Serbian Stuffed Cabbage (Sarma)

Braising

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Ratings (78)
  • Total: 3 hrs 20 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 3 hrs
  • Yield: 12 rolls (4 to 6 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
536 Calories
19g Fat
50g Carbs
43g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 rolls (4 to 6 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 536
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 7g 34%
Cholesterol 116mg 39%
Sodium 1443mg 63%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 12g 44%
Protein 43g
Calcium 173mg 13%
*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.)

This recipe for sarma is the Serbian version of stuffed cabbage that many Serbs serve every day but especially for special occasions like their slava and other holidays.

Some people use imported or homemade whole heads of brined cabbage (sauerkraut) known as kiseli kupus when making their sarma.

Check this quick tip for an easy way to remove leaves from a cabbage head.

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) large head cabbage
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 cup raw rice (rinsed)
  • 1 1.4-ounce package dehydrated onion soup mix
  • 1 32-ounce jar sauerkraut (rinsed and drained)
  • 6 smoked ribs (or ham hock or other smoked meat)
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 10 3/4-ounce can tomato soup

Steps to Make It

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

Prepare the Cabbage

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Steam cabbage until outer leaves are limp, then remove leaves.

  3. With a paring knife, remove tough ribs from leaves without damaging them. Reserve tougher outer leaves, but don't use for rolling.

Make the Filling

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together ground chuck, ground pork, rice, and onion soup mix.

  2. Adding a little water will make the mixture easier to handle.

Assemble the Rolls

  1. Heap 2 tablespoons of filling on each cabbage leaf.

  2. Fold the bottom of the cabbage leaf up over meat.

  3. Then fold sides to the center, and roll away from yourself to encase completely.

  4. Repeat until meat filling is gone.

Bake the Sarma

  1. Heat oven to 350 F.

  2. Discard the cabbage core and coarsely chop any remaining cabbage except the tough outer leaves you have reserved.

  3. Spread chopped cabbage on the bottom of a large casserole dish or Dutch oven. Add the sauerkraut.

  4. Layer on the cabbage rolls, seam side down.

  5. Cut the smoked ribs into pieces if using, otherwise, space the smoked meat of choice between the cabbage rolls.

  6. Cover rolls with reserved tough outer leaves.

  7. Mix tomato sauce and soup with enough water to make a liquidy consistency.

  8. Pour over rolls until mixture is level with rolls, but not over the top.

  9. Cover casserole dish and bake 1 hour.

  10. Then reduce temperature to 325 F and bake for 2 more hours.

  11. Let sit 20 to 30 minutes before serving. 

  12. This dish freezes well.

Stuffed Cabbage in Other Cultures

Stuffed cabbage in one form or another is present in most world cuisines but especially among Eastern Europeans. Czechs and Slovaks call them ​holubky and Poles refer to them as ​gołąbki. They all boil down to the same thing—meat and a filler like rice or barley rolled up in a cabbage leaf and cooked on the stove or in the oven.