Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe (with or without rice)

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

The heritage of my family is mostly Polish, so there has always been a lot of Polish food in my house. Sure, a number of them are recipes that may or may not be in traditional Polish cuisine (kielbasa and eggs come to mind), but it’s not unusual for my family to pay homage to our Polish roots on many different occasions. Kielbasa with sauerkraut and apples, for example, shows up at many of our holiday dinners.

Which brings us to golabki. The first thing you need to know is how to pronounce it. The closest I can come is “ga-wump-key”. But, if you want to hear a native pronounce it, push the play button — 

Second is the meaning of the word. Gołąbki is the plural form of gołąbek, which means “pigeon”. I promise – there is no pigeon in this recipe! The name is reported to come from the shape of the rolls themselves.

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Golabki is basically stuffed cabbage rolls. If you’ve never had them before, you’re probably familiar with similar stuffed vegetables – stuffed peppers, for example. One of the differences here is that the tomato sauce isn’t quite like your traditional Italian-style pasta sauce. This is a tomato-butter sauce, so expect a slightly different (yet completely delicious!) flavor.

Golabki (Polish Stuffed Cabbage) Recipe Photo Tutorial
(Printer friendly version below)


1-2 heads of green cabbage (I’d suggest 2 to be on the safe side), remove core
1.5lb ground beef (approximate. If your package says 1.3lb or something close, it’s fine.)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 stick butter
3 cups chicken broth (Crockpot broth instructions)
2 eggs
1 onion, chopped
savory, generous pinch
thyme, generous pinch
arrowroot (optional)
salt & pepper
Either: 1 recipe worth of lacto-fermented rice, fully cooked – OR – 2 cups of fully cooked rice – OR – If you are not eating rice or are low carb, use 1 head cauliflower, chopped very small so it appears like rice.

Step 1: Set up your pot and pan. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium heat on one burner. On a second burner, use a stock pot and bring about 2 inches of water to a boil. I prefer my small stock pot for this, which is only about 5 or 6 quart, but is more tall than it is wide. It fits nicely on the small burner on my stove, and the heads of cabbage fit quite nicely in it.

Step 2: Once the water is boiling in your stock pot, put your head of cabbage in the pot so the side where the core used to be is sitting in the water. Turn the heat down to about medium-high, and put the lid on the pot.

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Step 3: Leave the cabbage to steam and concentrate on the butter in the pan. First, add your chopped onions to the pan and cook for a few minutes until translucent. Then, add a pinch of savory, a pinch of thyme and a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Mix well and let cook for an additional minute. Then, add your fully cooked rice or raw cauliflower and a cup of chicken broth. Stir well and let simmer over medium heat until it is cooked through and the liquid has been boiled out. It will still be a slightly wet mixture, but there should be no extra liquid. Salt and pepper should be to taste. If, after it’s cooked, you take a taste of the rice/cauliflower and it’s a little ‘meh’ to you, add more salt, stir, cook for another minute and taste again. I usually know it’s perfectly salted when I taste test and say “Oh that’s so good!”. (Sometimes there is even a happy dance.) Note: If you are using the cauliflower method, a little extra butter might help as well. Go by taste. You should now be left with this:

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Once the rice/cauliflower has finished cooking, remove it from the stove and let it cool.

Step 4: You’re now going to focus on the cabbage steaming in the pot. There are a few ways to do this, but I find two forks work well. The goal here is to remove the outer layers of steamed cabbage from the head of the cabbage one at a time. First, locate the end of the topmost leaf. Slip one fork under it so that the back of the fork is touching the leaf and the fork itself is between the leaf and the rest of the head of cabbage. Now, place the back of the other fork on top of the leaf so that your two forks are now like tongs grabbing the leaf, and gently remove from the pot. Put in a bowl to cool, and repeat the process with the next leaf. You should end up with a bowl full of single leaves and an empty pot, which you can now turn off and remove from the stove.

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

A few tips on removing steamed cabbage leaves:

The pot is still steaming, so be very careful not to burn yourself.

This does take a few tries to get the hang of, which is one of the reasons I suggest a second cabbage. You need the leaves whole, so if you rip one, discard and use another leaf. I’ve destroyed more than my fair share of leaves learning how to do this, so don’t worry if you have some trouble at first.

The reason you want to use the back of the fork instead of the front is because you can easily pierce the leaves with the tines of the fork, which will rip the leaf.

If the leaf is not very flexible, it is not yet steamed through. Leave the leaf attached to the head, put the lid back on the pot, steam for another minute or two and try again. Leaves that are still crunchy will not roll well.

Step 5: At this point you should have a pile of single leaves in a bowl cooling and the rice/cauliflower cooling. Let’s get to that empty pot on the stove because – it’s sauce time! Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add about 3 tablespoons of arrowroot powder and whisk with a fork to create sort of a roux. (If you’re not eating starches, omit arrowroot and just simmer the sauce a little longer at the end to thicken it.) Next add canned tomatoes, 2 cups broth, a pinch of thyme and salt & pepper. Stir well. Cover to let simmer for a while until the flavors blend nicely and you don’t have just a mouth full of plain tomato flavor when you taste test (maybe 20-30 mins?). When it’s nearing the end, remove the lid and keep simmering for a few minutes to boil out some of the liquid and thicken the sauce a little – maybe 5 minutes or so.

Step 6: While the sauce is simmering on the stove, we’re going to create the meat mixture for cabbage rolls. In a large bowl, place the ground beef, the cooled rice/cauliflower mixture and two eggs. Mix with your hands until everything is thoroughly blended. You should end up with this:

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Step 7: Your sauce should be done by now, so prep your pan for the oven. I use a 10×15 Pyrex Baking Dish. Scoop some sauce out of the pot and cover the bottom of your dish with a thin layer. Should look like this:

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Step 8: Stuff the cabbage! Break out those single cabbage leaves from step 4. Place on a flat surface and add a small amount of meat mixture to the middle. Then fold the cabbage leaf – first fold the bottom up, then the sides, then continue rolling from bottom to top. Like this:

Golabki (Polish Stuffed Cabbage) Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Step 9: Place the rolled cabbage in the pan seam side down, and repeat the process until you have run out of cabbage and filling.

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Step 10: Pour the rest of the sauce on top. You should end up with something like this:

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com

Step 11: Place the tray in a 350 degree oven and cook about 30-45 minutes, basting the tops of the rolls once or twice with the sauce. They are done when the meat is cooked through and the tops of the rolls start to brown a little bit.

Step 12: Eat and enjoy!

Golabki: Polish Stuffed Cabbage Recipe from domesticsoul.com



    • Thanks for pointing that out. I was really clear as mud about that, wasn’t I? 🙂 I’ll edit step 3 shortly, but for now: When I use cauliflower, I chop the raw cauliflower into small bits and use it that way – raw and “riced”. The rest of step 3 will cook the cauliflower thoroughly, so you don’t need to precook it.

      I use the same method in my Grain Free Jambalaya Recipe. If you look at the photo in step 5 of that recipe, that is about the size I usually chop it to.

      Hope that helps!

  1. So happy to have found your recipe, I did it the buttery cauliflower way and it was quite delicious. But the sauce was quite watery because of my wet cabbage leaves.. Humph! Thank you for the recipe.


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