*This recipe requires preparation 10 to 24 hours in advance.
We’ve been having a lot of frozen vegetables in my house lately. I was craving some fresh, crunchy salad, so my fiancé went to the store and bought 4 bunches of spinach and a giant head of cabbage. I planned to make coleslaw with the cabbage, but then I had an even better idea.
I know what you’re thinking- stuffed cabbage is a cooked meal. But I can buy another cabbage for coleslaw anytime.
Stuffed cabbage is a dish that contains some sort of meat and rice rolled inside leaves of cabbage. Its history can be traced back to the Jewish people in Europe over 2,000 years ago. Recipes vary by location and heritage. Here are some examples:
- Jewish holishkes: Sweet-and-sour sauce base, made with raisins, sugar, citrus, and tomatoes
- Bulgarian sarmi: Veal and pork, and a yogurt mint sauce with paprika
- Romanian sarmale: Ground pork with caramelized onions and rice; Smokey flavors and dill
- Russian golubtsy: Cooked meatballs in cabbage leaves with sour cream, sometimes with rice
- Polish golabki: Pork, beef, and rice/barley stuffing; Tomato sauce (1)
I made my own version of stuffed cabbage, but leaned more towards the Jewish holishke flavor.
The hardest part about making stuffed cabbage is rolling the cabbage leaves around the filling without breaking their structure. My grandma taught me this unique trick that allows me to peel the cabbage leaves cleanly off of the head every time.
Put the cabbage in the freezer overnight (hence the note at the top of the post).
The water inside the leaves will freeze and alter the structure of the plants’ cells, making the leaves more pliable.
Try using that simple tip to prepare your first stuffed cabbage recipe!
For the stuffed cabbage: One large cabbage head, 3/4 cup of uncooked brown rice, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 tsp olive oil, 2 lbs of boneless and skinless chicken breast, 3 egg yolks, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 can of tomato sauce (about 24 oz), 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce, 1 tsp dried rosemary leaves, 1/2 tsp ground celery seed, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
It is easier to make this recipe with some form of ground meat, but I didn’t have any meat like that in my house at the time.
You can use the extra egg whites to make a French meringue. View my post here.
As noted from the beginning of this blog, freeze the cabbage overnight.
When you are ready to cook the stuffed cabbage, preheat the oven to 375°F. Take the cabbage out of the freezer and let it thaw slightly as you prepare the stuffing.
Cook the rice with the water and olive oil as directed by the packaging instructions.
While the rice is cooking, dice the chicken into small, square pieces (about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick). Place the chicken into a large bowl.
Add the egg yolks, garlic powder, salt, pepper, tomato sauce, lemon juice, sweet chili sauce, dried rosemary leaves, celery seed, and red pepper flakes into the bowl. Mix well, making sure that all of the chicken is covered in the sauce mixture.
Stir the rice into the bowl so that it completely covers the chicken and the sauce. Let the stuffing sit and marinate for a few minutes while you peel the cabbage leaves.
This next part is optional, but recommended.
Boil a pot of water on the stove. Place the cabbage leaves in the water for two minutes to parboil them. Parboiling will soften the cabbage leaves to even out the cooking time when they are placed in the oven.
Take out a large roasting pan. Line the bottom of the pan with cabbage leaves. This will prevent the stuffed cabbage from burning in the oven.
Put a cabbage leaf on a separate plate or cutting board. Add a dollop of filling, or a little less than 1/4 of a cup, on top of the leaf. Refer to the picture on the left to estimate the amount of filling to add to each leaf.
You can roll the cabbage leaves using the method listed in my spring roll post. If that doesn’t work, you can roll the cabbage leaves like a makeshift taco.
Fill the pan with the stuffed cabbage. Save a few extra leaves to make a top layer. This will, again, help prevent the real meal from burning.
Cook the stuffed cabbage at 375°F for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300°F and cook for another 20 minutes.
The stuffing should have plenty of time to finish by then. The leaves will be a dull green color, and the chicken inside the stuffing will be moist. Allow the stuffed cabbage to cool slightly before serving so that the stuffing can set.
This recipe reminds me of my grandma. She makes an amazing stuffed cabbage dish for the holidays every year, and she inspired me to make this recipe today. I hope that you find foodie inspiration in your family as well!
- History of Cabbage Rolls. Troika. Accessed November 6, 2015. http://troikafoods.com/entertaining-cooking/history-of-cabbage-rolls/.