Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Ground Beef and Rice

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Ground Beef and Rice

These cabbage rolls are stuffed with ground beef and rice and baked to perfection with a tangy tomato sauce. Cabbage rolls are a favorite comfort food from Eastern Europe and are often reserved for special occasions or big family dinners.

The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

Freeze Your Way to Tender Cabbage Leaves

Instead of boiling the cabbage, there's an easy shortcut to soften the leaves if you plan ahead. The night before you plan to make the cabbage rolls, put the whole head of cabbage in the freezer. Take it out in the morning and give it the rest of the day or several hours to thaw. The leaves of the thawed cabbage will peel off easily and are flexible enough to stuff with no precooking required. 

What to Serve With Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Serve stuffed cabbage with mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes for a filling and special meal. If all the ground beef has you craving a fresh vegetable side, try a quick cucumber salad or roasted beets. A few slices of rye bread are an excellent accompaniment for soaking up the flavorful tomato sauce.

Tips for Making Stuffed Cabbage

  • Use very lean ground beef – The meat isn't cooked ahead of time, so try to use very lean ground beef to avoid the excess fat.
  • Taste Test – To make sure the ground beef filling is adequately seasoned before stuffing the cabbage leaves, cook a spoonful of the filling in a small skillet and taste it, then adjust the seasoning as needed.
  • How to Save Split Cabbage Leaves – Boil a few extra cabbage leaves in case one of the leaves splits or breaks during filling and rolling. There's no need to transfer the filling to a new leaf. Just place the broken leaf with its filling atop a new, intact leaf and roll up as directed. If using the freezing method, you can just peel off a few extra leaves.
  • When Using a Baking Dish – If you are able to use a baking dish where the cabbage rolls fill the dish tightly, there's no need to skewer the rolls with toothpicks. Just place the rolls seam-side down in the dish.
  • How to Cook With Cornstarch – It is very easy to over-thicken a sauce with cornstarch. To avoid this, add the cornstarch slurry a little at a time, waiting a minute between additions. When the sauce reaches your preferred consistency, stop adding the cornstarch.

What You’ll Need To Make This Cabbage Rolls Recipe A Sturdy Baking Dish A Good Chef’s Knife A Small Sauce Pan

“These traditional stuffed cabbage rolls will conjure up childhood memories of your grandmother’s kitchen. The rolls are bathed in a savory-sweet tomato sauce while they bake in the oven. The sauce is thickened at the end to the perfect consistency, then poured over the rolls to make this the ultimate comfort food.” —Diana Andrews

Stuffed cabbage rolls with ground beef and rice on a plate A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Rolls:

  • 1 head green cabbage, about 1 dozen large cabbage leaves

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for the water

  • 1 pound ground beef, 85 percent or leaner

  • 3/4 cup cooked rice

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup milk

For the Sauce:

  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

  • 3/4 cup water, divided

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 F/180 C/Gas 4.

    Ingredients for stuffed cabbage rolls recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  2. Peel about 12 to 15 large leaves off of the cabbage head.

    Cabbage head with leaves removed on a white marble table

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  3. Drop the cabbage leaves into a large pot of well-salted boiling water; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Drain well.

    Cabbage leaves in a pot of salted water, on a white marble table

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  4. For the filling, combine the ground beef, rice, onion, egg, milk, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Mix well and divide into 12 portions.

    Ground beef, rice, onion, egg, milk, salt, and pepper in a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  5. Place a portion of the beef mixture (about 2 1/4-ounces) onto the center of each cabbage leaf.

    Meat and rice mixture in a leaf of cabbage

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  6. Roll the leaf around the filling, burrito-style, folding in the edges to seal it in.

    Cabbage leaf stuffed and rolled up on a white marble table

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  7. Fasten the rolls with toothpicks. Place the rolls in a single layer in a large baking dish or an oven-safe Dutch oven.

    Cabbage rolls with a toothpick in a casserole pan on a white marble countertop

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  8. For the sauce, combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water.

    Tomato sauce for stuffed cabbage rolls in a bowl with a spoon

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  9. Pour sauce over the cabbage rolls. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil (carefully avoiding the toothpicks) and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour until the cabbage is tender and the sauce is bubbling.

    Cabbage rolls covered in tomato red sauce in a casserole dish

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  10. Remove the rolls with a slotted spoon and discard the toothpicks.

    Baked cabbage rolls covered in tomato red sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  11. Carefully pour the juices from the baking pan into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir the cornstarch into 1/4 cup cold water until dissolved. Add about half the cornstarch slurry to the sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly. Continue adding the remaining cornstarch slurry a little bit at a time until the sauce is as thickened as you like.

    Red tomato sauce thickening in a saucepan for cabbage rolls

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

  12. Serve the cabbage rolls topped with the sauce. Enjoy.

    Stuffed cabbage rolls with ground beef and rice cut in half on a white plate

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

How to Store Cabbage Rolls

  • Stuffed cabbage rolls will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days. Place them in an airtight plastic container or wrap tightly in aluminum foil.
  • You can freeze cabbage rolls, but it is best to leave them uncooked if doing so. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight, prepare the sauce and cook them as directed.

Feeling Adventurous? Try This:

  • For a low-carb option, replace the rice with steamed cauliflower rice.
  • If desired, you can substitute a plant-based ground beef replacement for the beef, use plain unsweetened nondairy milk instead of milk, and omit the egg. The filling will be a little more crumbly but still delicious.
  • If you are looking for cabbage roll flavor but are short on time, try an “unstuffed” version.


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