Sarmale/ Cabbage Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cabbage rolls! Our traditional main dish for Christmas or Easter, ofcourse they don't miss from our table on any celebration day!
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: romanian
Serves: 40
  • 1 kg ground meat (pork or mix of pork and beef)
  • 4 spoons of rice
  • 1 big onion
  • 1 glass of wine
  • salt and pepper
  • thyme (or summer savory)
  • 2 spoons of tomato paste
  • cabbage leaves (from sauerkraut)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • smoked bacon or smoked pork fat
  1. Prepare the cabbage leaves from a night before. Cut the main rib and then put them in a sieve to drain. If they are too sour , put them in bowl with water for couple hours to make them less salty or less sour. We like them sour :-)
  2. Saute the onion until becomes translucent. Add rice and stir few more times then put the mixture over the meat. Add salt (a pinch not more, because the cabbage is salted anyway), pepper and thyme (I prefer summer savory, it has more flavor). Add the wine, tomato paste and paprika and mix well with your hands until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  3. Before, I wasn't adding the wine, neither the tomato paste in the meat, now I do it this way, they are more flavorful.
  4. Then we fill each leaf with meat and we form rolls.
  5. We will use a email pan or a cast iron pan, layered with shredded cabbage on the bottom. Add few peppercorns and a bay leaf, then arrange the cabbage rolls in a circular lines. Put one more layer of shredded cabbage and add some more peppercorns, bayleaf and some smoked bacon. This will give the rolls an awesome flavor!!
  6. On top of the last layer, has to be shredded cabbage. I use some summer savory or dry dill and add couple cups of water in the pan.
  7. You should boil it on top of the stove for 20-30 minutes then put it in the oven at low (175C, or 350-375F) and cook it for 2h-30 at least. The best cabbage rolls are done at very low heat for 3-4 hours, if you have the time. Check the pot from time to time, as the liquid evaporates quickly because the rice inflates. So add more water from time to time.
  8. Toward the end, add some tomato juice on top and shake the pot to incorporate and bake for another 30 min.
  9. They are amazing! with the smoky flavor, you will love them!
  10. They can be served with polenta and sour cream, and some hot pepper, only after you had a shot of Plum brandy! That is the traditional way ;-))
  11. Enjoy!
Recipe by gabriela cuisine at