Tender cabbage leaves stuffed with a beefy filling redolent with onion, garlic and thyme, these Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are the real deal!  Straight from my Grandma’s recipes!

Polish stuffed cabbage rolls in polish pattern bowl


Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are Winter weather comfort food that will delight your senses and satisfy your soul.  Since I’m half Polish, my soul needs this kind of satisfaction on a regular basis all season long! 

My Polish grandma passed along her recipe for Golabki to our entire family at some point over the years.  As a child, I can remember helping her roll them up “en masse” when the extended family was coming to town for a visit.  (my paternal grandparents lived right next door in N.E. Pennsylvania)

With a huge loaf of rye or pumpernickel bread, Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls were always a family favorite.


polish stuffed cabbage rolls

And speaking of company, a big pot of Polish 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 beef, rice and onion filling. 



You can just imagine, as with many ethnic recipes, different regions have subtle differences in their recipes.  So too with families within a region, where the adaptations, alterations and family preferences make for a plethora of different recipes. 

But, as I did a little research for this post, I found that this is one Polish dish that keeps it so simple, that the variations are minor, if any.


ingredients for polish stuffed cabbage rolls



While all Polish Stuffed Cabbage recipes have tomatoes for their base, what type and style are  small variations.  Over the years, I’ve added a can of diced tomatoes with their juices to give a chunkier sauce that I now prefer.  Our tastes change over the years, don’t they?


The next traditional sauce ingredient is vinegar. But, you’ll see some recipes specify either white or cider, and some just say vinegar.  Our family has always used apple cider vinegar, so I really can’t attest to how the sauce tastes by using another type.


And the last “standard” in a Polish stuffed cabbage sauce is a smoked meat.  Most recipes use bacon, and I  can personally say that having bits of  chewy, thick-sliced bacon in the sauce is absolutely heart-stopping. (LOL)

After that, I found recipes calling for bay leaves, thyme, garlic, onion, caraway and one with marjoram.  So you can see, the variations can be many, but minor.


assembling polish stuffed cabbage rolls


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 :  Grandma always used the tough outer leaves to line the bottom of her pan to make sure her Golabki wouldn’t burn during cooking. She never wasted anything!


how to assemble stuffed cabbage rolls


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

cabbage leaves on upside down bowlBut 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 not a good thing!

folding and rolling 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 in the cabbage leaf
  • Fold both lower sides over filling (see photo to right)
  • 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




Some recipes have you use a casserole dish and bake your Polish Cabbage Rolls in the oven.  In all honesty, until I did this research, I’d never heard of such a thing!  Grandma always simmered her Polish Cabbage Rolls in a thick-bottomed pot, right on her stovetop.

So naturally, I’ve always made them that way.  I was tempted to try them in the oven this time. But I really wanted to give you my family recipe intact, just how Grandma would want you to make them.

Polish stuffed cabbage rolls in pot with bowl of sauce on side



A  few weeks ago I featured a fabulous Middle Eastern Hanukkah Celebration Feast featuring 6 delicious recipes. 

So when I decided to share my Grandma’s Polish Stuffed Cabbage recipe, I found I wanted to make a Middle Eastern version too!  

middle eastern stuffed cabbage rolls on long striped platter

The exotic aromas from the Middle East wafting through your kitchen while these fabulous lamb stuffed savoy cabbage rolls simmer, will take you on a delicious journey far, far away! 

The cumim, allspice & cinnamon scented tomato sauce is amazing when scooped up with No Yeast Cilantro Oil Flatbread!  A little Preserved Lemons tucked into the sauce at the last minute helps make them a delicious winter night repast!


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 easy is it?  Why not do like I did, and make both!  Once you get started rolling, you’ll be a machine!



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Polish stuffed cabbage rolls

Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

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

Tender cabbage leaves stuffed with a beefy filling redolent with onion, garlic and thyme, these Polish cabbage rolls are the real deal! Comfort food that will delight your senses and satisfy your soul.


  • 1 large green cabbage, with outer leaves attached
  • 8 slices thick bacon, diced (place in freezer for 10 mins. before cutting)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • Medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 32 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 24 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 lb. ground chuck
  • 2/3 cup white rice, cooked by pkg. directions
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • 2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
  • 2/3 cup onion, diced
  • 1 large egg, beaten


  1. Remove 4 large outer leaves from the cabbage, set aside to line cooking pan. Take out 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 bacon to a large pan over medium heat and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green pepper, onion, salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes more, or until veggies are soft and bacon is just getting crisp.
  4. Add bay leaves and vinegar, stirring to combine. Cook one minute. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, stirring to combine. Cover, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover an set aside until needed.
  5. 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. 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 420Total Fat 21gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 11gCholesterol 114mgSodium 2128mgCarbohydrates 28gFiber 7gSugar 13gProtein 32g

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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