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Easy Cabbage Roll Soup

This sarmale-inspired easy cabbage roll soup recipe is the perfect cure for the cabbage roll craving with a quarter of the work. Inspired by the pickled flavors of Romanian cabbage rolls, this cabbage soup is perfect for a cold day.
5 from 7 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 368kcal


  • Large pot


  • 1 small head green cabbage cored
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1 pound ground meat like beef, turkey, pork, or even chicken
  • 1 yellow onion peeled and diced
  • 4 ribs celery with leaves, trimmed and small-diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter optional
  • ½ cup long-grain rice
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • cup fresh dill minced or use 2 teaspoons dry
  • cup fresh parsley minced or use 2 teaspoons dry
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 14.5- ounce can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For serving, optional:

  • Greek yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche
  • Fresh dill
  • Lemon wedges


Boil the cabbage (optional):

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the vinegar and sugar. Once boiling, add the cabbage and cook for 7–10 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stove.
  • Once the cabbage is cool enough to handle, cut it into quarters and thinly slice each quarter. Set aside.

Brown the meat:

  • Add the oil to the pot over medium heat. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon for 12–15 minutes until it is browned all over and mostly cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

Cook the aromatics:

  • Add more oil to the pot, if needed, over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7–10 minutes until they soften. Season lightly wth salt and pepper.
  • Melt the butter into the aromatics. Add the rice, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dill and parsley (dry or fresh) and toss to coat. Cook 1 minute until the rice begins to toast.

Simmer the soup:

  • Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the water or stock. Bring to a boil and add the bay leaves. Reduce heat. Stir in the cooked meat and cabbage. Simmer for 30–40 minutes or until the rice is tender. Taste and season once more to your preferences. Note: You may want to add a teaspoon of sugar depending on how acidic your canned tomatoes are.

To serve:

  • Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with fresh dill. Drizzle with Greek yogurt thinned out with lemon juice and a splash of water. Enjoy!


Calories: 368kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 22g | Sodium: 121mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin C: 64mg
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