Holubtsi: Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage

Holubtsi: Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 37 mins
Cook: 90 mins
Total: 2 hrs 7 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 18 rolls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
400 Calories
15g Fat
61g Carbs
10g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 400
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 20%
Saturated Fat 8g 42%
Cholesterol 44mg 15%
Sodium 154mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 61g 22%
Dietary Fiber 9g 32%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 10g
Vitamin C 100mg 499%
Calcium 194mg 15%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 1586mg 34%
*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 leaves stuffed with meat, rice, and vegetables are common in Eastern Europe and the Balkans and are also found in Asian and African cuisines. Because recipes adapt to societal and cultural needs and to what's available in the area, many versions of these rolls have just meat, others are strictly vegetarian, and others are a combination of the two. The Ukrainian version of stuffed cabbage, known as holubtsi, also has many variations, but in general, the filling is always enriched with grain and flavored with vegetables. Our take on these "little pigeons," the literal translation of the name, is a meatless variation, ideal as a side dish to richer meaty recipes but also as a main in vegetarian families that might find this dish perfect with a side of potatoes or rice.

We use cabbage leaves, as do most traditional recipes, but beet, lettuce, or spinach leaves—and even grape leaves—are also used in Ukraine when making versions of this dish. The cooking liquid also varies by region and family and can include broth, tomato juice, and sour cream. For our filling, we chose a potato-buckwheat mixture, really hearty and nutritious. Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and is actually gluten free, which makes this recipe suitable for people with gluten restrictions in their diets.

Although the dish requires some time investment, the beauty is that it yields generous portions that make great leftovers and that can be frozen too for a future lunch or dinner. Serve alongside a salad, potato pancake, or crusty bread. Use the pan juices to serve the rolls or use a simple tomato sauce or more sour cream to serve. Alternatively, mix the pan juices with additional sour cream and ladle it over the cabbage rolls.

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage (about 4 pounds)

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and finely grated

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, divided

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat, rinsed twice with boiling water and drained

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Holubtsi: Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil.

    pot with boiling water

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. Remove core from cabbage and place in pot. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves.

    cabbage in a pot with water

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  4. Carefully remove cabbage head from water and allow it to cool until it's easy to handle. Use a paring knife to cut away thick center stem from each leaf, without cutting all the way through. You will need about 18 stemless leaves.

    Use a paring knife to cut away thick center stem from each cabbage leaf

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  5. Finely chop remaining cabbage and place it at the bottom of a casserole dish or Dutch oven.

    cabbage in a dutch oven

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  6. Drain potatoes in a sieve or cheesecloth, twisting or pressing to remove as much moisture as possible.

    grated potatoes in sieve

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  7. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in lemon juice so they don't turn brown. Set aside.

    grated potatoes in a bowl with lemon juice

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  8. In a small skillet, sauté chopped onion in butter until tender.

    onions cooking in a skillet

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  9. Add onion mixture to the potatoes, combining well.

    potatoes and onions in a bowl

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  10. Add 1/2 cup of sour cream and rinsed and drained buckwheat to potato mixture, combining thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    sour cream and buckwheat added to the potato mixture

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  11. Place about 1/2 cup of filling on each cabbage leaf. Roll once away from you to encase filling.

    cabbage rolled around the stuffing

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  12. Flip right side of leaf to the middle, then flip left side. You will have something that looks like an envelope. Keep rolling again until you have a neat little roll.

    stuffing inside a rolled up cabbage leaf

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  13. Place cabbage rolls on top of chopped cabbage in casserole dish or Dutch oven, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper.

    Holubtsi: Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  14. Pour remaining 1 cup of sour cream over holubtsi, cover, and place in oven. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the buckwheat filling is tender.

    Holubtsi: Ukrainian Stuffed Cabbage in a Dutch oven

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Can I Cook the Rolls in a Slow Cooker?

An easy variation makes a hands-off dish. Follow all the method steps before baking but place the chopped cabbage at the bottom of a greased slow cooker:

  • Place the formed rolls on top of the chopped cabbage, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Mix the remaining 1 cup of sour cream with 2 cups of vegetable broth or stock and add this liquid on top of the rolls.
  • Set the slow cooker on low for 4 to 5 hours, or on high for 3 to 4, or until the filling is tender. If needed, add more broth to the pot to keep the rolls moistened at all times.