Moldovan Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale) that can convert you from any cabbage roll recipe! These are Traditional meat and rice stuffed cabbage rolls from the Muyarov-Moldovan family! This Moldavian dish is made with cabbage leaves, rice, diced meat, carrots and onion! Once filled these delicious cabbage rolls are then topped with an easy sauce and baked to doneness. 

Moldovan Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale)

We are cabbage roll eaters (being Ukrainian) and have quite the collection of cabbage roll recipes, but are these one of the best tasting cabbage rolls that I’ve tried! From Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls to Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls-I have to admit these are tasty! Love Moldovan Food? Try our Placinte recipe that my mom got from a Moldovian lady!

Cabbage Rolls

I love cabbage rolls! I’ve had them stuffed, unstuffed (baked the lazy way in a casserole), and even healthy cabbage rolls. Furthermore, I share a variety of cabbage recipes, but when I had these… I wanted the recipe! One Sunday afternoon-Nadia served us her Moldovan cabbage rolls. This Moldavian lady can cook! She had them baking during church and served them hot-slathered in an onion stir-fry afterwards. I was fascinated in how good they tasted! The ingredients were simple but super delicious!

Moldavian cabbage rolls recipe

However, Nadia is an older lady and probably doesn’t even have her cabbage rolls recipe on paper. She’s the cook that can go by sight and taste but, I was eager to find out how she made her Moldovan cabbage rolls. Days later, she invited me over to show me how to make cabbage rolls her way. You can believe I was there to hand write all the measurements and spices plus some helpful tips for making cabbage rolls! Fortunately, I was able to see how much of everything went into the rolls, thus you will see many measurements with heaping proportions. Not only did we make them together but she sent some home for me to bake up for dinner! I have clips on how to roll Sarmale (Nadia’s way) in my highlight stories on Instagram.

Sarmale recipe (Moldovan cabbage rolls)

Sarmale Or Galushte

Moldova was part of Soviet Union so, a lot of the languages from the surrounding Countries were inherited by the Culture. “Moldova” technically doesn’t have a language… Its Romanian language with a lot of dialects and slang depending on what part of Moldova one grew up in.

I shared stories on Instagram (you can still view them in my highlights) on how Nadia rolls the cabbage leaves and some insight on making them. Many of you have reached out and shared how your Moldavian family calls them! Thank you so much for your input, I’ve read every message!

The debate was over what they are traditionally called in Moldovan. Galush or Sarmale? And the poll voted more towards galush, however many authentic Moldavians call them Sarmale as well. It was a controversial topic as different Moldavians claimed different names in how they would call them. As of a result, Sarmale won the title even though some claimed it was a Romanian term for cabbage rolls.

Moldovan Cabbage rolls recipe (Sarmale)

 FAQ:

What is Sarmale?

Many Moldavian’s call cabbage rolls Sarmale. Although Romanian’s use the term Sarmale too, it is likely to have been adapted from Romania as Moldova was part of Soviet Union. “Galushte” is another way to say cabbage rolls depending on what part of Moldova one grew up in.

Moldova was part of Soviet Union so, a lot of the languages from the surrounding Countries were inherited by the Culture. “Moldova” technically doesn’t have a language… Its Romanian language with a lot of dialects and slang depending on what part of Moldova one grew up in.

Ingredients Needed?

These cabbage rolls call for simple ingredients. Dicing the meat can be time consuming but so worth it afterwards! I get a laugh when Nadia asked me if I make cabbage rolls-I said, “yes I usually make it with ground beef” and she answered “never do that again.”

  • Cabbage head- 2 medium heads or 1 large.
  • Jasmine rice- rinsed and soaked (uncooked)
  • Vegetables- carrots and onions.
  • Meat (chicken or pork)- I used minced pork and so did Nadia.
  • Salt- Kosher salt
  • Montreal Steak Seasoning- adds flavor.
  • Paprika- adds flavor and a nice hue.
  • Bayleaves- needed for aroma.
  • Water- the base for the sauce.
  • Oil- used a lot in this recipe.
  • Diced tomatoes (or spaghetti sauce)- Nadia used homemade diced tomatoes that she seasoned with salt. I used pizza sauce instead. Either canned tomato products will work.

How To Make Moldovan Cabbage Rolls:

  1. Fry the meat in oil (20 minutes.) Add the carrots and onion and cook for 10 more minutes. Stir in the paprika and steak seasoning; set aside.
  2. Rinse the Jasmine rice 3x. Cover with hot tap water and allow to sit while you wilt the cabbage (stirring occasionally.)
  3. Wilt the cabbage leaves by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. Wilt each head for a total of 10 minutes per head, removing the outer leaves as you cook.
  4. Drain the rice reserving 1 cup of the liquid.
  5. Combine the meat stir-fry, rice, reserved water, and 1 Tbsp of salt.
  6. Cut and Trim the cabbage leaves.
  7. Fill, Roll, and Stack the cabbage rolls into an oven-safe pot. Nadia places leftover cabbage trimmings onto the bottom to prevent scorched rolls. Add bayleaves half way between stacking. Cover Rolls with any torn or leftover cabbage leaves.
  8. Stir together the water, salt, and diced tomatoes. Pour over the rolls and cover with aluminum foil.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated 350°F for 2 hours.

Cook’s Tip: Nadia sautés 2 onions in 150ml of oil for about 10 minutes over medium/low heat. She then pours this over the hot cabbage rolls before serving.

How To Wilt Cabbage?

  1. Remove the core of the cabbage head.
  2. Bring a medium-sized pot half full of water to a boil with salt. Add the cabbage making sure the hollowed out part is full of water.
  3. Remove the outer leaves and allow them to cook for a minute or so.
  4. Transfer the wilted leaves onto a tray and continue to remove and wilt the remainder cabbage head.

Note: A medium sized head of cabbage should wilt a total of 10 minutes. 

What Sauce Do You Use for Pouring Over Cabbage Rolls?

So many cooks bake cabbage rolls differently! Some like to add heavy cream others seem to stick more to the traditional sauce of tomato sauce and water.

For this recipe, Nadia used her homemade diced tomatoes that she seasoned with salt and then diluted it with water. I used pizza sauce for the place of diced tomatoes and mixed it with water like she did. They both come out delicious!

For scrumptious cabbage rolls, pour enough liquid over the rolls to almost cover them (3/4 full.)  This especially works nicely in a pot as the circumference is tighter. Not enough liquid can dry out the rolls and scorch them.

Is this Dish Gluten-Free?

This cabbage dish is gluten-free!

How To Store Cabbage Rolls?

Leftover Cabbage rolls can be refrigerated for up-to 4 days.

To Reheat- microwave until warmed or reheat on the skillet (covered) with a little water over med-low heat.

What to Serve with Cabbage Rolls?

There’s so much sides you can serve with Cabbage Rolls! Nadia served her cabbage rolls with braised beef, an avocado spread, bread, mashed potatoes, and carrot salad. Although cabbage rolls are a main dish here are some sides;

Can I Freeze Cabbage Rolls?

It depends. If you’ve already baked cabbage rolls they will not freeze well. Reheating them will be a soggy mess. However, unbaked cabbage rolls freeze very well if you roll them and don’t pour the sauce over them. Freezing cabbage leaves to meal prep for cabbage rolls works great too! Only seal them in airtight freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.

Tools For Making Cabbage Rolls:

Here are tools you need to bake fish in the oven:

BEST Cooking Tips For Cabbage Rolls:

  1. Wilt you’re cabbage in boiling water with a Tablespoon of salt. Nadia said, “the salt helps the cabbage leaves not to overcook”.
  2. Cover all the rolls with any torn or leftover cabbage leaves. This preserves the rolls from scorching during baking time.
  3. Diced meat adds texture to the already soft cabbage leaves and filling!
  4. Don’t skip the bayleaves, that’s the secret to aromatic cabbage rolls!
  5. Nadia pours over sautéed onions after the rolls have baked. It gives the rolls a beautiful sheen!

 

More Cabbage Recipes to Try:

Watch How To Roll Moldovan Cabbage Rolls:

Watch Nadia and I make Cabbage rolls the Moldovan way on my Instagram Story! I shared a wilting tip and my poll on what these are really called! Galush or Sarmale?

How To Make Moldovan Cabbage Rolls:

Moldovan Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale)

Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 32 servings
Author: Alyona's Cooking
Moldovan Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale) that can convert you from any cabbage roll recipe! These are Traditional meat and rice stuffed cabbage rolls from the Muyarov-Moldovan family! This Moldavian dish is made with cabbage leaves, rice, diced meat, carrots and onion! Once filled these delicious cabbage rolls are then topped with an easy sauce and baked to doneness. 

Equipment

  • 6-quart pot

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium cabbage heads (cores removed)
  • 1 quart (heaping) Jasmine rice
  • 4 medium onions (diced)
  • 4 medium carrots (grated)
  • 2 1/2 lbs pork (diced)
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 Tbsp salt (for wilting cabbage)
  • 1 Tbsp (heaping) Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp (heaping) salt (for rice mixture)

Sauce:

  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups diced tomatoes (or spaghetti sauce)

Instructions

Instructions:

  • Fry diced meat in oil for 20 minutes over med-low heat.
  • Add the onions and carrots and continue to cook for 10 more minutes. Stir in the steak seasoning and paprika towards the end and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, rinse the rice 3X and fill up with hot tap water. Place on a hot stove to sit while you wilt the cabbage (stirring occasionally.)
  • Bring a pot of water and 1 Tbsp of salt to a boil. Add the cabbage (make sure water gets inside the hollowed core.) Wilt each head for a total of 10 minutes removing the leaves gradually.
  • Drain the rice reserving 1 cup of the soaking water.
  • Combine the meat mixture with the rice, reserved water, and 1 heaping Tbsp of salt.
  • Cut and trim the leaves. Fill and stack rolls into a pot. Use the trimmings for bottom of the pot. Add Bayleaves half way and top with any leftover cabbage leaves. Pour sauce mixture over the top.
  • Bake at 350°F for 2 hours. Transfer to a baking dish and pour onion sauce** over the top (optional.)

Notes

  • Onion Sauce: is optional. Make it before serving by sautéing 2 medium onions in 2/3 cup of oil. Pour over hot cabbage rolls right before serving. 
  • Servings: this recipe makes a hefty batch of rolls. It is enough for 4 meals for our family of 7 hence, the 32 servings. Makes 1 (6-quart pot) plus half of a 3-quart pot. Can also fit one large disposable pan. 
  • Meat: Can use chicken or pork. (Nadia and I used minced pork.) 

Nutrition per serving

Serving: 2servingsCalories: 568kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 28gFat: 37gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 654mgPotassium: 647mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 1476IUVitamin C: 25mgCalcium: 70mgIron: 2mg

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4 comments

    • Mary

    What sauce mix are you pouring over the top before you put in the oven?

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      It’s a tomato type of sauce diluted with water. You could pour heavy cream over the tops instead.

    • Carole

    I am wondering if 2/3 cup oil is the right measurement for 2 onions in onion sauce.
    seems like a lot of oil.

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      That’s her secret, Carole! I know it does seem like a lot but that’s how she makes them:)

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