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Holubtsi are a great comfort food as they are rather hearty and nutritious. Don’t expect these to come with a salad – they served on their own with either a dollop of sour cream or sautéed tomato paste, and sprinkled with chopped dill. As they take a while to cook, they are never made in single portions. Normally, enough for two or three lunches and that feed a few people is made at one time. They taste even more exquisite the next day, so no worries about freshness. Oh, and don’t get discouraged by the lengthy process: the magnificent taste of holubtsi is totally worth the hassle!
5 from 2 votes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Ukrainean


  • 1 (4,5 lb)  head white cabbage
  • 1 lb pork 
  • ½ lb chicken 
  • ½ lb beef 
  • 4 onions
  • 1 (4 oz) cup  rice
  • ½ lb tomatoes
  • 4 small carrots
  • 8 oz  sour cream
  • 4 oz  tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp  vegetable oil
  • ground black pepper
  • salt


How to Cook the Rice:

  • Separate the cabbage leaves from the cob and scald the leaves in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes.
  • If the leaves are large, cut along the vein on both sides. Otherwise, just cut off the veins, but be careful not to cut through the leaf.
  • Set aside any damaged or small leaves. Line the pot bottom with the scalded cabbage leaves. If you have enough, place them around the sides as well.
  • Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water and boil it until semi-ready (approx. 7-10 minutes).

How to Make the Filling:

  • Mix the ground meat and rice together in a large bowl.
  • Fry the onions until translucent. Set aside 1⁄2 for the sauce and use 1⁄2 for the filling.
  • Grate and sauté the carrots with approximately 3 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter over a medium-to-high heat until soft. These are added to the filling for their flavor.
  • Mix the fried onions, carrots, and tomato paste together.
  • Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

How to Make the Assembling:

  • For small leaves: slice off the raised surface of the tough center stem just to flatten the leaf and make it easier to roll. 
  • Fill each leaf with about 2 tbsp meat mixture. 
  • Place the filling over the stem/bottom portion. Roll like a burrito and tug both ends in with your fingers.
  • For large leaves: cut the leaves in half down the center, removing the tough stem. You will end up with 2 leaves.
  • Place 2 tbsp meat mixture at the top of each (or as much as you can fit).
  • Roll the leaf into a cone shape with the thicker part of the leaf at the base and stuff the wide part into the top.
  • As you stuff your cabbage, arrange the rolls in the same pot you used to cook the cabbage.
  • Place the cabbage rolls into the pot, wedging together tightly.
  • Depending on the size and shape of the pot and the number of cabbage rolls, you may need to layer them.

How to Make the Sauce:

  • Mix the remaining carrots with the sliced tomatoes and cream.
  • Pour the sauce over them. The sauce should percolate through and completely cover the cabbage rolls. If it doesn’t, add a bit of water or tomato juice to make the sauce thinner.
  • Cover the arranged rolls with the remaining cabbage leaves.
  • Bake for 2-3 hours at 350 °F. Check on the level of the sauce from time to time. If it is getting low, add a bit of water to keep the edges of the holubtsi from burning.
  • When cooked, let sit for 15 minutes. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and dill or parsley. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!