Romanian Sarmale (Cabbage Rolls)

"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)."
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Ready In:
2hrs 45mins




  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Add ground pork, rice and sauteed onions together along with 1/2 cup water, and mix well. This is the meat filling.
  • 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.
  • Serve with sour cream and mamaliga for a real romanian dish.

Questions & Replies

  1. Is the cup of rice added raw or cooked? I imagine with all the liquids and veggies in the recipe that the rice would absorb the moisture and cook just fine inside the rolls. But the cabbage roll recipes I've always made used cooked rice. The recipe seems great and I definitely will make these ASAP.


  1. 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!
  2. Greatly- appreciated cabbage roll game-plan. I rolled them a little differently though, because I made so many! I found it easier to put the filling at the base of the leaf, roll it over once, fold in both sides, and finish rolling up.
  3. Love this stuff! I use this as a base recipe. The only thing I change is omitting the celery and using 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 ground pork in place of all ground pork. Pretty much use the recipe as is other than that. I remember when I was a kid, my family met a Romanian couple in Hollywood Beach FL. (1972?) They invited us for Sunday dinner and Anna made this for us. It was fantastic! I was only 8 and should have hated everything in this! I ate like 6 of these rolls. My mom got the recipe and made it for us occasionally. She passed away and I could not find the recipe she used. This is so close and brings back some awesome memories of my childhood. Thank you!
  4. 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
  5. Will be making this for Christmas! My grandmother used.beef and pork mixture and added peppercorns when layering rolls.


I am of Romanian Heritage, widowed, living with my daughter. I am very involved in my church and enjoy cooking dinners for church. I enjoy cooking, baking, crocheting and home decorating. I collect cookbooks (especially church and club ones). I have put together 3 cookbooks as fund raisers for church and for a crippled girl in Romania. I am retired but do medical billing from my home.
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