Almost Turkish Recipes

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Ground Meat (Etli Lahana Sarması)

Stuffed cabbage leaves come directly from the kitchens of the Ottoman palace. There are different versions of this dish: with ground meat, with olive oil aka vegetarian one, with chestnuts, with bulgur, with mussels, etc. Although stuffed cabbage leaves are, I must say, absolutely delicious with chestnuts and mussels, meaty one is still my favorite. The reason why I haven't posted it so far is that they're usually gone before I can take a picture. These are actually the last three of the last batch I made. It might seem hard to deal with cabbage leaves, yet they are very forgiving. So don't be scared to try.

1 medium (leaning towards big) cabbage [Pick one that is not rock hard, but kind of soft when press on top, they're easier for taking the leaves out)
1/2 lb ground meat (beef - ~80% lean)
1/2 cup short grain rice
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped dill
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp or 1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp butter
juice of half lemon

-Put ground beef, onion, rice, tomato paste, parsley, dill, black pepper, olive oil, and salt in bowl and mix well.
-Cut the 1 1/2-2 inches from the bottom/stem of the cabbage. Carefully try to take the leaves out one by one. [Check this site out for step by step how-to pictures]
-Boil some water with salt in a big pot.
-Boil the cabbage leaves 4 0r 5 at a time depending on how big a pot you are using for ~5 minutes flipping them over once. Take them out and place on a tray or a flat plate to cool down.
-Once the leaves cool down. Place one on a flat surface. Cut the big vein of the leaf out; it might be too stringy for rolling. If you have a very big leaf, cut it into two.
-Line the bottom of a pot with the cut out veins and the very outer leaves.
-Add 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp of rice and ground meat filling to one cabbage leaf, closer tot the bottom. Fold sides of cabbage over the filling. Roll it up starting from the stem end, it looks something like this. Repeat the same for the remaining leaves.
-Place rolled cabbage leaves in the pot lined with cut out veins and leaves in an orderly fashion.
-Chop butter in small pieces and scatter it on top. Pour lemon juice and hot water to cover the stuffed cabbage.
-Place a flat-ish plate on top of stuffed grape leaves so that they won't move around.
-Let it boil first on medium. Then cover and cook on low for 30-35 minutes.


  1. I love the top photo! It shows all the textures. Cabbage rolls are fun!

  2. Merhaba! Love your cuisine & I love this dish,thanx for reminding me as for sharing this recipie!Though Im vegan I will do it without the meat..I even remember vaguely a version made with rice and chickpeas..!Sagol,Mia

  3. I made these tonight with lamb and barley instead of beef and rice. They were fantastic--the best cabbage rolls I've had (I usually don't like the tomato-ey sauces they can have). I found it easier to blanch the cabbage first and then peel off the leaves. This took me a few dunks in the hot water because I had a tight-headed cabbage. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Hi Mia,
    Find Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers recipe under the dolma category. You can use that vegetarian and vegan stuffing for cabbage leaves, too.

    Lillian-I am totally intrigued by the barley idea. I love barley, but never thought of using it for stuffing. Thanks for the idea.

  5. Little parcels of heaven :)

  6. I love stuffed cabbage leaves, whatever they are stuffed with. the mussel and chestnut version must be fantastic.

  7. merhaba.ben tugba.amerikada yeniyim.geleli iki ay olacak yakinda.tum tarifler cook guzel ellerinize saglik..ben hala sarabilecegim buyuklukte bi lahana bulamadim:(arastirmalara devam..bu siteyi buldugum icin cook mutlu oldum.tekrar ellerinize saglik..selamlar.

  8. I was tempted to buy this book over the weekend but didn't. I bought 3 other cheap ones instead.

    I just posted my weekend flog and 3 to free with a pic of my treat over the weekend.

  9. Ciao
    Grazie per il commento al mio post e grazie ancora per il suggerimento che mi hai fatto...
    Hai ragione: l'aggiunta di cipolla dono veramente un gusto migliore!!

  10. Hi,
    I'm originally from Poland and this is our national dish ;-) The only difference is that we don't boil it with lemon juice, but we boil it with tomatoes or passata so they are served in tomato sauce when ready :-)

  11. What is the measurement for the beef (1/2 cup, 1/2 lb.)? Thank you, I look forward to trying this recipe.

    1. It is pound. I corrected the recipe. Thank you!