Best Cabbage Rolls

Tuesday 26 January 2021


I have been making this stuffed cabbage roll recipe which I am sharing with you today for years, and years and years. In my opinion it is the absolute best, and I don't make that boast lightly.


The original recipe came from a community cookbook put out by my church ladies's guild back in the early 1980's. I really love community cookbooks.  People tend to put into them their very best recipes and tried and trues.


Not all of the recipes will be to everyone's taste. Taste is subjective after all.You can be pretty sure that all of the recipes will be the donater's best and  most favourite recipes however. 

This makes community cookbooks a wise choice when it comes to finding economical, family friendly and delicious recipes. At least that has been my experience. 

My mother used to make cabbage rolls often when I was growing up. They were one of my father's favourite things. My father loved anything with hamburger in it.  Mom would always make a HUGE pot of them, with enough to freeze for another time.

She did not use rice in hers.  Her meat mixture was more like a meatloaf mixture and she would roll it up in the leaves of cabbage, putting them into a very large saucepan.  Over that she would pour a few cans of stewed tomatoes.

She also added peeled potatoes and peeled carrots, cut into chunks.  I have never seen anyone else make cabbage rolls in this way.  When they were done, there was a full meal prepared. No need to add anything else.

I was not fond of the meat filling, I confess, but I did really love the cabbage, carrots and potatoes. My father really loved the meat, but was not fond of the cabbage. I would trade him my meat for his cabbage. Nobody felt cheated in the least.

This recipe is worlds apart from my mother's recipe. First of all the rolls are baked, not simmered on top of the stove and there are no vegetables added. Just the rolls. I also don't use canned tomatoes, preferring instead to make a sauce from a few simple ingredients. Just tastier, in my opinion.

My meat mixture does include rice, unlike hers.  I always use raw rice and you needn't worry about it cooking. It does every time and perfectly. 

The meat filling also includes some special seasonings aside from salt and pepper.  Grated onion, garlic, and carrot to keep things moist.  I also add an egg to hold everything together along with a quantity of chopped streaky bacon.

You would be surprised at how much flavour the bacon lends to the mixture.  Its not enough to overpower the meat, but it does give a nice smoky flavour. If you want you can put it through a meat grinder. Raw bacon can be rather difficult to chop. 

I  also like to use a good dry cure streaky bacon. There is less water in dry cured bacon. 

I always use a large white/green cabbage, never a savoy cabbage. I think it has the best flavor and texture for this use. 

 I use a large one because the leaves are much larger and are the perfect size to completely wrap and enclose the meat filling. I also wilt them first in some boiling water for ease of wrapping.

If you trim the thick vein in each leaf you will find that it is much easier to fold the leaves. Just take a sharp knife and pare it down so that it is the same thickness as the rest of the leaf. 

Mom never wilted her cabbage first, but it really does make rolling them a lot easier. You can save the inside of the cabbage for other things. Don't worry it will all get used.

The star of this wonderful cabbage roll recipe has always been the sauce.  It is incredibly delicious. So delicious that I often double it because we love it so much.

It uses a canned tomato sauce, fresh lemon juice and brown sugar. If you are in the UK, tomato sauce is NOT ketchup!  It is what you call Passatta.  Seived tomatoes, but a bit thinner. You can add a bit of water to thin it out if you want but it should be fine just as it is.

Make sure you use fresh lemon juice. It has a much better flavour than lemon juice made from concentrate and is not so acidic. It adds a lovely punch to the sauce.

In my younger years I used to always make a big pan of these if we were invited to a pot luck lunch or supper.  I always came home with an empty pan and many requests for the recipe. They really are that good! 

I like to serve them with some steamed rice on the side and a vegetable if I can. You can serve them with whatever you wish to use and which you enjoy eating with them. Boiled potatoes are also very nice.

Best Cabbage Rolls

These really are the BEST cabbage rolls and worth every ounce of effort to make. You can double or triple the recipe with ease and you may want to do just that as they do freeze very well and it never hurts to have something like these in the freezer that you can just pull out.

You can pay upwards of $20 in the store for a large pan of ready made frozen cabbage rolls, whereas it will only cost you a fraction of that to make your own at home and they really do taste so much better!

This is the season for comfort foods such as these. Why not bake up some comfort for your family today! They will be ever so pleased and grateful that you did! Trust me on this!

Best Cabbage Rolls

Best Cabbage Rolls
Yield: 4 (12 rolls)
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 15 Mincook time: 1 H & 20 Mtotal time: 1 H & 35 M
This is our favourite cabbage roll recipe. Delicious, moist and meaty with a fabulous sweet and sour sauce. These always go down a real treat. I often double and triple the recipe when I take them to pot luck suppers. I always bring home an empty dish.


For the rolls:
  • 1 pound (455g) extra lean minced beef
  • 1/4 cup (55g)raw long grain rice
  • 1 large free-range egg, beaten
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and grated
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound ( 225g) smoked streaky bacon, minced (dry cure if possible)
  • 12 wilted cabbage leaves, thick veins trimmed to thin
For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup (100g) soft light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup (240ml) tomato sauce (passata)


  1. Preheat oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5.  Butter a shallow baking dish large enough to hold your rolls. Set aside.
  2. Place the meat into a bowl and mix together with the raw rice, egg, onion, carrot, garlic, salt, pepper and bacon. Mix well together. Shape into 12 equal sized ovals.
  3. Place each oval at the wide end of a wilted cabbage leaf. Roll up, tucking in the sides to completely encase the meat.
  4. Place, folded side down, into a greased baking dish.
  5. Mix together the brown sugar, lemon juice and tomato sauce. Pour this sauce over the rolls. Cover tightly with a lid or a thick sheet of aluminimum foil.
  6. Place the casserole into the heated oven and bake for 1 hour. Uncover at the end of that time and bake for 20 minutes longer. Serve hot with your favourite sides.


I often double the sauce as it is so delicious. Simply multiply all of the sauce ingredients by 2.

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Best Cabbage Rolls

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  1. Good morning, Marie. I've never made cabbage rolls, although I'd like to try. This looks like the recipe I've been waiting for. I have pretty well all the ingredients on hand except the cabbage. I've had a restless night due to my sciatica flaring up. It's time for a coffee and a toasted bagel with peanut butter and banana. Then hopefully a nap. Have a bright Tuesday. Stsy safe. Love and hugs, Elaine

    1. No time like the present Elaine! I think you and Larry are sure to love these! They really are delicious! You stay safe also! Love and hugs! xoxo

  2. I love cabbage rolls. I can remember big pots of boiling water and my mother immersing the cabbage for a few minutes, then out into cold water to peel the leaves. Rinse and repeat... The inner part was used for coleslaw, or minestrone or even cabbage and noodles. And mum used the really tough, green outer leaves to cover the rolls when they cooked (no need to use foil).

    I often think that it's the thought of peeling those leaves which can put people off making their own cabbage rolls as it can be a tedious process. However, if you use a microwave (and there's even a freezer method) then it really is not much work at all. And home made cabbage rolls can't be beaten.

    1. I often do the same Marie with the tough outer leaves. I think your mom must have been a wonderful cook. Her daughter sure is! I am not a person who minds tedium. I find a special comfort in puttering. Love and hugs, xoxo

  3. I haven't made these in years. They look so good, I'm putting them on the menu. I particularly like the addition of some bacon, that smoky flavor sounds sooo good! My hint for this is-I partially freeze my bacon (keep the slices all together like they come in the package) then I take my kitchen shears and cut straight up the sides to get whatever width pieces I need-you get nice uniform bits without the hassle of the bacon shredding. I do this too if the recipe says to fry and crumble--just fry the already cut bits-quicker and easier for me at least! Thanks for the dinner idea!

  4. These sound yummy Marie. I've never used bacon. We use about 4 parts lean ground beef to 1 part lean ground pork. The bacon sounds interesting.

  5. I made this recipe today. I always wanted to try to make them, but I never found a recipe that looked good. This recipe is terrific. The sauce is extra good. There is a time commitment, but if you double the recipe there is so much extra for the freezer. Thank you for sharing is with us.

    1. So pleased it was enjoyed! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience with us. That always makes my day when one of my readers makes a recipe, enjoys and shares! Thank YOU! xo

  6. I made these yesterday for the first time. I remember growing up with these as a child, and always used the same recipe from my mom. So here's my take on your recipe. I used savoy cabbage instead of the usual white head. Added more garlic and rice to the recipe than initially called for. Then, fried the bacon for about 5 minutes and let it cool before adding to the meat mixture. I had about 14 rolls that I was able to fit inside a LeCreuset round casserole. I made two cups of tomato sauce and poured all two cups over the rolls because one cup wasn't enough. Baked as instructed. The rolls turned out great, very tasty, but definitely needed more sauce. Would recommend that people check the rolls halfway through cooking, and if more sauce is needed, to add it then. Otherwise, solid recipe. Thank you. Love your blog.

    1. Pleased you enjoyed these cabbage rolls and the blog in general! Thank you! I always double the sauce myself. Its delicious and can you ever have too much sauce?? I think not! Thanks for taking the time to leave your feedback! Much appreciated!


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