Balkan Sarma—Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Sarma is a staple of The Balkans. Sarma is a dish of grape leaves, cabbage, or chard leaves rolled around a filling of rice, minced meat, or both. This delicious Balkan sarma recipe is courtesy of a dear Bosnian friend of mine.

Cabbage rolls with meat, rice and vegetables. Stuffed cabbage leaves with meat. Dolma, sarma, sarmale, golubtsy or golabki —


2 lbs ground pork, unseasoned

½ lb slab smoked bone-in pork ribs

One large head sour cabbage

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp Hungarian paprika

1 tsp Herbs de Provence or Italian seasoning

One bay leaf



Carefully remove individual cabbage leaves from the head, and rinse under cold running water to remove excess salt and set aside. Save 2–3 cabbage leaves for later use. Rinse the smoked pork ribs as well.


In a large mixing bowl, combine ground pork, rice, salt, pepper, paprika, and Herb de Provence or Italian seasoning, and mix well by hand.


Heap 2 tablespoons of filling on each cabbage leaf.

Fold the bottom of the cabbage leaf over the meat.

Fold sides to the center, and roll away from yourself to encase completely.

Repeat until meat filling is gone.


Heat oven to 350F.

Layer the cabbage rolls, seam side down in a six-quart Dutch oven.

Cut the smoked pork slab into individual ribs and gently tuck between cabbage rolls.

Add bay leaf.

Cover rolls with reserved cabbage leaves.

Mix tomato sauce and paste with enough water to make a liquid consistency.

Pour over rolls until mixture is level with rolls.

Place lid on the Dutch oven and bake for 2 hours or until the smoked pork falls off the bone.

May add additional water 1–2 times during the cooking process if needed.

Serve with a side of mashed potatoes and crusty bread.

Pair with Pilsner, Lager, or Cabernet Sauvignon, or Malbec.

Seattle Blogger | Author of Lana Kiossovski Eat. Drink. Travel and Lana Kiossovski Doggone It:

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