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.
And speaking of company, a big pot of Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls is perfect for feeding a crowd! Once 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.
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.
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!
Once 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 not a good thing!
Here’s how the assembly process goes:
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.
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!
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!
CLICK HERE FOR THE RECIPE: MIDDLE EASTERN STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS
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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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.