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a stack of sarmale on a plate
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4.55 from 177 votes

Romanian Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale)

Traditional Romanian Cabbage Rolls are made with sour cabbage stuffed with pork and beef and little bit of bacon, the best cabbage rolls you will ever have.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Total Time4 hrs 30 mins
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Romanian
Keyword: cabbage rolls, sarmale, traditional romanian recipes
Servings: 10
Calories: 474kcal


  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • ½ cup long grain rice uncooked, I prefer basmati
  • 2 pound ground pork or whatever meat you prefer
  • ¼ cup parsley chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh dill chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pound sour cabbage leaves
  • 15 slices bacon chopped
  • 4 cups tomato juice


  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Heat the oil in a skillet, add the onions and cook until softened and translucent. Add the rice and cook for another minute. 
  • In a large bowl, add the ground pork, salt, pepper, parsley, dill and the onion and rice mixture. Be careful with the salt, not too much is needed because the sour cabbage is already salty. Mix well using your clean hands.
  • Remove all the cabbage leaves and cut each leaf in half. Romanian cabbage rolls are traditionally smaller than the Polish cabbage rolls, so that's why I recommend cutting each leaf in half, otherwise you can use the entire leaf for one roll.
  • Fill each leaf with about a couple tbsp of the meat mixture and roll. Repeat with all the remaining meat and cabbage. If you have any cabbage left over, chop it up and spread it over the bottom of a big pot. 
  • Put all the rolls in the pot, add the chopped bacon in between the cabbage rolls and add the tomato juice over the rolls. Add more water if needed, the juice should cover the cabbage rolls entirely. Cover the pot with aluminum foil or a lid. 
  • Place in the oven and bake for 2 hours, remove the foil or lid and place back in the oven and cook for another 1 ½ to 2 hours. Serve hot with a bit of sour cream on top and with a side of polenta.



  1. I usually find sour cabbage leaves at my local grocery store like Sobey's or Safeway, but you can also find them at European markets. You can also order it from amazon here.
  2. You can use fresh cabbage instead of sour cabbage, but more work is required. You first have to blanch the cabbage. To do so, core the cabbage first, one large cabbage should be enough for this recipe. In a large pot of boiling slated water, add the cabbage and blanch it for 5 to 8 minutes or until leaves are softened. Remove from the pot and chill under cold water.
  3. Another alternative to softening the cabbage leaves is to wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for a couple days. Remove the cabbage from the freezer and thaw it out at room temperature. Once the cabbage has thawed out, the leaves should be softened.
  4. Recipe yields about 20 cabbage rolls, depends on the size of your rolls.
  5. These will last in your fridge for 3-4 days. Cover the baking dish well with plastic wrap or foil, or you can transfer the leftovers to an airtight container. They will also last 3-4 months in your freezer. Make sure to save all that juice as well! You’ll need it to reheat the rolls.
Video: Please note the video is for making them in a crockpot!


Serving: 2rolls | Calories: 474kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 881mg | Potassium: 752mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 690IU | Vitamin C: 35.9mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 3mg