Transylvanian sour cabbage rolls

by | Feb 26, 2016 | Meat dishes

Stuffed cabbage can be called as one of the basic foods of the Hungarian cuisine, it has a big cult in the Hungarian inhabited regions, only stews can rival this gorgeous dish in popularity. Depending on which part of the country you live or visit, you can see many different preparation methods and recipes. There isn’t an ultimate version that stands above all, all are great in their way.

Cabbage rolls can be made with sweet or sour cabbage, with or without sauerkraut. The stuffing usually consists of ground pork (sometimes beef is added, too), uncooked rice, onion and spices. Eggs and/or flour are also added  to the meat mass to prevent the stuffing from falling to pieces, but I have already read recipes that leave out these ingredients, and call for an increased amount of rice, instead.

Putting a piece of smoked meat among the cabbage rolls significantly improves the flavor experience, but it’s very important to soak the smoked meat overnight or the dish will be unpalatable salty. Roux is optional, there are people who insist on thickening the cooking liquid with roux, but cabbage rolls without any thickening agent are also perfect. No matter how you cook it, stuffed cabbage is one of those dishes that develops more flavor as it sits. I suggest making this dish beforehand, leftovers always taste better.

Transylvanian sour cabbage rolls
Transylvanian sour cabbage rolls – photo:

Transylvanian cabbage rolls are made with sauerkraut and sour cabbage leaves, turbo charged with some smoked pork knuckle. They are cooked long on the stove and the cooking liquid isn’t thickened with roux. What makes this dish different is seasoning: the stuffing is relished with summer savory and finely chopped dill.


  • 700 g (~1 1/2 lbs) minced pork
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 70 g (~2 1/2 oz) smoked bacon
  • 1 tsp summer savory
  • 2-3 tsp chopped dill
  • 2-3 tsp salt
  • 250 g (~8 3/4 oz) rice
  • 2 eggs
  • 600 g (~1 1/3 lbs) smoked pork knuckle or ribs
  • 30-32 sour cabbage leaves (1-2 sour cabbage heads depending on size)
  • 1 kg (~2 lbs) sauerkraut

Soak the smoked meat in water overnight. (Soaking helps reduce the salt content).

In a skillet melt the lard, add finely chopped onions and sauté until very soft. Set aside and let it cool.
Grind the smoked bacon. Rinse and drain the rice. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix minced pork with sautéed onions, rice, ground bacon, eggs, salt, paprika, summer savory and chopped dill.

Wash and drain the sauerkraut and sour cabbage leaves. Cut off the hard rib from the base of each leaf.
Place a small handful of stuffing on each cabbage leaf. Flip the left side of the leaf to the middle, roll it up and gently tuck in the end of the cabbage. Cut any remaining cabbage leaves into fine shreds.

Sour cabbage rolls
Stuffing a sour cabbage leaf – photo:
Sour cabbage rolls

Scatter half of the sauerkraut in a large cooking pot. Place the smoked meat on the sauerkraut, then arrange the cabbage rolls, seam side down, around and on top of the meat. Scatter the remaining sauerkraut over the top. Pour in enough water to cover the cabbage rolls. Cover the pot and gently simmer on the stove for about 2,5-3 hours – don’t forget to shake the pot from time to time, so the rolls don’t stick to the bottom.

Become a patron and support my work

If you're enjoying this collection of Hungarian recipes, please, consider making a one-time payment.


Hungarian cottage cheese

This is what Hungarian túró looks like

You often ask me what kind of cottage cheese (or curd cheese or farmer's cheese - call it what you want) I use in the recipes. In Hungary the store-bought cottage cheese is dry and crumbly as you can see in the picture. So if a recipe calls for túró, I mean this type. If you can't obtain túró, you can try to make your own from whole milk. Click on the link below.

Metric system vs cup

In Hungary metric units are in use, all the recipes on this website are based on this system, so a kitchen scale is necessary. Since I’m not familiar with cup as a measurement unit, I convert grams to cups by using an online converter. The values in brackets, therefore, are only approximate volumes, so, please, double-check them before you start cooking.

Pin It on Pinterest