How to Make Ukrainian Holubtsi

Learn how you can make your own Ukrainian Holubtsi at home. These stuffed cabbage rolls are filled with meat, onion and rice and are the perfect comfort food.
Author Headshot
Tom Charman
Dec 19
2 mins
Dec 19
2 mins

The origins of this dish are very difficult to nail down, with meat rolled in cabbage first being referenced in Aristophanes’ letters dating back to 425 B.C. And while many often attribute these cabbage rolls to Poland, or other eastern European countries, it’s actually most likely to be a dish that first originated in Turkey - Ukranian holubtsi are most similar to dolma. Although the origins will likely never be known for sure, holubtsi today are a national treasure not just in Ukraine, but across the whole of eastern Europe. The holubtsi that we’ve known to come and love today are normally made by creating a rice-meat mix, and wrapping portions of this mix in a whole cabbage leaf. Then, once the corners are tucked and the meat is sealed, the holubtsi are stewed in a tomato sauce until the cabbage becomes tender. But when it comes to the Christmas Eve supper, things are a little bit different. As the Christmas table traditionally contains lean dishes, many Ukrainian spreads will instead mix potatoes, mushrooms, onions and carrots instead of meat. And like every good Ukrainian dish, holubtsi is best served with a big dollop of sour cream.

So, to create your own holubtsi at home (this one contains meat) you’ll need:

  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 1 pound (450g) of ground beef or pork, or a combination of the two
  • 1 cup (175g) of cooked rice
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (235ml) of chopped tomato/tomato sauce
  • 1 cup (235ml) of beef or chicken broth
  • Salt, pepper, and other spices to taste

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And this simple recipe can be created by:

  1. Bringing a large pot of water to boil. Cut the cabbage into quarters, and carefully remove the outer leaves. Blanch the leaves in the boiling water for about 2 minutes, or until they are soft and pliable. Remove the leaves from the water and set them aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, rice, onion, garlic, and spices. Mix well to combine.
  3. Take a cabbage leaf and place a spoonful of the meat and rice mixture in the center. Fold the edges of the leaf over the filling, and roll it up to form a tight cylinder. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling.
  4. In a large pot, combine the tomato sauce and broth. Add the stuffed cabbage rolls, making sure they are covered by the sauce.
  5. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the filling is tender and the sauce has thickened.
  6. Serve the holubtsi hot, with a side of sour cream. Enjoy!
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