Grandmother’s Cabbage Rolls

Grandmother’s Cabbage Rolls

This cabbage roll recipe is traditional food in many cultures and one that is prepared for special occasions. Cabbage roll recipes are made with or without meats. In this recipe you freeze the head of cabbage first to make the removal of the individual leaves easier. For years we did not know this tip and would boil the raw cabbage head in a large pot of water, cutting off each leaf as it softened. This method is a slow time consuming way and once you try the freezing method you will love it.  We use canned tomato soup in the cabbage roll recipe because this is traditionally what our Grandmother used and we like the flavor. You could also use canned tomato sauce if you preferred.  No matter how you make them, this popular dish will be very appreciated by any that get to be part of the feast!  We also like Savoy cabbage as it tends to be more tender than the smooth cabbage. We do make them with both types though, depending of availability of the cabbage.
Cabbage rolls are easier to make than you think plus, you can do all the preparation  ahead of time and just pop them in the oven prior to your dinner event.


  • 1 large head of savoy cabbage (frozen overnight)
  • 5 cups pre-cooked rice (about 2 cups uncooked)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup water


The night before place a head of cabbage into the freezer.

On cooking day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the rice by adding 2 cups rice and 4 cups water to a medium pot. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Once it boils, reduce to a simmer and cover for 15-20 minutes until cooked.

Saute the diced onions in butter over medium high heat until they are golden brown. Once they are brown, set them aside to cool. Without washing your pan, saute the ground meat until it is cooked through. Use a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces. In a large bowl, combine the rice, meat, onions and some salt and pepper to taste. In a small saucepan, combine the water and tomato soup. Bring to a boil and then pour one large spoonful into your casserole pan.

Remove the frozen cabbage from the freezer and place it into a large bowl of hot water. Use a knife to slice the hard base of the cabbage leaves. Remove the leaves one at a time and place on a paper towel to dry. Carefully cut away any hard part of the cabbage stem. When you get to a point in the cabbage where the leaves are too small to use, you can save that portion of the cabbage to freeze and use for homemade soup or lazy cabbage rolls. If the water cools off and the cabbage is not coming apart easily, add more hot water.

One at a time, fill each cabbage leaf with about 3 spoonfuls of filling. Roll at the center of the leaf first, fold in the sides and then continue to roll.

Line the bottom of the roaster pan with a couple of the reserved outer cabbage leaves so that the cabbage rolls do not stick to the bottom. Use your ladle and put a scant layer of tomato sauce. Place the prepared cabbage roll into your casserole dish. Continue until tight together. When one row is done, spoon on tomato sauce and do the next row. Top with remaining tomato sauce. Cover with a lid or tinfoil and bake for 45 minutes.


H cabbage rolls riceE cabbage rolls choppin onionsF cabbage rolls frying onionsG cabbage rolls cooking meatI cabbage rolls sauce into potJ cabbage rolls heating sauce and butterB cabbage rolls frozen cabbage into hot water

C cabbage rolls cutting off the leaves

D cabbage rolls cutting off the hard spine K cabbage rolls putting sauce into baking dish L cabbage rolls stuffing M cabbage rolls Rolling and into pot N cabbage rolls sauce pouring on 1 O cabbage rolls sauce pouring onP cabbage rolls into ovenA cabbage rolls 1


  1. I mix hamburger and mild jimmy dean sausage to the filling,also,rather than tomatoe soup,try petite,or stewed tomatoes,brings the flavor out more,Were polish,and gramma’s recipe,never tasted better.

  2. Wish you would please put a “print” icon on your recipes, my arthritic hands need a break whenever they can get one, so I can keep on cooking!

  3. Darra sounds good to me .

  4. Where is the garlic? And paprika? And slowly simmered “real” tomato, green pepper and onion sauce with lots of spices?

  5. Cabbage rolls are my absolute favorite food and I am very well known locally for my recipe. I have never used tomato soup, but I have heard of it being called for in many cabbage roll recipes. Personally, I use a tomato sauce/crushed tomato mix. Also, I don’t cook my ground meat first. I used raw ground beef or sometimes a ground beef/ Italian sausage mix and add my spices to the meat… mix that with cooked rice and that is my filling. I think the meat being raw allows it to soak up more of the flavors of the cabbage and sauce while cooking. Simple dish to make but oh so yummy!! 🙂

  6. I add chopped cooked bacon to the ground beef/rice/onion mixture, and use a salt free tomato sauce/chicken broth mix. I roll the cabbage rolls and layer the tomato sauce mixture on the bottom of a crock pot, a layer of cabbage rolls, raw bacon slices and sprigs of fresh dill, more sauce, rolls, dill, bacon, sauce and so on until I have about 4 or 5 layers in the crock pot until it’s full but always finishing with the tomato sauce mixture to keep it all moist and cook it on low for about 7 hours. It’s a variation on sarmale, my Romanian friend cooks this for 3-4 hours on the stove in a large pot, I prefer the crock pot. I make a triple batch then freeze it in several portions. As long as you freeze it with plenty of sauce, it thaws nicely.

  7. This sounds so good just the way I will like it!

  8. I love this recipe and i will probably add some stuff to it and this is quite normal as with any recipe. As for the print icon that would be nice but you can also highlight the recipe and right click on your mouse scroll down and hit print. Its a bit of a pain in the butt, but it works. Thank you so much for the many recipes that you have given to me and i have never been disappointed yet.

  9. My stuffed cabbage is really very tasty, however i make it sweet and sour… For the stuffing.-Saute onions -add to raw beef and pork chopped meat, cooked rice, parsley, S&P and 1egg. also add raisins…. Stuff the cabbages and pour the sauce over all, cover and bake. Make a sweet and sour sauce to your taste.. i mix brown sugar with ketchup, little soy sauce, mustard.
    heat this just to sauce mixes and slightly thickens,,, DELICIOUS

  10. I haven’t tried the frozen cabbage method yet, but I learned about it while looking over the cabbages in the grocery store. An elderly lady was there also and told me that she always freezes the cabbage, but she removes the core before freezing. I think this would be an improvement to your method.

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