Sarmale (Stuffed Cabbage)

  • Serves

    serves 6


We've adapted this recipe by using fresh cabbage leaves rather than the more traditional pickled cabbage. To add a pleasant sourness to the dish, top the stuffed cabbage in the pot with 2 cups sauerkraut before baking, if you like.


  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 large head green cabbage, cored
  • 12 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 white onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 12 tbsp. dried bread crumbs
  • 12 tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 14 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
  • 12 oz. ground beef
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed (optional)
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 6 strips bacon (optional)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained and crushed
  • 12 cup chicken stock


Step 1

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cabbage and cook, pulling off each outer leaf with tongs as it becomes tender, about 2 minutes per leaf. Transfer cabbage leaves to a baking sheet; set aside and continue boiling cabbage until you have 20 leaves.

Step 2

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan. Add rice and boil for 10 minutes. Drain rice; set aside. Heat oil in a 10" skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to a bowl along with the rice and let cool slightly. Add 1 tbsp. dill, bread crumbs, paprika, and chile flakes. Stir to combine. Using your hands, fold in beef and season with salt and pepper; set filling aside.

Step 3

Heat oven to 375°. Set aside 4 whole cabbage leaves. Working with remaining cabbage leaves one at a time, stem each leaf and cut leaf into 4" square pieces. Repeat to make twenty-eight 4" square pieces. Spoon 1 tbsp. of reserved filling onto center of a square. Bring up 1 edge of square and roll into a cylinder, tucking in sides. Transfer stuffed cabbage to a 6-qt. Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining leaves and filling, arranging stuffed cabbage in a circular pattern in pot as you go. Finely chop any remaining cabbage; set aside. Top stuffed cabbage with remaining dill, along with sauerkraut, thyme, bacon, and bay leaves. Top with minced cabbage leaves and tomatoes and pour in stock and 1⁄2 cup water. Cover with the reserved whole cabbage leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, transfer to oven, and bake until stuffed cabbage is tender and flavors meld, about 2 hours. Let cool slightly before serving.

Pairing note: Sharp, ripe Ramnista Ktima Kir-Yianni 2006 ($30), a red xinomavro from Macedonia, matches the bold flavors in this dish.

Continue to Next Story

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.