Holubtsi – Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls Recipe

Lastest Updated April 19, 2024
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You absolutely must give Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls, also known as Holubtsi (голубцы), a try. This dish is a cherished staple in Ukraine, offering comfort in every bite.

At its core, Holubtsi is a wholesome and balanced meal featuring cabbage leaves wrapped around a savory filling of ground meat and cooked rice. Served with a light tomato sauce, these cabbage rolls offer a symphony of flavors that will leave you craving more.

While crafting Holubtsi does require a touch of patience, the effort is well worth it. One of the perks of this dish is its suitability for meal prep. You can whip up a generous batch, stash it in the fridge, and savor it throughout the week. Plus, the flavor only enhances as the days go by!

Cabbage Rolls1

What Are Cabbage Rolls?

Holubtsi (Голубцы) truly captures the essence of Ukrainian cuisine, and trust me, I’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen perfecting this recipe.

Born from a need for filling meals made from accessible ingredients, Holubtsi has evolved from a simple family staple to a celebrated icon of Ukrainian gastronomy. It’s not just a dish; it’s a tradition, a communal experience, a symbol of home and heritage.

These cabbage rolls often grace the tables at festive occasions, from weddings to Easter and Christmas celebrations. The process of preparing Holubtsi has become a cherished ritual, bringing generations together to share the joy of cooking and pass on the family recipe.

There’s even a saying I grew up hearing – mastering the art of making Holubtsi is a rite of passage, a sign that a woman is ready to marry. It might sound old-fashioned, but it speaks volumes about how deeply this dish is ingrained in the culture.

So, if you’ve been wondering what Ukrainian cuisine is all about, I urge you to try making Holubtsi!

Tools

Although this recipe is a little bit complex in terms of preparation, it doesn’t require any special tools.

  • Pot: You’ll need a medium-sized pot to blanch the cabbage.
  • Cutting board and knife: An indispensable duo in any kitchen.
  • Large spoon: Ideal for combining all the ingredients.
  • Large bowl: The meeting point for all your ingredients.
  • Frying pan: A nonstick medium-sized frying pan for browning your rolls.
Cabbage Rolls Tools

Ingredients

Here are the main ingredients to make these delicious cabbage rolls.

  • Cabbage: The backbone of this dish, cabbage is a powerhouse of nutrition and a great source of vitamin C.
  • White rice: Universally comforting and versatile, rice finds its place in cuisines around the globe.
  • Carrot: These crunchy veggies add a hint of sweetness and a boost of nutrients, and are renowned for supporting eye health.
  • Onion: A true flavor powerhouse, onions are rich in antioxidants and beneficial for heart health.
  • Ground beef: Packed with protein and essential nutrients like vitamin B-12, selenium, and zinc.
  • Garlic: Paired with onions, garlic enhances the flavor and boosts your immune system.
  • Tomato paste: Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, and their paste provides a delightful tang to complement the cabbage rolls.
  • Sour cream: Adds a luscious creaminess to the sauce and also contributes additional nutrients to the dish.
Cabbage Rolls Ingredients

How To Make Perfect Cabbage Rolls

Now, let’s prepare our cabbage rolls! It might initially seem complicated, but I guarantee that it is quite simple. Just follow me step by step, and you will get the most delicious cabbage rolls.

Step 1: Prepare The Cabbage

Carefully remove the center of the cabbage. Then, in a medium pot with boiling water, boil the cabbage for about 5-7 minutes or until the leaves have softened.

Cabbage Rolls Step 1 Prepare the Cabbge

Step 2: Cook The Rice

In a small pot, prepare the rice until almost ready. Leave it slightly undercooked.

Step 3: Prepare The Filling

On a cutting board, cut into small cubes the onions and the garlic, and add them to a frying pan. Add the shredded carrots and cook for about 2 minutes, until nice and golden. Finally, add the ground beef, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Cabbage Rolls Step 3 Prepare the Filling

Step 4: Mix Everything Together

In a big bowl, combine the ground beef and the cooked rice, add the seasoning, and combine.

Cabbage Rolls Step 4 Mix Everything Together

Step 5: Assembling The Cabbage Rolls

Here is the fun part! Making the rolls. Take one cabbage leaf and place a spoonful of the filling in the center. Roll the leaf tightly, folding the sides in as you go. Repeat with the rest of the filling and cabbage leaves.

Cabbage Rolls Step 5 Assembling the Cabbage Rolls

Step 6: Cook/Fry The Cabbage Rolls

To finish the cabbage rolls, you can either cook them in water for about 5-7 minutes or fry them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil.

Cabbage Rolls Step 6 Cook the Cabbage Rolls

Step 7: Make The Sauce

For the sauce, mix tomato paste and sour cream in a small pan, add some salt and pepper, and bring it to a boil.

Cabbage Rolls Step 7 Make the Sauce

Step 8: Serve The Dish

Serve the cabbage rolls hot, with tomato sauce and some fresh parsley on top. Enjoy!

Cabbage Rolls

Tip And Serving Suggestions

Tricks To Make The Cabbage Rolls Healthier And More Convenient

  • Although this is already quite a healthy recipe (especially if you don’t add the sauce), to make it even healthier, you can substitute the regular rice for brown rice and the ground beef for turkey or chicken.
  • For a vegan version of the dish, substitute the meat with smoked mushrooms or other meat alternatives.
  • You can use any leftover cooked rice that you have. This will actually save you about 10 minutes in the preparation.
  • Another tip, you can reserve the filling and enjoy it separately. Just add it to a frying pan, let it fry for a few minutes, add seasoning, and, if you want, add an egg to make a delicious egg fried rice.

What Should I Serve With My Cabbage Rolls?

These cabbage rolls are served as the main meal, but they go really well with a tomato sauce on top or some other light sauce of your preference.

Try serving them alongside fresh bread for sopping up the delicious tomato sauce, or perhaps with a crisp salad for a refreshing contrast. They also pair wonderfully with mashed potatoes, offering a hearty, comforting side that can absorb any extra sauce.

Proper Storage And Reheating

Hearty cabbage rolls are a stellar choice when it comes to meal prepping for your week. Not only do they retain their delicious flavor over time, but they also reheat beautifully.

If you want to enjoy them throughout the week, simply store them in the refrigerator. Make sure to keep them in an airtight container to maintain their freshness, and they’ll be good to go for up to a week.

When it comes time to reheat your cabbage rolls, a skillet or frying pan works best. Warm a touch of oil over medium heat, then add the cabbage rolls, gently turning them until they’re warmed through and just a little bit crisped on the edges.

However, a word of caution regarding freezing these delicate rolls: it’s not recommended. Cabbage has a high water content, and freezing could result in a mushy texture once thawed.

While the temptation might be strong to make a large batch and save some for later, it’s best to enjoy them fresh or within that one-week timeframe in the refrigerator. That’s when they’re at their prime, and that’s when you’ll love them the most!

Don’t Miss The Following Ukrainian Recipes

  • Salo: Salo is a traditional Ukrainian dish that may seem unusual to some, as it primarily consists of cured slabs of fatback. Often flavored with garlic, black pepper, and sometimes caraway, salo can be eaten raw, smoked, or fried.
  • Buckwheat Kasha: Kasha is a common dish in many Eastern European countries, and Ukraine is no exception. Buckwheat kasha, in particular, is highly valued for its health benefits, being rich in nutrients and fiber.
  • Borscht: This hearty soup is primarily made from beetroot, which gives it its characteristic deep red color. Additional ingredients often include potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, and chunks of meat.
  • Deruny: Also known as potato pancakes, Deruny are made from grated potatoes mixed with egg, onions, and seasoning, then fried until golden and crispy. They are typically served with sour cream or applesauce.

FAQs

Absolutely. While traditional recipes often use ground pork or beef, feel free to use ground turkey or even a mixture of meats for added flavor.

One method is to freeze the whole cabbage head or blanch it in boiling water. This softens the leaves, making them more pliable and less likely to tear when wrapping them around the filling.

Absolutely. While traditional recipes often use ground pork or beef, feel free to use ground turkey or even a mixture of meats for added flavor.

Typically, Ukrainian cabbage rolls are made with green cabbage, but you can certainly experiment with other types, like red cabbage or savoy cabbage. Each will offer a slightly different taste and texture.

Try This Unique Take On Cabbage Rolls!

Although this recipe might require some patience and time, once you get familiar with the process, it actually becomes quite simple. And the best part is you can prepare it on the weekend, and enjoy it during the entire week.

If you want to experience a little bit of Ukrainian culture, you can either gather your family and make the cabbage rolls together. Make sure to rate or share this recipe with others. And I would love to hear your feedback in the comments section!

Cabbage Rolls

Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls (Голубцы): The Perfect Comfort Food

If you want a complete meal in one dish, then these Ukrainian cabbage rolls are for you. You have protein, vegetables, and carbs all in one. What can possibly be better?
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main dish
Cuisine: Ukrainian
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 599kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 large cabbage
  • 1.1 pounds ground beef
  • 7 ounces cooked rice
  • 1 medium carrot shredded
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 0.5 cup sour cream
  • Optional: fresh parsley

Instructions 

  • Carefully remove the center of the cabbage. Then, in a medium pot with boiling water, boil the cabbage for about 5-7 minutes or until the leaves have softened.
    Cabbage Rolls Step 1 Prepare the Cabbge
  • In a small pot, prepare the rice until almost ready. Leave it slightly undercooked.
  • On a cutting board, cut into small cubes the onions and the garlic, and add them to a frying pan.
  • Add the shredded carrots and cook for about 2 minutes, until nice and golden.
  • Finally, add the ground beef and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
    Cabbage Rolls Step 3 Prepare the Filling
  • In a big bowl, combine the ground beef and the cooked rice, add the seasoning, and combine.
    Cabbage Rolls Step 4 Mix Everything Together
  • Take one cabbage leaf and place a spoonful of the filling in the center.
  • Roll the leaf tightly, folding the sides in as you go.
  • Repeat with the rest of the filling and cabbage leaves.
    Cabbage Rolls Step 5 Assembling the Cabbage Rolls
  • To finish the cabbage rolls, you can either cook them in water for about 5-7 minutes or fry them in a pan with a little bit of olive oil.
    Cabbage Rolls Step 6 Cook the Cabbage Rolls
  • For the sauce, mix tomato paste and sour cream in a small pan, add some salt and pepper, and bring it to a boil.
    Cabbage Rolls Step 7 Make the Sauce
  • Serve the cabbage rolls hot, with the tomato sauce and some fresh parsley on top. Enjoy!
    Cabbage Rolls

Video

Notes

  • The total time and the ingredient quantities are based on approximately 4 servings.
  • If you are vegan, you can substitute ground beef with mushrooms or other meat alternatives.
  • Before assembling the cabbage rolls, make sure to remove the hard part of the cabbage leaves.
  • You can also make any sauce you like to serve with the recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 599kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 15g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 106mg | Sodium: 1826mg | Potassium: 1535mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 3949IU | Vitamin C: 101mg | Calcium: 186mg | Iron: 6mg
Liliya Balinska

Liliya Balinska

Content Writer

Expertise

Content Writer, Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Recipe Development, Food Editor, Cooking-video Maker, Translator & Proofreader

Education

Universidade do Minho, Portugual

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Oriental Languages and Cultures
  • Focus: The languages, cultures, and societal aspects of Eastern countries.

Nankai University, China

  • Program: Exchange Program, Chinese Studies
  • Focus: Improving understanding of Chinese language, culture, history, and possibly other specific areas related to Chinese studies.

Universidade do Minho, Portugual

  • Program: Master’s degree, Intercultural Studies Portuguese/Chinese
  • Focus: Preparing students for markets involving Chinese and Portuguese cultures, focusing on linguistic skills, communication, and cultural sensitivity

Escolas do Turismo de Portugal

  • Program: Culinary Arts
  • Focus: preparing students for technical and managerial roles in food service and restaurant business. It emphasizes solid technical training, creativity, and ethical awareness, with the goal of promoting sustainable development in the tourism and hospitality sectors​.

Liliya Balinska, based in Lisbon, is a culinary content writer with an impressive educational background in Oriental and Intercultural Studies, complemented by a specialization in Culinary Arts. Her broad expertise enables her to cover a wide array of cuisines, from European classics to global dishes, captivating food lovers worldwide with her deep cultural knowledge and captivating writing style.

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