Stuffed cabbage (also known as cabbage rolls) is one of the best-known and most popular Hungarian dishes. Yet, when you are looking for a good stuffed cabbage recipe, the situation is not that simple.
Stuffed cabbage recipes vary a lot across Hungary. Each region has its own, and these variations can be as different as it gets.
What I’m going to share with you here is the classic cabbage rolls recipe in Hungary. And this is the recipe – with no intention of hurting anyone’s taste – perhaps most Hungarians would call original or classic stuffed cabbage.
It is made from sauerkraut, and the seasoning is very simple – salt, pepper, paprika. Smoked meat and a good sausage make this food complete and really Hungarian.
Classic Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Recipe
- First prepare the ingredients.
- Steam the rice halfway. Put 5/8 cup of rice (approx 125 grams) in a pot with 1 cup of water to a simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes covered, until all water has been absorbed.
Finely chop half an onion. Simmer the onions on 2 tablespoons of fat (or oil) until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
A note on using fat or vegetable oil: stuffed cabbage is not a diet food. This is not the recipe when you should avoid fat – at least in my opinion. Use good quality duck or goose fat, and it will kick your food up another notch!
- Prepare the cabbage leaves. If you are using pickled cabbage leaves, you may want to rinse them under water to have a less stronger flavor. If you are using fresh cabbage, blanch them to make them easier to handle.
- Cut out the thick part of the cabbage leaves, making them easy to roll up later with the filling.
- Cut up the smoked meat and sausage in 2-3 portions.
- The next step is to prepare the stuffing. To do this, mix together the minced meat, rice, stewed onions, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Make sure you season according to your taste. Some people like to add a little red pepper to give it some color. Add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon if you like.
- Next step is filling the cabbage leaves. This might seem complicated at first, but once you get the it it’ll become very easy.
- Take one leaf of cabbage in your hand so that the inside is facing you.
- Depending on the size of the cabbage leaf, place 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of the meat filling into the center of the leaf.
- Fold one side of the leaf over the meat and itself.
- Roll up the cabbage around the stuffing as tight as possible.
- Taking the roll in your hand, stuff the loose end with your other forefinger.
- Place your cabbage rolls on a plate.
- When you are ready, slice up the leaves that you haven’t used and add them later to the stuffed cabbage pot.
- Once you are ready with all the rolls, it’s time to compile the pot so that the stuffed cabbages can be cooked.
- Use a large enough pot.
- Finely chop 1 onion.
- Melt 2 tbsp. of good quality lard – again, you can use vegetable oil if you wish – and steam the chopped onions for about 3-4 minutes. They should be just translucent, not golden.
- Take off the heat, add 2 teaspoons of paprika, stir.
- Spread half of the sauerkraut over the onion.
- Add 8-10 peppercorns, 2 bay leaves and 3 allspice. Of course you can use more if you like stronger flavors.
- Place the cabbage rolls over the sauerkraut.
- Stack the smoked meat and sausage on top of the rolls. There is never to much of smoked meat, so if you like it you can double the amount given in this recipe as well.
- Finally, spread the remaining half of sauerkraut on top.
- Fill up with enough water to just cover it and put it to cook cover, over medium heat.
- Once it comes to a boil, lover the the heat and cook the stuffed cabbage for 2 hours.
- When your cabbage rolls are cooked thru, it’s time to make the final touch.
- Take out the rolls and smoked meats and place them on a plate.
- In a bowl, mix 7 oz. (200 ml) of sour cream and 2 tablespoons of flour.
- Add a few tablespoons of the cabbage water. Stir, thus avoiding it to be lumpy.
- Pour the sour cream mixture in the pot over the sauerkraut, stir. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- To serve stuffed cabbage, start with some sauerkraut, then 1 or 2 rolls per person. Add some meat or sausage, fresh bread and extra sour cream.
Stuffed Cabbage or Cabbage Rolls?
A note of the appellation of this food. Although stuffed cabbage and cabbage rolls (or sometimes stuffed cabbage rolls) refer to the same food in English, you’ll mostly hear Hungarians call this dish only stuffed cabbage.
The reason is, the original Hungarian name Töltött káposzta literally means stuffed cabbage in English. I’d personally never heard the name cabbage rolls until I’ve started blogging in English about Hungarian food.
But anyway you call it, try this Hungarian staple dish and enjoy it!