Traditional Romanian Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Course Main
Cuisine Romanian
Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings 25 -30 pieces
Author Adore Foods


  • 2 lbs/ 1 kg combined ground pork/ beef
  • ½ cup arborio rice
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large sour cabbage
  • 700 ml tomato juice
  • 10 slices smoked bacon
  • some fresh thyme sprigs
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper


  1. Get ready the meat stuffing.
  2. Boil arborio rice till it's almost ready. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile chop the large onion. Sauté half of the quantity for a couple of minutes, saving the other half for later and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl mix all types of ground meat, add sauted onions and boiled rice, dried herbs, 1 teaspoon water, salt and pepper and mix well using your hands.
  5. Making the rolls.
  6. Remove gently not to break them, all cabbage leaves. You will only need the large leaves to make the rolls. The middle part will be chopped and added between cabbage rolls layers. Cut each large leaf in half, removing the tough core part too to make it easier to roll them.
  7. Add a tablespoon of ground meat mixture to each half leaf. Cover the filling with the edge from the base of the leaf. Bend edges on both sides and cover over the filling. Roll the stuffed cabbage leaf holding firm, so they won't break during cooking time. Repeat these steps until you finish all of your group meat mixture.
  8. Roughly chop smaller leaves or some that broke during the rolling process and set aside.
  9. Place big saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the rest of chopped onions for 2-3 minutes. Add part of chopped sour cabbage leaves and sauté for another 2 minutes. Distribute the whole mixture on an even bottom layer and turn the heat to minimum. Start adding the rolls, creating a first level. Add some chopped smoked bacon, 2 bay leaves and 4 fresh thyme springs and some more chopped sour cabbage. Start creating the second level, putting rolls to the saucepan. When you finish the layer, add some more chopped sour cabbage on top, smoked bacon, another 2 bay leaves and some fresh thyme.
  10. Add half part sour cabbage juice and half part water to cover the rolls entirely. Place a lid on top of the saucepan and boil them on slow heat for at least 2 hours.
  11. After 2 hours, add tomato juice to the saucepan, place back the lid and boil for another 2 hours. The total cooking time should be at least 3 hours
  12. Serve them really warm with a dollop of sour cream onside and a jalapeño, if you like spicy