Sarma – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

This recipe for Serbian stuffed cabbage, or sarma, is a hearty dish that many Serbs eat on a regular basis, but especially on special occasions such as slavas and other holidays. The recipes vary by cook, but they all include a meat mixture wrapped in cabbage and served over sauerkraut. For added flavor, this recipe adds a tomato sauce. Stuffed cabbage can be found in most world cuisines, but it is notably popular among Eastern Europeans. Czechs and Slovaks call them holubky, whereas Poles call them gobki. They always consist of meat and a filler such as rice or barley wrapped in a cabbage leaf and baked on the stove or in the oven.

When cooking sarma, some individuals utilize imported or homemade whole heads of brined cabbage (sauerkraut) known as kiseli kupus. This dish wraps the filling in steamed cabbage leaves and cooks it on a bed of shredded cabbage and sauerkraut. Sarma, or Serbian stuffed cabbage, is a complete dinner on its own and requires little accompanying. A side of fresh bread or potato salad completes the meal, or start with a soup like pasulj.


  • 1 (3-to 4-pound) head cabbage, 1 pound ground chuck, 1/2 pound ground pork, 1 cup raw rice, rinsed, 1 (1.4-ounce) package dehydrated onion soup mix, 1 (32-ounce) jar sauerkraut, rinsed and drained, 6 medium smoked ribs, ham hocks, or other smoked meat, 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato soup


  • Place cabbage in the freezer for a few days. The night before making the rolls, take it out to thaw.
  • In a large bowl, combine the beef, pork, ham, rice, onion, egg, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well. Form meat mixture into oblong balls, using 1/2 cup of the mixture at a time. Then, wrap a cabbage leaf around each ball.
  • Spread the sauerkraut in the bottom of a large pot, then layer cabbage rolls on top, placing them seam-side down.
  • Pour tomato juice over rolls, then add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 3 hours, adding more water as necessary.

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