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Cabbage rolls are a dish of Eastern European origin made by stuffing cabbage leaves with a filling, classically a meat filling such as beef or pork. This dish is known by a number of alternate names, including golabki and holubchi, and in addition to being popular in Eastern Europe, cabbage rolls are also made in parts of Asia and the American South. There are lots of variations on the basic recipe, and some families have a traditional recipe they like to use for cabbage rolls.
This dish is made by selecting large cabbage leaves, washing them, wilting them briefly with hot water so that they can be easily bent and folded, and then spooning the filling into the middle of the leaves. Each leaf is rolled up, turning the cabbage roll into a neat parcel, and then the cabbage rolls are baked, steamed, or fried.
A simple filling might include a mixture of beef, rice, onions, and tomato sauce. Various herbs and spices can be added, and vegetarian versions can be made with vegetables and meat replacements such as seitan. Mashed potatoes and other ingredients may also be used for a twist on basic cabbage rolls. Cabbage rolls can also be stuffed with cheeses, and they are classically served in a sauce. Tomato sauce is very popular in Eastern Europe, but some cooks make white sauces or Asian dressings for their cabbage rolls. Sour cream and paprika are common dressing components in some regions of the world.
People can use this dish as part of an entree, or as an appetizer. In some regions, cabbage rolls are very popular at potlucks and buffets, with the self-contained nature of the food being appealing and convenient. In Polish communities in particular, cabbage rolls are a common offering at community gatherings, and people may vie for the best recipe.
If you want to make cabbage rolls at home, you should select a large, healthy cabbage for the best leaves. You can use essentially anything you like as a filling, but take care to cook the filling to ensure that it will cook all the way through with the cabbage rolls. Some people like to make the filling the day before and then refrigerate it, giving the flavors a chance to blend before the filling is spooned into the cabbage leaves and baked. Cabbage rolls should be baked with their sauce so that the leaves do not dry out, and some cooks like to cover the baking pan to contain moisture, although this can result in soggy rolls.
I do like cabbage rolls, but they are a little labor intensive. I found a recipe for cabbage roll soup that uses all the same ingredients, but since one is not having to roll everything up, it's a much quicker dish.
The key to getting tasty cabbage rolls is to get them properly seasoned. Bland cabbage is inedible cabbage. In keeping with their Eastern European origins, I like to use paprika, but I also use black pepper and garlic. But seasoning is definitely the main part of getting really good cabbage rolls.
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