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Golubtsi – Meat Stuffed Cabbage rolls


This is a very common household dish in Russia and other Eastern European countries that goes back quite a while. As with most other household dishes, there are many different recipes having different fillings, sauces, etc. This recipe is the one that is prepared in my family and the results are quite good.


  • 1 large head of green cabbage
  • 2 lbs ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, lamb, in any combination)
  • 1 medium-large onion – chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of white rice – washed
  • 6oz can of tomato paste
  • Sour cream
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt, Pepper, sugar and your favorite seasoning


Firstly, prepare the filling for the golubtsi. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, onion, egg, salt, pepper, rice, and the seasoning (we used cayenne pepper and vegeta).






Now you have to prepare the cabbage leaves by softening them in boiling water.

Cut out as much of the core of the cabbage as you can. You won’t need this part, and it will make it easier to remove the leaves later.



Bring a large pot, filled half way with water, to a boil (putting more water in will make the pot overflow).


Use two forks to pierce the cabbage at the bottom, it will make handling the hot cabbage a lot easier. We used a special tool we made which is essentially a serrated, pointy stick. Place the cabbage into the pot and boil for about 10 minutes. You’ll be looking for the outer leaves to get soft.



Carefully remove the cabbage from the pot (be very careful, it’ll be dripping with scolding hot water) and place in a large plate. Carefully remove all the soft leaves. Once you get down to the layers that are still hard, put the head of cabbage back in the boiling water. Repeat until you’ve removed all of the large usable leaves.

After you’ve gotten enough soft leaves, you may need to cut out the hard parts of the leaves at their bases. Alternatively you can soften those parts using a meat mallet.


Now, take about 1 tbs of the filling and place inside the leaf. Wrap the filling such that you have only 1 layer of cabbage surrounding it, cut off the excess cabbage. Do this for the remaining golubtsi



In another large pot now, line the bottom of the pot with one large sheet of the cabbage. Stack the golubtsi inside this pot in layers. Coat each layer in a thin coat of mayonnaise.





In the bowl you used for mixing the filling, combine the tomato paste and a table spoon of sour cream with 2-3 cups of water, 1 tea spoon of salt, and a table spoon of sugar (adjust to taste). Mix this until uniform and relatively thin. Pour over the golubtsi and add more water to the pot until the golubtsi are almost submerged.




Cover the pot, and place on the stove on high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to low and cook for 1.5-2 hours. The filling should be cooked through and the cabbage leaves soft enough to melt in your mouth.



And you’re done!  Serve warm with the sauce they cooked in and a spoon of sour cream.




  1. I had a hard time taking a “cute” picture of my golubtsi for my blog; they just aren’t pretty, but they taste fantastic! Your picture turned out nice. Looks very appetizing.

  2. Charles says:

    I will try this recipe, it just looks/sounds really good. After having many russian friends and becoming temporary adopted children to their mothers during meal time and spending a few months in siberia early this year, I have a very strong craving for these now and then… and its a point of pride if I “develope” my own exact recipe rather than ask every russian Mama for hers. Or at least I should say that if my wife tastes mine and they’re different from her mothers but she likes them, it will be more impressive… hahah.

  3. […] I followed my mother’s recipe and, for extra inspiration, glanced at the recipe found over at Everyday Russian Food (another great Russian food blog — the author doesn’t post often, but he has some great […]

  4. Anna says:

    Is there a reason you use mayonaise?

  5. sputniktomorrow says:

    You use mayo for flavor. There are a variety of recipes that do no use mayo, it’s really up to personal tastes. Everyone who’s ever tried these have loved them.

  6. Natasha says:

    No matter where I look I cannot find cabbage with such good firm thick leaves as you have on the picture. When I tried to submerge a cabbage in boiling water, the leaves were overcooked and transparent after virtually 3 minutes!
    So i find its enough to just “dip” the cabbage in for a minute and the outer leaves will be good, considering they will have to be cooked for another couple of hours once they are filled with meat (nachinka)

    I found mayo an excellent addition to the recipe!!:) Also, do you ever put other veggies like carrots, celery, tomatoes in the nachinka as well?

  7. sputniktomorrow says:

    The leaves only need to be soft enough to work with, the boiling process is only to soften them, so if you’re starting with softer leaves it’s less work for you 😉 I’ve never had golutsi with veggies in the nachinka but I’m sure it’d taste great.

  8. sbdalbey says:

    I was practically adopted by a wonderful Russian/Ukranian family during college and long after while I was back in Virginia. I learned to make these and fell in love! Only difference was that she would fry onions, garlic, carrots and the tomatoes while the cabbage was boiling, then use that to pour over the golubtsi – had never heard of using mayonnaise before so I plan to try that next time I make them. I really appreciated the hints on how to work with the cabbage because that’s always been the hardest thing about making them for me!

    Thank you for sharing!!!

  9. Leann says:

    Am I missing something? The directions don’t say anything about the rice. The picture looks like it’s added to the meat/egg mixture but is it raw? cooked? partially cooked? Also is there a cabbage leaf between each layer in the pot or just on the bottom? Thanks

  10. sputniktomorrow says:

    You’re right, it didn’t mention rice, but it is in the pictures. It should have been included in the very first step (I updated the recipe). The rice is uncooked but washed. There are no leaves of cabbage between layers, just 1 at the very bottom.

  11. Golubtsy says:

    […] I followed my mother’s recipe and, for extra inspiration, glanced at the recipe found over at Everyday Russian Food (another great Russian food blog — the author doesn’t post often, but he has some great […]

  12. […] Stuffed Cabbage 2 ½ pounds lean ground beef 1 medium onion, diced 1 pound bacon, cut small 1 pound cooked rice Salt, pepper, Nature Seasoning, to taste   Sauce 1 can tomato paste 1 can tomato sauce 2 tablespoons vinegar Wash rice, cook ten minutes. Drain excess water, set aside. Fry bacon and  onion til golden brown. Drain excess oil. Put rice in large mixing bowl. Mix in ground beef, bacon and onions and mix well; add seasonings. Set aside. Cut cabbage, core out about two inches deep and place head of cabbage in boiling water to steam until leaves can be removed easily. Repeat until you remove all cabbage leaves that are big enough to roll. Line the bottom of a large pot with leaves you don’t use. Scoop filling and place in leave, tucking in ends and rolling. Pack stuffed cabbage in pot, then fill with hot water until barely covered. Place a plate on top, weighted down to keep stuffed cabbage from floating. Cook on medium low for forty-five minutes, then pour sauce into pot and cook fifteen minutes more. Good served with hot sauce or ketchup. Today’s writing prompt: Jakob lifted the forkful of ground beef, rice and cabbage toward his mouth when his cat, Ralphsky, lunged… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_christmas#Russia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabbage http://everydayrussian.com/?p=313 […]

  13. Your photos of your golubtsi is sure appetizing! I had a hard time setting the boiling time right in my first try, the cabbages come out limp. I hope I can do this right next time.

  14. I have sped up the process by using already cooked rice with the meat, adding sour cream to the meat mixture,and several tablespoons of worchestershire sauce. I layer the haluptsi in a casserole dish and cover with spagetti sauce. Bake in 325 oven for an hour or so. No mayo, but lots of smetana and dash of Red’s hot sauce on top.

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