Easy Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls w/ Ground Beef (5 Ingredients)
These delicious Ukrainian cabbage rolls are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, ground pork, and rice. Best of all, they’re easy to make!
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
There are countless stuffed cabbage recipes out there ranging from simple to complex. But these Ukrainian cabbage rolls? They couldn’t be easier!
They might seem intimidating at first glance, but once I walk you through the steps, you’ll see just how smooth and painless the process is and you’ll be making your own holubtsi in no time.
It’s a bit of a labor of love since you’re rolling every one of them individually. But once you get the knack for it, you’ll be flying through them.
What to Serve With Cabbage Rolls
- The ultimate pairing for cabbage rolls in my family? Pierogi! (Recipe coming soon.) There’s no better companion.
- Mashed potatoes are also a fantastic option.
- Sauerkraut is an easy addition that requires zero effort. Find the good stuff in the refrigerated section of your grocery store!
- For a veg side, green beans or carrots are always a hit.
- Savoy cabbage is my go-to. It’s the perfect size for cabbage rolls! If you can’t find it, green or napa cabbage will work.
- Instead of blanching my cabbage leaves, I pop my cabbage into the freezer as soon as I get home from the store. The night before cabbage roll day, I fill my sink with cool water and plunge them in there overnight. The next morning the leaves are soft, supple, and ready for rolling.
- Always be sure to trim down the rib on each leaf (photos below).
- If you find that you have some excess cabbage as you’re rolling, feel free to trim some off with a knife.
- Ground Italian sausage can be swapped in for the ground pork. I’ve tried it and it’s very good!
- You’ll likely have quite a bit of tomato juice left, and that’s okay. You’ll want to use it when reheating leftovers to “revive” the cabbage rolls.
- You can make cabbage rolls in advance which is an awesome advantage because when making cabbage rolls, you’re settling in to make quite a hefty batch.
Ground Beef + Ground Pork
The meaty part of my mixture includes 2 lbs of beef (85% lean, 15% fat) and 1 lb or ground pork (85% lean, 15% fat).
This particular style of rice, which is best known for its use in risotto, is short-grain and high in starch. It becomes creamy when cooked, and I find that its texture blends best with the ground meat in stuffed cabbage.
Savoy cabbage is tender and it’s leaves are the perfect size for making cabbage rolls. You could use Napa or green cabbage as well, but I only use them in a pinch.
A jar or can of tomato juice is all you need! Some recipes call for tomato sauce, and some even call for tomato soup. But tomato juice totally does the trick to give the cabbage rolls that saucy tomato-y goodness without being overpowering.
Salt + Pepper
The perfect ratio for seasoning ground meat is 1 teaspoon of salt per pound, so I use 3 teaspoons of fine sea salt here. For pepper, 2 teaspoons does the trick.
Useful Kitchen Tools
How to Make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Cooking the rice
Cook one cup of Arborio rice as per the directions on the package.
Preparing the cabbage
While the rice cooks, gently slice off each leaf from the cabbage heads from the bottom of the leaf. Do this until you get to the leaves that are too small to use. You can cut those off too, but leave them in a separate pile. They come in handy later.
Set the leaves aside in a pile. When done, one by one, trim off any large ribs (lengthwise) with a paring knife. Not all leaves will need this done, just any that have a thick and prominent rib.
Making the meat mixture
Place the ground beef and pork in a large mixing bowl and season it with 3 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of pepper. Mix the meat thoroughly with your bare hands ensuring the seasoning is evenly distributed. When the rice is done, add it directly to the meat mixture, and start to mix that with your bare hands until the rice is well mixed in.
At this point, preheat the oven to 350º F. Pour a bit of the tomato juice into the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan—just enough to cover the bottom.
Forming your stuffed cabbage
One by one, spoon about one heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture onto the bottom center of each cabbage leaf. Gently start to roll from the bottom up over the meat, just enough to cover it. Then, push in the sides of the cabbage leaf and continue to roll until you’ve formed your cabbage roll.
As you finish each cabbage roll, neatly place them into the baking dish. When you have one whole layer down, pour about a cup of the tomato juice over the cabbage rolls. Do this every time you finish off a layer—this is to keep them moist and juicy.
If you have some leftover cabbage leaves that were too small for rolling, place them over the cabbage rolls. Consequently, this will help keep moisture in the pan, but it’s an optional step.
Baking the cabbage rolls
Cover the pan with tinfoil and pop the cabbage rolls into the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. After that time has passed, check on the rolls. If they look like they need a bit more moisture, add some more of the tomato juice.
Cover the rolls back up and decrease the oven temperature to 300º F for an hour.
Remove from the oven and check the internal temperature of a few of the rolls to ensure that the center of the meat has reached a temperature of 140-145º F.
Serve with sour cream!
Storage, Freezing & Reheating
- In the fridge: Store the cabbage rolls in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- In the freezer: After the cabbage rolls have cooled, transfer them to an airtight freezer-safe container or sealable plastic bag in a single layer (to prevent them sticking to one another). Push out any air, seal, and freezer for up to 3-4 months.
- Reheating: Pop the cabbage rolls into the fridge overnight to thaw. I like to reheat them in a pan on the stovetop or in the oven, adding some tomato juice as they reheat to keep them moist and saucy. You could also just pop them into the microwave, but the quality will diminish a tad.
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Easy Ukrainian Cabbage Rolls w/ Ground Beef (5 Ingredients)
- 2 heads of savoy cabbage Napa or green cabbage also work
- 2 lbs ground beef (85% lean/15% fat)
- 1 lb ground pork (85% lean/15% fat)
- 1 qt tomato juice
- 1 cup arborio rice, cooked
- 3 tsp sea salt
- 2 tsp ground pepper
PREPARING THE CABBAGE
- A lot of recipes will call for blanching the leaves. I like to alleviate some of the work when making cabbage rolls, so I freeze my cabbage as soon as I buy it and the night before cabbage roll day, I fill my sink with cool water and let the cabbage sit in that bath overnight. In the morning, the cabbage is soft and pliable. Simply pat it dry and move on to making your cabbage rolls.
MAKING CABBAGE ROLLS
- Following the directions on the packaging, cook one cup of the Arborio rice.
- In the meantime, carefully snip or slice off each leaf from the cabbage heads from the bottom of the leaf. Repeat this until you get to the leaves that are too small to use. (*See notes)
- Place the leaves in a pile as you go. When done, look for leaves that might have a thicker more prominent rib travelling down the back side and trim them down (lengthwise) with a paring knife. (See photos in post above for an example.)
- Dump the ground beef and pork into a large mixing bowl. Season it with the salt and pepper, then mix it thoroughly with your bare hands to make sure the seasoning is well distributed. When the rice is done, dump it directly into the meat mixture and start to mix it in with your bare hands until the rice is evenly distributed.
- Preheat the oven to 350º F.
- Drizzle a bit of the tomato juice into the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan to cover the bottom (about a cup or two).
- Spoon one heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture onto the bottom center of each cabbage leaf. (*See notes.) Gently start to roll forward from the bottom up over the meat, just enough to cover it. Then, fold in the sides of the cabbage leaf and continue to roll until you’ve formed a nice and secure cabbage roll.
- As you finish each cabbage roll, place them into the baking dish. When you have one whole layer covering the bottom of the pan, pour about a cup of the tomato juice over the cabbage rolls. Proceed with the rest of the cabbage rolls, placing them on top of the others as a second layer.
- If you have any leftover cabbage leaves that were too small for rolling, drape them over the cabbage rolls before prior to covering them with foil and putting them into the oven. This will help keep moisture in the pan, but it’s an optional step.
- Cover the pan with tinfoil and bake the cabbage rolls in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- After 1 hour and 30 minutes, remove the baking dish from the oven, remove the foil, and remove the layer of loose cabbage if you used it. If the cabbage rolls look like they need more juice, add a bit more of the tomato juice—use your best judgement. You can't really screw this up.
- Cover the rolls with the tin foil again and decrease the oven temperature to 300º F. Let them back in the oven for another hour.
- Remove them from the oven and check the internal temperature of a few of the rolls to ensure that the center of the meat has reached a temperature of 140-145º F.
- Serve with a nice dollop of sour cream!
- Number of cabbage rolls will vary depending on size of leaves and how much you fill them.
- You can swap out pork for ground Italian sausage if you prefer
- Keep any leftover tomato juice on hand—it comes in handy when reheating leftovers.