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Czech Cabbage Rolls

Known to the Czech’s as Holubky, cabbage leaves are rolled around a mixture of rice, seasonings, ground beef and pork, then baked in tomato sauce. | Share

Updated 12/4/2023

Cabbage Rolls are a comfort food that Czechs and Slovaks affectionately call holubky. The name is derived from holub, which means pigeon in both Czech and Slovak. In English, Holubky actually means little pigeons.

According to several sources, the dish originated in Ukraine where it is called holubtsi.  Ages ago, it was served at elegant feasts and was prepared with pigeons wrapped in cabbage. Overtime, the pigeons were swapped out for other meats and grains.

By the nineteenth century, variations of the dish gained popularity across Eastern Europe. Nowadays, stuffed cabbage rolls, called gołąbki, are a classic of Polish cuisine. Variations of the cabbage roll are also popular throughout the Balkans, where they’re known as sarma. Yet, in Romania, they are a matter of pride, as the sarmale is the national dish.  

Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic. Photo K.R. Lamoureux

What’s special about these rolls

Cabbage rolls made in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are typically stuffed with either ground beef, ground pork or a combination of the two. The meat is mixed with rice, onions and garlic then simmered in tomato sauce. But, what makes this recipe special, is the addition of sauerkraut, paprika and caraway.

Czech cabbage rolls

Czech Cabbage Rolls

Kevin Lamoureux
Cabbage leaves stuffed with a mixture of ground beef, ground pork, rice, spices and baked in tomato sauce.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Eastern European
Servings 8 people
Calories 476 kcal


For the Filling

  • lb lean ground beef
  • ½ lb ground pork or mild sausage
  • cups white (converted) rice uncooked
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp hot paprika or cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

For the pan

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 cups drained sauerkraut
  • 1, 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • 2 cups tomato juice


  • Remove core from cabbage while leaving the rest of the head intact.
  • In a large pot with a steamer basket, place the head of cabbage on the basket with the core side down.
  • Soften cabbage leaves by steaming for 5 minutes or until wilted.
  • Allow to cool, separate leaves and set to dry on tea towel.
  • In a large bowl, mix meat, onions, garlic, rice, eggs, and seasonings
  • Spread tomato sauce followed by the sauerkraut on the bottom of a large roast pan.
  • Remove thick centre stems from leaves with a pearing knive
  • Chop up unused cabbage pieces and add to bottom of pan
  • Roll meat into leaves cigar style
  • Layer rolls in roast pan
  • Cover with tomato juice, tomato soup and diced tomatoes
  • On top of the stove, bring sauce to a boil then transfer to preheated oven
  • Bake covered at 325° F for 2 hours


Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill.
Per serving
Calories: 476kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 12g | Iron: 6mg
Keyword cabbage, ground beef, ground pork, Holubky, rolls

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5 replies on “Czech Cabbage Rolls”

Sounds real good just hope the uncocked rice comes out right it would be a bummer if it’s dry and undercooked
Alot goes in to the dish and we all know
Beef is not cheap any more more over same with pork. Again it sounds nummy
And I am a bohunk or czechoslovakian
Named Characky English version of the
Name I think it is Shreck or Shrek in czeck.

Over the 2 hours cooking time, the rice absorbs the the tomato juice, and swells to plump up the cabbage rolls. I use converted rice, which is usually cooked in about 30 minutes when it is cooked alone.

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