Friday, July 20, 2012


Blog's Category: My Staple Food, USSR-era Recipes

Golubtsy, Stuffed Cabbage, Pig-In-A-Blanket are all the same thing: ground meat (with or without rice) wrapped into cabbage leaves and cooked. This dish is one of the must items on the Ukrainian celebratory gatherings. I remember my mom cooking it, my grandma and I'm sure mom of mom of my mom were cooking it. It is used to be my favorite dish before I converted to vegetarianism (sigh). Must be because it is really time consuming affair, my folks are not spoiled by me serving Golubtsy on a regular basis. But whenever time, my mood, special occasion or other factors cross their ways, my people are ready to enjoy this very traditional Eastern European dish - Golubtsy.

- Usually it's pork, beef, or its combination is used as meat part of filling. But it's totally acceptable to use ground chicken instead.
- Cooked rice, onion, sometimes grated carrots are parts of the filling. All this can be omitted, although rice, in my opinion, the must. It makes filling soft and tender - you have to be able to cut piece of it with your fork (well, I'm "eating neatly" freak so I definitely prefer to use knife anyway :)) So, rule # 1 - Golubtsy has to be soft.
- Traditionally, it's tomato sauce that golubtsy has to be cooked. But I know some Ukrainian cooks who add sour cream to the tomato sauce. I prefer to drop generous spoon of sour cream when serving golubtsy.
- Whenever I make traditional golubtsy, I do vegetarian version of it for my daughter and myself, substituting ground meat with mushrooms or even with crabmeat.

Taste Description
This is a hearty, filling and, at the same time, light comfort food. It's strange that word "light" comes to my mind when I want to describe the taste - must be because it has very soft, not spicy, soothing texture. I would compare it, taste and texture-wise, to Swedish meatballs plus cooked, soaked in tomato sauce, cabbage.

How to Serve
It has to be served hot, with a dollop of cold sour cream on top. Sour cream, tempering acidic tomato sauce and temperature of Golubtsy, is a perfect pairing to this dish. As I mentioned above, it's easier to use knife and fork even if you are still in your pajama at the kitchen counter :)
1 medium cabbage
3 lb ground beef, or pork, or both
3 cups of cooked rice
onions, 2 of them chopped, 1 - finely grated or processed
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3-4 bay leaves
5 tbs olive oil
sour cream to garnish

- Cut out central stem of the cabbage.

- Fill your largest pot half with water and bring it to a boil. Turn heat off. Carefully put your cabbage, cut-out side down, in a pot with hot water, cover with lid and leave it alone for at least 1 hour.

- In a skillet, cook 1 chopped onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden.

- For filling, thoroughly mix ground meat with rice, fried onions, finely grated (or processed) raw onion, salt and pepper.

- Remove cabbage from the water onto large tray and carefully separate leaves, one by one, from the cabbage.

- Start to make golybtsy - place 1-3 tbs (depending on size of the cabbage leaf) of meat mix in the center of a leaf. Fold leaf edges and roll it up forming Golubtsy (see pictures below)

- Place cabbage wraps tightly in a large pot.

- Make tomato sauce - fry remaining onions in an olive oil until soft, add tomato paste and enough water to create enough sauce to cover all your Golubtsy. It may take about 5-6 cups of water. Stir well, add salt to taste, sugar to counter-balance tomato acid. I like my sauce on a sweeter side, you make yours to your liking. Add bay leaves.

- Pour sauce on a top of Golubtsy and place pot on a stove. Bring it to a boil. Turn heat down, cover and simmer for about 1.5 hour.

- Serve (don't forget sour cream!) and enjoy!


Leaves are softened up after standing in a hot water for an hour.

Beat it up nicely, no pity :)
I've made batch with vegetarian filling - rice, crabmeat (imitation :)), blanched spinach, egg and seasonings. I cooked vegetarian Golubtsy in a separate pot.

It takes some practice to separate leaves. No worries, if some leaves are torn, just do your best wrapping stuffing in it.

This step is optional - I like to cut off thick part of a leaf.

Usually I have some filling left, so I make meatballs and cook them in the same pot.

Making sauce...

Sauce is done.

Sauce is poured over. All hard work is over (as well :)). Now you just need your stove to finish up the dish.

.. and this is how it looks after cooking - appetizing :)

This is a pot with my vegetarian golubtsy.

Juicy, softly melting in your mouth - what a treat!
Vegetarian one - still great!



  1. What a great idea for leftover filling. I love this dish. In Serbia we call it sarma and during winter we use sauerkraut. :)

    1. How interesting! I googled on sarma and it gave me such a yummy pictures! I need to try it with souerkraut - I like the idea...

  2. Replies
    1. Actually, made of fish, imitation crab meat is, in fact, vegetarian. It is not vegan though. Conventionally, to vegetarian can be counted any food not containing meat or poultry but containing fish, any kind of seafood, milk products or eggs. :)

  3. I would love to try the vegetarian recipe, but I agree with Anna, vegetarian (I am one) do not eat fish or crab either.

    1. Here you will find my vegetarian version:

      PS Regarding our discussion what is vegetarian and what is not, looks like it's a matter of your country/area standards. Here, in US, people excluding meat out of their diet are vegetarians. Among vegetarians there are groups of pescetarians, who eat fish, lacto-ovo vegetarians who eat eggs and dairy products. Those who stick strictly plant-based diet, called here vegans. Personally, I'm a vegetarian who excludes any type of meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.) but eat fish (seafood), eggs and dairy. So, to be exact I'm pesco-ovo-lacto vegetarian. :) Though cook meat a lot for my meat-consuming family (without tasting!). Usually my folks are my testers and have no reservation about telling me the truth :)


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