Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma) | Jernej Kitchen
An Email A Day Keeps the Boring Away.Sign Up For A Daily Dose of Jernej Kitchen!
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)
Delicious main dish

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls or Sarma is a beautiful Balkan main dish with ground beef, rice, sauerkraut, and sauce. Perfect family meal for cold days.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)
Sarma, or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, is a delicious Balkan recipe we always make on the first day of the New Year. Our moms made Sarma for as long as we can remember, and we are excited to share our recipe today. We will need ground beef, rice, spices, and onion for the filling. The filling is tightly wrapped in a large sauerkraut leaf and cooked in a simple and flavorful sauce. This decadent dish is perfect for colder days, especially autumn and winter. It keeps well in the fridge or freezer too.

Fantastic homemade Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

These are the top reasons why we think you're going to adore this recipe:

  • the meat stuffing is juicy and delicious
  • the cabbage rolls are a perfect size and have a rich stuffing
  • serve with mashed potatoes or cooked potatoes
  • perfect meal for cold days to warm the body and soul
  • easy to make ahead
  • feel free to keep it in the fridge or freeze

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

Essential ingredients

In this recipe, we use local and high-quality ingredients. Here you can find more information about the essential ingredients and possible substitutes.

Pancetta - adds a slightly salty and meaty component to the dish.

Spices - We used a premade spice mix, BAM Spices Sugo & Bolognese. Make homemade spice mix if you can't find it in your country. You will need one teaspoon of dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, and bay leaf (combined).

Rice - use long-grain rice. Saute the rice with onion, garlic, and spices, then add to the meat mixture to make the stuffing.

Meat - use a mixture of ground beef and ground pork. We use 80% beef and 20% pork. Feel free to use a 50:50 mix or ground beef only.

Sour cabbage - In Slovenia, you can find sour cabbage heads in every store. Use sour cabbage leaves or the whole sour cabbage head.

A slab of bacon - a good substitute would be smoked ribs or other smoked meat.

stuffing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

stuffing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

stuffing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)


stuffing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

wrapping Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma) before cooking

Tips and tricks to make the best Stuffed Cabbage Rolls at home

Here are our top tips and tricks to make these Stuffed Cabbage Rolls at home:

Separate the sour cabbage leaves and rinse under cold water. This way, the cabbage rolls won't be too sour.

Tightly wrap the rolls. If your cabbage rolls aren't tightly closed, they may open while cooking; use a toothpick to keep them closed. Remember to discard it before serving.

Use a large pot. We recommend using an 8-quart or 10-quart pot. Use a cast-iron pot, as it holds the heat beautifully while cooking.

Roux. Roux is just a fancy word for a cooked mixture of fat and plain flour that thickens sauces and soups. Don't overcook the mixture, especially the sweet paprika, or it can become bitter.

Leave the cabbage rolls in a pot. When the cabbage rolls or Sarma cooks, leave them in a pot to cool, then store them in the fridge. They are the best the next day as the flavor continues to develop.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

BAM Spices fo Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

Storing and freezing

Storing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Sarma) is quick and straightforward. Feel free to store it in two ways.

Place the Stuffed Cabbage Rolls into an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat well before serving.

Freeze the Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. Place them in an airtight container or freezer bag and place them in the freezer for up to 2 months. Before serving, defrost and reheat well in the microwave or stove.

How to make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls at home (video)

Check this quick video to master this Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe at home.

Try these slow-cooked recipes next


Lets get cooking!

  • serves
  • preparation:
  • cook:
  • total time:
    3 1/2


  • rice and spices

    Place a pan over medium heat. Add oil, diced onion, and chopped pancetta. Cook for 6 minutes for the ingredients to soften. Add minced garlic, spices, and rice. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Pour in the water and cook for 5 minutes for the rice to cook slightly. Set aside to cool.

  • meat mixture

    Add meat, rice mixture, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper to a bowl. Knead into a smooth mixture. Clean sixteen cabbage leaves. With a knife, remove the tough ribs without damaging the cabbage leaves. Set the ribs aside. Add two tablespoons of meat filling to the bottom of each cabbage leaf. Fold the bottom of the cabbage leaf over the meat. Fold the sides to the center and roll away from yourself as if you were making enchiladas. Repeat until you use all the ingredients.

  • add to a pot

    Grate the rest of the sauerkraut and finely chop the remaining ribs. Add half of the remaining chopped ribs to the bottom of a large pot. Add half of the cabbage rolls in a single layer, seam-side down. Leave a bit of space between the rolls. Spread the rest of the cabbage ribs and half of the sauerkraut over the sarma. Add the slab of bacon and arrange the rest of the sarma on top. Spread the rest of the sauerkraut on top.

  • cook

    Pour water into the pot with cabbage rolls until the water is a little over the cabbage rolls, approximately one liter and a half (6 cups). Place the pot over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for two and a half hours.

  • add roux and cook

    Place a pan over medium heat. Add oil and the flour and cook for 1 - 2 minutes for the flour to cook. Reduce the heat and add paprika powder and tomato paste. Cook for another minute. Remove from the heat. Add 360ml (1 1/2 cup) cabbage rolls cooking liquid. Whisk to get a smooth mixture and pour back into the pot with the cabbage rolls. Gently shake the pot, cover it with a lid and cook for 30 - 45 minutes or until the cabbage rolls are soft and cooked.

  • serve

    Divide the Sarma between six plates, and serve with mashed potatoes or cooked potatoes.


Thank you for visiting.