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?
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:
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.
Next, start with the filling. Fry the chopped onions with mince and butter, and season them. Mix it with the 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.
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 Galumpki
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:
- vegan golabki – with buckwheat, mushrooms, and rice
- keto golabki – with cauliflower instead of rice
- millet, mushrooms, and rice
- millet and veggies
- potatoes and onions
- barley and veggies
- lazy golabki
- Polish lasagna
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?
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.
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
Authentic Polish Golumpki Recipe - Stuffed Cabbage Rolls That Taste Like Poland!
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!
- 1 big cabbage (white or savoy)
- 1 ½ cup of rice
- 2 pounds of minced meat
- 3 onions
- salt, pepper
- 4 pounds of tomatoes
- 1 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp of oil or olive oil
- salt, pepper,
- 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
- Cook the unwashed rice in half the time stated on the packaging. It should be middle-hard (semi-cooked).
- Wash the cabbage and remove the outer leaves.
- Remove the core and put the cabbage inside the boiling hot salty water.
- Depending on the type of cabbage, boil for 1-10 minutes, until the leaves are softer and flexible enough to form gołąbki.
- Drain and cool down the cabbage. Leave the water from the cabbage, you will need it later.
- Separate the leaves- you will use each leave to form gołąbek.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the raw, outer cabbage leaves on the bottom of the heat-resistant dish.
- 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.
- Place gołąbki in the heat-resistant dish. They should tightly cling to each other.
- 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!).
- Cover the dish with the lid.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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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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!
Grandma Szulewski’s Polish Cabbage Rolls
2 lbs. Ground Beef (*can use elk burger)
1 lb. Ground Pork (*hot Italian sausage)
2 cups Cooked White Rice
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
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
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
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!
I have a question. Can you freeze after putting together before you cook them. Or do they need to be cooked first
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.
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.
I experienced freezing raw cabbage gets tough and stringy after freezing. I would cook and then freeze left overs if there are any,
Absolutely… bake first then freeze! Then you just need to warm up after you thaw!
Hеy very intereѕting blog!
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.
The recipe sounds delicious indeed 🙂
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…
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!!