Savory, succulent and delicious, these stuffed cabbage leaves make a great meal. Paired with some crusty bread they’re so good for lunch or dinner.
The first time I had stuffed cabbage leaves, my husband and I were traveling with a friend. We went to visit several of his family members and when we went to his aunt’s house we had lunch together. At first, I didn’t know what I was eating so I didn’t know what to expect but with one bite, I was pleasantly surprised. The cabbage is tender and lightly stuffed with a tomatoey meat and rice mixture. Delicious.
The first time I made them for myself, I realized that making these are indeed a labor of love. But they are so worth it in the end, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd.
My version is vegetarian but I find that they are still just as full of flavor as the traditional method of making them with meat. Here’s the recipe:
Turkish Cabbage Rolls (Lahana Sarmasi) –Vegetarian Version
- 5-10 large cabbage leaves
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 3 T tomato paste
- 2/3 c rice (soaked and drained)
- 3 T fresh parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 T dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried cumin
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (pull biber or Aleppo pepper –if possible)
- salt (to taste)
- 1/4- 1/2 c hot water
To prepare the cabbage: Remove the cabbage leaves from the head of cabbage and clean thoroughly.
Boil water in a large pot and working in batches, add the leaves to the water and cook them for 2-3 minutes (or just until they are tender and soft enough to roll).
Then place the leaves in a large pan of cold water and continue until all of the leaves are prepared.
To make the stuffing: Sauté the onions with the olive oil until tender. Then add the spices and stir well and cook for a minute or so (or until fragrant). Then add the rice, tomato paste and hot water and stir well. Allow the mixture to cook for 2-3 minutes until there is no water remaining. Then add the chopped parsley and stir. Set aside.
To stuff the cabbage leaves, lay out a small piece of a leaf. Cut off the hard stem part and then add about 1 TBSP of the filling in a straight line.
Fold the sides and then roll the cabbage, being sure to continue to tuck in the sides as you roll it (as if you’re rolling a burrito).
Continue until all of the cabbage leaves or stuffing is used (whichever comes first).
In a large stock pot, place enough cabbage leaves to cover the bottom of the pot. Then layer the cabbage leaves in the pot, side by side, tightly together.
Using a kitchen weight or a “make-shift weight*” place it on top of the cabbage rolls. Cover with hot water just barely reaching the top of the cabbage rolls. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 30-40 minutes or until the cabbage and the rice are tender.
When the cabbage rolls are done cooking, drain the excess liquid and reserve* it for later. Serve the cabbage rolls immediately.
*The excess liquid is a great base to add to a soup, stew or rice. Or it’s great to dip your bread in as you eat your stuffed cabbage leaves.