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Homemade Sarmale Recipe_Romanian Cabbage Roll Recipe_MidPage – 1

Homemade Sarmale Recipe (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)

Based on the recipe from Tried & True contributor, Stefan, this homemade sarmale recipe is the best Romanian cabbage roll recipe out there if we do say so ourselves.
4.8 from 5 votes
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Inactive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Servings: 45 cabbage rolls
Calories: 188kcal


  • Large pot
  • Wide pot
  • Medium pot
  • Whisk


Cabbage rolls:

  • 2 small heads of green or savoy cabbage cored
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 yellow onions peeled and finely diced
  • ¾ cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 pounds ground pork or beef
  • cup fresh dill minced
  • cup fresh parsley minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato broth:

  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil
  • 1 yellow onion peeled and finely diced
  • 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 5–6 cups water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1–2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 pound bacon diced and divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For serving:

  • 1 cup polenta corn grits I use corn grits from Bob's Red Mill
  • 3 cups water
  • Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the cabbage:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt, vinegar, and sugar. Once boiling, add one of the cabbage heads to the water and boil for 7–10 minutes until softened.
  • Transfer the cabbage to an ice bath. Once cool enough to handle, remove the leaves.
  • Boil the second cabbage head and transfer to an ice bath and remove the leaves. Cut the leaves in half (lengthwise, along the vein of the cabbage leaf) and place on a large plate.

Start the filling:

  • Place a wide, ovenproof pot on the stove over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Once frothy, add the onion and cook for 6–8 minutes until it just begins to soften. Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3–4 minutes until it begins to toast and turn golden brown.
  • Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Try to even out the layer over the inside of the bowl by pressing the mixture up along the sides of the bowl as much as possible, so that it cools down faster. Transfer to the freezer for 10 minutes. Wipe out the pot and return it to the stovetop.

Prepare the broth:

  • While the filling cools, prepare the broth. Heat the oil in the wide pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook for 6-7 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the bay leaves, sugar, and half of the diced bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Continue simmering the broth as you prepare the cabbage rolls.

Finish the filling:

  • Remove the bowl of rice and onion from the freezer. Add the pork, dill, parsley, garlic powder, and egg and season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until completely combined. Note: microwave or fry a very small piece of the filling to taste it for seasonings at this point.

Prepare the cabbage rolls:

  • Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  • Scoop one tablespoon of filling and place it in one of the cabbage leaf halves and roll it tightly, tucking in both sides to ensure the rolls don't open as they cook. Place the rolls in the tomato broth, seam-side down. Continue making the rolls. Place them in the pot as close as possible to the other rolls, ensuring they are all snugly arranged in the pot.
  • Once the first layer is in the pot, scatter half of the remaining bacon on top. Add another layer of cabbage rolls on top and scatter the remaining bacon on top. Top them off with more water to ensure they are almost covered with liquid.

Bake the cabbage rolls:

  • Cover the pot with a lid or tightly fitted aluminum foil. Transfer to the oven for 1 hour 30 minutes. Check the cabbage rolls occasionally to make sure the broth doesn't cook off too much. Top off with more liquid, as necessary.

Broil the cabbage rolls:

  • After the cabbage rolls have finished baking, remove the lid and turn on the broiler. Broil for 2–3 minutes or until the bacon on top begins to crisp up and the cabbage on top chars and crisps up a bit in spots. Remove from the oven and keep covered for 20 minutes.

Make the polenta:

  • As you wait for the cabbage rolls to cool off, prepare the polenta. Bring 3 cups salted water to a boil. Add the cornmeal, whisking constantly, and reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking regularly, for 20 minutes until tender. Time may vary depending on the brand or variety of cornmeal used. Turn off the heat.

To serve:

  • Divide polenta between between shallow bowls and place the cabbage rolls on top. Garnish with Greek yogurt and serve with more fresh dill on top. Enjoy!


Calories: 188kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 16g | Sodium: 69mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 18mg
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