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Dinner on a Budget- Delicious Cabbage Rolls

A great way to cut back on your grocery bill is to add “Peasant Food” recipes to your menu.

Peasant food is typically very inexpensive to make, and is often quite healthy.  Most peasant food includes lots of vegetables and grains along with smaller amounts of meat.  Some favorite foods are stews and soups, pasties and meat pies, pastas, etc.  Many peasant food recipes are one pot meals… which makes them easy to make and serve.  Peasant foods are regional… so trying different recipes can be like traveling with food.

One peasant dish that has been my favorite since I was a little girl is Cabbage Rolls.

Cabbage rolls could not be less expensive to make for a crowd.  And while the filling isn’t the healthiest, cabbage belongs in the power food category.  It ranks up there with broccoli and brussel sprouts… it’s full of vitamin C, potassium and fiber just for starters.

Cabbage rolls are a peasant dish from Eastern Europe and our recipe came from a family friend.  When my sister put together my mother’s recipes into book, she asked my entire family to name their favorite recipe that my mom makes.  Three of us listed Mom’s cabbage rolls… which is amazing because my mom makes so many delicious foods.

Here’s my old family recipe:

Cabbage Rolls

  • 2 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 pound hamburger
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 head of green cabbage
  • 1 can tomato sauce

Cook the rice according to package instructions.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Remove the core of the cabbage with a sharp knife and remove any damages outer leaves.  Add the head of cabbage to the boiling water.  Once the leaves start to soften, use tongs to gently peel away the leaves, trying hard to keep each leaf whole.  Blanch cabbage for about 5 minutes until leaves start to soften. Remove cabbage from the heat and strain in a colander.

To make the filling add olive oil to a large frying pan.  Saute onion over medium high heat about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the hamburger and cook until brown.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and mix hamburger mixture with cooked rice in a large bowl.  The key to this dish is to really add flavor with salt and a generous amount of pepper to taste– don’t undo this step or you will have bland cabbage rolls.

Once the cabbage leaves are cool you can add the filling.  Use as many of the cabbage leaves as possible until you get to the center of the head of cabbage, where the leaves are white and too small to use.  If desired, you can carefully cut away the large center vein from each leaf.  Spoon the filling into each leaf.  Place the rolls touching each other into a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish.  Pour the can of tomato sauce over the top.

Cover tightly with foil.  Place in a 325 degree oven for 2 hours or 300 degrees for 3 hours.

Serve warm.

Makes about 12 rolls.

Click over to Tasty Kitchen for the printable recipe.

Here’s the step by step:

Start by cooking your rice.  I use a rice maker and love it.  It makes perfect rice every time.

Using a sharp knife, remove the core from the cabbage.  Remove any damaged outer leaves.

Add cabbage into a large pot of salted boiling water.

Once the leaves start to soften, use tongs to gently peel away the leaves.  I peel away most of the larger leaves.  It’s a lot easier to peel them once the cabbage starts to wilt a bit, they are less likely to break.  And you need whole leaves to wrap your rolls.

Cook until the leaves start to soften, about 5 minutes total.

Remove to a colander and set aside to cool.

Chop up the onion into small pieces.

And finely mince a large clove of garlic.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large frying pan, add onion and saute over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add hamburger.  Salt and pepper then cook until browned…

and well mixed with the onion and garlic.    Remove from heat and drain away any fat.

Add hamburger mixture into a large bowl with the rice and mix.

Next add salt…

and pepper to taste.  Don’t skimp on this step.  This is were the magic happens.  Without generous salt and pepper, your Cabbage Rolls are going to be bland.  I especially love the pepper… it gives it a bit a spice.

Get out your casserole dish… I cook them in my 9″ x 13″ glass Pyrex dish…  and you’re ready to make your rolls.

You can carefully cut away the large center vein at the bottom of your cabbage leaves to make rolling easier if you choose.

Start with a leaf in your hand like above.


Using a large spatula or spoon, put a generous dollop of the filling in the middle of the leaf.

Fold in the bottom of the leaf…

and the sides and last the top.  It’s like wrapping a delicious package.

Place rolls next to each other seam side down in the casserole dish.

And drizzle with a whole 14.5 oz can of tomato sauce.

Cover tightly with foil.

Now into the oven at 325 degrees for 2 hours.  Or like my mom always does and cook them at 300 degrees for about 3 hours.  She puts them in the oven just as she is going out the door for church.  Then they are done by the time they get home.

I’m the first to admit, they’re not that pretty.  But they taste divine.

They are delicious served with a dollop of sour cream.  My mom always served them with a small sausage patty and homemade biscuits.  Oh boy, is it a wonderful meal.

The first bite is for me.

So next time you’re looking to cut back your grocery bill look no further than peasant food.  Those old peasants really knew how to stretch limited ingredients into a a wonderful meal.

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16 Responses to “Dinner on a Budget- Delicious Cabbage Rolls”

  • I have never had this!! I gotta try it. I am a cabbage lover.

  • Sheila Irish:

    Your cabbage rolls look delicious! Thank you for sharing this recipe with us….I hope you will continue to share more “peasant food” recipes with us….

  • Well this is a family old time food for me. My father was Slovakian and this is something his mother made all the time and even though my mother was a Danish pioneer stock woman, she learned to cook for my dad. The method from the old country where my grandparents lived is slightly different but same outcome. As a kid I refused to eat the cabbage and dug out the insides to eat only. But now the cabbage is my favorite part. Thanks for helping me remember this. I need to make it. It has been a while.

  • Liis:

    I am not a big fan of tomato sauce, so my recipe has a seasoned milk and sour cream mixture poured over the rolls – it makes them a bit juicier, I highly recommend you give it a try next time!

  • Joy:

    These are SO yummy! We had them for dinner tonight. I substituted mushrooms for the hamburger but other than that I did not mess with the recipe! Kiddos and hubby both asked for seconds! Thanks for sharing a great recipe!!!

  • Connie:

    I made these years ago they are so so yummy. I just love this site. It brings back memories of things that I have made in the past. Yum!!

  • Tonya:

    Next time you make cabbage rolls, do yourself a favor and do this. My great-grandmother (straight from Budapest and she was an amazing cook) taught my grandmother who taught her girls and of course, her girls taught their girls. This is by far the best way to make them. Use equal parts of a ground boston pork but to the hamburger, substitute barley for the rice and substitute tomato juice for the tomato sauce and add sauerkraut. Don’t forget the paprika, a true Hungarian spice. You won’t be sorry.

  • Carolyn:

    I made these last night for dinner. It turned out great! The only difference is, I added the celery and onions in the mix. I added a can of Rotel over the top with tomato sauce. Delicious.

  • Ashley:

    So good! I used the center of the cabbage to stretch the filling even more and ended up with TWO 9×13″ pans! I’ve put 4-5 rolls each in quart zip-top baggies to freeze for quick meals later. Pinned this on Pinterest…*15* people re-pinned! Thanks for a great, frugal recipe :)

  • crafty grandma:

    Being of Polish descent, this was a meal my mom made at least every two weeks. A few fast tips – the leaves will separate easier if you cut carefully out the core/heart of the cabbage before boiling – once the leaves are soft to the touch place in colander and run under cold water the leaves will open up making it easier to fill. For more flavoring, you can mix beef, pork and veal together. Add favorite spices pepper, garlic onion marjoram parsley etc Try crushed tomatoes, or tomatoe soup and tomatoe paste combo….if you don’t like the tinny taste of tomatoes (you can also use fresh!), you can use your favorite spaghetti sauce recipe. Some add a dollop of sour cream to complete the dish! Enjoy!


    I used to make these and forgot all about them
    thank you for the recipe.

  • Glady:

    I don’t pre cook my hamburger I mix it all together stuff and bake until very cooked yummy

  • Virginia:

    If you don’t want to wait 2 hours for it to go to the oven, you can leave the rice a bit uncooked, fill the cabbage leaves and put them into a pan with equal parts of tomato sauce and water, and let it cook for 10-15 minutes. That’s how I’ve been doing this recipe for the last 10 years :D

  • Colette:

    Another option to change it up would be to use a bottle of Chili Sauce in place of tomato sauce or soup. I also don’t precook hamburger, just mix it all up (with a couple Tbsp of Chili sauce to moisten) put in an electric skillet & let it go until cooked! Yummy!!!

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