Hungarian stuffed cabbage

Hungarian stuffed cabbage

Cabbage is a favorite winter food that can be prepared in many delicious ways.

Stuffed cabbage is one of the most popular classics and it usually makes the Christmas and New Years Eve menus in most Hungarian homes. Preparing the dish is time-consuming but not difficult and the result is well worth the effort. Stuffed cabbage rolls come in many variations, the filling can be ground pork, beef or chicken, the sauce can be plain or tomato based and adding smoked meat and/or sauercraut will only enhance the flavors.
This is an authentic family recipe for Hungarian stuffed cabbage or toltott kaposzta is originated from southern part of the country. The cabbage rolls are made with minced pork, pearl barley, fresh cabbage and cooked in tomato sauce.
Other popular Hungarian cabbage dishes include layered cabbage (rakott kaposzta or kolozsvari), sloppy cabbage (lucskoskaposzta), and Szekely cabbage (szekelykaposzta), a type of pork stew baked with sauerkraut and sour cream. You can read more about Hungarian cuisine here.

Organize the cabbage

  • Trim any damaged outer leaves from cabbage and cut the middle of head as you can see on picture below. Stick a large fork into core of cabbage, and place in a large saucepan and cover with salted water.
  • With a small sharp knife, loosen and remove outer leaves as they become soft and pliable. Return to boiling water to soften more leaves. Repeat until all leaves are removed. It is time consuming process as one individual leaves take approx 3-5 minutes to be softened. You will need about 18 leaves.
  • Chop remaining cabbage, that is too small to roll and set aside.
  • When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the thick center stem from each leaf, without cutting all the way through.


Knead the filling

  • Chop the meats as 1/3 part of the amount should be fatty otherwise the food will be dry and chewy.
  • Wash and precook the pearl barley for 20 minutes. You may replace the barley with uncooked rice.
  • Take a large bowl and mix ground meats, chopped onion and garlic, barley, salt, pepper, marjoram and sweet red paprika.


  • Place about 1/2-cup of meat on each cabbage leaf (depending on size of the leaf). Roll away from left to right to encase the meat.
  • Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then flip the left side. You will have something that looks like a bottle.
  • Once the top of the roll cabbage should put with your fingers getting a closed roll.

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Sorting in the pot

  • Coarsely chop any remaining cabbage leaves and place the bottom of the large cooking pan.
  • Place rolls, seam side down in the pot.
  • Add tomato juice and remaining chopped cabbage on top and add 1-2 tablespoon salt, water covering all the rolls.



  • Bring pot to boiling, cover tightly and simmer gently for 2hours or till cabbage is tender.
  • Measure out 1 cup of cooking liquid and set aside. In a saucepan make a light brown roux from 2 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of paprika. Melt lard in a small skillet, and add flour, cook slowly for about 10 minutes or until golden yellow. Turn off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon paprika.
  • Gradually add a few tablespoons of liquid (from the pot) for a smooth, creamy texture.
  • This roux add to the cabbage once it is soft and bring it to boil more 5 minutes.


  • Best to eat on next day after warm up, great with boiled potatoes and fresh bread. On top of the cabbage add 1-2 tablespoon sour cream on each plates when serving.

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