitchen. Some snap-happy Habs have shared personal photos of their creations below their recipe.