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Authentic Polish Golumpki Recipe – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls That Taste Like Poland!

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A person pouring authentic sauce on a plate of Polish golumpki.

Stuffed cabbage rolls are probably the most iconic Polish dishes (together with pierogi). Easy to make, however, quite time-consuming, gołąbki are really delicious! In this post, I will give you an authentic Polish golumpki recipe that my mom uses every few weeks.

Golumpki or Gołąbki?

An authentic Polish golumpki recipe served with dumplings on a colorful tablecloth.

I was born and raised in Poland, so when I first read the name “golumpki” I had no idea what it is. It turned out that English speakers had a hard time reading Polish letters in the word “gołąbki”, so they used “golumpki” instead.

To sum up – the correct Polish name for stuffed cabbage is GOŁĄBKI, however, it’s totally fine to use variations such as:

  • galumpki
  • golumpki
  • golombki
  • gluntkes
  • gwumpki

Why Are These Old Fashioned Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Called Golabki? 

In the Polish language “gołąbki” literally mean “small pigeons” or “doves”. What’s interesting is, when you read the etymology of this dish, you will soon find out that the name given to the Polish cabbage rolls is not that dumb.

It turns out that in the past, rich Poles have been eating pigeon meat wrapped in cabbage leaves. Poor villagers couldn’t afford to eat these expensive birds, so they made a budget version of this dish. They used cereal and potato filling instead, which is quite similar to the vegetarian version of the authentic Polish golumpki recipe we use today.

The golompki without meat in some regions are served for Christmas Eve dinner, usually, it’s those with filling made of buckwheat groats. 

Where Did Golabki Originate?

Golabki originated in Eastern Europe. They made their way to Poland from Ukraine in the 19th century as a dish for the aristocrats.

At that time though, they were called ‘hołubci’ and consisted of doves stuffed with fillings and wrapped in cabbage leaves.

Has The Polish Golumpki Recipe Always Been The Same?

When gołąbki first arrived in Poland, they were typically made not with fresh cabbage but with sauerkraut.

People pickled whole heads of cabbage and then used the leaves for goląbki. This method is not completely forgotten, you might still find this kind of golabki in quite a few places. This type of gołąbki is mostly popular in the region of Donly Śląsk.

After 1945, people resettled from  Kresy Wschodnie (old East southern borders of Poland) the region of dolnośląskie, have captivated their culinary traditions till these days. 

How Do You Make Old Fashioned Polish Stuffed Cabbage?

The recipe for Polish gołąbki is simple. Just follow a few easy steps and you’ll have perfectly Polish cabbage rolls.

Start making the golabki by firstly half-cooking the rice, followed by boiling the cabbage in salty hot water. Once the cabbage has cooled down, separate the leaves and keep them ready for forming the goląbek.

Remember not to wash rice prior to cooking, there is an excess of starch on rice grain that makes cooked rice sticky. It is better for the to be sticky, as it prevents the filling form from falling apart. 

boiling cabbage in a steel pot.
Boil the cabbage.
boiled cabbage leaves.
Separate the cabbage leaves!

Next, start with the filling. Fry the chopped onions with mince and butter, and season them. Mix it with the rice. 

Half cook the rice.
Half-cooked rice!

Now start with each cabbage leaf. First, spoon the meat-rice filling into a leaf.

Fold the edges of the cabbage inwards and roll it up. For the golumpki not to fall apart, you can tie it with a cotton thread before cooking, which is removed before serving, and place it in the pot bottom with the end of the roll.  It is important to arrange the cabbage rolls tightly in the pot so that they do not expand.

Once you’ve rolled all the gołąbki, cover them with the leftover cabbage water and cook for 1 to 2 hours till they’re soft. Use leftover leaves of cabbage to cover the golumpki firm the op, this way you prevent them from getting dry and cracking. 

Polish golabki stuffed cabbage rolls with sauce on top.
Polish golabki stuffed cabbage rolls with sauce on top

Serve these delicious Polish stuffed cabbage rolls with mushroom sauce or tomato sauce! And that’s just perfect galumpki or golabki! 

Tips For Making Polish Gołąbki

Authentic Polish golumpki recipe featuring three stuffed cabbage rolls in a blue and white dish.

Gołąbki taste best with sauces.

Although tomato sauce is the most popular to serve with golumpki, you can also make mushroom sauce. I like the second one way more!

The proportion of meat and rice can be mixed.

Some people think that the filling for authentic Polish golumpki should be based on meat and rice should be only an addition.

Others prefer to make a “lighter” version, where there is more rice than meat.

Which team am I in? Definitely the second one! I hate when there is too much meat in the stuffed cabbage rolls. It makes the dish heavy and tasteless. 

There are many variations of gołąbki recipe.

Although rice and meat filling is the most popular one, you can also use other variations that include:

These are the most popular vegetarian fillings for golumpki, however, you may come up with your own ideas. The only rule you need to follow is to make the filling sticky and compact, otherwise gołąbki may crack up.

You Can Add Fried Or Raw Meat To The Filling

I prefer adding fried meat to the filling. However, raw meat will work just fine!

Adding raw meat will make your gołąbki more solid

Bonus Tips For Making Golabki!

  • If you don’t have time to make a sauce, simply use any instant sauce to serve with gołąbki.
  • You can cook golabki on the stovetop or using hob pots too!
  • Every Polish family has a different way of making golabki. So you don’t have to stick to any particular rules!
  • Don’t discard the outer leaves of the cabbage. Use them as liners for the golabki pan to prevent the golabki from burning. 
  • To make the rolls healthier, use brown rice instead of white. 
  • You can use Romaine lettuce instead of cabbage leaves if the cabbage is too heavy on your stomach. 

How To Store Gołąbki?

  • in the fridge for up to 4 days
  • in the freezer for up to 3 months

Make sure to always keep sauces and gołąbki separately! Pour the sauce on the stuffed cabbage rolls right before serving.

How To Reheat Golumpki?

Here are some of the most popular ways for reheating gołąbki:

  • in microwave
  • in the pot with a bit of water
  • in the oven

Other Frequently Asked Questions About The Authentic Polish Golumpki Recipe.

Which Meat Should I Use To Make The Polish Stuffed Cabbage Rolls?

Polish galumpkis are traditionally made with minced beef or pork meat.

However, you can also use minced turkey or chicken meat if you prefer. Only remember that if you use chicken or turkey meat, they will be drier than beef and pork, and you’ll need to add a fair bit of fat, oil, or lard to the cabbage roll filling so that they don’t dry out. 

Can You Make Golumpki Vegetarian?

Yes, here’s my vegan golabki recipe (follow the link).

What To Serve Golabki With?

Golabki are a full and hearty meal on their own and don’t need to be served with anything else. But you can serve it with any Polish side dishes, such as kopytka or roasted veggies, or mashed patatoes. 

See my full post about toppings and side dishes for cabbage rolls (follow the link).

Can You Find Golumpki In Other Places?

Yes, countries such as Croatia, Greece, Israel, Hungary, Germany, Russia, Sweden, and Turkey have dishes similar to the golabki.

In Greece, they’re called dolmadakia, in Croatia, they’re called sarma, in Romania, they’re called sarmale, in Israel they’re called holiszkes, and in other countries they have different names.

How Long Can You Store The Polish Golumpki? 

Golumpki can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Put a layer of fat or tomato sauce between each layer of rolls before freezing. This will help them not to stick to each other. 

Thaw and reheat in an oven or frying pan before serving.  

Authentic Polish Golumpki Recipe

Yield: 10 servings

Authentic Polish Golumpki Recipe - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls That Taste Like Poland!

A person pouring authentic sauce on a plate of Polish golumpki.

Polish cabbage rolls are traditionally stuffed with minced meat, rice, and onions, and can easily be made at home! You'll love this authentic Polish golumpki recipe!

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours

Ingredients

Gołąbki

  • 1 big cabbage (white or savoy)
  • 1 ½  cup of rice
  • 2 pounds of minced meat
  • 3 onions
  • butter
  • salt, pepper

Tomato sauce

  • 4 pounds of tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp of oil or olive oil
  • salt, pepper,

Mushrooms sauce

  • 10 oz of mushrooms (champignons)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 onions
  • 2 tbsp of Greek yoghurt or sour cream
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 2 cups of broth or water
  • 1 tbsp of flour
  • oil, salt, pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the unwashed rice in half the time stated on the packaging. It should be middle-hard (semi-cooked).
  2. Wash the cabbage and remove the outer leaves.
  3. Remove the core and put the cabbage inside the boiling hot salty water. boiling cabbage in a steel pot.
  4. Depending on the type of cabbage, boil for 1-10 minutes, until the leaves are softer and flexible enough to form gołąbki.
  5. Drain and cool down the cabbage. Leave the water from the cabbage, you will need it later. boiled cabbage leaves.
  6. Separate the leaves- you will use each leave to form gołąbek.
  7. Peel and chop the onions. Fry them with minced meat and a bit of oil or butter. Keep in mind that frying meat is not necessary! You can add raw meat to the filling.
  8. Mix rice, onions, and meat together. Season with salt and pepper. If the filling is too dry, add melted butter or broth to make sure it's easy to wrap in the cabbage leaves.
  9. Place the raw, outer cabbage leaves on the bottom of the heat-resistant dish.
  10. Start forming gołąbki: take each leave, put the meat-rice filling inside, and wrap it carefully. See this video if you don't know how to do it.
  11. Place gołąbki in the heat-resistant dish. They should tightly cling to each other.
  12. Pour the cabbage water into the heat-resistant dish. They should cover 1/5-2/3 of the dish (not more than half of the dish!).
  13. Cover the dish with the lid.
  14. Place in the oven heated to 356°F (180°C). Cook for 1-1,5h (until they are soft). After 40 minutes check if there is enough water in the dish. If not, add some more to make sure gołąbki won't burn.
  15. TOMATO SAUCE- peel and dice the tomatoes and boil them with a bit of water. Fry the minced garlic and onion in oil. When they are soft, add to the tomatoes and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  16. MUSHROOM SAUCE- peel and dice onions and mushrooms. Fry them on butter with minced garlic for 5-10 minutes. Add broth or water, cover the dish with a lid, and simmer until soft (10-15 minutes). Mix the flour with sour cream, and add 2 tbsps of mushroom sauce. Slowly pour the flour-cream mix into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Notes

If you don't have a heat-resistant dish, you may use the standard pot and cook gołąbki on the stove/hob.

For a vegetarian version of gołąbki, use buckwheat or mushrooms instead of meat.

You can skip making sauces, choose only one, or simply use any instant sauce to serve with gołąbki.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

10

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 441Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 92mgSodium: 369mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 4gSugar: 10gProtein: 30g

These data are indicative and calculated by Nutritionix

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Did you like this authentic Polish golabki recipe? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

31 Responses

  1. Grandma Szulewski’s Polish Cabbage Rolls

    Ingredients:
    2 lbs. Ground Beef (*can use elk burger)
    1 lb. Ground Pork (*hot Italian sausage)
    2 cups Cooked White Rice
    2 Eggs
    2 large Cabbage Heads
    1 large Onion
    4 cloves Garlic
    2 TBS Butter
    2 TBS Marjoram
    1 TBS Thyme
    1 TSP Salt
    1 TSP Black Pepper
    1 10oz. can Crushed Tomatoes (*Rotel)-Drained
    2 15oz can Tomatoes Sauce

    Directions:
    1) Core Cabbage, place in pot of boiling water, remove leaves as they become soft. Shave stems
    of leaves to allow rolling later. Set aside.
    2) Sauté diced onion with garlic and butter until onion becomes translucent. Set aside.
    3) Cook white rice. Does not need to be completely cooked as rice will continue to cook later in
    oven.
    4) In large bowl, mix meat, rice, onion, spices and eggs and gently knead until fully mixed.
    5) Using a large cutting board, place a leaf down and then spoon a large heaping tablespoon of
    the mixture near the stem. Roll and wrap and place in pan. Repeat until all leaves and mixture is
    gone.
    6) After mixing tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes, spoon 3/4 of mixture over all cabbage rolls.
    7) Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. At 30 minutes drain any watery fluid that the rolls
    are sitting in then use remaining tomato mix on top.

    This recipe makes a big batch of 30-35 large cabbage rolls and requires 2 large casserole pans. I
    freeze multiple meals and enjoy them for quite a while. You can cut the recipe in half if desired..

    Note: This recipe was passed from my grandma to my mom. Mom taught me to make
    them and I love them and sometimes make a few modifications as noted by the asterisks! If you
    try them, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

  2. I have a question. Can you freeze after putting together before you cook them. Or do they need to be cooked first

    1. Hi Michelle!

      Yes, you can freeze raw gołąbki but I think it’s more time-consuming as you need to wrap each gołąbek in the bag so that they don’t stick together.
      I think it’s better to freeze the filling, and then use fresh cabbage to wrap and cook gołąbki.

      1. Absolutely can freeze them but only after they’re rolled and assembled. Submerge in your liquid then freeze in a proper container. Thaw then cook as stated.

      2. I experienced freezing raw cabbage gets tough and stringy after freezing. I would cook and then freeze left overs if there are any,

  3. Given my last name you can guess that yes I am Polish. I have eaten cabbage rolls my whole life, but never with tomato or mushroom sauce. We have always made them grandma’s way. After rolling them we cook them in a pot of boiling water with half a cup of vinegar. At my age of 54 I can’t imagine any other way. I can tell you they are satisfying and delicious.

      1. I have made golumpki many different recipes. The one I like most is the Lithuanian one. I fry onion and green pepper in bacon grease. Then I mix it with a small can of Hunts tomato sauce and add it to the par boiled rice. Salt and pepper to taste., mix in the hamburg. Put about. 1 tablespoon of mixture onto a cabbage leaf and fold over the top of the leaf and then fold over each side and finally the bottom part of the leaf. No need to roll them. Place them in layers in a big pot, fill the pot with water covering the top layer with the water. Cover top with extra leaves as well as on the bottom of the pot. Cook on top of the stove until done. About an hour. I usually make about 70 golumpki.can add some onion slices and green pepper to the water. When done, add about a quarter glass of vinegar to the juice plus a bottle of Heinz catsup.. it makes its own sauce. I usually use about 3 heads of cabbage. Slice off some of the thick part of the cabbage stem. Makes it easier to fold over. You may add a few slices of bacon on the top before cooking.

  4. Same as my mother made them for years. My trick? Do them in a pressure cooker. No need to even cut them. Melt in your mouth! Just sayin…

  5. I’ve been making these for over 50 years but in upper MN we call them saramas. I use a mix of ground beef, ground pork & ground ham for my filling & do not cook ahead! Mix all in raw with onion, rice & seasonings (salt, pepper, a little onion & garlic salt). Roll in sour head leaves or boiled cabbage leaves (never romaine or they’ll fall apart) I make a broth of tomato sauce/ water that has been simmered with a ham hock & an onion for flavor. I simmer my cabbage rolls in this for a good 2 hours. The best!!

  6. My husbands mother made hers without the tomato sauce and I liked it and thought I could detect a vinegar taste. Do you just cover them with water and add half cup of the vinegar? I usually make mine with tomato sauce or juice. So glad I saw your comment.

  7. My Polish family sautéed the cabbage rolls in “real” butter and served with sour cream. It could be as they were minor nobility who lived in an area of Poland controlled by the Russians in the 1800’s.

  8. I ate Golabki at a restaurant in Krakow back in 2018 and they were outstanding! The chef prepared a tomato sauce that was sweetened with white raisins. Have you ever heard of using raisins in your sauce?

  9. One trick I learned from my sainted Polish Aunt Hellen is to freeze the cabbage the day before prepping the cabbage rolls and then thawing it for use. This causes the cabbage leaves to wilt to a perfect texture for rolling. I like the idea of Rotel and Italian sausage as spicier pork component, but I go with finely diced Kielbasa as my pre-seasoned pork.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tom! Yes, I’ve heard about this method before but never tried it. Thanks for the tip!

  10. I have been browsing online more than 2 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like
    yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all web
    owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will
    be much more useful than ever before.

  11. Stuffed cabbage rolls are delicious. And you can freeze them, so if you feel like it, just defrost and heat them 🙂 Stuffed cabbage rolls also have many variants. With groats, mushrooms, just meat. I usually make it with rice and meat.

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