Stuffed cabbage from Szabolcs

As I have written earlier, you can meet different recipes of stuffed cabbage depending on which part of the country you visit. Its name varies, too: on the Great Hungarian Plain it’s also known as szárma, in Transylvania it’s called takart. The ancestor of stuffed cabbage was the cabbage meat (káposztás hús), a stew-like one pot dish; stuffing the cabbage leaves with ground meat spread in Hungary only during the Turkish occupation in the 17th century.

The following recipe comes from Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county located in the north-eastern tip of Hungary.  It borders Ukraine, Slovakia, and Romania, its capital is Nyíregyháza. These cabbage rolls are stuffed with the mixture of ground pork, bacon, rice and sautéed onion, and cooked in tomato juice. If you don’t have tomato juice, purée will do as well, just dilute it with water, just enough to cover the food. The cabbage leaves are cut in half lengthwise because the goal is to make as little rolls as possible.

Stuffed cabbage from Szabolcsphoto:


  • 2 medium heads of cabbage
  • 1 big onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil or lard
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 500 g (~1 lb) minced pork
  • 100 g (~3 1/2 oz) smoked bacon, finely chopped
  • 200 g (~7 oz) rice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 pinches of ground caraway
  • 2,5 – 3 l (~10-12 cups) tomato juice or 500 ml (~2 cups) tomato purée

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and core out the heads. Place a head (cored side up) in the boiling water and wait until you can easily peel the leaves with a wooden spoon one by one. Take them out from the water. Cut off the hard rib from the base of each cabbage leaf, then lengthwise cut the leaves in half (your  goal is to make as little rolls as possible). Repeat the above process with the other head of cabbage.

While the leaves cool, prepare the stuffing. Sauté the finely chopped onion in oil or lard. Once it’s done, turn off the heat and sprinkle the onion with paprika. Set aside and let it cool a bit. Place minced pork and finely chopped bacon in a bowl. Rinse the rice and add to the meat. Add garlic and sautéed onion. Season with salt, pepper and ground caraway. Mix them up with your hand.

Place a small amount of stuffing on each leaf, roll it up and gently tuck in the ends. When all the stuffing is gone, cut the remaining cabbage leaves into fine shreds.

Put half of the chopped cabbage into a large pot. Arrange the cabbage rolls on the top, seam side down, and scatter the remaining cabbage over them. Pour in tomato juice just enough to cover the food; if you use tomato purée, dilute it with water and pour in the cabbage. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot and slowly simmer for about 2 hours. Serve the cabbage rolls with sour cream and bread.

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7 Responses

  1. Josef says:

    Thanks,that was mam’s version

  2. Marla says:

    I am looking for a Stuffed Pepper recipe from Transylvania. My grandparents are from a little town in that region & I grew up eating Stuffed Peppers. Is this recipe similar? I have had tried other recipes from other regions but they haven’t tasted the same. I have my uncles recipe but part of it I can’t read. I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Eszter says:

      Hi Marla, This is the recipe of stuffed peppers I cook . However it’s not from Transylvania. Give me a few days and I’ll check if I can provide a traditional Transylvanian recipe for you.

      • Marla says:

        Thank you so much! I look forward to to hearing from you!

        • Eszter says:

          Well, I have found a Transylvanian stuffed pepper recipe, but I’m not sure you have thought of that.
          Here it is:

          For the stuffing: 400 g ground meat (50-50% pork and beef), 100 g rice (rinsed), 1 small onion, 1 tbsp lard, 2-3 tsbp cold water, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper

          Heat the lard and sauté the finely chopped onions until translucent. Place meat in a bowl, add onions, rice, water, salt and pepper, and mix them thoroguhly.

          Further ingredients: 8 medium wax peppers, 2 tbsp lard, 2 tbsp flour, 1 litre tomato sauce, 1medium carrot, salt, ground paprika, summer savory, sugar, sour cream.

          Core and seed the peppers, then fill them with the stuffing. Heat 1 tbsp of lard in a pot and quickly fry the peppers on each side. Pour in hot water, just enough to cover the pepppers. Add salt to taste, 1 tsp of summer savory and the grated carrot. Slowly simmer. Meanwhile heat lard in a sauce pan, add flour and 1-2 tsp of paprika and make a blonde roux. Pour in tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes. When the stuffed peppers are done,pour in the tomato sauce, add sugar to taste and cook for further 5-10 minutes. Serve with sour cream.

          I hope it’s similar to your family recipe.

  3. Marla says:

    Thank you so much! I look forward to trying it. I so appreciate your effort in finding it for me.

  4. Nadine (Galgoczi - Fejes) Hardin says:

    Thank you! Your recipe is exactly how I make my Magyar stuffed cabbage. I do add a bit of chopped tomatoes and I do use the low-salt tomato juice. Again, thanks!

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