Revisiting one of my first posts for Stuffed Cabbage Leaves, Golabki in Polish. These little bundles of ground beef and rice, wrapped in cabbage and topped in a rich tomato sauce are named after pigeons!
My first exposure to this dish was with Ed’s family. Their part of Pennsylvania is an ethnic and culinary mosaic, as in all of Europe comes to the New World. When my mother and her sister would cook a big meal for our combined families in Arizona, they would have made a big pan of enchiladas.
For my PA in-laws, it would be a roaster full of stuffed cabbage. We could always count on there being cabbage rolls to greet us when we visited. It was the sign of a special occasion.
I fixed this for Ed and one of his colleagues as they prepared to make the initial trip to Poland. We talked with excitement about the travel arrangements, what it might be like, the plans for apartment hunting.
We had pierogi with the stuffed cabbage. I’m embarrassed to say the pierogi were frozen; I had yet to make my first pierogi back then. Things have changed! I make a pretty good pierogi ruskie now.
Novice that I was at the time with Polish cuisine, I still stand by this recipe for Stuffed Cabbage Leaves. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cookbook
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves Gołąbki
- Prep Time: 45 mins
- Cook Time: 90 mins
- Total Time: 2 hours 15 mins
- Yield: serves 8
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: Polish
A Polish favorite, meat and rice filling in cabbage with tomato sauce
- 2/3 c. white rice
- 2 heads green cabbage
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1 c. chopped onion
- 1 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 8 slices bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
- 2 16-oz. cans tomatoes
- 2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- Cook rice according to package directions, cool
- Remove core from cabbage; run hot water into cored area to help in removing outer leaves
- Remove 8 – 12 leaves from each head of cabbage, chop remaining cabbage and place in two baking dishes (or a large dutch oven), sprinkle with salt
- Boil cabbage leaves until limp, about 5 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water
- Cut about 2 inches of the heavy center vein from the leaves
- Cook bacon with 1/2 c. onion till bacon is crisp
- To the bacon and onion mixute, stir in undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, and bay leaf, simmer, covered, while preparing the rest of the dish, remove bay leaves before adding to dish
- Combine cooked rice, egg, ground beef, the remaining 1/2 c. onion, 1 t. salt, and pepper; mix well
- Place about 1/4 c. rice mixture in center of each cabbage leaf; fold in sides and roll ends over rice
- Place rolls, seam side down, on top of chopped cabbage
- Pour tomato mixture over cabbage rolls
- Cover; bake at 350 degrees from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours
- Freezes well
An accountant by trade and a food blogger since 2009, Lois Britton fell in love with Polish cuisine during the years she lived in Poznań, Poland. As the creator of PolishHousewife.com, she loves connecting readers with traditional Polish recipes. Lois has a graduate certificate in Food Writing and Photography from the University of South Florida. She is the author of The Polish Housewife Cookbook, available on Amazon and on her website.
We call them ‘golabki’ (means little pigeons, I have no idea why…). Love it! Especially when my Dad makes them… Oh, I’m so home sick right now… Cheers!
I was told by my mom that the little pigeons refers to the pigeon’s breast which is smooth and round when you pluck the feathers much like the golobki. Lois, your recipe sounds interesting. Mine is different but then every family must have their own just as with pierogi. Thanks for all your contributions. I think that your Szarlotka recipe is the best that I have made…..so easy and delicious.
Elizabeth from Canada
Hi Elizabeth, I agree. I think recipes vary a bit from family to family. The first time I made lasagna for my husband he was put off because I used Italian sausage and his mother would have used ground beef. (He’s come around.) Thank you for your kind words. I have to give my dear friend Basia credit for my szarlotka recipe. I asked for suggestions, got several, but I made hers because it was so simple. . . and delicious!
Denise Rajewski Matushek
Would you please share the recipe for szarlotka, I missed it. Thank you
Here’s the szarlotka recipe! Smacznego!
These are dear to my heart. My grandma used to make these all of the time and especially when we would visit her and my grandpa. Thank goodness I learned her recipe when I first got married because I have mastered it since we lost her 2 years ago to pancreatic cancer. I remember her saying to me everyone makes them different bit they are still delicious. We would eat them with mashed potatoes and Heinz ketchup lol. Sounds weird but it’s good. Her meat combo was a mix of ground pork and beef with the rice and tomato soup for the sauce. Thank you for sharing yours.
Another dish I look forward to trying soon! Have you ever used Savoy cabbage?
With the pronounced veins? I dont know that I have. I’ve only branched out to red and Napa.
Thanks for the recipe. I remember my babcia making this dish. For anyone not Polish gołąbki is pronounced gaw-wump-ki.
My pleasure, Laurel; smacznego!
took your halupki recipe cuz i had the craving and the institutional memory is gone
love you all
My rice for golabki usually is a grain mixture of 80% rice, 1% wild rice and 19% buckwheat groats. This gives a stronger flavor.
Thanks for the tip!
Interesting mixture. I will give it a try. Thank you.
My nana always called halupki “blind pigeons.” I wonder how the translation went from “little pigeon” to “blind pigeon?”
It may always be a mystery!
I always figured blind pigeons can’t see inside the cabbage,right? 🙂 My grandmother and dad also called them blind pigeons. I never use egg to hold mine together like some people say you have to and neither did my straight out of Poland grandma. I think it’s because I use the beef/pork mix and they never come apart. My grandmother used beef, pork and veal no egg 3 pounds of meat to 1 cup cooked rice, and of course onion so maybe that is the difference. Either way,they are delicious. It’s definitely a meal that says family. 🙂 Enjoy your site!
I enjoy your site!
Thanks, P! So many variations, and yours sounds yummy!
Awesome recipe, Been looking quite awhile for a recipe that rivals my Aunt Ida’s polish cabbage rolls. Thank you
Thanks, Gary! I hope Aunt Ida would be pleased ❤️
We never had them with tomato sauce, but with with gravy. Same recipe inside, but just brown gravy to cook them in.
Sounds good, Monica!
We put salt pork in ours does anyone else do that it makes a big difference…
In the sauce or inside the rolled cabbage?
Mixed in with the meat and rice
I use salt pork as well. The stuffing I make is with rice, gr pork & gr beef. No egg.
Hello. You have made me so happy when I read that your golubki recipe included salt pork because it has been impossible to find any recipe or ANYBODY ELSE that used salt pork and onion as their base as well. My “Bubcha” (grandmother) and all her siblings left Poland at a very young age to come to America and brought with them were their family recipes and the clothes on their backs! I can’t guess at the amount of hrs I’ve spent making traditional polish foods from scratch and took for granted I would always remember how to do them but saved her recipe book just in case.until 3yrs ago they went up in flames with everything else in my family home. I’m praying that you receive this message and will pls send me your recipe. I remember how to make stewed cabbage and dough for our perogies, and how to make the potato pancakes and could probably the recipe for kishka- if I HAD to but I’m having a hard time remembering all the ingredients/ steps for the golubkis. PLEASE, PLEASE reply and share and I will be eternally grateful. Btw, I can’t recall the tomato sauce used either but I’m thinking it was more of a tomato soup & vinegar than diced tomatoes or tomato sauce???
I’m glad I could connect you with a favorite memory of your Bubcha’s cooking. There are so many versions for the sauce on cabbage rolls. Some people might skip tomatoes altogether, just steaming them with a dab of butter or cooking them in chicken stock. Some people use tomato soup (which works very well). I’m sorry to tell you that I have never made my own kiszka, and the only dish I’ve ever made with kiszka as an ingredient is this more modern Polish recipe. https://polishhousewife.com/black-sausage-eu-anniversary/
Susan Cullen Neves
My mother always used what she called “fat back” in hers. I remember it was skin from the pig and with the layer of fat under it. she would score it by cutting lengthwise and crosswise and then fry it in a pan. Basically, it’s fat from the pig skin. It was hard finding the true fat back and she didn’t like using the salt pork. There must be a diffrence but Idk what it is. I like the recipe that used bacon and next time I will use bacon. I rarely make these stuffed cabbage so when I do, it’s a huge quantity in a very big rectangular baking pan. My mother had the dark blue on with the white speckles all ovr it. Those pans were PERFECT for making golobki, with the nice big lid! Thanks so much for these authentic Polish recipes.
I am delighted to have found your site, Lois! I’ve been researching my Mother’s family from Poznan, Wielkopolski region and am determined to learn as many recipes from this area that I can. My Mother never used bacon with her Golabki, but always used a small bit of sauerkraut with the tomatoes. Not much, but enough to give a small tang to the dish. She learned this from her Mother. But, Golabki recipes vary so much family to family. I have other Polish friends who recoil at the idea of a tomato sauce on their Golabki….they have only ever used a mushroom based sauce. So fascinating….the vast world of Polish food is!
You’re so right, Rose Marie, so much variety from family to family and region to region! I look forward to sharing our culinary journies!
I saw your comment about a little bit of sauerkraut in your recipe. The recipe I have from my grandmother calls for a little bit of vinegar in the tomato sauce. I think your recipe and mine are similar because the sauerkraut has a vinegar base. Honestly, I’ve never had “pigs in the blanket” with a brown sauce. Then again, the town I grew up in in PA was predominantly Polish from the same region in Poland.
To be accurate, sauerkraut does not have a vinegar base. It consists only of chopped cabbage and salt. It makes its own liquid as it ferments. The sour taste is a product of the fermentation.
Those who like a sour taste in this recipe may also like a little brown sugar or n the sauce – a sweet and sour version, alluded to by other posters.
We knew a Polish lady who made a roll with cabbage that had a meat filling but they were thin like cigars and she used a clear, dark, sort of sweet glaze on them – have you heard of this variation? I’ve been trying to find anything that is like this with no luck. I do love this version you do here of cabbage rolls, this is the way my grandma made them. But I’d still like to find a recipe for the ones Betty made as well 🙂
I haven’t seen the long skinny ones, Mary, but I’ll bet you could use your usual filling and just roll them long and thin. When I googled sweet and sour cabbage rolls, a lot of recipes came up. If you don’t see a glaze that sounds like you remember, it could give you a starting point to modify.
Rose Marie Fury
Mary P. & Lois:
I have never heard of the thin rolled golobki, but the Ashkenazi version of stuffed cabbage tends to have a sweeter sauce. I have seen the addition of brown sugar, finely chopped apples and raisins (all cooked down) in some Ashkenazi recipes. I wonder where your friend was from, and if there was perhaps Ashkenazi influence in her golobki?
Either way, Happy Cooking everyone! ❤
Thanks, Rose Marie!
I’m thinking the long small rolls could be Greek dolmas?
My great grandmother, Josefa, from Poland passed her recipe to Gram Hattie,.. being immigrants they were very poor and a big pot of golabki went a long way! The difference with our families recipe is we use tomato soup!! Then.. you mash your potatoes and spoon tomato soup sauce over mashed potatoes and cabbage rollls!! Yum!!
Kimberly, that was my grandmother’s name too. Josefa. Can you tell me what type of tomato soup you use, just regular soup? I am trying to make my mothers recipe, and I know she didn’t use sauce. Thx.
I’m not Pete but my family used condensed tomato soup. I can of soup to 3/ can of water. Usually 3 small cans or two family sized cans if you like the sauce.
My Polish mother taught me to freeze the cabbage for a week or so. When it defrosts it’s wilted and there is no need to cook the cabbage. Saves time and tastes the same. I also put a bit of the sauce in the meat mixture to keep it moist.
Use cambels tomato soup but didn’t add water
I am preparing to freeze a batch of blind pigeons. Do I cook them before freezing or freeze uncooked? Thanks for your help.
I usually freeze them uncooked. If you think of it, pull them out of the freezer the day before and let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Let the pan sit on the counter for half an hour before baking. It may be necessary to increase the baking time to get to an internal temp of 165° F.
Can someone answer me this?
I see all these recipes for Polish Cabbage Rolls, and they all call for rice. Isn’t the authentic grain used barely? I didn’t think rice grew in Poland or even the region. If this is so, then how can it be authentic if it uses rice. I know our family never started using rice in the 70’s and later. And why is that?
My great-grandparents came from Poland. I believe near Warsaw and Galicia. They settled in southwestern Pennsylvania and my great-grandfather was a coal-miner. I recall this recipe being made with ground pork but I could be wrong. Please advise.
Pork is one of the most common meats in Polish cooking, but recipes sometimes change based on what is available.
I use homemade breakfast sausage with meat, equal parts of each, I also fry my onions in brown sugar no eggs. the flavor in the sausage gives great taste to the galompke, tomato soup, condensed on top I think I make the best galumpke there is. im getting hungry talking about this lol
Instead of plain ground pork we use Jimmy Dean’s seasoned pork sausage. The added flavor is unmatched to anyone’s I’ve ever tried. Also, instead of tomato paste we use Heinz ketchup, way more flavor. Cooking in a covered Roaster is also key to tender, melt in your mouth deliciousness! In the old days at the Polish Wedding Receptions at the VFW’s they were always slow cooked in big electric roasters, City Chicken too! Live bands, open bars, and the food never got put away! Those were the days!
Am I supposed to eat the bacon/onion mixture by itself? Lol You never mentioned it again after cooking it. Is it sprinkled on top. Before cooking in oven or after so it doesn’t burn ?
I’ve edited the instructions to make it more clear, Michael. After you cook the bacon and onion, it says to stir in the other ingredients, they’re being added to the bacon.
Lin Renee Kalonoski Smith
My grandma came to southwestern PA as a child. I grew up on Kalupkis in a big blue roaster. I was taught to make them and it is my favorite dish. She added kraut. She also used some tomato soup along with tomato sauce or diced tomatoes.
I really liked this. I had lost my mother’s recipe years ago. I tried it according to the published recipe and it was very good. Next time I’m going to use some ground pork with the ground beef and skip the bacon. I also will cover the bottom layer of cabbage with sauerkraut and top the stuffed cabbage with another layer of sauerkraut. I remember always liking the kraut with dark bread and butter when we had the stuffed cabbage. Very happy I found this website.
I’m glad you found this website too! Smacznego!
My mom’s recipe is similar to this but she used ground beef, ground pork and ground pork butt. She also used the sauerkraut and tomato soup.
Tomato Soup plus sour ceam for the sauce. Excellent!
Also, no bacon.
So many variations! 🙂
You took me back to my wedding reception at the Polish Legion in Barnesboro, PA. We also served cabbage and noodles. Thank you.
Authentic recipe. I
I am 70 years old and have not tasted anything this good sincI was a young boy in a Polish family and all the aunts would get together and make stuffed cabbage and perogi every holiday. Thank you so much for your recipe.
Dave, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it! I appreciate your very kind words.
Love this recipe. Was wondering. What do you do with the chopped cabbage sprinkled with salt? Thanks
The “leftover” cabbage sprinkled with salt goes in the bottom of the pan, underneath the cabbage rolls and cooks along with them.
can i use raw rice, just use 1/2 of what it calls for?
I know some people do use uncooked rice. In my mind, I just worry about it cooking properly. There’s one way to find out. Go for it.
My Great Grandmother, Anastasia came to the U.S as a young girl. She was a phenomenal cook. She put a layer of sauerkraut on bottom of roaster, no bacon, ground beef and pork, onions, ri. ce in the filling. They were covered in delicious tomatoes, with just a half teaspoon of horseradish, and oh boy, get ready for a feast… Sour creme and potato pancakes always accompanied this heavenly dish. Enjoy!!! Thank you for sharing!!!
Mary Jean Rapoll
We call them Hungarian hand grenades. LOL!
This is similar to how I make stuffed cabbage. I add a little brown sugar and crushed ginger snaps to the gravy. We always had these with mashed potatoes or cooked rice but I like the idea of serving them with pierogi.
John Stanley Tonge
I love your recipe. My mom made these with tomato soup sauerkraut and my mother-in-law used tomato juice for the sauce. I want to make a vegetarian version for one of my Christmas main dishes for our guests that don’t eat meat. I’m hoping to use your recipe with meat substitute as the only change. Do you think it will work?
Do you brown the ground beef? or use it uncooked? Thanks
The ground is not cooked before the rolls are baked.
Lodzia Kowalczyk Elbaum
My mother would always boil the golumpki on the stove in a big pot and I do the same. I feel that I get more in a big pot.
I remember my mom added some sage to the hamburger meat mixture, so good, just can’t remember how much 🙁
Hi. Says 2-16oz tomato’s, what kind of tomatoes? I see the other is say e.
I usually used diced tomatoes, but if you get whole and break them up that’s fine. Fire-roasted would be good too.