Ukrainian Holubtsi or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

3 hours 30 minutes
12 servings, 2 rolls per serving

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Craving something home cooked? Ukrainian Holubtsi or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are a labor of love, and the epitome of an ultimate comfort food meal.

A plate of food, with Cabbage roll and Chicken

In case you thought cabbage couldn’t fill you up, think again. Serve these delightfully sweet and savory bundles alongside a make-ahead mashed potato casserole, bread and butter, pickled or sautéed beets, sweet and sour pickled onions, and a green salad with homemade mustard dressing.

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I hit the grocery yesterday so I could pick up a few cabbages. Once the weather turns chilly, there is nothing that quite competes with the aroma that fills my kitchen when I roast cabbage rolls.

Stuffed cabbage rolls are common to the cuisines of the Balkans, Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran, as well as West Asia and Northern China. I learned this method by watching women in my household assemble them for bigger gatherings because they do in fact feed a crowd.

overhead shot of Ukrainian Holubtsi or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Looking for additional comfort food recipes? Be sure to browse my recipes for these great dishes, too!

Most everyone I know refers to these as stuffed cabbage rolls. Others know them as halupki and others a golumpki. I have always known them as Holubtsi and could pronounce them when I was just a wee one.

It brings back childhood, reminds us of humble beginnings, the struggle during the Depression whether we lived through it or came along after, and teaches us not to waste. It is comfort. And it’s a BEAUTIFUL dish.

a head of cabbage on a kitchen countertop

Cabbage leaves, unlike lettuce leaves, are not easily detached from the head. They require ‘softening of the cone,’ the dense whitish stalk that travels up from the bottom of the bloom. Ripped or torn leaves will not work in this method, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to remove them correctly.

Ukrainian Holubtsi or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are filled with hearty combination of ground beef, rice, and chopped onion. The homemade sauce the Holubtsi are baked in is made up of whatever cabbage remains after the filling is used up, condensed tomato soup, canned tomatoes, and our sort-of-not-authentic-secret-ingredient, Heinz chili sauce.

This dish could be described as sweet and savory. It goes very well with mashed potatoes, beets, sweet and sour onions, and a loaf of hearty Challah or other egg bread.

Food on a table, with Cabbage

Ukrainian Holubtsi or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Jenny DeRemer
Ukrainian Holubtsi or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls are a labor of love, and the epitome of an ultimate comfort food meal.
4.86 from 21 votes
Servings: 12 servings, 2 rolls per serving
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Resting Time 1 hour
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Poland, Ukraine
Servings 12 servings, 2 rolls per serving
Calories 321 kcal



One head of cabbage yields approximately 24 Holubtsi, sometimes more if the cabbage is very large, sometimes less if the leaves are too small to roll. Select a large, tight cabbage when purchasing.

  • 1 large green cabbage
  • 2 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 medium onion rough chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper cut into strips; alternatively, several to many small sweet gem peppers, any colors, cut into strips
  • 10 cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 10 3/4 ounce cans condensed tomato soup
  • 1 1 pound canned tomatoes
  • 1 bottle chili sauce I am using Heinz
  • 1 tablespoon basil dried
  • 4 bay leaves dried


  • Cook rice according to package directs and set aside to cool completely once done.
  • Adjust oven rack to lower half of oven to allow for height of roasting pan. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Draw water into a large pot and set atop burner and bring to a boil. While water is heating, remove tough outer leaves of the cabbage and reserve. Core around the stem of the cabbage at enough of an angle to remove. Gently place cabbage into boiling water core side down. Add additional water to ensure cabbage is not touching bottom of pot.
    a cabbage being cored
  • Reduce heat just a little and boil cabbage for about 5 minutes or until outer leaves become soft. Using kitchen tongs, remove the outer 2 or 3 leaves in tact to a colander placed over a bowl to catch the water. Continue with remaining cabbage leaves one by one, allowing a minute or two between leaves for underlying leaves to soften. You want them to peel apart in one in-tact piece.
    A close up of a person holding a pan of food
  • In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, cooled rice, chopped onion, eggs, and salt. Using your hands, work the mixture until combined.
    hands mixing rice and meat filling for Ukrainian Holubtsi
  • Position your cooked cabbage leaves alongside your bowl with the mixture in preparation for rolling/stuffing the dumplings. Before stuffing, prepare a large roasting pan by emptying one can of condensed tomato soup or a bit of the canned tomatoes in the bottom and spreading to coat. You do not need much.
    hands stuffing a cabbage leaf
  • Begin rolling/stuffing the cabbage leaves one at a time, by taking a loose handful of beef mixture and centering in a leaf. Fold side to side, and top to bottom. Mom's 'technique,' show here, are more along the lines of fat cigar-shaped bundles. As long as they are tightly packed, they will keep their shape during cooking. Place seam side down in the roasting pan and repeat until all of the meat mixture has been used.
  • Once all of the cabbage rolls are tucked tightly in the roasting pan, scatter the pepper strips and the cherry tomatoes. If there are remaining unstuffed cabbage leaves left, chop them finely and scatter atop as well. Pour the canned tomatoes, the remaining can of tomato soup, and the Heinz Chili Sauce atop the dumplings. Sprinkle with dried basil and add bay leaves. Dunk the reserved outer leaves detached from the cabbage at the beginning of the recipe into the still hot water used to soften the cabbage. This is simply to remove any grit from the surface of the leaves. Use the outer leaves as a 'blanket' and cover the dumplings completely. This is important so they both steam cook and also do not burn.
    roasting pan filled with stuffed cabbage leaves ready to be bakes
  • Place the lid on the roasting pan and bake at 350°F for 2 hours. When 2 hours is up, turn off the oven heat, crack the oven door, and leave the roasting pan in the oven, undisturbed, for an additional hour.
  • The Holubtsi are ready to be eaten as soon as they are done resting. Spoon the sauce over the Holubtsi and serve with plenty of bread for mopping up the sauce and juices.
    finishes baked stuffed cabbage roll on a plate

The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.

Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 20gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 98mgSodium: 680mgPotassium: 514mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 262IUVitamin C: 50mgCalcium: 71mgIron: 3mg
Did you love this recipe?Leave a comment and Let me know how it was!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Absolutely lovely.

    My Ukrainian foster daughter says they tasted just like home.

    My only suggestion is to add more chili sauce for more of a kick.5 stars

    1. Ike, I agree with you regarding the chili sauce. I personally am trying to make them taste good, however there are a GINORMOUS population who believe staying true to the origins is part of the recipe, so I fretted even mentioning it in my post. When I process a large cabbage, I generally add one bottle, but if I process additional cabbages I may add as many as three bottles. I say this because the cabbage leaves are largely water, so much of the tomato-based products we add to flavor the cabbages is diluted regardless as the cabbages roast. I am intrigued by your foster daughter’s recollections of home. I wish I had her to talk with for a day. I’d love to know what she loves. You’re fortunate 🙂 Jenny

  2. Trying it today! I will let you know how I do!
    Praying and thinking of Ukraine! What a Great Leader! God is WATCHING!

    1. Bob, I am soooo happy you will be making these – let me know if you hit any snags along the way by emailing me at I’m on in real time for at least another 3 hours. And yes, I believe as you believe, that God is watching. Let us do what we know how to do in both prayer and spirit and #cookforukraine – xo – Jenny

  3. Thank you for sharing your Ukrainian roots recipe with us! (Especially at this difficult time!) My Ukrainian/Polish grandparents have passed away and I needed to feel comfort while viewing all these terrible images of the war over there. 🙁
    Making these tonight!

    1. Sherry, I’d love to know how you enjoy these if you make them. This recipe has garnered so many responses from folks like yourself with Ukrainian roots. I hope that when you taste that first bite, it somehow reminds you of something your grandma used to cook, even if until now it’s something you may have forgotten about. Peace be with you – Jenny

  4. A very comforting dish, thanks for sharing it on Fiesta Friday. We will be selecting features, so make sure you add a link on your blog posts to and so you get the best chance of being selected.5 stars

  5. I made these tonight (still in the oven) but my mother (who is of Ukrainian origin) was horrified when she heard I didn’t precook the onions and meat? Is that correct or did I miss a step? Thanks5 stars

    1. Kate, thanks for this question! As you’ve probably read from other comments before yours, there are MANY ways to make cabbage rolls. Many of these are generational and familial. You did NOT miss a step in the recipe you followed from me. Raw ingredients are combined with cooked and cooled rice and stuffed/rolled into par-boiled cabbage leaves, then braised in your oven in a lidded roasting pan. Two full hours of roasting time plus an additional hour of hot resting makes these rolls a true ‘low and slow’ dish. The wait, I think, is soooo worth it!

      I would LOVE to know how you enjoyed the cabbage rolls. Did your Mom sample them? What were her thoughts? I imagine if she is used to eating them quite differently, these may have surprised her?

    2. This isn’t my recipe, but I never pre-cook the meat or onions. We also use ground pork, rather than beef, when it is available.

      1. Lauri, I do recall my great grandmother using pork, too. I believe I watched her mix it with the beef as you’d prepare meatloaf. Interesting!

  6. Obviously there are many many versions of holubsti! My grandparents came to Canada from Lviv, and our family recipe is nothing like yours. We just use rice, cabbage, onion, salt pork, butter and tomato juice. I love the way my house smells when I make them. Reminds me so my of my grandmother.

    1. Karena, I have heard from soooo many folks who also have a family tie to Ukraine and who also have methods for Holubsti that are nothing like mine…or yours! So, you listed salt pork – I am so curious how this is incorporated? Please do write and let me know because the idea is intriguing enough to me that I’d like to try it if you’d be okay sharing. I’m so glad you messaged me!!! Jenny

    2. I Am not Ukrainian, but I found a recipe similar to these, but one version which I love, Love is adding sauerkraut in between the cabbage on the bottom and the rolls and also add the juice! Wonderful flavor and bit of tang!!


  7. Both my parents were Ukrainian. Mom said the trick is to cook the cabbage the day before and refrigerate overnight. The leaves will be limp the next day and easier to roll and or cut off the spines.
    We used beef, onions, rice and home made canned tomatoes. Line the pan with leaves. place in nice rolls. Use leaves in between layers. Top with leaves and fresh canned tomatoes and put in oven. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or supper. Happy memories.

    1. Alice, what a BEAUTIFUL memory you’ve shared here! Thank you! And your description illustrates how flexible this method really is, some parts similar to what I’ve outlined, as well as alternate tricks for addressing the steps. I too, remember gram sometimes prepping the cabbage the day before, so a fabulous ‘make ahead’ option. x- Jenny

  8. These turned out absolutely delicious!! As a Ukrainian,I am totally going to be making them again, thank you for the marvelous recipe! (:5 stars

    1. Larissa, what a kind message! I shared this with my Mom because it is she who taught me how to make these. I am so glad you enjoyed and it means soooo much that you took time from your day to tell me. Very grateful 🙂 Jenny

  9. Heading to grocery store tomorrow to pick up supplies. I have not made this in a very long time. This recipe looks great. Thanks Jenny.