Easy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Romanian Sarmale)

Romanian Sarmale or the best stuffed cabbage rolls with meat and rice. Our national dish can’t be more delicious and comforting. Christmas and other important holidays would not be the same without these amazing rolls.

Overhead shoot of a plate with 4 suffed cabbage rolls with a dollop of sour cream on the side and parsley leaves

As a nation, we are so proud of our Romanian sarmale, always welcoming foreign guests with some finger-licking sarmale (and a glass of plum brandy).

Usually served with mamaliga (polenta) sour cream and green chilli peppers on the side, or even pickled vegetables like gherkins, or peppers.

While many countries have the tradition of roast turkey when it comes about important holidays, we indulge ourselves in these divine stuffed cabbage rolls.

They can a bit heavy, depending on the meat used, so some moderation is the key if you want a happy tummy after a rich meal.

Pickled cabbage or sauerkraut may be replaced with grape leaves, they are equaly delicious, and I have the right recipe for you: Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Overhead shoot of a pate with 4 stuffed cabbage rolls

What are the Romanian sarmale or stuffed cabbage leaves?

Sarmale are stuffed pickled cabbage leaves with rice, ground meat (pork, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, or a combination of any of these), seasoning and herbs, cooked until the filling is cooked and the cabbage leaves are tender.

How do you make easy stuffed cabbage leaves?

Rolling can look complicated if no previous experience, but it is such a fun.

I remember as l child when l was helping mum, my rolls always looked so bad compared to mum’s perfect and same-sized rolls. I still cannot call myself an expert, but l have definitely improved my skills. Hooray!

The ground does not need to be cooked beforehand, just mix it with rice, finely chopped onions if you used, seasoning and herbs, and mix well to combine.

Place a cabbage leave on a chopping board, place about half a tablespoon of filling in the middle, and fold it like an envelope, then roll. Repeat until the filling is used up.

Arrange the rolls tighlty next to each other, to avoid the filling coming out during cooking. Add tomato paste, bay leaves, and water, and cook on alow to medium heat until ready.

You might need to add a plate over the rolls while cooking to ensure they stay in place.

Collage of 6 photos to show how to make Easy Cabbage Rolls - Romanian Sarmale

Romanian food – the very best you can get

I absolutely love our traditional food, there are so many fantastic dishes, but to name a few, Pilaf and Braised cabbage with ham and sausages are my favourite.

We don’t really use so many strong spices, but rather let the ingredients bring up their very flavour.

Meat is certainly a favourite, you won’t find many people to say they don’t like meat over there.

Let’s have some heavenly Romanian Sarmale, I promise you this dish is delicious!

A white plate with stuffed cabbage rolls

If you’ve liked my EASY STUFFED CABBAGE ROLLS OR ROMANIAN SARMALE or any other recipe on the blog then don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know how you got on in the comments below, I love hearing from you! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, and PINTEREST to see more delicious food and what I’m getting up to.

3.67 from 3 votes
Overhead shoot of a plate with 4 suffed cabbage rolls with a dollop of sour cream on the side and parsley leaves
Easy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Romanian Sarmale)
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
Romanian Sarmale or the easy stuffed cabbage rolls with meat and rice. Our national dish can't be more delicious and comforting. Christmas and other important holidays would not be the same without these amazing rolls.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Romanian
Keyword: cabbage rolls
Servings: 15 rolls
Calories: 73 kcal
Author: Daniela Anderson
  • 250 g ground chicken
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 tbsp vegetarian oil
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 small onion
  • pickled cabbage leaves sauerkraut
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 cups water
  1. Cut the onion really finely and mix it with the minced chicken.
  2. Rinse the rice under running cold water, then mix it with the chicken and onion.
  3. Add the vegetable oil and season with salt and sweet paprika. If you cook with pork or beef that have a bit of fat in it, oil can be ommited, otherwise it must be added so that the rolls can be nice and tender.
  4. This mixture was enough for 15 rolls, but depending on how big your rolls are, you may need more or less pickled cabbage leaves.

  5. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and place it on the pickled cabbage leaf. Fold it tightly into a roll. Repeat with the remaining mince.
  6. Shred a few pickled cabbage leaves and place them on the bottom of a large pan.
  7. Place the rolls around the pan leaving a well in the middle. Do make sure they are no gaps between the rolls, otherwise they might unfold during cooking.
  8. Add the chopped red pepper and tomato purée and pour in the water, making sure all the rolls are completely covered. Add more water if necessarily.
  9. Cover with a lid and cook on a small to medium heat until the rolls are cooked through.
  10. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving plate.
  11. To reheat, simply pop the rolls in the oven until hot.
Recipe Notes
  • Click on the US Customary link to see the measurements displayed in cups and ounces.
  • The servings can be adjusted by clicking the number next to Servings.
Nutrition Facts
Easy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Romanian Sarmale)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 73 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Cholesterol 13mg 4%
Sodium 85mg 4%
Potassium 124mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 10g 3%
Protein 3g 6%
Vitamin A 3.8%
Vitamin C 6.6%
Calcium 0.7%
Iron 1.7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.



Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls with chicken and rice

Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls with chicken and rice



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  • Reply
    June 11, 2016 at 4:17 am

    Love cabbage rolls! Gorgeous.

  • Reply
    Brian Jones
    June 11, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Such a popular dish across central and eastern Europe, we live in Eastern Hungary about and hours drive away from the Romanian Border and this is one of my favourite local dishes, called Töltött káposzta here and always delightful 😀

  • Reply
    June 11, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I love stuffed cabbage rolls!!! And these are definitely not too heavy for me. Send them my way and I’ll gladly devour them with gusto.

  • Reply
    Holly @ 3 Yummy Tummies
    June 11, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Yum…I love stuffed cabbage rolls and the flavors sound amazing!

  • Reply
    Emma @ Supper in the Suburbs
    June 11, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    I love learning about food from different cultures and I’m not familiar with Romanian food at all! Great post!

  • Reply
    kereta sewa subang
    June 14, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Its look sooo delicious. Perfect dish!
    thanks for sharing recipes with us here. Looking more from you dear

    • Reply
      Daniela Apostol
      June 14, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Thank you for your kind comment, I am very happy that you like it 🙂

  • Reply
    Micro Paywall
    June 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    What a classic Romanian dish! And you’re recipe sticks very close to the version I ate back home.

    • Reply
      Daniela Apostol
      June 15, 2016 at 4:46 pm

      Thank you very nice, so nice of you! I am glad you like my recipe, it’s a family favourite over here.

  • Reply
    Millie Thom
    June 17, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    I’ve never tasted these, but they do look delicious. I like the idea of them stuffed with chicken as they sound as though they’d be lighter than ones stuffed with beef or pork. But I could be wrong, and would be happy to try any.

    • Reply
      Daniela Apostol
      June 17, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      Thank you! Indeed, the chicken stuffed ones are a lot lighter, and more suitable for our boiling hot summers when teperatures reach 40 degrees easily. Pork is the favourite filling in winter, especially for our Christmas rolls.

  • Reply
    Igor @ Cooking The Globe
    June 28, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Daniela, these cabbage rolls look fantastic! I grew up with a Russian version, now I will try yours too!

    • Reply
      Daniela Apostol
      June 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      Thank you, Igor! It’s amazing how popular the rolls are in so many countries. I love them, they are so tasty!

  • Reply
    Middle Eastern vegetarian dolma
    December 22, 2016 at 10:37 pm

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    Braised cabbage with ham and sausages
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    […] Romanian cabbage rolls with rice and meat, usually pork, but chicken or beef are also common. My Cabbage rolls with chicken and rice  is a recipe l am very fond of, and make very often. Nothing like a comforting dish to remind me […]

  • Reply
    October 19, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Who doesn’t love sarmale? We also make a lighter version of these, I know a lot of people who only use pork and beef, but we usually make a combination of turkey or chicken and beef. My mother-in-law adds just a bit of pork (at least some pork fat between the layers of cabbage), and she always tries to make my husband believe that she didn’t add any pork meat, because he hates it :)) This year is going to be the first one when I make sarmale by myself, with no help from my mom or mother-in-law, so wish me luck 🙂

    • Reply
      Daniela Anderson
      October 19, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Good luck! 🙂 I am sure they will taste great.My husband doesn’t like pork either, and fusses about meat in general, but he does like our rolls. I haven’t made any for a while, l need to make some soon.

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