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Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage rolls)

Holubtsi, also known as stuffed cabbage rolls, are a traditional Ukrainian dish  associated with special occasions and holidays. The name ‘holubtsi’ comes from the Ukrainian word ‘holub’ which means ‘pigeon’ as, you guessed it, they were originally made with pigeon meat.

They are *chef’s kiss* absolutely delicious. воно як раз.



Recipe originally published 01/05/2016

This hearty and satisfying dish is made by wrapping a flavorful mixture of meat, rice, and vegetables in tender cabbage leaves before simmering in a tomato or carrot sauce. The dish has many regional variations, with different fillings and seasonings depending on the area of Ukraine where it is made.

Many people like to make holubtsi a day or two in advance, as the flavors tend to develop and intensify over time. Once the holubtsi are cooked and cooled, they can be stored in the fridge for several days. When it’s time to serve, simply reheat them gently in the oven and they will be ready to enjoy in no time. 


We followed this recipe way back when and it’s served us well – we love the sweetness from the carrots and onions on top. The recipe author uses pork but says any meat (or combination) can be used, whatever you have at hand.




Cut out the stem from the cabbage and place into salted boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes/until you can separate the leaves without tearing. Cut out the thick parts near the stem of each leaf, and leave to one side.

Wash the rice and boil for half of the time suggested on the pack.

Meanwhile, fry the onion and grated carrot in a little oil over medium heat until the onion starts to brown.

Add the pork mince, crushed garlic, diced tomatoes and parsley to a bowl and mix. Stir in the drained rice, and season with salt & pepper.

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C. Now you can roll your holubtsi! Place a cabbage leaf down with the stem end facing you. Add a spoonful of the filling into the middle, tuck in the sides of the leaf, and roll over into a little parcel. Repeat until all filling has been used.

Pack the rolls tightly into a baking dish and pour some boiling water until they’re almost covered. Add the onion & carrot mixture onto the top.

Cover the dish with foil/put on the lid and simmer in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove, check to see if you need more water so the bottom doesn’t burn, then pour some sour cream on top. Cover again and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Serve hot or let them rest until room temp! 



Anastasia uses soy mince and bulgar seasoned with marjoram, nutmeg and cayenne pepper for these vegan Ukrainian stuffed cabbage rolls. You could also swap the soy for chopped cremini mushrooms.


Olia Hercules uses beef and pork in these savoy cabbage rolls, then simmers in a delightful tomato sauce before topping with dill to serve. 


If you’re short for time, this recipe skips the whole ‘roll’ part and makes big balls with all of the ingredients. And they’re a bit saucy too.