Total Time
2hrs 50mins
Prep 20 mins
Cook 2 hrs 30 mins

In the Slavic former provinces of the Ottoman Empire (Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia and Romania), sarmale is a traditional meal for Christmas and other religious holidays. Traditionally, a pot filled with sarmale is usually prepared for an entire family. This also occurs in Armenia, as well.

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cabbage and cook, pulling off each outer leaf with tongs as it becomes tender, about 2 minutes per leaf.
  2. Transfer cabbage leaves to a baking sheet; set aside and continue boiling cabbage until you have 20 leaves.
  3. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt saucepan. Add rice and boil for 10 minutes. Drain rice; set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a 10" skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, about 8 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to a bowl along with the rice and let cool slightly.
  5. Add 1 tbsp dill, bread crumbs, paprika, and chile flakes. Stir to combine. Using your hands, fold in beef and season with salt and pepper; set filling aside.
  6. Heat oven to 375 degrees F
  7. Set aside 4 whole cabbage leaves. Working with remaining cabbage leaves one at a time, stem each leaf and cut leaf into 4" square pieces. Repeat to make twenty-eight 4" square pieces.
  8. Spoon 1 tablespoons of reserved filling onto center of a square. Bring up 1 edge of square and roll into a cylinder, tucking in sides. Transfer stuffed cabbage to a 6-qt Dutch oven.
  9. Repeat with remaining leaves and filling, arranging stuffed cabbage in a circular pattern in pot as you go. Finely chop any remaining cabbage; set aside.
  10. Top stuffed cabbage with remaining dill, along with sauerkraut, thyme, bacon, and bay leaves. Top with minced cabbage leaves and tomatoes and pour in stock and 1/2 cup water.
  11. Cover with the reserved whole cabbage leaves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  12. Cover, transfer to oven, and bake until stuffed cabbage is tender and flavors meld, about 2 hours. Let cool slightly before serving.