The exotic aromas wafting through your kitchen while these fabulous Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage rolls simmer, will transport you on a delicious journey, far, far away!

middle eastern stuffed cabbage rolls on brown mat


The heady combination of spices in the fabulous tomato sauce makes it amazing when scooped up with No Yeast Cilantro Oil FlatbreadMiddle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage Rolls make a delicious winter evening repast when you need a soul-satisfying meal!

I developed this recipe to be fairly “main stream”, with a lovely balance of cumin, cinnamon and allspice.  It’s a nice round flavor profile that firmly states it’s Middle Eastern, but doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor of the lamb filling.


mise en place for middle eastern stuffed cabbage rolls


Let’s Start With The Sauce!  You can just imagine, as with many ethnic recipes, different regions have subtle differences in their recipes.  So too with families within a region, with the adaptations, alterations and family preferences make for a plethora of different recipes. 


roasted garlicSome recipes are heavy on the cumin, while others rely heavily on coriander and cinnamon.  It really depends on how intense a Middle Eastern influence you want in your sauce.  

I’m a huge fan of roasted garlic, and I usually have some in the refrigerator.  So, I used a whopping three tablespoons in my Middle Eastern stuffed cabbage sauce.

The difference between using a fresh garlic clove and roasted garlic is a world away, so please take the time to make some before starting this recipe!

The mellow, deep garlic flavor it develops can’t be reproduced any other way.  It’s truly worth the effort, especially if you toss a few heads into the oven when you’re roasting something already.

And instead of using onions in this sauce, I used the huge leek I had in my vegetable bin.  It turned out to be a fabulous choice, really combining with the roasted garlic into a truly sublime concoction!

As I said earlier, I tried to make this sauce a nice balance of flavors, with just enough spices to carry the Middle Eastern flavors.  I hope you and your family will like it as much as we do!


middle eastern stuffed cabbage roll ingredients


Despite the end dish being the same, you’d be surprised at the avenues different recipes take to get there.

Specifically I’m talking about how to cook and use the cabbage leaves to make them pliable enough to roll, but not tear. 

You’ll see the head boiled, steamed, and the center portion chopped and baked in casseroles too.  Although I love all cruciferous vegetables, I’m not a huge fan of overcooked cabbage or brussel sprouts.  They can “stink up the joint”!

Hydrogen sulfide is the culprit, as these vegetable contain enough that when it escapes during cooing, look out!  But, you can avoid most of the problem with fast cooking methods, like stir-frying it with butter, salt, pepper and caraway. Yum.

NAN’S TIP :  Use the tough outer leaves to line the bottom of your pan to ensure your stuffed cabbage won’t burn during cooking.



cabbage leaves on upside down bowlOnce you’ve steamed your head of cabbage, you’ll let it cool a few minutes and then carefully peel off the individual leaves.  

But you’ll find that since they have a rounded shape, it’s hard to stack them without tearing.  I’ve got a simple solution!

Place an upside-down bowl a bit smaller than your cabbage on your work surface.  Use it to lay the leaves over to hold their shape.  

You’ll find they easily stack, from largest on the bottom (the first removed) to the smallest.  I tend to want to get as many rolls as possible, so I use the fairly small leaves too.

As you can see from the pictures, you’ll need to cut a “v” from the bottom of the leaves to remove the large center rib.  It’s too tough to eat, and makes rolling the leaves almost impossible.



What does that mean, anyway?  You always see recipes for dumplings that tell you to use a scant teaspoon of filling…  It never seems like enough to me, so I end up using a little more than recommended. Not enough to make them burst, but certainly more than the little tidbit that’s indicated in the recipes!

I like to use a hefty tablespoon of filling for the larger leaves, and then put a little less in as the sizes get smaller.  Otherwise, my hubby says he’s just eating cabbage with a little meat and rice for garnish.  And that’s definitely not a good thing!


how to assemble middle eastern stuffed cabbage rolls

Here’s how the assembly process goes:

  • Put the cabbage leaf on the work surface with the “v” cut facing you
  • Place a hefty tablespoon of filling at the top of the “v” cut
  • Fold both lower sides over filling (see photo)
  • Next, fold the cabbage leaf away from you once
  • Then fold in both upper sides, and roll away from you until the seam is at the bottom


pot filled with uncooked middle eastern stuffed cabbage rolls

And speaking of company, a big pot of Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage Rolls is perfect for feeding a crowdOnce you’ve got the components prepared, assembly goes really fast.

Don’t worry about smelling up your house when prepping the cabbage for making your rolls.  You’ll steam the whole, cored head just long enough to soften the leaves for rolling them around the lamb, rice and onion filling.



Polish stuffed cabbage rolls in polish pattern bowl

Straight from Northeastern Pennsylvania “Polish” country, I’m sharing my Grandma’s family recipe for Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.  With a simple straight-forward tomato sauce, and a flavorful beef, rice and onion filling, my family recipe is a real Polish treat!


Now it’s time to get to the grocer’s and find yourself a big ‘ole cabbage! But which recipe will you decide to make first?  Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, or Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage Rolls using savoy cabbage and lamb?  It’s not an easy decision, is it?  Why not do like I did, and make both!



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Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage

Middle Eastern Stuffed Cabbage

Yield: 6 Servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Exotic aromas from the Middle East wafting through your kitchen while these fabulous lamb stuffed cabbage rolls simmer will take you on a delicious journey far away! The cumim, allspice & cinnamon scented tomato sauce is amazing when scooped up with No Yeast Cilantro Oil flatbread! A delicious winter night repast!


  • 1 large savoy cabbage, with outer leaves attached
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Red bell pepper, diced
  • Large leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. roasted garlic paste (see related post for recipe)
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. whole allspice berries
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 32 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 24 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 Tbsp. preserved lemons, rinsed and minced
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 2/3 cup white rice, cooked by pkg. directions
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. each, cumin and oregano
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • Large egg, beaten


    1. Remove 4 large outer leaves from the cabbage, set aside to line cooking pan. Remove core from cabbage. To a pot deep enough to hold whole cabbage, add 2 inches salted water. Place the head of cabbage inside, cover and set over medium-high heat.
    2·  Bring water to a simmer, reduce heat to low and steam cabbage for 20-25, or until the center is just tender. Drain and allow to cool completely.
    3. SAUCE - While cabbage is steaming, add oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add leeks and red bell pepper to pan, cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Into the pan, add the roasted garlic paste and spices, stirring and cooking for 2 minutes, or until you smell the spices.
    4. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, stirring to combine. Cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in preserved lemons and cook for 2 minutes more. Uncover an set aside until needed.
    5. FILLING - Add all filling ingredients in a medium bowl, mixing well to combine. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
    6. Get out a medium bowl and place it bottom up on work surface. Carefully remove outermost leaf from cabbage, cut out the hard outer rib in a "V" (just the tough few inches) and then place over the bowl to keep its shape. Repeat with the remainder of the leaves. (you won't use the smallest ones)
    7. Spread a small amount of sauce over outer leaves in pan.
    8. ASSEMBLY - Assemble your components on a large flat surface. Take the first leaf off the bowl, lay flat on surface, cut "V" facing you. Place a tablespoon of filling at top of cut.
    9. Fold both left and right bottom sides over filling. Roll over once. Fold in both upper sides, roll until seam is on bottom. Place in prepared pan and repeat until filling/leaves are gone. (SEE IMAGE IN RELATED POST)
    10. Top stuffed cabbage rolls with sauce, cover and place over medium-low heat.
    11. Cook for 50-60 minutes, until rolls are cooked through and sauce has thickened.
Nutrition Information
Yield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 390Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 105mgSodium 2111mgCarbohydrates 31gFiber 8gSugar 14gProtein 25g

Nutritional information should be considered an estimate only; please consult a registered dietician, nutritionist, or your physician for specific health-related questions. Please note that the recipe above is published using a recipe card plugin, with preexisting software which can auto-calculate metric measurements, as well as change the number of servings.

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