Grandma's Cabbage Rolls (Halupki) recipe are stuffed with beef, pork, rice and simmered in tomato soup! Pressure cook or bake in the oven and enjoy this favorite comfort food for a special occasion or family dinner!
I gave my grandma's old fashioned cabbage rolls recipe a little makeover. I added a little more spice for flavor, and I cooked these Slovak cabbage rolls in a delicious sauce made with tomato soup and beef broth.
You can pressure cook stuffed cabbage rolls in the Instant Pot to save time. Or, you can bake them in the oven, simmer them in on the stove in a Dutch oven or make slow cooker cabbage rolls.
Not gonna lie, though. Even with shortcuts, making homemade cabbage rolls from scratch still takes time, which is why I usually make Instant Pot Cabbage Roll Soup, instead!
If you're Polish, you probably call Polish cabbage rolls Golumpki. No matter what the cabbage rolls origin is, this favorite comfort food from Eastern Europe is definitely delicious!
You only need a few simple ingredients for this stuffed cabbage rolls recipe:
- Cabbage -- either 2 small or 1 large cabbage head
- Lean ground beef
- Ground pork -- or sausage
- Cooked rice -- I use Instant Pot jasmine rice
- Tomato soup -- It's what Grandma used
- Beef broth -- or water
- Salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika (smoked or regular)
You will also need a large knife, paring knife, kitchen tongs, mixing bowls and a Dutch pot or large pot.
How to Make Cabbage Rolls
The most time consuming part of making the rolls is peeling off the cabbage leaves. So, how do you peel cabbage for cabbage rolls?
You can either pressure cook the whole cabbage for about a minute, freeze the cabbage head and allow to thaw, microwave the cabbage or boil the cabbage for about 3 minutes on the stove.
Personally, I prefer the stovetop method. First, cut off the cabbage stem, and core the cabbage. Peel the outer leaves and discard, or use them during the cooking process.
Then, place the whole head of cabbage into a large pot or Dutch oven filled with gently boiling water.
Let it steam in the large pot of water until the leaves start to soften. Then, carefully peel them off, using kitchen tongs, and set aside on a flat surface, such as plate, cutting board, or baking sheet.
You may have to do this in batches. You can discard the short, tougher leaves near the center or use them for another cabbage recipe.
Next, mix up equal parts of ground beef and pork. Add cooked white rice, salt pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika.
Mix it all up with your hands, and roll some into an elongated ball.
Snip the tough stems of the cabbage leaves off. Just make a v-shaped cut, using a sharp paring knife or kitchen scissors.
You may also need to gently trim the outer part of the large vein in the cabbage leaf, if needed.
Then, place the ground meat mixture in the center of the cabbage leaf.
Next, fold the sides of the leaf over the meat. Roll it up like a burrito, with the stem end down.
Since I have a large family, I usually make smaller rolls so that everyone gets at least 2. You can either make bigger rolls or cut the recipe in half if you want fewer cabbage rolls.
I either cook cabbage rolls in the Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi (pressure cooker) or bake them in the oven. Instant Pot cabbage rolls are softer and cook faster.
For this method, get out your Instant Pot. I make these in my 8 quart since I have so many to cook. Add beef broth or water, and place the trivet into the pot.
Place some of the cabbage rolls on the trivet, and spoon a little tomato soup over the rolls. Then, add another layer of cabbage rolls, and spoon the remaining layer of soup over the rolls.
If you want to bake stuffed cabbage, try to save the large outer cabbage leaves if you can. They help keep the cabbage from drying out as it bakes.
Place cabbage rolls in a prepared baking dish so the outer edges hang over. Or, place some in the bottom of the dish and save more to cover the rolls.
Place the halupki into the over the cabbage leaves, if you are using them. In a small bowl, mix 1 can of tomato soup with 1 can of beef broth or water. Fill the empty can up with liquid.
Then, pour the sauce mixture over the cabbage rolls. Spread the sauce so that the all the rolls are covered. Fold the edges of the cabbage leaves over the rolls, or place more leaves over the rolls, and cover baking dish with aluminum foil.
If you are using shallow baking dish, you may want to use a baking sheet underneath the casserole dish in case of spills.
If you are making baked cabbage rolls, bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 1 hour or until cabbages are done. You may want to check on the rolls and spoon the sauce over the rolls, from time to time.
When done, the cabbage leaves should be tender, and the internal temperature of the meat should be 160 degrees, according to a meat thermometer.
Every oven is different, so the cook time may vary. If you want the rolls to cook longer, I recommend turning the oven to 325 degrees so that the tender cabbage leaves don't burn.
Pressure cook the Halupki for 25 minutes. Then, do a quick release, and carefully remove the rolls to a serving dish.
You can either sauté the sauce to reduce it or just pour some over the rolls before serving.
If you want a thicker sauce, make a cornstarch slurry or make a paste using flour and water (zaprashka), and add that to the simmering sauce.
We like the rich tomato sauce as is, so I don't thicken it up. If you're making the halupki ahead of time, the sauce thickens up in the fridge.
What to Serve with Cabbage Rolls
Grandma usually served cabbage rolls with mashed potatoes, so I make Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes for a complete meal. The potatoes help soak up the delicious tangy tomato sauce!
Traditionally, cabbage rolls are served on a special occasion like Christmas dinner.
So, we serve halupki with rye bread, kielbasa, ham, Polish pickles or dill pickles, green peas and kapusta (sauerkraut).
You can enjoy the stuffed cabbage rolls by themselves as a complete meal if you want.
Variations and Substitutions
There are countless variations on this traditional cabbage roll recipe. Everyone's Baba or grandma had her own stuffed cabbage recipe and version of cabbage rolls.
You can make cabbage rolls with only pork or only beef instead of a combination of beef and pork.
Use tomato sauce and brown sugar, or tomato juice, instead of tomato soup for the sauce. You can leave out the garlic and paprika for a more traditional taste.
Sometimes, I add a can of diced tomatoes along with the tomato sauce over the rolls when baking. For the rice filling, use minute rice instead of long grain rice, or use barley instead of rice.
You can even make vegetarian cabbage rolls using only rice or barley!
How to Store and Reheat
You can refrigerate leftover cabbage rolls for up to 4 days in airtight container along with the cabbage roll sauce.
For longer storage, freeze the rolls in the tomato sauce in a freezer safe container or freezer bags.
To reheat cabbage rolls, allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Then, bake them for 1 hour or until done.
Because they are so labor intensive to make, we like to make halupki ahead of time. Then, we defrost and serve them on Christmas Day. You can also microwave cabbage rolls instead of baking.
Stufffed Cabbage Rolls (Halupki)
- Instant Pot Pressure Cooker (optional)
- 1 medium head cabbage or 2 small
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 cup cooked jasmine rice or cooked rice
- 1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
- 1 can tomato soup
- 1 can beef broth or water
- Rinse cabbage, peel off large outer leaves, and core cabbage
- Fill a large pot or Dutch oven about halfway with water. Bring to a simmer, and place cored cabbage in water for about 3 to 5 minutes. When leaves soften, carefully peel them off, using kitchen tongs, and set aside to cool. You may have to do this in batches until most of the leaves come off.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine ground pork, beef, cooked jasmine rice, salt, pepper, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Mix with hands and form elongated meat balls, about 2 tablespoons
- Cut thick stems off cabbage leaves in a v-shape, using kitchen scissors or knife. Place cabbage leaf on a flat surface, and place meat mixture in center
- Carefully fold up the sides over the meat and roll up, like a burrito. Place seam side down, and finish rolling cabbage
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 9 x 13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or grease with butter or oil.
- In a small bowl, mix the tomato soup with 1 soup can full of beef broth or water
- Place large cabbage leaves on bottom of baking dish, with ends hanging out Place cabbage rolls on bottom of dish.
- Pour sauce over rolls, making sure all are covered. Top with extra cabbage leaves or fold leaves from bottom of dish over rolls. Cover baking dish with foil, and bake in oven for 1 hour or until cabbage is tender and internal temperature is 160° according to meat thermometer
Instant Pot Instructions
- Add beef broth to Instant Pot, place trivet into pot, and place a few cabbage rolls on trivet. Spoon tomato soup over rolls, then place remaining rolls on top. Spoon remaining soup over rolls
- Place lid on Instant Pot, make sure valve is in sealing position, and hit PRESSURE COOK for 25 minutes. Pot will take a few minutes to reach pressure
- When pot beeps, do a quick release. When pin drops, carefully open lid, and remove rolls to casserole dish or serving platter. Internal temperature should be 160° according to a meat thermometer
- Hit sauté and cook sauce for about 5 minutes to reduce and thicken. Or, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 1 tablespoon of water, and stir in sauce to thicken. Or, just pour sauce over rolls as is
Nutrition information is estimated. Please do your own calculation to fit special diets.
Recipe originally published in 2020 and updated in 2021.
I hope you enjoy these easy cabbage rolls! My family thinks these truly are the BEST cabbage rolls on the planet and definitely the ultimate comfort food.
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