Simple recipes from around the world

Sour Cabbage Meat Rolls (Sarma)

Sour Cabbage Meat Rolls (Sarma)

Cabbage Rolls with beef (sarma)

Today I am guest posting at Namiko's blog "Just one Cookbook". Nami and her beautiful family are on vacation in Taiwan so few of my fellow bloggers and I will fill in while she is relaxing!  I am super excited to share the recipe for my fast pickling and dish that I really grow up eating. This was made for every celebration, every holiday season and it is pretty tasty...

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As much as this recipe seems complicated, I have to say it’s not so much… maybe because I grow up eating it, and also I believe the first time when I made it was 12 years ago, so it is very simple for me. Traditionally, you have to make it with already pickled whole cabbage/or Sauerkraut but not shredded, at least in my neck of the woods. Allow me to explain, It is a pickling process that many people in parts of the Balkan or Southeastern Europe prepare a few months in advance to have it ready for the holiday season.  What I am presenting today is a much faster version of pickling, and slightly similar to the original and got to say extremely tasty. I didn't pickle cabbage last fall, so in cases like this when I really crave these rolls I just boil the whole cabbage head in salty- vinegar, water, and under the lid, let it kind of marinade in that boiled hot water for an hour or so. It becomes a bit tender and slightly sour but to cut the story short read the recipe with the easy to follow pictures. READ NOTES**
Sarma could be made with ground beef, pork or lamb, or a combo of two, it just depends on where you are from. Some countries traditional sarma do not use sour cabbage, and some people from Balkan do. Of course, since there is so much diversity regarding religion many people do not use pork at all, like Muslim or Jewish people. I have never made it with pork, although using smoked pork in the broth goes perfectly well with sour cabbage. 
It can be baked, simmered or made in a large pot on the stovetop. Sarma and any stuffed vegetables became popular after ruling of Ottoman Empire. The Balkan or Southeastern Europe food has a lot of influence from Ottoman Empire. In fact, much of the cuisine of former Ottoman territories, today is descended from a shared Ottoman cuisine, especially Turkish, and including Greek, Balkan, Armenian, and Middle Eastern cuisines, and sarma is one of those shared dishes that we all call traditional. 

Sour Cabbage Meat Rolls
Serves 6
  • 1 head of fresh Green Cabbage
  • 2 cups Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Salt
Meat filling: 
  • 1 lbs. Lean Ground Beef
  • 2 Tbs. Vegeta -European seasoning OR 2 tbsp. Bouillon Seasoning/Beef seasoning etc. 
  • 1/2 Onion, minced or shredded (keep some for later use)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/2 Tbs. Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 cup Rice
For broth 
  • 1 Tbs. Oil
  • 2 1/2  Tbs. Vegeta or to taste (bouillon seasoning or salt) 
  • 2 cups Shredded Sauerkraut
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed 
  • 4-6 sliced Hickory-smoked Bacon or any meat/ sausage that is smoked/or ribs 
  • 1/2 Tbs. Sweet Red Paprika
  • 1/3 of cup minced parsley
  • 1/2 Tbs. Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Cups of stock/broth + water to fill to about 2 inches above it. 
  • 4 Tbs. Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Tbs. All-purpose flour


1. First boil the whole cabbage head by putting it in a large pot, pouring over hot boiled water mixed with vinegar and salt. Let it boil again for next 40 minutes or until the cabbage is softer on a touch (Wash the cabbage and take the middle root by carving it out).
Once the cabbage is softer on a touch, cover with the lid, turn off the heat and let it sit in a sour and salty hot water for next 30 minutes or until you are ready for the next step.

2. Combine the meat mixture by adding ground beef, Vegeta/seasoning, shredded onion, minced garlic/or garlic powder, ground black pepper, and rice. I always taste to see if I need more seasoning, but that's only when I know the meat is fresh. 

3. Now separate the cabbage leaves and cut the thick root in the back of the each leaf because of the easier folding/rolling. 

5. Put cabbage leaves in your palm and add about 2 Tbs. Meat mixture (smaller meatball).
Look at the picture for the complete instruction. These instructions are important because if you don't roll and wrap cabbage rolls correctly, they will open up and meat will get out. Once the wrapping is over go to the next step.

6. Boil 2 cups of Beef stock + 3 cups of water with 1 Tbs. Vegeta; set aside.

7. In a large pot, add a bit of minced onion, olive oil (or any on your hand), place each roll on the bottom of the pot, if you have meat leftovers crumble on the top, shredded sauerkraut, a few garlic cloves, then rest of the cabbage leaves lay on top and over the cabbage rolls, put few slices of bacon or any smoked products, sweet paprika, a bit more chopped garlic and parsley, and about 1/2 tbs. Ground black pepper.

8. Now that you layer everything correctly, put it on the stove and with previously boiled broth, water and Vegeta slowly pour over- also liquid needs to go over the cabbage rolls at least an inch-
9. Turn the heat on high until it boils again, once it's boiled cover and turn the heat on a medium low. 
10. Let it cook for next 40 minutes. 

11. After 40 minutes (if you need more water it is a good time to add more and boil before you add Roux) Mix 2 Tbs. Of all-purpose flour with 2 Tbs. Of Tomato sauce in a bowl. Combine it well and add about 3 Tbs. Of water. Stir until lumps are gone and you are left with smooth and thin texture. Pour the Roux little bit at the time, but do not stir, kind of do the moving the pot in a shaky motion just to combine the thin Roux with the liquid to make a thick sauce. If you can see the lumps in the pot use the wooden spoon to mash it. Add 2 more Tbs. Of tomato sauce for the color and taste.

Sour Cabbage Meat Rolls (Sarma) recipe

  • VEGETA is the vegetable based food seasoning. You can sub it with Bouillon cubes or in powder form. Or simply use salt to taste. 
  • This is quick pickling, which is not the most traditional way, making it but when I crave it and don't have fermented cabbage heads I do it this way. 
  • When you have fermented Cabbage already: YOU'd skip boiling process or fast pickling, and you do not need extra sauerkraut. Also, you'd use less sodium because you have cabbage that was fermenting in salted water for at least a month, so it's pretty salty.
Cookware below:
Sour Cabbage Meat Rolls (Sarma)
Sour Cabbage Meat Rolls (Sarma)
You can bake it as well...

Hope your Holidays are happy and cheerful! Stay safe!!!

Your Friend, 


*Disclosure* Sandra's Easy Cooking is part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program made to provide earnings from advertising Sandra's Easy Cooking by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at


  1. A fabulous dish! Really mouthwatering.



  2. This reminds me of home :) Growing up in Germany, we get a lot of influences form Eastern European countries, too, especially Poland, and have our share of cabbage roles with various stuffings and flavorings. This one looks delicious!

  3. What a great recipe, these look so delicious!! You make them look super simple too! :)

  4. @Rosa, Thank you!xo

    @Kiri, I know there is a lot of influence from Germany to my homeland too..Thanks for visit sweetie!

    @Kelly, :)) They are simple, and very comforting too!:))

  5. Sandra those look amazing, I LOVE cabbage rolls!

  6. Looks delicious. Thanks for explaining how to cook the cabbage before hand, I was never sure about that so haven't tried making this type of dish. I bet I could stuff it with veggies and rice instead of meat. Have a great day.

  7. @Jess, thank you, I love them too:))xoxo

  8. @Suzi, I never tried stuffing them with veggies..hmm I don't know how they would taste because meat actually play huge roll in the flavor..maybe I will try one of these days...

  9. Mmm, I've always loved a good cabbage roll. heading over to check the recipe out...

  10. Oh gosh Sandra, these look wonderful. I have wanted to know how to make stuffed cabbage so I am so glad you detailed it so well for us.

  11. Fabulous guest post, Sandra! And you deserve a congratulations on OUR Top 9 today, too!!!! xo

  12. @Carolyn, :)) So glad to hear that you like them..Thank you for visit dear!

    @A. I tried my best to present the easiest way possible..thanks for the visit and comment!

    @Lizzy, :)) Awww it was all you sweetie..glad that I saw it on top 9 today..
    And thank you for your visit and support!!!xoxo

  13. This looks amazing! Those lovely pictures do make me hungry.. popping over to see the interview and more about this dish...

  14. Yum! This totally reminds me of my grandma's stuffed cabbage - only she was Jewish, so she didn't use bacon. Thankfully, I don't keep kosher, and can totally try this out...

  15. @Tina, Thank you so much for you comment..I am glad you like them!

    @Celia, Well bacon is totally optional..but it does give you a nice kick in a flavor..Hope you try them soon1:)

  16. Lovely Recipe!!!
    I enjoyed the post at Nami's, you both rock....

  17. Sandra, you make perfect cabbage rolls! Now I'll change my way to roll and fix them (before I used toothpick:/) I don't have familiarity with sauerkraut.. I would taste your fantastic recipe ;)

  18. Sandra, ovo izgleda odlično! Već sam komentirala post i kod Nami i kod Kankane na blogu :) Svaka čast!

  19. @Reem, Awww thank you sweetie so much!!!xoxo

    @Lilla, :)) You will not need toothpicks again after you wrap them this way..Thank you so much honey! Ciao!

    @Maja, Hvala puno sto si videla oba posta a i komentirala..I appreciate it very much!

  20. Sandra, I really love the way you style your plates :) this looks beautiful!

  21. This is one of my favorite foods. My mom actually makes a version of this that I am actually going to post about soon. I will have to try your version soon though, the addition of the bacon intrigues me.

    Great step by step instructions!

  22. My grandmother used to make cabbage rolls very similar to this when I was younger. I miss them!

  23. @ Claudie, Thank you so much..I am giving my best!:))

    @April, Can't wait to see your cabbage rolls..I know there is so many versions. Originally cabbage should be put in the water to pickle for few months, and that would be real authentic cabbage roll, but this is just faster way that I can enjoy all year around:)) Thanks for stopping by!

  24. I just discovered your blog and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. This recipe looks and sounds like what my grandmother used to make me every year for my birthday. She knew it was a favorite of mine. Now I have a recipe. Thank you for bringing back memories.

  25. @ Raven, I am glad that you like them, that they reminding you of your granny! Thanks sweetie for stopping by!

    @Karen, Welcome to my site Karen..
    I am glad that it brought back memories for you..Thank you for your kind words..and hopefully you will try my version too!!!

  26. Hello Sandra, its good to be here, I love your sarma, they look perfect!

  27. I saw your blog in Nami's website, I am so glad to know it. You have a really good food blog.

  28. You've made the perfect dish to share on Nami's blog, Sandra! This looks delicious!

  29. Fantastic guest post Sandra! Congratulations! My husband loves this dish!

  30. Sandra, thank you so much for preparing this post for my blog/readers. Japanese have simiar dish but not with sour cabbage and I am going to try this next time I make rolled cabbage (haven't made for years!). Looks like a lot of readers were so excited and felt nostalgic about this dish from their memories. Thank you so much for the special holiday meal post. It definitely made our holiday extra joyful!

  31. Hi Sandra,
    I know, seems like I haven't been reading your blog like forever. Finally I have a little time to catch up on my favorite blogs.
    Loved all your dishes, but this one goes to my heart. You know making sarma is a eastern Europe tradition and although I do not eat meat on a regular basis, I'd still eat one sarma on Christmas day. Thanks for bringing family memories so dead to my heart.

  32. Awww that you all so much..Roxy, you know what to eat when you feel nostalgic:)) Well Sarma of course:)))

    Nami, Thank you sweetie for inviting to guest post..I am honored!!!!

  33. My goodness I wish we lived closer so we could hang, eat and you could teach me how to take such stunning pictures. Total photog diva my dear. I am in awe of your awesomeness!

  34. That close up shots are making me to grab food from the drool worthy

  35. @Kim, Awww you are so sweet, I am blushing right now..I wish we are I don't have to drive 20 h to get to you..remember the story when I actually drove 21h without sleep hehe..Thanks for stopping by!:)

    @LoveforFood, Thank you very much!!!

  36. These look so good--I am a sucker for good cabbage rolls!

  37. Sandra, I discovered your blog by accident and I just simply loved it. I love your recipes, and I bookmark many of them, which I will try to make very soon. I love to cook and I also have blog,but mine is written on serbian, which I am sure, that you understand..if you have opportunity, visit my blog and maybe you will find some recipes that you like. Warm regards.

  38. Can you make this recipe in a slow cooker? Looks delicious 😋

    1. YES!!! You can make this in slow cooker. I made it in my Dutch oven, I baked it, used the slow cooker. Actually, I think the longer it cooks it tastes better...and it is always better the next day!!! Now, if you do not want pickled taste then just boil cabbage head with salt. I had people that don't like the sauerkraut taste, so whatever you feel it will please your taste buds. On the other note, if you know how this taste with fermented cabbage and have your own then that's a real deal. Good luck!!!


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