Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls are well known to be a staple in many slavic countries, my Polish friends swear by their grandmother’s recipes. A little research claims they originated in the middle east, often being transported by the Jewish diaspora as they migrated north. It’s no wonder they became popular in nordic cuisine, many spices used in Swedish cuisine originate in the middle east, from cardamom to saffron. Read about Kåldolmens Dag here to learn about the connection to Swedish culture.

One of my favorite things about cabbage rolls is the simplicity of the ingredients. They are great when you’re on a budget, yet are delicious enough that anyone will enjoy them. I often say simplicity is best, and these little rolls are a great example of why.

Cabbage Rolls

Chef Karen’s Cabbage Rolls

The best part about cabbage rolls is the filling is so versatile. You can use meat, beans, or just vegetables. The rice can be subbed out for farro or quinoa, or any other grain you have an abundance of at the moment.


  • 1 large head of cabbage, savoy is a great choice
  • Large pot of boiling salted water
  • 1 c rice, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 # ground meat, browned and crumbled
    • Optional: sub 1 can white beans for meat
  • 1/2 # mushrooms, rough chopped and cooked in butter or oil
  • 2 ribs of celery, cut into small pieces (bruinoise), lightly cooked, I like to roast them in the oven
  • 1 large carrot, cut into small pieces (bruinoise), lightly cooked, I like to roast them in the oven
  • 2 T minced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • Salt to taste, start with 1 tsp
  • Fresh or dried herbs as desired. I recommend dill, parsley, thyme, and or oregano.
  • Spices as desired. Paprika, sumac, caraway seeds are great.


  1. Boil cabbage leaves in salted water until tender, set aside to drain
  2. Spread rice onto sheet tray to cool slightly
  3. Saute onion and garlic until soft. 
  4. Here’s where the fun starts.
    1. Toss everything (except the cabbage leaves) together.
    2. Add minced fresh herbs and other spices to your liking.
    3. Season to taste with salt and spices.
    4. The flavor should be pretty intense here. Add a little lemon zest or a splash of sherry vinegar if it needs a little brightening up.
  5. Place a reasonable amount in each cabbage leaf and roll like a burrito. You’ll end up with a variety of sizes, that’s ok.
  6. Place in a glass baking dish with 3 T water. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees until hot, about 20 minutes.
  7. Top with coconut yogurt or sour cream. You can season the yogurt with spices or herbs, spread it over the top of the rolls and return to the oven for about 5 minutes if desired. 

Let me know if you have questions, or need more instructions.

Happy Eating!

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