Your cart is empty
Shop products

Shared by Miri and Yoav Polachek

Sarmale (Romanian Stuffed Cabbage)

Yield: 12 to 14 servingsTime: 3 h and 30 min

Sarmale (Romanian Stuffed Cabbage)

Yield: 12 to 14 servingsTime: 3 h and 30 min

Family Journey

Transylvania, RomaniaNetanya, IsraelLexington, Massachusetts
Tel AvivNew York CityTel Aviv

This recipe was shared by Miri and Yoav Polachek. Read more about their family in " A Stuffed Cabbage Five Generations Strong" and try their recipes for Romanian eggplant salad, and chopped liver with caramelized onions.

Soy sauce is optional. It adds a salty balance to the sweet and sour flavors of the stuffed cabbage.


For the stuffed cabbage

  • 2 large green cabbages
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ tablespoon sweet paprika
  • ¾ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup basmati rice

For the sauce

  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 cups water 
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 lb sauerkraut
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


  • Step 1

    Prepare the cabbage: In a large pot that can hold the cabbage, add boiling water and 2 teaspoons of salt, cover and simmer for at least one hour. Discard the cooking water and fill the pot with cold water and ice, until the cabbage cools down to room temperature, about 15 minutes. 

  • Step 2

    Prepare the stuffing: In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat, and saute the onion until the edges caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute. Place the ground beef into the pan with the onions and garlic. Mix the beef and break down any large pieces into smaller pieces. Saute the mixture until the beef is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Add paprika, parsley and cilantro, and the remaining kosher salt. Mix to combine well and remove from the heat. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste into the filling, mix to combine and let it cool for 10 more minutes. Add the eggs, salt and pepper, and rice into the filling and mix well. Roll a tablespoon of the mixture between the palm of your hands to see if the mixture can hold together as a patty. If the mixture feels too loose and wet, add more rice and mix well. Mix the patty back into the filling.

  • Step 3

    Stuff the cabbage: Clear a large working surface. Cut the core out of the cabbage in a traingular shape. Starting with the outermost layer of leaves on top of the cabbage, gently separate each leaf from the cabbage using your fingers, trying to keep the leaves as whole as possible. Stack the cabbage leaves over each other on a plate, making sure the leaves are laid flat. Continue until you reach the smaller leaves that are too small to hold the filling. These leaves should have a diameter of about 5 inches or less and should not be used. Take one leaf, flatten on a plate or counter with one hand and carefully cut off the tough part of the stem with the other hand, making it easier for rolling. Turn the left over, to have the vein side face inward. Take about ½  to ⅓ cup of the stuffing and shape it into a cylinder in your hand. Place it close to the base of the leaf, Using your fingers cover the stuffing with the base of the leaf, then fold over the right and left both sides of the leaf, and the roll the leave forward it until you reach the end of the leaf. Place it in a large pot with the seam side down. Continue with the rest of the leaves, adjusting the amount of stuffing to the smaller leaves, arranging them in one or two tight layers in the pot.

  • Step 4

    Make the sauce: In a bowl, dissolve the tomato paste in warm water. Add the soy sauce (if using) and mix well. Drizzle the sauce all over the stuffed cabbage leaves in the pot. It should reach about ¾ up the leaves.

  • Step 5

    Spread the sauerkraut all over the top, then sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. 

  • Step 6

    Cook on high until the sauce is boiling, about 3 to 5 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 1 ½ hours until soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. You can also bake it in a 325F oven for 1 ½ hours, loosely covered with foil.

  • Step 7

    Serve the stuffed cabbage hot and topped with some sauerkraut. 

Make Ahead:

- The boiling of the cabbage can be done one day ahead, and kept in the fridge until ready to use.  

- Stuffed vegetables are believed to taste better the second day. After the cooking is done, it can be kept in the fridge and gently heated, before serving, on the stovetop or in the oven.