My Mom’s “Secret” Cabbage Roll Recipe

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My mom makes the best cabbage rolls. She really does! She calls it her secret recipe but I told her that she’s held the secret long enough and it was time to share it. Thankfully she agreed so we spent the afternoon making cabbage rolls and noting all of the steps so that I could share it here with you. Before I share the recipe and steps, I have to share a funny cabbage roll story with you!

Best Cabbage Rolls

Two years ago, my in-laws were here visiting for Christmas. My mother-in-law brought a huge batch of homemade cabbage rolls and stored them in our cool garage until it was time to heat them up for Christmas dinner. As we were preparing the rest of Christmas dinner, our big orange cat was desperately trying to sneak an early taste of dinner by jumping on the counters, getting under everyone’s feet, etc. We decided to put him in the garage for a while so he could play out there while we finished making supper. We forgot about the delicious cabbage rolls sitting in the garage. When we went into the garage to bring him back inside the house, he was resting comfortably with a full belly because he ate ALL the cabbage rolls! Oh boy! He didn’t care that they were wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil – he got right in there and gobbled them all up! I’m sure he still tells his kitty friends about the best Christmas meal he ever had.

Best Cabbage Rolls

Recipe For The Best Cabbage Rolls:

I’ll start by sharing the recipe and then I’ll share the pictures that help to explain the instructions.

4.8 from 5 reviews
My Mom's "Secret" Cabbage Roll Recipe
Recipe type: Supper
They may sound complicated but they are quite easy to make and well worth the effort! These would be great for a potluck party because the recipe makes quite a bit of cabbage rolls. The quantity depends on how large you make each of the cabbage rolls but I'd say you'd get between 25-40 with this recipe.
  • 1 large sour cabbage head
  • 3 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 pound medium ground pork
  • 2 envelopes of "Super Burger" mix
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 large celery stalks, diced
  • 1.5 cups white rice, uncooked
  • 1.36 L tin of tomato juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and coat the inside of a large roasting pan with cooking spray.
  2. Using a knife, dig out about an inch of the core on the cabbage head.
  3. Gently pull off the cabbage leaves and let them soak in a large bowl of water until you are ready to use them. You can rinse off the cabbage leaves if you'd like less of a "sour" taste.
  4. In a separate large bowl, break up the beef and pork.
  5. In a small bowl, mix Super Burger mixes with 1 cup of water. Stir until dissolved.
  6. Pour Super Burger mix into the bowl with the meat and stir well until the meat is evenly coated.
  7. Add minced onion to meat mixture and mix well.
  8. Add celery to meat mixture and mix well.
  9. Add rice to meat mixture (a little at a time) and mix well.
  10. Drain cabbage leaves.
  11. Take one cabbage leaf and lay it down on a flat surface (spine down).
  12. Add enough meat mixture to the leaf to make a plump cabbage roll but leave enough space to still fold in the sides.
  13. Fold over each side and tightly roll the cabbage roll.
  14. Place the cabbage roll in the roasting pan with the end of the leaf face down.
  15. Continue to do this with the rest of the cabbage and meat mixture.
  16. Once all of the cabbage rolls are in the roasting pan, pour tomato juice over the cabbage rolls and fill the roasting pan with water until most of the cabbage rolls are covered in liquid.
  17. Place in oven and bake for 90 minutes. Before removing from oven, slice open a large cabbage roll to make sure that it is cooked thoroughly.



I won’t retype all of the instructions in the recipe above but here are some additional helpful hints:

  • my mom rinses and strains the cabbage leaves a few times before rolling the meat inside each cabbage roll
  • my mom doesn’t really measure her ingredients, she adds minced onion, celery and rice to taste so load up on those minced onions if you’d like

Best Cabbage Rolls

Rolling & Cooking the Cabbage Rolls:

My mom recommends trimming a little bit of the thick spine off each of the cabbage leaves to make them easier to roll. Just be careful not to cut right through the leaf.

There isn’t a specific amount of meat mixture to put inside each cabbage roll because it depends on the size of the leaf. Simply put enough for a thick cabbage roll while still being able to fold over each side before rolling.

After you’ve rolled a cabbage roll, place the end of the leaf face down in the roasting pan to prevent them from opening up during baking.

Empty the entire tin of tomato juice into the roasting pan and fill the pan with water until most the cabbage rolls are covered.

Bake at 350F for about 90 minutes. Before removing them from the oven, slice open one of the larger cabbage rolls to make sure that they are thoroughly cooked.

Best Cabbage Rolls

Best Cabbage Rolls

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38 thoughts on “My Mom’s “Secret” Cabbage Roll Recipe”

  1. I have to say that I like both pictures. When my older sister made them she called them “Pigs in the Blanket” using
    Tomato Sauce?
    Could you serve Rice in place of the Mash Potatoes & Broccoli?

    • Hi Anna! You could serve rice in place of the mashed potatoes and broccoli but you may be on rice overload because there is quite a bit of rice inside the cabbage rolls as well. If you love rice though (my little guy sure does!) then I’m sure it would go great with them.

  2. I make cabbages rolls all the time for myself and a friend. My friend has a veggie farm with a huge greenhouse. She starts my bedding plants and I make her cabbage rolls. A win win situation. lol Will try — have never used the superburger mix.

  3. In the first pic, the cabbage looks blanched already. Did your mom blanch the whole head rather than peel leaves off them soak/blanch? I have only seen leaves blanched individually. This saves loads of time, I would think?

    • Hi Jennifer! Sour cabbage is sold in the produce section of the supermarket and is labeled as “sour cabbage”. Basically it looks like a light brown cabbage in a bag with liquid in it. It’s still sold in the round shape. I hope that helps!

  4. I have never seen sour cabbage and I have since search. If we cannot find it, can you tell us what is in the liquid? Can we just not stem a cabbage? Is it like sauerkraut, the cabbage, and or liquid?

    • Hi Michelle! Yes, you can just use a regular cabbage instead. It will have a different taste (the sour cabbage does have a slight sauerkraut taste) but I’m sure they’ll still be delicious.

  5. I had never heard of sour / saur cabbage until now either. How I’ve lived XX amount of yrs and cooked as much as I have and never heard of this product is a mystery to me!

    That being said, Ive NEVER seen it at any grocery store in Md/DC /VA. I would love to be able to find it in MD! It sure would speed up the prep process because it it replaces the need to precook and drain the cabbage leaves and that frees up 20 minutes right there! Also Id like to find it because I imagine
    the saur imparts a nice flavor overall to this dish.
    Im going to cook these in a crockpot ! Great recipe tnx for sharing it!! I

    To those asking about the seasoning pkts…I would imagine any burger flavoring packet from the spice isle , such as a meatloaf or onion soup mix, would be a decent replacement for those that cant find the Superburger seasoning.

    Or use a Grillmates bottled dry burger seasoning- it comes in about 8 different flavors..we’re only limited by our imaginations.

    Typically when I make these I use thyme,s age and caraway seasoning and a good measure of salt and pepper and smoked paparika. And any canned diced tomatoes are fire roasted instead of plain.

  6. I’m a bit late on commenting, but here’s my 2 cents…I don’t believe here in the middle of the U.S. we have sour cabbage, or at least I’ve never seen it sold. Years ago a friend taught me how to make cabbage rolls….she called them Hungarian cabbage rolls. After the rolls are in the pan you take a jar or can of sauerkraut, drain it and clump it on top of the rolls. After you have done that, take a large can of tomato sauce and pour it over the cabbage rolls and sauerkraut. It is SO delicious it makes my mouth water just writing this post. It’s unseasonably cool in Ohio for September and I’m putting some cabbage rolls on the menu! Thanks for the recipe!

  7. “Sour” cabbage, I’ve called all around Toronto–no one has heard about it. I contacted Ukranian & other European specialty stores!

    Pls. advise!

    Etobicoke, ON

  8. I can’t find sour cabbage anywhere in north central Texas. Ieven called specialty stores that have stores as far away as San Antonio, Houston, and El Paso. They never heard of it. Ieven called sister-in-laws in Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, northern and southern California, and no one has heard of it. The same goes gor the burger seasoning. I’m stumped.

  9. For those using regular cabbage Freeze it . Then when you plan to make your cabbage rolls let the frozen cabbage thaw over night. Leaves are so flexible that you do not need to boil them

  10. Sour cabbage is just whole heads of cabbage made in large crocks or containers just like sauerkraut. Not easy to find. I think some ethnic stores might have them. In Cleveland the West Side Market probably has them. My husband is Hungarian so his mom used to make cabbage rolls with it. My sister-in-law gets them before Christmas somewhere near Youngstown. They are soo good made with the sour cabbage, but I make mine with sauerkraut, and just blanch a fresh head of green cabbage peeling off the leaves .they’re good either way you make them

  11. Cabbage rolls were a staple in my Romanian grandparents house. I couldn’t wait to go there for dinner, with all the wonderful foods on the table all I ate were those rolls. She always had a gallon jar under the sink with cabbage leaves souring. I so regret that I was to young to learn how to do that from her, and why my aunts didn’t know how is baffling. Sauerkraut works, but is not the same. I find that people either love them or can’t be bothered.


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