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Golubtsi -Cabbage Rolls

We grew up enjoying Golubtsi, Голубцы, a Russian version of cabbage rolls. I didn’t develop a taste for cabbage until my adult years so I’d peel off the cabbage and just enjoy the filling. Today I really enjoy cabbage in all it’s cooked or uncooked forms! Once you get the cabbage leaves ready to go this is a simple recipe to make. This is my mother's version. There are many other recipes that differ from hers.

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 2 pounds ground beef, 15% fat
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked rice cooled
  • 1/2 onion, grated
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup, (approx. 10-3/4 ounces)
  • 1- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups sour cream
  • 2 cups water

  1. Core the cabbage leaving it whole.
  2. Boil the head of cabbage in a pot of water until leaves separate easily.
  3. Drain leaves and let them cool while you prepare the filling.
  4. Combine the ground beef, rice, onion, salt, pepper, and parsley.
  5. Once the leaves are cool enough to handle you can trim some of the thick vein of the cabbage leaf to make it easier to fold.
  6. Place about 1/3 cup of ground beef mixture onto a cabbage leaf and fold edges over and roll up.
  7. Place in baking dish with folded seams down.
  8. Continue until you use up the ground beef mixture and cabbage leaves.
  9. Saute the chopped onion in a little oil until it is translucent.
  10. Add soup, tomato sauce, ketchup, and water, mix well and bring to a boil.
  11. Add a little of this sauce to the sour cream to temper it and then add the sour cream mixture to the sauce and mix well.
  12. Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls.
  13. Bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour or longer, till hamburger is fully cooked.
  14. Yield: 12-18 Cabbage Rolls depending on size of your meat balls.
Serve with your favorite green side dish and some good bread to soak up the sauce!
You may need two baking dishes to accommodate more than 12 rolls.
While the whole head of cabbage is cooking in the pot I use tongs to remove the leaves gradually as they start to release from the head of cabbage and put them on a kitchen towel to cool. I keep checking as I prepare the other steps in the recipe.
I use a sharp paring knife to trim the vein starting in the center of the thick vein away from me to the outer thicker part of the vein.
One of our sons doesn’t tolerate milk products so I made a small batch of the Golubtsi and covered them with the sauce before I added the sour cream to the rest of the sauce. We find that using hamburger that is 15% fat or more is better for these as the meat that has less fat in it can be dry.


  1. BOOKMARK! Cabbage rolls are one of my favorite meals. Love them!!!!! I'll be making this.... YUM!

  2. These look so good. I am definately trying these yum...

  3. I grew up calling them "Golubtsi" too.
    The sauce is different than my mothers but the rest rings a memory in my I am craving those. Must make!!!

  4. Love cabbage rolls, love 'em. Those look awesome!

  5. I love cabbage rolls, but at 45 years old I still peel away the cabbage and just eat the filling.

  6. Adding some homemade sauerkraut on top before baking adds a great zing.

  7. In our house they were Holubtschi, basically the same recipe but without the sour cream. MIL, Austrian background, would make them using sauerkraut leaves. She always "cured" some heads amongst the cut cabbage. An alternate to steaming the leaves is freezing heads of cabbage, thawing and peeling off the leaves.

  8. I have been making cabbage rolls for years and have found that by freezing the whole head of cabbage then when you thaw it, it's ready to use - no need to boil or steam the leaves. Easy!

  9. OH. ..I love cabbage rolls and remember now that I stuck a few in the freezer last time I made them. Supper is set.
    Again, I think it is so neat how similar our recipes are.

  10. Growing up in a Mennonite household we called them by the Russian name of "Golubtsi" too. When my mom referred to them in German she called them "Post Tauben" (carrier pigeons) ??!!! lol

  11. Ellen.. we called them Golubtse ... now I kknow that comes from the Russian. So neat! My mom made them almost the same way... but never used tomato soup. She made a tomato sauce using just tomato paste.

  12. I love when you add the extra pictures of the process. The visual gives me the confidence to try making it myself. I just love Goluptsi! Thx

  13. We love cabbage rolls over here...and I make mine much like this. In my childhood home we called them 'hallapse'. We also have the cabbage unrollers over here...but when I made some without the cabbage leaves around them (just like meatballs), they don't want those. They still like the flavour of the cabbage, even if they won't eat the leaves.

  14. I read somewhere that you can freeze the cabbabe and that works the same as par boiling, has anyone tried this?

  15. Anonymous #2 ~ Anonymous #1 and Agnes both suggest freezing the heads and then peeling off the leaves so it sounds like it works fine...

  16. I freeze the cabbage ahead of time too. They roll so much easier. Another thing I do is make a huge amount at one time and then freeze them in ice cream pails. I can then take a pail out and drop it into my crockpot - perfect fit. I then use tomato soup with some water mixed to cook them in. An easy way to have cabbage rolls whenever I want.

  17. That's a great suggestion Joan. Thank you!

  18. Wow this looks fantastic! Ive never added sour cream just use a can of soup and about a can of water then add a little of this ALSO to the meat mixture it keeps the meat from getting to dry. I will try the sour cream next time!

  19. In our house, they were called holubtse. Wasn't fond of them as a kid, but learned to love them as I got older. It was an all day affair when my dad and my mom made these. Dad did most of the work. He definitely did them differently. They precooked the meat for the filling and I believe they might have used a mix of beef and pork or veal. He also made his own sauce, from tomatoes they canned from his garden. They never used soup or plain sauce. They used lots of seasoning in the sauce, including salt pork and worchestershire sauce. The biggest difference, he rolled them no bigger than the width of a cigar. Thanks for the fond memories of my dad. <3

  20. This looks fantastic. I will be stopping by soon for this winter meal. That's sort of how my mom used to make them. It' time I make that again.

  21. Oh, I have never made these, but they look amazing and I can't wait to try them.

  22. Ditto to freezing the whole cabbage head. I have 3 in the freezer right now! Looking forward to making these.

    Some feedback--I really like how you've put this one together with the pictures, Ellen. Great to print out and much more fun to make than words only.

  23. This is almost identical to the way we make our Holupse. I think this will be one of the first things Imake when I get back home to my own kitchen.

  24. What a yummy meal!
    We called them holupshi. Not a favorite when I was younger but I love them now.

  25. I have a head of that wrinkly leaved cabbage in the crisper. I'll use that. I grew up eating them. Since they are one of the 12 meatless dishes served on Christmas Eve we did not put meat in them, but I have eaten plenty in other people's homes (Ukrainian and Polish) with ground meat. I prefer them meatless, and small. For the sauce, just as a nod to my own taste buds when I was cooking for my little family, I added a bit of brown sugar. And yes, soured cabbage was used in winter, of course, when even cabbage had reached its limits of storage.

    Golubsti, hollapche, holuptsi whatever, it's all a phonetic attempt to reproduce what is really a very guttural sounding name in whichever Slavic kitchen you ate them. ;)


  26. I tried this Sunday. It was quick and easy and my husband loved it. Thank you.