Romanian cabbage rolls recipe

Ciao, welcome back to my blog!

Today I am going to share with you how to ake excellent Sarmale, a delicious Romanian cabbage rolls recipe.

Sarmale are the perfect winter comfort food, as they combine vegetables and meat in a juicy and fragrant dish.

cabbage rolls recipe

This is our first attempt to make stuffed cabbage rolls with pickled white cabbages leaves and we are very chuffed that they turned out very nice and pretty close to the cabbage rolls recipe that we tasted in his native little town (Nehoiu).

Disclaimer: if you'll try to make them, the pickled cabbage really stinks once opened, but no worries, it is not gone bad.

The weird smell is caused by the fermentation process (similar to the German Crauti or kimchi) which is by the way super healthy for our gut, but it will go away once the dish is ready.

To know how to make pickled cabbage, check the post below

Romania: fermented cabbage leaves

Highly recommended rustic recipe to impress your guests when we will be finally able to have someone for dinner again!

It is possible to make vegetarian cabbage rolls or vegan cabbage rolls just by swapping the meat with jackfruit in brine, which will add the typical meat texture.

Find more of my Romanian recipes below:

-Romanian pickles

-One-pot ciulama

-Romanian stuffed bell pepper soup

Ingredients for 20 Sarmale

400g of minced beef

200g of minced pork

500g of whole pickled cabbage leaves

1 cup of rice

250ml of tomato passata

1 yellow onion

1 garlic clove

1 carrot (including the leaves if you have some)

2 celery stalks

1 red bell peppers

1 thick slice of smoked pork belly

3 bay leaves

Dry dill leaves and stems

Dry thyme leaves and stems

2 tbsp paprika powder

3 tbsp of sunflower oil



Sarmale recipe

Start preparing the filling first: wash, peel and chop thinly all the vegetables.

Pour the sunflower oil in a pot set on high heat and add the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 5 minutes covered with a lid.

After that include the rice in the pot and stir well.

Let it cook for further 5 minutes to absorb the flavours from the base and get slightly softer.

While the stuffing is cooking, you can prepare the pickled cabbage:

Spread the whole leaf on a clean surface and cut off the thick hard stem in the middle.

In doing so you'll divide the leaf in two so you can obtain two rolls.

Nothing will be thrown away: slice the central stem and leave it aside as we'll need it later.

Going back to our filling pot: remove it from the stove and place the hot vegetable and rice base in a mixing bowl with the raw minced meat.

Season with the paprika, which will give a marvellous smokey twist to it.

Lastly, stir the mixture with a wooden spoon (or your hands) to make it homogeneous.

In the same pot where you cooked the filling, prepare a bed made out of the dry herbs, the smoked pork cut into chunks and the sliced stem you previously set aside from the pickled cabbage leaves.

cabbage and bacon recipe

Now it is time to make the actual rolls:

Place half a leaf on the palm of your hand, fill it with a spoon of the stuffing from the bowl and close it making sure to gently tuck in the sides to prevent it from leaking while cooking.

Below, Nic's showing the method to obtain stuffed cabbage leaves (please ignore the mess in the kitchen):

Circularly place your closed Sarmale on the bed of dry herbs in the pot until you have finished all the ingredients. You might need to do two or more layers and it is totally fine.

Romanian cabbage rolls

If you have leftover shredded cabbage, shred it and add it on top as well as some tomato passata or puree and pour enough water to cover the Sarmale.


Put the pot on the stove once again, set on low heat and let it cook covered with a lid. They will gently finish cooking with the water and the herbs and they will be ready when the water will be steamed away, leaving only a lip-smacking sauce.

It will take more or less a couple of hours and during this time you won't need to stir them, just make sure there is still water left.

The bed of dried herbs will infuse the rolls with their aromatic scent and it will make the sauce extremely tasty and fragrant.

Sarmale are usually served warm and paired with freshly made polenta and sour cream and they are called sarmale cu mamaliga.

Needless to say, it was a lush dinner!

Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, but believe me, if I tell you they won't last that long...

Definitely worth the time and effort to make them.

It was also lovely to cook together for once, as we usually take turns in the kitchen.

I really hope you liked this recipe, if so please consider subscribing to my newsletters and share this article on your social media accounts to help me grow faster. I would love to know as well if you'll try to make it!

Have a great weekend, stay home and stay safe!