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Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Romanian



  • 1 kg Combined ground pork/ beef
  • ½ cup Rice
  • 1 Large onion 
  • 1 tbsp Dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp Dried basil
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Large sour cabbage
  • 700 ml Tomato juice
  • 10 slices Smoked bacon
  • 3-4 Bay Leaves
  • Salt and pepper


How to Make Sarmale:

  • Prepare the meat stuffing.
  • Boil the rice till it’s almost ready. Set aside to cool
  • Meanwhile chop the large onion. Sauté half of the quantity for a couple of minutes, saving the other half for later and set aside.
  • In a large bowl mix all types of ground meat, add sauted onions and boiled rice, dried herbs, 1 teaspoon water, salt and pepper and mix well using your hands.

How to Make the Rolls:

  • Remove gently not to break the cabbage leaves.
  • You will only need the large leaves to make the rolls.
  • The middle part will be chopped and added between cabbage rolls layers.
  • Cut each large leaf in half, removing the tough core part too to make it easier to roll them.
  • Add a tablespoon of ground meat mixture to each half leaf.
  • Cover the filling with the edge from the base of the leaf. Bend edges on both sides and cover over the filling.
  • Roll the stuffed cabbage leaf holding firm, so they won’t break during cooking time. Repeat these steps until you finish all of your group meat mixture.
  • Roughly chop smaller leaves or some that broke during the rolling process and set aside.
  • Place big saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the rest of chopped onions for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add part of chopped sour cabbage leaves and sauté for another 2 minutes.
  • Distribute the whole mixture on an even bottom layer and turn the heat to minimum.
  • Start adding the rolls, creating a first level.
  • Add some chopped smoked bacon, 2 bay leaves and some more chopped sour cabbage.
  • Start creating the second level, putting rolls to the saucepan.
  • When you finish the layer, add some more chopped sour cabbage on top, smoked bacon, another 2 bay leaves and some fresh thyme.
  • Add half part sour cabbage juice and half part water to cover the rolls entirely.
  • Place a lid on top of the saucepan and braise them on low heat for at least 2.5 hours, or bake in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 3 hours.
  • Serve hot immediately with sour cream on top.


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