Golumpki (Polish Cabbage Rolls)

5 from 2 votes
1 hour 45 minutes
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These authentic stuffed Polish Cabbage Rolls are the ideal cold-weather comfort food! Hearty yet wholesome, as the rolls bake in the homemade tomato sauce, the cabbage takes on a buttery texture that melts in your mouth! Serve with roasted beets, Skillet Green Beans, or roasted baby potatoes!

Row of four Polish Stuffed Cabbage in white baking dish with serving fork garnished with fresh dill.

What is Golumpki (Gołąbki)?

“Golumpki” or “Gołąbki” (meaning little pigeons) is the Polish name for a stuffed cabbage dish popular in central and eastern European cuisines. Budget-friendly ground meat and rice form the base of the savory filling, wrapped up in cabbage leaves and braised in a vibrant sauce. In Polish cuisine, the sauce is often tomato-based but may also be mushroom-based. The cabbage rolls I enjoyed at a milk bar in Krakow, Poland, had a thin, buttery tomato sauce similar to a thinned-out canned tomato soup. Golumpki/Golabki is especially popular at Christmas.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

These authentic Polish Cabbage Rolls are the ideal cold-weather comfort food! This Polish Cabbage Rolls recipe simple to prepare and can be made ahead in quantity and reheated. The flavor only gets better!

This golumpki recipe combines beef and pork in the filling, ensuring these cabbage rolls are tender and rich in flavor.  As these Polish Cabbage Rolls simmer in the homemade tomato sauce, the cabbage takes on a buttery texture and becomes meltingly tender. The earthy and woodsy flavor of marjoram (an herb popular in Polish cooking) adds depth to the sauce.

If you’ve been looking for a family dinner recipe that uses ground beef and want to switch things up, this Polish Stuffed Cabbage is the way to go! They are mild enough for kids to enjoy and flavorful enough for adults. Plus, they are easy to make and reheat well! 

This Golumpki recipe is:

  • Authentic! Adapted from a recipe in The Food and Cooking of Poland by Ewa Michalik
  • Delicious and savory! Tender cabbage surround a hearty, meaty filling for a rich and satisfying recipe. 
  • An excellent recipe for budget-friendly ground beef and pork!
  • Freezes and reheats beautifully!

Switch things up and try this Polish cabbage rolls recipe for the perfect family or holiday dinner!

Polish Stuffed Cabbage roll cut in half to expose filling on white plate.

How to Make Golumpki (Polish Cabbage Rolls):

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this Polish cabbage rolls recipe, along with how to prep the ingredients. See the recipe card below for the exact quantities.

Ingredients for Polish Stuffed Cabbage in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Cabbage: Green cabbage is traditional in a golumpki recipe, although Savoy cabbage can also be used. Green cabbage has a more “peppery” flavor, while Savoy is mild and sweet.
  • Converted Rice: I like to use converted rice in this golumpki recipe which is also called “parboiled” rice. The texture remains firmer, and the grains are less likely to stick together. It is also more nutritious than regular white rice because it’s prepared from brown rice.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Crushed tomatoes have a chunkier texture than tomato sauce or puree. They taste similar to fresh tomatoes and are made by grinding peeled and seeded tomatoes. You can substitute tomato sauce. Canned tomato soup, although used frequently in this country, is not traditional in Polish cooking.
  • Marjoram: Marjoram has an earthy and woodsy flavor and is popular in Polish cooking. Thyme is a good substitute.
  • Beef Bouillon: I recommend using beef bouillon concentrate over beef bouillon cubes because the flavor is better, and the cubes are too salty. Use a low sodium concentrate, especially since the sauce in this recipe reduces slightly, further concentrating any saltiness. 
  • Ground Beef: I like to use ground chuck in a golumpki recipe, which is 80% fat and 20% lean. The higher fat content is valuable in recipes like this because it makes the dish more tender and flavorful. You can substitute ground sirloin for the ground chuck to reduce the fat content.
  • Ground Pork: Adds flavor, but you can use all beef if you do not consume pork.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  • PREPARE THE CABBAGE: Remove as much of the core of the cabbage as possible.
  • Place the cabbage in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5-6 minutes or until you can easily remove 12 cabbage leaves with tongs. (You may need to help the cabbage leaves off using a knife.)
  • Place the cabbage leaves on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
  • When cool to the touch, cut the large center rib out from each leaf, creating a V-shape and flaps to fold over the filling.
  • Set aside. Remove the remaining cabbage from the pot and set aside to cool for another use, like this Polish-inspired Potato Cabbage Kielbasa Soup.
  • COOK THE RICE: Using the same water from blanching the cabbage leaves, add the uncooked white rice.
  • Bring back to a boil and cook for 6 to 7 minutes or until the rice is cooked al dente (to the tooth). You should be able to bite down on a rice kernel, but there should be resistance. You don’t want it cooked entirely or too soft.
  • Drain the rice in a sieve and rinse under cold tap water to cool. Drain again. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Cooked rice in glass bowl.
  • PREPARE THE SAUCE: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until it softens.
  • Transfer HALF of the onion to the bowl WITH THE RICE, leaving half in the saucepan.
  • Add half the garlic to the onions and cook briefly, 10 to 15 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, water from rinsing the can, dried marjoram and beef bouillon concentrate.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  • Add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar if you like it a bit more tangy.
  • Pour approximately 1/2 cup of the sauce into the prepared baking dish.
Tomato sauce in white Dutch oven.
  • FINISH PREPARING THE FILLING: To the bowl with the rice and onions, add the remaining garlic, beef, pork and egg. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and half the parsley. Mix well.
  • Divide the filling into 12 even portions.
  • MAKE THE CABBAGE ROLLS: Place a cabbage leaf on a flat work surface.
  • Place 1/12th of the filling on the cabbage leaf right above the V-cut. Fold the flaps over the filling, then roll up. Place the cabbage roll in the baking dish.
Steps demonstrating how to fill cabbage rolls: One unrolled with filling, one with bottom flaps brought over filling, another with sides tucked in and one fully rolled.
  • Repeat with the remaining 11 leaves.
  • Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls.
  • MAKE AHEAD: Can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for 24 hours if the ground meats are fresh or you just opened the packages.
  • Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees in the center of each cabbage roll.
  • Garnish with remaining chopped fresh parsley and dill (if using).

Done and delish!! A homemade golumpki (golabki) recipe sure to become a family or holiday favorite!

Baking dish full of Polish Stuffed Cabbage on blue napkin after being baked.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • Tongs help remove the cabbage leaves after or while boiling since the cabbage will be very hot. You may also need to use a knife to help the leaves off.
  • Use all the large outer leaves for good-looking cabbage rolls that can hold enough filling. However, it is possible to use two smaller leaves by piecing them together and rolling them carefully.
  • Ensure the rice is cooked until it is al dente because it will continue to cook while baking in the rolls. If the rice is cooked too far at first or if you use leftover cooked rice, it may become mushy. Not cooking the rice the entire way will also help it to soak up the meat flavor as it finishes cooking in the rolls.
  • Cutting the center rib out of the cabbage leaves makes it easier to roll up the filling and helps them to lay flat.
  • This cabbage prep suggestion for the Polish cabbage rolls recipe comes from a friend! Another way to cook and soften the leaves for rolling is to microwave them. Remove the core, put the head in a casserole dish with 1/2 cup water, and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 9 minutes, turning halfway through. Let stand covered for 15 minutes then remove the leaves you’ll need.
Serving fork picking up a Polish Stuffed Cabbage roll from white baking dish.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do you have to use converted (parboiled) rice for stuffed Polish cabbage rolls?

Converted rice (parboiled rice) retains its texture better for these stuffed Polish cabbage rolls. However, regular white rice can work as well. You will still want to cook the rice until it is only al dente before adding it to the cabbage roll filling. Brown rice is another option.

Can Polish cabbage rolls be made ahead of time?

Yes! But be sure not to leave the ground meats uncooked for longer than 24 hours. Ground meats are extremely perishable. If you plan to bake it any later, freeze it after assembling the golumpki, then thaw it in the refrigerator and bake it promptly. If you bake the golumpki, you’re good to go! Simply cool it down and refrigerate until ready to reheat. Refresh the sauce by carefully moving the golumpki aside, stir the sauce then spoon it back over the golumpki. Reheat in a 350-degree oven until heated through, then garnish with fresh parsley and dill as desired.

Can stuffed Polish cabbage be frozen?

Yes! You can freeze this dish before baking once the cabbage rolls have been assembled and the sauce is added or after baking. If the assembled cabbage rolls are frozen before being baked, thaw them in the fridge and bake as instructed. If freezing after baking, you can divide the rolls into smaller containers. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave before reheating.

Can you make golumpki vegetarian or vegan?

Yes, absolutely! Replace the meat with chopped mushrooms and grains such as barley, farro, quinoa or buckwheat, which is traditional in Polish cooking.

Is canned tomato soup used for Golumpki?

Although canned tomato soup in a Polish cabbage roll recipe is popular in the U.S., it isn’t traditionally used for stuffed Polish cabbage rolls. Canned tomato soup didn’t even exist until just before the 1900’s. Poles who emigrated to the U.S. or are second or third-generation often enjoyed the convenience in golumpki recipes. Convenience foods were rare in pre-World War II Poland, and for another 40 years or so, Poland was under communist rule.

Polish Stuffed Cabbage roll cut in half to expose filling on white plate with baking dish of cabbage in the background.

Storage:

  • Store leftovers in the fridge for up to five days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Serve Golumpki with:

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Row of four Polish Stuffed Cabbage in white baking dish with serving fork garnished with fresh dill.

Golumpki (Polish Stuffed Cabbage)

5 from 2 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
These authentic Polish Cabbage Rolls are the ideal cold-weather comfort food! Hearty yet wholesome, as the rolls bake in the homemade tomato sauce, the cabbage takes on a buttery texture that melts in your mouth!
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Beef
Cuisine East European
Servings 6
Calories 545 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • Cooking spray
  • Salt
  • 1 large leafy head green cabbage - (or Savoy cabbage)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked white rice - preferably converted (also called parboiled)
  • 2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion - finely chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic - chopped, divided
  • 1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water - to rinse out tomato can
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon concentrate - such as Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar - optional and to taste
  • 1 pound ground beef - preferably ground chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 large egg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley - divided
  • chopped fresh dill - optional (for serving)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

PREPARE THE CABBAGE:

  • Remove as much of the core of the cabbage as possible. Place the cabbage in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5-6 minutes or until you can easily remove 12 cabbage leaves with tongs. (You may need to help the cabbage leaves off using a knife.)
  • Place the cabbage leaves on a rimmed baking sheet to cool. When cool to the touch, cut the large center rib out, creating a V-shape and flaps to fold over the filling. Set aside. Remove the remaining cabbage from the pot and set aside to cool for another use.

COOK THE RICE:

  • Using the same water from blanching the cabbage leaves, add the uncooked white rice. Bring back to a boil and cook for 6-7 minutes or until the rice is cooked al dente (to the tooth). (You should be able to bite down on a rice kernel, but there should be resistance. You don't want it cooked entirely or too soft).
  • Drain the rice in a sieve and rinse under cold tap water to cool. Drain again. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

PREPARE THE SAUCE:

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes or until it softens. Transfer HALF of the onion to the bowl WITH THE RICE, leaving half in the saucepan.
  • Add half the garlic to the onions and cook briefly, 10-15 seconds or until fragrant.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, water from rinsing the can, dried marjoram and beef bouillon concentrate. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar to taste if desired.
  • Pour approximately 1/2 cup of the sauce into the prepared baking dish.

FINISH PREPARING THE FILLING:

  • To the bowl with the rice and onions, add the remaining garlic, beef, pork and egg. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and half the parsley. Mix well.
  • Divide the filling into 12 even portions.

MAKE THE CABBAGE ROLLS:

  • Place a cabbage leaf on a flat work surface. Place 1/12th of the filling on the cabbage leaf right above the V-cut. Fold the flaps over the filling, then roll up. Place the cabbage roll in the baking dish.
  • Repeat with the remaining 11 leaves. Pour the remaining sauce over the cabbage rolls.
  • Bake for 55-60 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees in the center of each cabbage roll.
  • Garnish with remaining chopped fresh parsley and dill (if using).

Notes

MAKE AHEAD:  Can be assembled 24 hours in advance if the ground meats are super fresh or the packages were just opened.  If you plan to bake it any later, freeze it after assembling the golumpki, then thaw it in the refrigerator and bake it promptly.If you bake the golumpki, you’re good to go!  Cool it down and refrigerate until ready to reheat. Refresh the sauce by carefully moving the golumpki aside, stirring the sauce, and then spooning it back over the golumpki. Reheat in a 350-degree oven until heated through to 165 degrees in the center of each cabbage roll, then garnish with fresh parsley and dill as desired.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  You can freeze this dish before baking once the cabbage rolls have been assembled and the sauce is added or after baking. If the assembled cabbage rolls are frozen before being baked, thaw them in the refrigerator and bake as instructed. If freezing after baking, you can divide the rolls into smaller containers. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave before reheating.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 545kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 139mg | Sodium: 116mg | Potassium: 525mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 264IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 3mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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