Cheap Eats at Bloglander

9/7/05 | Cabbage Rolls

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Cabbage RollsCabbage rolls aren’t much to look at sometimes and they sure contribute to, er, gassiness. But they can make a really nice meal and can be made out of stuff that I usually have in the fridge and freezer. I’m not too sure of the origins (German?) of the cabbage roll but I’ve been eating it at my parent’s house since I was a little kid. Since I’ve moved out I’ve tried once or twice to make them with varying degrees of success.

Basically, the cabbage roll I know is like a mini meatloaf that is wrapped in a cabbage leaf. I know some use a toothpick to secure the leaf, but I like to pre-boil the cabbage leaves so that they’re easier to wrap. I also put leftover rice in it, which tends to make it more tender and also uses up that rice in the fridge that is always there. I also use a mixture of Ground Beef and Ground Pork… The pork makes it more tender but too much might make it have a gamy “pork” smell. You can also use ground veal and ground beef like that in a meatloaf mixture but I don’t.

Here is one variation of a recipe that I made (just barely squeaked under $3 but your mileage may vary either cheaper or more expensive:

Cabbage Rolls

2/3 lb. Ground Beef — $1.00
1/3 lb. Ground Pork — $.0.33
1 cabbage, core removed — $0.45
Brown Onion (1/2 an onion) — $0.25
1 cup of cooked rice — $0.10
Parmesan cheese (1/8 oz of $3.50 8oz can) — $0.05
1 egg — $0.10
Parsley (1/4 cup chopped from $0.69 bunch) — $0.06
Homemade Breadcrumbs — free
1/2 can Chicken Stock — $0.25
1 8 oz Can Tomato Sauce — $0.30
Olive oil (1 tbsp) — $0.08
Water / Salt / pepper — negligible

Total: $2.97

I like to boil the cabbage leaves first to make them easier to wrap. You need a huge pot of water, salt it a bit and get it boiling. Meantime, if you don’t like crunchy onions in your meat (I don’t) mince the 1/2 onion fine and start simmering it in a pan with olive oil. When it sucks up all the oil, add some water. Keep adding water every so often while cooking… you want the onions to be really soft, almost mushy.

Drain the cabbage and separate the leaves. You can also separate the leaves first before boiling. Set the cabbage aside. In a large bowl combine ground beef, ground pork, rice, parmesan cheese, egg, breadcrumbs (I make my own from bread loaf ends so it’s free), and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste (you can also throw in some soy sauce, worcestshire sauce, garlic powder, etc.) Mix well to combine.

Take a scoop of meat mixture, place it on a cabbage leaf and roll it up until all the meat is covered. Place it in a lightly oiled deep sauce pan, seam side down; that way you don’t need to use toothpicks. Continue filling the pan. I try to have only 1 layer of cabbage rolls. Add the tomato sauce and chicken stock and about 1/4-3/4 cup water. Shake the pan a bit to make sure the sauce has coated the rolls. Cook on very low heat, covered, for about 40 min to 1.5 hours. Check the rolls every so often to make sure there’s enough liquid in the pan… if not, add some water or chicken stock.

Cabbage RollsI cut one of the rolls open to show the inside here, but these pictures don’t do justice to how good cabbage rolls taste. It’s sort of comfort food and is fairly easy to make. For variety, you can also use the same method to make Stuffed Bell Peppers, though I tend to have cabbage on hand more times than peppers.

The rice isn’t necessary and neither are the simmered onions, but both help keep the meat inside nice and tender and flavorful. Parsley or other herbs help lend a bit of freshness to the meatloaf-like taste. I put parmesan cheese in to add more flavor but you can omit that, and I know some who put either milk or melted butter into the mixture. That’s the fun thing about meatloaf based meals, you can pretty much make up your own recipe!

Cheap Eats Score: 8/10

30 Responses to “Cabbage Rolls”

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  1. Andie Says:

    Mmmmm cabbage rolls! It’s an Eastern European dish. Most countries over there (Poland, Ukrain, Germany…etc.) have a version of cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers. By boiling your cabbage first and adding rice you are adhering to the old world style of the dish, which is my favorite way to make them (talking the Polish version here). :) I also use a mixture of beef and pork.

    One good way to get onion flavor without having chunks of onions in stuff is to grate the onion. I do this when I make meatballs and the like, and also when I make gravies. :)

  2. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    andie – hey, that is good that I got it somewhat right! It is actually something that was served a lot at home when I was growing up along with stuffed bell peppers (which is somewhat interesting because I’m Asian) but I didn’t like it much back then.

    I have heard of the grated onions technique and keep forgetting to try that! Is that also what they use in Latkes? yeah, it sure does take a long time to cook down onions to make them soft. My mom used to do that and then mush it up in order to “hide” the onions from my brother who really hated them. Once, he found out about it and boy was he pissed! More that she was fooling him than the actual thought of eating the onions!

  3. Andie Says:

    I throw in sauerkraut when I make stuffed peppers. Yummo! Grated onions definitly go into Latkes. My husband is Asian and when we moved in with each other years ago, that was the first time he had ever had any type of Eastern European dishes. He loves them! :) When cultures collide. LOL

    I can’t blame your brother, no one likes finding out a parent pulled a fast one on them. LOL

  4. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    awesome, I ate a lot of mexican food growing up because my mom was really into it even though she only came to the u.s. when she was 14. We’d have stuff like Hungarian Goulash, Enchiladas, Beef Stroganoff and then Sukiyaki and Miso Soup. actually we still do whenever i go over to eat. Definitely a mishmash of cultures!

  5. Donica Says:

    It’s called “Goloubki” in Polish.

  6. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    donica – thanks for letting us know… I think I’m making some “Goloubki” in the next few weeks.

    andie – i tried grating whole brown onion the other day… i think i’m doing something wrong, or my grater is no good. Do you use one of those standup box graters? I only have the “plane” type that you hold in one hand. I was using the thinner holes on the grater. Also… grating onions makes me cry like all hell!

  7. Millie Says:

    Instead of “grating” onions, i put mine in the food processor! I live in Australia, my husbands family is from Cyprus. When we got together he told me about these cabbage rolls; a traditional meal his mother made. Well, tonight, after 4 years marraige, I am going to make him the cabbage rolls! I am going to use lamb mince though.

  8. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    millie – I did think about trying to put the onions in the food processor. I actually think this would be fastest, but not sure if the “shredded”-ness of the onions is important (for latkes, if I ever made ‘em). But I think I may try it… the only downer for me is having to wash and clean the processor afterwards. I am just plain lazy.

    I heard someone use lamb also in cabbage rolls… or maybe it was a meatloaf. I think it was a mix of lamb and some other ground meat.

  9. Icecap Veiwin Says:

    This looks like a great recipe. When I do move out and end up living in a dorm, I know that I can rely on sites like this to keep a steady diet. As in, something besides ramen for breakfast, lunch, dinner.

    Once again. Great work on the site. Keep it up!

  10. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    icecap – well, i hear you on the ramen woes … i ate way too much of it early in life.

  11. Horace Slughorn Says:

    About the food processor. I use mine after a big grocery shopping trip — I start with the least messy things and begin chopping:


    Then I rinse quickly to get rid of the onion smell. And do something messy — like cookie dough or chicken salad.

    One cleanup. And lots of chopped veggies safely tucked into garage-sale Tupperware containers in the fridge!

    BTW, any ideas how to make a VEGETARIAN version of stuffed cabbage?

  12. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    horace – that’s a cool idea to do batches of stuff! I have not heard of vegetarian stuffed cabbage, but sounds intriguing. You would have to use something that mimics meatloaf type of texture… i wonder if it would be something similar to what’s used in garden burgers?

  13. luke harker Says:

    CABBAGE ROLLS are the greatest, and the best way i found to

    handle the cabbage leaves is to place the cabbage (no plastic wrap)

    in the freezer…when its frozen…take it out to thaw,and the leaves
    will come off like fine paper…ready for the mixture…go, and try it!!

    no more boiling water…..only from canada eh!

  14. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    luke – that is an interesting tip! I made cabbage rolls again a few weeks ago and was once again laboriously peeling those leaves off after boiling the cabbage. I’ll definitely try that the next time i make it.

  15. luke harker Says:

    the cabbage must be completely frozen for this to work(OVERNIGHT)

    also try putting currie in,yhis really warms it up,just a little…

  16. Patsy Catalano Says:

    My mother’s background is Ukranian. I married an Italian who wouldn’t even try a cabbage roll. I found out an Italian will try anything if it has spaghetti sauce on it so that is what I use for my topping on cabbage rolls.

    Like stuffed peppers without the pepper -I always make a few ‘rolls’ without the cabbage for those picky grandkids who still won’t eat it. Usually the meat mixture will stay together without the cabbage or pepper.

    I am going to try putting the cabbage in the freezer. That will save a lot of time.

  17. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    luke – overnight should be fine… anyhow I often try to plan a dinner a few days in advance.

    patsy – that’s so funny, because my mom does the same thing. She makes a few side meatballs that aren’t stuffed in the peppers (or rolled in the cabbage). I often find I end up with a bit extra of meat mixture so I do that myself. The meatballs do seem to hold together because of the binders (bread crumbs, egg, etc…) in the mixture.

  18. LaurieTX Says:

    I’m 3rd generation Ukrainian/Canadian now living in the USA.
    Our cabbage rolls, Hollupchee, is only made with butter, sauteed onions salt, pepper and sometimes chopped fried bacon, shvarkee, and a can of cream of chicken soup in the rice!
    Our family never put meat in the cabbage rolls and thats the only way I like them.
    Pour a can of tomato soup on top, cover with tin foil and bake.
    My mom still uses the old cut out the core of the cabbage and boil/steam the leaves.
    I have some in the freezer…guess what we are having for dinner tomorrow? Maybe I’ll make some perogies too!

  19. luke c harker Says:

    this is a completly unrelated comment but i have the same name as another visitor to this site! hi other luke harker?

  20. Sarah Says:

    My husband’s background is Romanian and Hungarian, and stuffed cabbage, called “Hunkie Hand Grenades” is a New Year’s staple. Just an FYI, they cook really well in a crock-pot, but to the uninitiated (namely, me) the smell takes some getting used to. Tasty, though!

  21. Lynne Says:

    I am planning a dinner for my mom and dads 61st anniversary and my daughter and brother’s birthday. I was going to do the routine fried chicken from Kenturny Kuckle but I decided to do some comfort food. Mom has been in a nursing home for 3 years and Dad hasnt had any of his old favorites for a while. Besides, he is 89 years old and doesnt chew too well anymore. galumpkie, halunkie, hunkie hand grenades what ever you want to call them, they sure go down easy and I know mom and dad will bring back lots of memories of all the kids at home and sitting down to a meal of mushed potatoes and stuffed cabbage.

  22. Mari Says:

    I love cabbage rolls and my family does too. The only problem is the time involve. so I make Exploded rolls. Using the same ingredients, except the bread crumbs. You chop up the cabbage. Brown the meat, with the onions. and throw everything in a pot together. Sometimes I use coucous if I can find it on sale (or at a few of the cheap markets I shop at) instead of the rice.
    It takes only about 30 mins to put together.

  23. leroy chanda Says:

    hey people,

    alright let’s get down to the bottom of making good cabbage rolls, i’m czech/hungarian, and i think i was eating cabbage rolls before baby food… listen closely if you want to make them.

    first of all no-onions, no spaghetti sauce.yuck, no lamb meat…you have to be kidding…..and why hasn’t anyone mentioned sauerkraut…..thats the key!!!!!!!!

    this is what you need
    1 pound ground beef
    1 pound ground pork
    2 liters tomato juice——not sauce
    1 1/2 rice not cooked
    1 cup sauerkraut, or 2 cups if you like tangy
    salt and pepper to taste

    and thats it—————-

    boil the head of cabbage
    peel the leaves
    mix all meat rice and salt and pepper together
    make what ever size of rolls you want. smaller seem to cook faster

    put one layer of cabbage rolls in large deep pot, or slow cooker
    then layer with sauerkraut and tomato juice
    repeat until your finished with all your mix
    make sure all cabbage rolls are covered with sauerkraut and tomatao juice, while they cook they will need some care and more juice, after 3 to 4 hours you will have the untimate cabbage roll dinnner…trust me……

    enjoy ;)

  24. Terry Thompson Says:

    My wife’s hungarian grandmother had the best recipe for cabbage rolls. She used all pork, beef makes them too dry and adds a sauteed onion and 2 slices of cooked minced bacon per pound of meat and no sauerkraut and a healthy amount of hungarian paprika. Cooking them on the stove top, low and slow works the best.

  25. Carolyn Q Says:

    I am Slovak and was brought up with my mom making stuffed cabbage. I love it! I have only made it once before but I know I will be making some again.


  26. Marion Mehelich Says:

    For the person wanting the vegetarian version of stuffed cabbage, I make mine with Kasha,(buckwheat), instead of meat. Just boil the Kasha until tender and drain/cool. I add chopped celery, finely chopped onion and salt/pepper to taste. I then roll it up in the cabbage leaves, place in a roaster then cover with Ketchup. For a very nice flavor, I also put strips of vegetarian bacon,(uncooked), on the top of the cabbage rolls. Cook at 350 degrees for about 2 hours. This is the way my family, Ukrainian, has always made stuffed cabbage and I always serve it when my vegetarian friends come over for dinner. Everyone, vegetarian and meat eaters love it. In fact, it is even better the next day. My father would slice up the leftover stuffed cabbage rolls and brown them in butter in a fry pan until lightly browned and slightly crispy. YUMMMM!!

  27. Da Pom Says:

    Hi Marion. Sorry, just have to comment… vegetarian bacon? I know you veg’s have all sorts of mock meat nowadays, but bacon that isn’t really bacon – what would that be made from? I don’t get it. Hey I’m not knocking you, but is there a vegetarian T bone steak also??? ;)

  28. Ruben A Says:

    This is childhood fav for me. My grandmother used to make this all the time. However, never was taught how to make them. So one day I tried to get that same taste but on a ‘tight’ budget had to modify it. I used tomato soup, frozen meatballs, half a head of cabbage cut into chunks (I love cabbage stewed) and cooked it up in a pot. Not the same, but it actually turned out pretty good with my budget.

  29. Jen Says:

    I only use garlic, no onion. They are best when using ground beef and ground pork. I crave them about once a month:)

  30. Dusty Says:

    I like to boil my cabbage rolls in the tomato juice in stead of baking them…..Don’t use anything but a big can of tomato juice and drop the cabbage rolls in to boil………



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