Gołąbki (Polish Stuffed Cabbage)

Gołąbki (Polish Stuffed Cabbage) on a white plate

The Spruce

  • Total: 90 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Servings: 9 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
362 Calories
22g Fat
18g Carbs
24g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 9
Amount per serving
Calories 362
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 28%
Saturated Fat 9g 47%
Cholesterol 90mg 30%
Sodium 392mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 24g
Vitamin C 54mg 269%
Calcium 122mg 9%
Iron 2mg 13%
Potassium 675mg 14%
*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.)

Polish stuffed cabbage rolls are a classic comfort dish that has been passed from one generation to the next. Called gołąbki (gaw-WOHMP-kee) the term for "little pigeons," the rolls are also known as golumpki and gwumpki. Under any name, they are considered a national dish and are a cherished staple in every home. Many Polish families have a favorite recipe.

The recipe features a filling of ground pork, beef, and rice, nestled in a cabbage leaf. Cooked in the oven until tender, the rolls are fantastic served with mashed potatoes, rye bread with butter, and sweet applesauce—a contrast to the savory filling. Since this dish can be eaten hot or at room temperature, mini cabbage rolls speared with a toothpick are amazing appetizers.

Many Central and Eastern European countries have a version of the dish. Czechs and Slovaks call them holubky, while Serbs and Croatians refer to them as sarma. Some use different grains, some opt for other meats, but all are alike in how they’re shaped, and most of these versions use cabbage leaves as a wrapper. Most often, it's the sauce that sets them apart.

Many recipes use tomato sauce to cover the rolls, but this one garnishes them with tangy sour cream instead. This recipe is naturally gluten-free—simply check the beef stock's label (unless it's homemade) to be sure there’s no added wheat. (Also, if you skip the rice in the filling you’ve got a keto and paleo-friendly dish.)

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Ingredients

  • 1 whole head cabbage (about 4 pounds)

  • Salt (for salting boiling water)

For the Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 large onion (chopped)

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1/2 pound ground pork

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice

  • 1 teaspoon garlic (finely chopped)

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup beef stock

  • Garnish:

    1 cup sour cream

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this Polish stuffed cabbage is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for cooking.

Prepare the Cabbage

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil, and salt it.

  3. With the help of a sharp paring knife, remove the core from the cabbage by cutting around it. Remove and discard it.

    Core cut out of cabbage

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  4. Carefully place the whole head of cabbage in the boiling water.

    Head of cabbage in boiling water

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  5. Cover the pot and cook the head of cabbage for 3 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves. You'll need 18 leaves in total.

    Boiled cabbage with the leaves removed on a cutting board

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  6. When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the thick center stem from each leaf. Be careful to not cut all the way through.

    Stems removed from cabbage leaves on a cutting board

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  7. After retrieving 18 leaves, chop the remaining cabbage and place it in the bottom of a casserole dish with a lid or a Dutch oven.

Make the Filling

  1. Heat up a large skillet, melt the butter, and add the chopped onion. Cook until tender and remove from the heat to let them cool off.

    Chopped onions in a skillet
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  2. Mix the cooled onions with the beef, pork, cooked rice, garlic, salt, and black pepper until well combined. Don't overmix or the meat will become tough.

    Mixed onion, meat and rice in a bowl
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Assemble the Rolls

  1. Flatten a cabbage leaf on a cutting board or work surface and place about 1/2 cup of the meat filling.

    Meat mixture on cabbage leaf
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  2. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then flip the left side.

    Folding the cabbage leaf
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  3. Flip the bottom of the leaf to obtain an envelope-shaped figure. The unstuffed part of the leaf will be triangular in shape.

    Partially folded cabbage leaf
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  4. Tuck the leaf away from you to encase the meat and make a neat little roll.

  5. Repeat the process with all the leaves.

Cook and Serve the Rolls

  1. Heat the oven to 350 F.

  2. Place the cabbage rolls, seam down, on top of the chopped cabbage in the casserole dish or Dutch oven. Season each layer with salt and pepper.

    Stuffed cabbage in a dutch oven
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  3. Pour the beef stock over the rolls, cover, and place in the oven.

    Stuffed cabbage and beef stock
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  4. Bake for 1 hour or until cabbage is tender and meat is cooked.

    Baked stuffed cabbage
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  5. Serve with a drizzle of sour cream, or alternatively, mix the pan juices with the sour cream and ladle it over the cabbage rolls. Enjoy!

What's the Difference Between Gołąbkis and Halupkis?

Most cabbage rolls are similar in principle, and most have beef, rice, and pork as the main components of their fillings. Gołąbkis are Polish, whereas halupkis are Slovakian. Some Polish rolls, like ours, don't have tomato sauce, but most halupkis do.

Holubtsis, from Ukraine, are a similar preparation, but the stuffing has potatoes and can be prepared with or without meat.

How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat the Rolls

Here are some tips to store leftovers, or freeze prepared, but uncooked rolls:

  • Cooked cabbage rolls can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Drain any liquid before storing to avoid the rolls turning mushy, and add additional beef broth when reheating.
  • If you are prepping ahead of time, uncooked cabbage rolls can be stored in the fridge for 1 day. Then cook according to instructions.
  • You can make bigger batches of rolls and freeze them, but you must freeze them uncooked without the beef broth. When frozen, the rolls last for up to 4 months. When it is time to cook them, thaw overnight in the fridge, discard any liquid that might have built up, add the beef stock, and then cook them in the oven according to instructions. Never heat up unthawed frozen rolls, as they might disintegrate and become a soup.