Recipe: Stuffed Cabbage

About This Recipe

This is recipe I grew up eating quite often. In fact, it was one of the items always on the kitchen table for Thanksgiving. The recipe originally comes from my grandmother, but I have always had it made by my father. Until a few weeks ago, I had never made this dish before. I wasn’t even sure how the sauce was made. When I visited my parents recently, I was able to spend some quality time with my father and we made the dish together. Just like my father, I can’t follow a recipe, so I have made a few alternations  ( I added some white wine for example).

If you are not a fan of cabbage, I would still give this recipe a try. The filling tastes great on its own. In fact, when I was younger, that’s the only way I would eat it.

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Ingredients:
1 large cabbage or 2 small cabbages
1 spanish onion
2 green peppers
1.5 lbs ground beef (90/10 fat ratio is best but any will do)
3 Tablespoons white rice
1 Teaspoon plus extra sugar
1 – 2 Teaspoons salt
1/4 Teaspoon black pepper
5 cloves garlic (minced)
1/4 Teaspoon parsley
1 pinch smoked paprika
1 packet rice seasoning
1 – 2 Teaspoons olive oil
32 oz tomato juice
OPTIONAL – 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons white wine

Notes: What I call rice seasoning is a pre packaged seasoning made by Goya containing the following spices saffron, garlic, coriander, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and annatto seeds. I call it rice seasoning because it is an important component in another one of my dad’s recipes – spanish rice. One of the reasons I use it is because a key spice in this seasoning (saffron) is very expensive on its own. If you want to make this seasoning on your own, combine a half a teaspoon of each and mix.

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Also – If you want to make it a little more traditional – add some raisins to the sauce.
Estimated Cooking and Prep Time: 3 and a half to 4 hours
Servings: 4 – 6

Cooking Process

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To prepare the cabbage:

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. There should be enough water in the pot to cover the cabbage. Cut the core out of the cabbage. When the water is boiling, place the whole cabbage into the water. The cabbage will need to be watched. The idea here is to make the cabbage leaves soft (but not mushy). Once the cabbage leave becomes soft, using tongs, pull the leave off and put it on a plate. The longer the cabbage is in the pot, the less time a leave should need to cook. However, it can be a relative process based on the size of a leave. Note that the cabbage is going to be cooked again so the intention is not to fully cook the cabbage. The goal is to make the leaves soft enough to roll them with the filling we will prepare next.

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If you skip the wine skip this step:

Place the rice in an already hot sauté pan. Toast the rice for 1 minute and then add the 2 tablespoons white wine. After an additional 2 minutes, remove the rice from the pan. If there is extra liquid in the pan, discard it.

To create the filling:

First mince half an onion and 2 cloves garlic. Combine the onion, garlic, ground beef, rice, sugar, salt, black pepper, parsley, and 2 pinches of the rice seasoning. After mixing the ingredients, it is time to portion the meat for the cabbage. You want each portion to be about the size of one or two meatballs in size (depending on the size of the cabbage it will be rolled in). However, instead of making it meatball shape, it will be more like a football or a small rolling-pin.

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To stuff the cabbage:

Place a cabbage leave on a flat surface. If it has a big/strong stem, trim the end of the leave as necessary. Place the meat mixture at the end and roll up. You want to roll it tight like an egg roll. You only want enough cabbage to completely cover the meat, so if it seems like a lot of cabbage, trim as needed. When you reach the end, pinch the sides in (be as tight as possible). Complete this process for the remaining leaves/meat.

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To bring it all together:

Chop green peppers into strips and removes seeds (julienne). Cover the bottom with one layer of green pepper. Place each stuffed cabbage unto the pot. Make the cabbage as tightly fit as possible. You may stack the cabbage if necessary. Lightly cover the top with sugar. Add a few pinches of salt, pepper, and paprika and the rest of the rice seasoning. Drizzle the top with the olive oil. Give a rough chop to the remaining garlic and onion, place it in the pot. Cover the top with another thin layer of green pepper. Finally, pour in the tomato juice and the remaining white wine (if you are using it). You want enough liquid to completely cover everything in it. Bring the pot to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 2 and a half hours.

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Serve and enjoy.

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This photo was taken after had already plated most of the dish.


  • I absolutely love stuffed cabbage. I had it for the first time late at night at a place in the East Village in New York and it was so new and amazing that it was kind of a magical experience. I am so glad you posted it.

    • Thank you for the comment and read.

      Do you remember the place in New York you tried it at? I would love to give it a try next time I make it up there.

      Hope my recipe compares. Give it a shot and let the community know how it came out.