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Jewish stuffed cabbage, the perfect food when the weather gets cold.

Jewish Stuffed Cabbage

Old school sweet-and-sour stuffed cabbage rolls. Just like my grandmother and mother made them.
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes


  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
  • 1/2 cup rice raw
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper divided
  • 1 large onion sliced into thin half moons
  • 15-16 ounces canned tomato sauce two 8-ounce cans or one 15-ounce can
  • 2-28 ounce cans tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 medium-large lemons - Juice
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar gently packed


  1. Boil a huge pot of water. Cut the core out of the cabbage. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the cabbage and cook, covered for about 10 minutes. Occasionally roll the cabbage around so each side is under water as it cooks.
  2. Once it is done, gently lift the cabbage into a colander or strainer set in a bowl. Pour cool water over the cabbage. When it is cool enough to handle, separate the leaves. If inner leaves are not pliable, put what is left of the cabbage back into boiling water for a few minutes.
  3. Shave off the thickest part of each leaf, near where the leaf had been attached to the core.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degree F.
  5. Mix the rice, grated onion, eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add the beef and combine all the ingredients with your hands. Make small meatballs between golfball and baseball-sized. Set them aside on a plate.
  6. Loosely wrap each meatball in a cabbage leaf and place seam side down on a platter. Arrange the leftover leaves on the bottom of 1 or 2 heavy oven-safe pots. (Total volume of the entire dish is about 6-6.5 quarts.) Move the cabbage rolls into the pot(s), making sure to put the seam side down. Layer with about half of the thin onion slices, which typically fall apart into crescents as you pick them up.
  7. Once all the cabbage rolls are in the pot(s), add the tomatoes and their juice, the tomato sauce, the lemon juice, and the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. If the canned tomatoes are whole, open them with a spoon or knife, so that their juices flow out. You can either mix the ingredients in the pot or stir them in a bowl first. Top with the remaining onions.
  8. Bring the pot(s) of stuffed cabbage to a boil on the stovetop. Sprinkle on the brown sugar and gently mix it in. Transfer to the oven and bake covered for 1 hour, then 1 & 1/2 - 2 hours uncovered.

Recipe Notes

If you lift the cooked head of cabbage out of the pot - instead of pouring out all the water after the cabbage cooks - you'll still have the hot water left if it turns out that the inner leaves are not yet cooked when you peel down to them.
Do not be concerned if a cabbage leaf tears. You can use it to line the pot(s) or keep it on the bottom side of the roll as you put it the cabbage roll in the pot.
Keeping the meat and rice balls loosely formed and loosely wrapped is important so that the rice has space to expand inside the meatballs and the meatballs themselves can expand in the cabbage rolls.
When reheating any leftovers, add a bit more tomato sauce, juice, or other liquid if the rolls have absorbed most of the liquid.