Authentic Hungarian Cabbage Rolls

Published on Mar 20, 2014

  by   Kristina Stosek

12 reviews

Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 180 minutes Serves: 12 rolls
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Robust Authentic Hungarian Cabbage Rolls braised to perfection. Fermented cabbage leaves filled with the most flavourful meat filling that will melt in your mouth.

To achieve flavourful cabbage rolls, you can’t rush the process. It takes time to develop flavours of slowly braised well seasoned meat in fermented cabbage leaves.

These Hungarian cabbage rolls are cooked in a light tomato sauce, which is flavoured from the juices of slow simmering meaty rolls and they are naturally gluten-free.


Hungarian cabbage rolls in a baking pan

Best cabbage for cabbage rolls

This is a question that many may argue. Cabbage rolls are common to ethnic cuisines of the Eastern, Northern and Central Europe, Balkans, and the Middle East.

Growing up in Eastern Europe, the rolls were always made with fermented cabbage.


Hungarian Cabbage Rolls


However, you can use green cabbage or savoy cabbage. It all depends on what flavours you are looking for. The fermented cabbage is slightly sour, adding extra flavour to the sauce and cabbage rolls.

I have made cabbage rolls from green cabbage and savoy cabbage in the past, and they are lovely during warm weather.

But when cold weather hits, there is nothing more satisfying than the authentic Hungarian Cabbage Rolls made with fermented cabbage.


cabbage rolls

various fillings for cabbage rolls

In this Hungarian Cabbage Rolls recipe, I used the classic filling, beef, pork, veal, rice, tomato paste, egg, onions, garlic, herbs and spices. However, there are many choices to fill the cabbage leaves with. You can even make them vegan.

One that I use often is half meat, half veggies filling. I replace half the meat with mushrooms, carrots and zucchini. You can chop the veggies in a food processor or grate them on a box grater. The veggies should be finely grated.

Meat can also be change up. I used the three classics, beef, pork and veal. However, you can use chicken, only beef, even turkey or a combination of your choice.

Quinoa is an excellent substitute for rice. And I would recommend adding extra herbs. The herbs of my choice are thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, parsley or cilantro.

Spices can also be a mix of cumin, chilli, curry, ginger and cardamom.

If you are following a plant-based diet, here is my favourite vegan filling for eight cabbage rolls

  • 4 cups mashed sweet potato, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 (400 ml) can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) with liquid
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. Sesame oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Ground flaxseed
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Pure sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. GF ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. GF ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. GF ground nutmeg

Place everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before filling the cabbage leaves. When I make vegan cabbage rolls, I always use green or savoy cabbage.


overview of beef cabbage rolls in a light tomato sauce layered in a baking pan

simple tomato sauce for Hungarian cabbage rolls

Fermented sour cabbage has so much flavour. There is no need to make a special sauce with onions, garlic and spices. Trust me on this, in this Cabbage Roll Recipe, you need a simple tomato sauce.

The tomato sauce will be flavoured with the spiced meat and the sour cabbage. If you make vegan cabbage rolls, add some seasoning like minced garlic, oregano, and basil and substitute vegetarian broth for the water.

Cabbage Roll recipe may seem intimidating, but honestly, the recipe is super easy, especially if you use fermented cabbage. If you are using green cabbage, there are a couple of things to know about the cabbage’s preparation.


green cabbage vs sour cabbage

How to prepare green cabbage for cabbage rolls?

Using a sharp knife, like a paring knife, remove the core of the cabbage. Place the cabbage with the cut side down into a large pot filled with boiling water. The water should come halfway up the cabbage.

Cover, and after about three minutes of cooking, the leaves soften, and you will be able to peel them off. Place the leaves on a plate until you are ready to use them. The leaves should be soft enough so that you can roll them.


Hungarian Cabbage Rolls


The only thing that I would like to add is that cabbage rolls are braised, which takes time. And, they are always better the next day or the day after.

Cabbage rolls will keep for up to five days when refrigerated. Serve with acorn squash and sweet potato mash.

Let’s Connect!


Many thanks!

Kristina xx

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These cabbage rolls turned out so good! Thank you and I love the idea of using sour cabbage so much more flavourful!

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