Kohlrouladen: German Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

German Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Kohlrouladen)

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 90 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 10 cabbage rolls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
145 Calories
7g Fat
7g Carbs
12g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 145
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 10%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 51mg 17%
Sodium 727mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 12g
Vitamin C 26mg 128%
Calcium 55mg 4%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 304mg 6%
*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.

Ingredients

For the Cabbage:

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) head cabbage

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt

For the Filling:

  • 12 ounces ground beef

  • 1 large egg

  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram 

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Cabbage Rolls:

  • 1 to 2 strips bacon

  • 1 cup beef broth, divided

For the Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1/4 cup water, cold

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this cabbage dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Prepare the Cabbage

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    German Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Kohlrouladen) ingredients

    The Spruce / 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 / Julia Hartbeck

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

    Cabbage with the stem cut out

    The Spruce / 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 pot of water

    The Spruce / 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 on a counter

    The Spruce / 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.

    Cabbage leaves removed

    The Spruce / 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.

    Lay out a cabbage leaf and cut out the thickest vein

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

​Make the Filling and Form the Rolls

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

     Mix the chopped meat with the egg, breadcrumbs, paprika, salt, marjoram, and pepper

    The Spruce / 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 balls

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    Place a meat roll in the thinner, cupped portion of the leaf

    The Spruce / 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.

    Roll the cabbage leaf around the meat mixture

    The Spruce / 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.

    cabbage rolls on a cutting board

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Cook the Cabbage Rolls

  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and brown them in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels to be used as a garnish.

    Cooked bacon cut into tiny pieces

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Using the bacon fat, brown the cabbage rolls top and bottom.

    Cabbage rolls in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add 1/2 cup of 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 of the remaining beef broth, as necessary, to keep the cabbage rolls in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of broth.

    Cooked cabbage rolls in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Make the Sauce

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

    Cabbage rolls in a serving dish

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    Cornstarch with cold water in a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Add the cornstarch slurry to the juices in the pot and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened.

    Add the cornstarch slurry to the juices in the Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

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

    German stuffed cabbage rolls (kohlrouladen)

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. Serve and enjoy.

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.