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Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

For Poles, Golabki needs no introduction. It’s always on Polish tables (especially at Christmas) regardless of which part of the country you’re coming from, and the recipe is always pretty much the same even if they’re being called golumpki quite often.

It turns out that in the US Polish cabbage rolls are dominated by the Martha Stewart recipe. If you didn’t know, Martha Stewart is actually a third-generation American but entirely of Polish heritage since both of her grandparents arrived at Ellis Island from Poland at the beginning of the XXth century.

Her father actually traveled back and forth to Europe from the US on the ship named Batory – which my own grandfather used to work on.

Anyway, Martha’s recipe slightly varies from the old traditional recipe for Golabki. It’s not better or worse, it’s just slightly different since they’re baked, not stewed.

Why are Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Called Gołąbki (Little Pigeons)?

First things first, where did the name of this dish come from? It was most likely borrowed from the Ukranian word “hołubci” (gołąbek – single) at the beginning of the XIXth century.

The actual story behind what was inside golabki at first varies. Some sources claim that there were actually stuffed pigeons wrapped in cabbage on royal courts in France.

The Poles got jealous of them since for decades stuffed pigeons and other birds like swans were considered a fancy dish, and decided to name their peasant dish with the same name.

Other sources think it’s because in Slavic languages they liked to use names of birds and animals for dishes made of potatoes or bread.

Either way, the middle-class made the dish famous by stuffing cabbage with what they had – kasza (buckwheat) and potatoes. There was no meat or rice in this dish before, like it’s eaten today.

What is the difference between golabki and sarmale?

The main difference between Polish golabki and Romanian sarmale is that while golabki uses fresh cabbage leaves, sarmale is made with layers of pickled cabbage leaves that are similar to sauerkraut.

While ground pork and beef are the focus of the golabki cabbage rolls, the sarmale also includes smoked pork fat, smoked sausage, and bits of smoked bacon.

Golabki focuses on tomatoes in its sauce while sarmale may include dill too. Sarmale is also often served with sour cream or tomato sauce, while golabki comes with polenta and a tomato sauce or mushroom gravy.

Whatever the differences in the recipe, both dishes are very popular on the Christmas dinner menu.

Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe Pointers:

  • Keep checking on the cabbage while you’re cooking it. Some types take a bit longer to cook, but some are done at the snap of a finger.
  • Remove the tough ribs of the cabbage leaves with the help of a paring knife.
  • If you don’t want to make your own tomato sauce you can use regular pasta sauce from a jar.
  • Add raisins to the sauce or to the minced meat for a sweeter dish!
  • Use a cashew nut flour in the sauce if you want it vegan, or if you want a creamier and richer taste!
  • Serve with a side of these traditional Polish potato dumplings!

FAQs about Stuffed Cabbage Rolls called Golabki

What are the other names for golabki?

Golabki are also called Golumpki, Gwumpki, Golombki, Golabki, or Gluntkes. But they go by many other names in other Central European countries – our Czech and Slovak neighbors call them holubky, the Ukrainians call them holubtsi, the Hungarians call them töltött káposzta, the Russians call them golubtsy and the Turks and Germans call them sarma.

Can you make golabki vegetarian?

Yes, absolutely and it’s often on Polish Christmas Even tables, as this day you don’t eat meat. This recipe can be easily made vegetarian by replacing minced meat with lentils, grains, and soybeans. Some good choices are bulgur wheat, quinoa, kasha (roasted buckwheat), or brown rice.

Alternatively, you can also add finely chopped mushrooms – whether it’s for the meat or veggie option.

Can you make golabki vegan?

Yes, you can use any of the grains, lentils that vegetarians use instead of the minced meat.
You could also use vegan beef crumbles that are made of carrots, walnuts, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, and are perfect for vegans too! In place of the butter in the sauce, use a nut butter and you’ll have a delicious vegan golabki.

Can you freeze golabki?

While you can technically freeze golabki, but I don’t recommend it. They’ll fall apart during reheating and become all mushy. It’s better to finish them off in a day or 2.

If you must freeze golabki, it’s better to do that before cooking them in the sauce. The prepared cabbage rolls will last for a few weeks in an airtight container. When you are ready to eat them, thaw in the fridge and cook in a freshly prepared sauce.

How to reheat golabki?

Easily! Reheat your golabki in the sauce on the stove. Avoid reheating them in the microwave as they might reopen.

What do you serve with golabki?

Golabki goes well with rye bread, kopytka, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, or kielbasa sausages.

Yield: 15 golabki

Golabki - Polish Cabbage Rolls

Golabki - Polish Cabbage Rolls

Golabki are delicious Polish cabbage rolls stuffed with minced meat. Enjoy them for Christmas dinner or for any other special meal!

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes


  • Large cabbage head
  • 1.3 lbs of minced meat
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice
  • 8-12 oz of Veggie bouillon
  • Salt, Pepper, Marjoram


  • 2 cups of tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • Salt, Pepper, Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter


    1. Cook the rice, then chop onion and garlic and gently fry it on a pan. Once it's all ready wait for it to cool down.
    2. Meanwhile, hollow the cabbage, then transfer to a big pot and boil for 10-15 minutes.
    3. Remove the cooked cabbage, separate the leaves and cut out thick ribs out of each big leaf.
      Place small leaves and those that ripped in the process at the bottom of your giant pot again to avoid burning.
    4. In a large bowl mix meat, cooked onion and garlic, rice, with salt, pepper and marjoram.
    5. Put the stuffing on each cabbage leaf and roll the cabbage rolls. Make sure they are tightly compressed. Then place the rolls in your giant pot again.
    6. Cover it with veggie bouillon and cook for about 35-40 minutes.
    7. While the golabki are cooking, prepare the sauce. In a saucepan melt the butter and when it's melted, slowly add the flour.
    8. Then pour in a cup of the boiled billion from the pot with golabki into the pan with the roux.
    9. Bring to boil, then add tomato puree. Bring to boil again and season with salt, pepper and desired spices.
    10. Serve with mashed potatoes.


This recipe can be easily made vegetarian by replacing minced meat with lentils and soybeans. Alternatively, you can also add finely chopped mushrooms - whether it's meat or veggie option.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 378Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 410mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 12gSugar: 13gProtein: 28g

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  1. This brings back so much memory! I remember making this meal with the grandma of my Polish friend. Sadly I never got the recipe written down. I am so excited to use your recipe to make this meal again. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have heard of this but haven’t tried it as yet, and didn’t know this was a polish dish. It does sound quite yummy and I like how you have laid it out in such an easy-to-follow way here. Looking forward to giving this a go and hope it will come out OK.

  3. I’ve never actually had cabbage rolls before – but my fiancé loves them! I’m going to try them out and try this recipe, they look absolutely delicious! Thank you for sharing!

  4. If there’s something I suck at, it’s making food. But even I should be able to follow your well detailed and explained recipe. Looks so good, NY the way.

  5. this is a typical menu in the cruise ship..as a chef i can do this in a matter of time without reading a recipie..you can also used the same mixture for a stuffed bell peppers

  6. How fun – this is very European, I think. I know this dish and its variations from many rather East European countries, but even in Germany, they know Kohlrouladen 😉

  7. This was my best meal when I was in Poland a few months ago. We stayed for two weeks and I stuffed myself with this meal every day. hahaha

  8. I am not a fan of cabbage but your photo looks mouthwateringly delicious that I would love to try one. Thank you for the recipe – going to try them out one of these days.

  9. We always have cabbages at home (we love it coz it is full of water!) and this recipe is perfect timing. I would love to make as well at home using your recipe. Thanks dear!

  10. I did not know their name but my mom used to make this when I was a little girl and boy they were delicious and flavorful.

  11. This made me nostalgic. My mom loved making stuffed cabbage for her and my sister. I never tried it because I was a picky child. I might have to make this.

  12. I have been craving these since our local Polish Festival was cancelled due to Covid…can’t wait to make them myself!

  13. This looks so amazingly delicious! I often make lazy stuffed cabbage, but you are inspiring me to make the actual stuffed cabbage.

  14. My Mom always made is cabbage rolls when I was growing up. I have made them myself. They are yummy. Tyfs your recipe

  15. Nowadays, I save myself a load of time and effort and use savoy cabbage. The leaves come apart easily, don’t rip, and you don’t need to boil a bucket of water and fiddle with a hot head of cabbage! The taste is exactly the same, although the look is a little different because of the textured leaves.

  16. Here in Northeasten Pa. dish is called Pigs in the blanket! Never heard it called anything else. Good eatin!!

  17. I made this tonight for my sons girlfriend, who is visiting us from overseas. Her family is from Poland and she gave it her stamp of approval! This was the closest recipe we could find to how her grandmother does it. The question I have is how much salt pepper and sugar would you normally add to the sauce? I did about a tsp?

  18. I just made a batch and have extra cabbage, the inner leaves that i didn’t separate. What can I use it for? Can it be sliced and sauted maybe with onion or apple?

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