Gołąbki – otherwise known as stuffed cabbage

Known to most people regardless of the ethnicity and domicile – and one almost every cooks prepares in their own way.  We already know one in this set, now i will try to deliver my version with some degree of precision – this was apparently missing in my quick descriptions in the past..

When i decide to make gołąbki I am prepared to dedicate a solid block of few hours out of my day to this task. It is therefore a rare event, and it always produces more than we can eat today.  We eat 4, maybe 5 rolls (2-3 per person), while the production line will create as many as the cabbage head and/or the stuffing bowl will allow.  My last effort produced 40 rolls, so most of it went into the freezer and i will not likely do it again until the next summer  ..

The cabbage

What you want is the head full of healthy, unbroken leaves. If you can choose, find one not very tight, as loose (yet fresh) globe of large leaves as possible.  Loose architecture makes separating leaves easier. Traditionally used white cabbage can be successfully replaced by the savoy cabbage.  It is in fact my favourite. Its excellent slightly bitter taste enriches the composition of the final result.  I bet red cabbage could produce interesting results.  I played with iceberg lettuce head in the past – when you keep the steaming time short the leaves behave very well.

Today i experimented with so called flat head or Lebanese cabbage

which is very mild and has many very large leaves. This is likely why 40 rather than the usual 20-25 rolls from my traditional savoy cabbage.

The stuffing

Most often it is meat with rice. Mine are mostly meat without rice. Very popular vegetarian edition calls for rice or some type of kasha mixed with mushrooms or vegetables (carrots, green peas, red or green peppers, fresh herbs..). Sky is the limit here – the cabbage leaves provide vehicles, you decide on the passenger list.

The process

Regardless of the stuffing you plan for the process is the same:

  1. clean, cook and dismantle the cabbage
  2. prepare the stuffing
  3. load and roll
  4. cook the rolls
  5. prepare the sauce
  6. deliver

Steps (5) and (6) may be different depending on type of sauce and mode of delivery, I will leave these to you.

Most of the time the sauce will have something to do with tomatoes, or mushrooms, or sour cream.  Delivery will often involve freezing – individual rolls or a ready-to-reheat little trays with rolls and sauce.  The sauce can be prepared in step with rolls, and apply in (4) cooking step. I cook rolls in the indifferent stock and make the sauce separately. Again, I leave these to you.


(1) Clean, cook and dismantle the cabbage. This means you

  1. fill a pot large enough to accommodate the head with water, bring it to boil
  2. remove, peel off any bruised leaves
  3. with a sharp and stiff knife cut as deep as you can around the stem, so as to facilitate the future separation of individual leaves from the head. The cut is around the stem, but directed towards it, starting an upside-down conical shape, which will be progressing in step with  progress of cooking
  4. drop the cabbage into the pot, let it cook for a whileIMG_0442
  5. when the external leaves are loose – you can encourage them by inserting a knife or large kitchen pliers? in the space you cut between the head stem and the leaf stem – and the leaf seems soft, no longer opaque, grab them with a pair of pliers and place on a colander and leave to cool down. IMG_0443 IMG_0444
  6. As you remove external leaves you may find it possible and helpful to deepen the stem cut – or, in fact , to remove the stem completely..
  7. When all leaves are soft , remove all cabbage pieces onto a colander and let them drip and cool down.

(2) Prepare the stuffing

This part is really up to individual preferences.

  • We like the meat, prepared very much like the kotlety mielone (ground beef, a bit of ground pork, onion, salt, pepper, egg, bread crumbs, herbs).
  • My mother always made a mixture of the meat half-and-half with cooked rice (ground beef, onion, salt, pepper, egg, bread crumbs, herbs, rice).
  • Very popular is a combination of buckwheat and mushrooms..

(3) Load and roll

  1. If the leaf has a this and not quite soft stem, slice it thin on a flat surface along the surface of the leaf – but do not cut through-
  2. place a handful of meat at the bottom (thicker side) of the leaf, bring sides towards the centre and roll

(4) cook the rolls

I do it in the oven, but the stove top work well, specially when you do not have many rolls to process and they may well fit into a heavy pot with lid.

  1. Put some left over cabbage pieces on the bottom of the dish.
  2. Load the rolls tightly
  3. Cover them with remaining cabbage – if you still have any.
  4. Pour in some beef stock. Some people will apply a prepared sauce here – i never do, as i usually have too much and prefer to freeze rolls without sauce also like to have freedom to prepare any old sauce for each batch – but again, here is your preference and decision.
  5. Cover the dish with aluminum foil (or its own cover, if applicable)
  6. Let simmer in the hot oven (350F) or on top of the stove for a good 1,5 hour.

When cooked, they can be served with sauce, potatoes, rice, bread.. Whatever is not served immediately can be frozen for future use together with all the juices and cabbage pieces. Bon appétit.

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2 Responses to Gołąbki – otherwise known as stuffed cabbage

  1. admin says:

    Excellent level of detail! I’m just curious about this part:

    “The cut is around the stem, but directed towards it, starting an upside-down conical shape, which will be progressing in step with progress of cooking”

    So is the base of the cone at the outside of the cabbage, and the point is inside the cabbage?

    • el says:

      i apologize for trying too hard. it seems, though, that you did get the point.. the direction of cutting is towards the centre of the cabbage, and the repeated steps free up more and more leaves.. in the end you could be left with the stem cone only..

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