Romanian Sarmale (Cabbage Rolls)

Total Time
2hrs 45mins
Prep 45 mins
Cook 2 hrs

This is a recipe that my grandmother made and was made and served at church dinners as I was growing up. It is very similar to Hungarian Cabbage Rolls and very different from the Polish style. No holiday would be complete without these along with Fresh & Smoked Sausage, Mamaliga with Cheese (Polenta) and Cozanac (rich egg bread with nuts or cheese).

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Remove core from cabbage. In a large pot, bring to boil enough water to cover cabbage. Add 2 tablespoons salt and 1/4 cup vinegar to boiling water. Immerse cabbage in boiling water. Cover and cook over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes. With fork or tongs, gently remove leaves as they become tender. Drain well; let cool. Trim main leaf vein so it is flat like rest of cabbage leaf.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add oil, onions, celery, bacon, salt, pepper, paprika, parsley leaves and saute until light golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool for 1/2 hour.
  3. Add ground pork, rice and sauteed onions together along with 1/2 cup water, and mix well. This is the meat filling.
  4. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the meat filling in center of cabbage leaf. Fold right hand side of leaf over filling, then roll from base to bottom of leaf, then with index finger gently tuck left hand side of leaf into cabbage roll to make a nice neat roll. Squeeze juice out of sauerkraut and place 1/2 of jar on bottom of pot. Chop any leftover cabbage and place on top of sauerkraut. Place pork hock on top of sauerkraut. Arrange cabbage rolls, seam side down in pot in neat layers. Place them loosely touching each other and layer on top of one another. Sprinkle with salt between layers. Place second half of sauerkraut on top of cabbage rolls. Spread tomato sauce and tomato juice over kraut and place 1 bay leaf (and optional dill sprig) on top. Cover rolls with water just enough to cover rolls. Place heavy dish on top making sure there is a couple inches between plate on top of pot. Cover pot and bring to boiling and reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 2 hours.
  5. Serve with sour cream and mamaliga for a real romanian dish.
Most Helpful

5 5

This was delicious! I did use a large jar of pickled cabbage leaves, which saves a lot of time. I found them in a Russian market. My husband is Romanian and thought this was perfect. I will definitely use this recipe again! I got rave reviews. I think the smoked ham hock really added some great flavor. Thanks for posting!

5 5

very good recipe. my family's does not call for celery so i ommitted that but I'm sure it's delicious with as well

Will be making this for Christmas! My grandmother used.beef and pork mixture and added peppercorns when layering rolls.