Kohlrouladen: German Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

German stuffed cabbage rolls topped with sauce and bacon bits in a serving dish

The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 90 mins
Total: 2 hrs
Servings: 5 servings
Yield: 10 cabbage rolls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
352 Calories
19g Fat
14g Carbs
31g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5
Amount per serving
Calories 352
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 122mg 41%
Sodium 1580mg 69%
Total Carbohydrate 14g 5%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 31g
Vitamin C 51mg 255%
Calcium 116mg 9%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 695mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cabbage rolls are a staple of cuisines from Eastern Europe to Northern Africa. The stuffings are varied, from vegetarian mixtures of rice and vegetables to meaty stuffings of pork, lamb, or beef. Cooked in the oven or on the stove, cabbage rolls are a filling and flavorful dish that's great as a make-ahead dinner and also freezes well for future meals. Our classic recipe for kohlrouladen is the quintessential German comfort food that's a complete and hearty dinner on its own, but it also goes well with boiled mashed potatoes or spaetzle.

Versions from areas close to Germany, like Hungary or Poland, use stuffings made with a combination of two or more meats, like pork and beef. Combinations can be common in Germany, as well, but we kept it simple with just beef. Good quality meat is recommended as it will be the start of the rolls. The seasoning of paprika and marjoram can be enhanced with caraway or mustard seeds to taste. Nonetheless, our stuffing is simply delicious as is, as the smoky bacon makes for a bold flavor. For this recipe, you'll need kitchen string to tie the cabbage rolls.

"I love stuffed cabbage of any kind, so I’m glad to have tried this version. The brown sauce and bacon make this dish very hearty and savory. Make sure to use ground beef with enough fat in it, such as 80/20, for a juicy filling." —Young Sun Huh

German Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Cabbage:

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) head cabbage

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram 

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Cabbage Rolls:

  • 1 to 2 strips bacon

  • 1 cup beef broth, more as needed

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1/4 cup water, cold

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Cabbage

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for German stuffed cabbage rolls recipe gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Peel any old or discolored leaves from the outside of the head of cabbage.

    Head of cabbage with the outer leaves removed

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the stem out of the cabbage, leaving a cone-shaped hole.

    Cabbage head with the core cut out with a large knife on a large cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Place the cabbage head in a large pot and fill the pot with water to cover or almost cover the cabbage. Add a teaspoon or two of salt. Bring the water to a boil and simmer the cabbage for 8 to 10 minutes.

    Head of cabbage in a large pot of water

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Carefully remove the cabbage from the water and let it sit for several minutes to make it easier to handle.

    Boiled cabbage head removed from the water and placed on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  6. Peel the outer leaves off, one by one, draining the excess water as you go. If, after removing the outer leaves the rest are still sticking together, place the rest of the cabbage head back in the hot water and simmer for a few minutes.

    Outer leaves of cabbage removed and placed on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Once you have all the cabbage leaves removed, cut the hard stem off to make them easier to roll. Cut out the thickest vein only 1/3 to 2/3 of the way up the leaf, as necessary, so it's more pliable. Repeat the process to have a total of 10 to 12 leaves—plus a few backups in case one of them breaks when rolling. Reserve.

    Tough center vein of cabbage leaf cut out with a large knife on a cutting board

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

​Make the Filling and Form the Rolls

  1. Mix the ground beef with the egg, breadcrumbs, paprika, marjoram, salt, and pepper until well incorporated. Do not overmix to avoid the meat from toughening and becoming pasty.

    Ground meat mixture in a glass bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Form 10 to 12 meat rolls using about 1/4 cup of meat mixture per portion, shaping them to about 2 inches in length.

    Meat mixture formed into cylinder-shaped meatballs

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Place a meat roll in the thinner, cupped portion of each cabbage leaf.

    Meatball placed at the cupped end of the cabbage leaf

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Fold the roll from the bottom side to avoid the meat from spilling, then fold in the sides and continue rolling like you're folding a burrito. Repeat the process with all the meat rolls and cabbage leaves.

    Sides of the cabbage leaf folded over the meat, joining in the center

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Using kitchen string, tie each roll like a gift package. (Note: Although regular white thread could hold, kitchen string is best.) Set aside.

    Tightly wrapped cabbage rolls secured with kitchen string

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Cook the Cabbage Rolls

  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and brown them in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, about 6 minutes on medium-high heat. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels to be used as a garnish.

    Crumbed browned bacon bits on a plate next to a Dutch oven with browned bottom

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Using the bacon fat, brown the cabbage rolls on top and bottom, about 6 minutes total.

    Slightly browned cabbage rolls fitting snugly in a single layer in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the beef broth, or enough to cover the pan to a depth of 1/4 inch. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes. Add more beef broth, as necessary, to keep the cabbage rolls in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of broth.

    Beige-brown cooked cabbage rolls in the Dutch oven

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Sauce

  1. Transfer the cabbage rolls to a warm serving dish and snip off the string.

    Cabbage rolls with string removed in an oval serving dish

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  2. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch into 1/4 cup of cold water.

    Milky diluted cornstarch and water mixture in a small bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the cornstarch slurry to the juices in the pot 1 tablespoon at a time and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened. You might not need to use all of the slurry.

    Cornstarch slurry stirred into the brown juices in the Dutch oven

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls. Top with reserved bacon bits. Serve and enjoy.

    Stuffed cabbage rolls with topped with sauce and bacon bits in an oval serving dish

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

Recipe Tips

  • Don't overmix the ground beef filling. Overmixing will make the filling dense and springy rather than tender.
  • Adding the cornstarch slurry a little at a time ensures that you won't over-thicken the sauce. The sauce should have some body but should not be gloppy.

Kohlrouladen Variations

There are many versions of kohlrouladen, so there's no wrong way of making them. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use a 50-50 mixture of beef and pork. Or use any other variety of ground meat like chicken or turkey to make these rolls as hearty or light as you'd like.
  • Add cayenne pepper to taste. If you want to be sure of your seasoning, cook a tablespoon of mixture on a pan and taste-test it. Add more salt, pepper, or additional herbs and spices if needed.
  • Use dried oregano instead of marjoram.
  • Make a tomato sauce to cover the rolls before serving.

How to Store and Freeze

  • Stuffed cabbage rolls can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days.
  • Freeze cabbage rolls in an airtight container for up to 3 months.