Sarma - Bosnian Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

"There are different versions of this recipe from all over the Balkans. You may be able to get sour cabbage from an Eastern European market; if not, you can boil the cabbage heads until soft enough to work with (the dish will taste slightly different - maybe add some vinegar to the broth). It is a very filling dish! Don't worry about leftovers, they taste just fine reheated (use the stove, not the microwave)!"
photo by ronda10 photo by ronda10
photo by ronda10
Ready In:
3hrs 30mins


  • 2 lbs sour cabbage leaves (or one large head)
  • 10 ounces ground veal (beef or lamb may be used if you prefer)
  • 13 cup rice
  • 1 medium onion, finely minced
  • salt and pepper
  • paprika
  • beef stock or water
  • butter and sour cream, to serve


  • Separate the cabbage leaves, being careful not to tear them.
  • Mix meat, rice, onion, salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Place about a tablespoon or more (use your own judgment based on the size of the leaves) of the meat mixture into each cabbage leaf, near its base.
  • Begin rolling the leaf from the base into a thick cylinder, tucking in the sides after the first "roll."
  • Layer the cylinders tightly into a medium-sized or large pot.
  • Cover the sarma with beef stock or water (I find that if you use water, it makes its own broth anyways with the meat as it cooks).
  • Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for at least three hours.
  • Serve with butter and sour cream, with or without some of the cooking liquids according to your preference.
  • *Boiled potatoes are often eaten with sarma, and they go quite well together.

Questions & Replies

default avatar
Got a question? Share it with the community!


Have any thoughts about this recipe? Share it with the community!


  1. Tayana G.
    Sarma tastes better if you also add some type of smoked meat to the pot. That can be either smoked ribs (beef or pork), hocks, cubed bacon, etc. A few Bay leaves will also add complexity to the dish. Those can be discarded after cooking. Finally, many Balkan dishes require adding roux at the final stages of the cooking. This can either be done by melting some vegetable or pork fat, alternatively sunflower oil in a pan and adding a few tablespoons of flour and a bit of paprika spice until it starts simmering (use low to medium heat). For Sarma, you can add bit of chopped garlic to this mixture, but make sure it doesn't burn, that can change the flavor of the dish. The pot with Sarmas needs to be slowly boiling before you start adding the simmering roux. While you are pouring the roux into to the pot, make sure that you are mixing it constantly with the broth to prevent clumping. You can even shake gently the whole pot to distribute the roux evenly.


I am an ethnomusicologist, but I also love to cook food from all over the world!
View Full Profile

Find More Recipes