Croatian cabbage rolls

This is most certainly my favourite cabbage roll recipe.

I adapted this recipe from a show I used to watch almost religiously on the Food Network a few years ago, Food Safari.

The main ingredient in this recipe is pickled cabbage. This is simply whole leaf sauerkraut. You can find them packaged in big jars in Middle Eastern food stores. In Ottawa, Mid-East Market always has some available.

The next important ingredient to get your hands on is speck. Speck is basically smoked prosciutto and it is readily available in most supermarkets today. I particularly enjoy the smokiness of the brand they sell at Costco. It is very flavourful and seem less salty than other brands.

The last unusual ingredient you will need to find is Vegeta, a vegetable bouillon powder available in delis or other specialty food stores. In Ottawa, you can get some at Mid-East Market. If you can’t find it, use seasoned salt instead.

Now, with the amount of salt found in the combination of pickled cabbage, speck, Vegeta and sauerkraut, make sure you use No Salt Added chicken broth or things might get a bit out of control.

You will have to do a bit of shopping to get these unusual ingredients, but, believe me, it is worth a small detour. If you decide to make this, I assure you, it will be a memorable meal. And the great thing is, that you will have leftovers that freeze very well.

Food Safari

Mon Food Blog


3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
250 g speck, finely diced
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
5 ml (1 teaspoon) vegetable bouillon powder like Vegeta
5 ml (1 teaspoon) mustard powder
450 g (1 pound) lean ground beef
450 g (1 pound) lean ground pork
5 ml (1 teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
250 g (1 cup) uncooked Arborio rice
2 large eggs, beaten
125 ml (1/2 cup) flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 jar pickled cabbage, drained
200 g (1/2 pound) sauerkraut, drained
1 liter (4 cups) chicken stock, no salt added (approximately)

Savoury paste:

45 ml (3 tablespoons) vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely diced
10 ml (2 teaspoons) mustard powder
30 ml (2 tablespoons) plain flour
10 ml (2 teaspoons) vegetable bouillon powder
15 ml (1 tablespoon) sweet paprika



1. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the shallots and the speck until the shallots are tender and the speck starts to crisp up. Add the garlic, mustard powder, Vegeta and paprika and stir for one more minute. Set aside and let it cool a bit.
2. In a large bowl, mix the beef, pork, Arborio rice, eggs, parsley, black pepper and the shallot mixture. Mix well with your hands until blended.
3. Line the bottom of a Dutch oven with the sauerkraut.
4. Take one pickled cabbage leaf and add about 3 tablespoons of the meat mixture in the middle. Roll it up like a cigar and secure it by tucking the ends back into the roll. Add the rolls in the Dutch oven one next to the other and continue making rolls and adding them to the pot. You should have a few layers. Very big cabbage leaves can be cut in half before you fill them.
5. Add enough chicken broth to cover. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, and cook, covered, for 90 minutes.
6. While the cabbage rolls are cooking, make the savoury paste. In a skillet over medium heat, cook the shallots in the oil until tender. Add the garlic, paprika, Vegeta, flour and stir until thick. Set aside to cool.
7. After the cabbage rolls have been cooking for 90 minutes, add the savoury paste mixture to the cabbage rolls, stir it in and continue to cook for another 30 minutes, uncovered.
8. Serve with mashed potatoes.

5 replies »

    • Believe me, they are absolutely fantastic! Can’t get enough of them! When I make a batch, that is the only thing we eat all week and never get tired of them.


  1. I have made this recipe on 3 different occasions. Sarma like my Baka made! Ok, she didn’t use speck… but it is a welcome addition. This recipe tastes particularly wonderful on a cold day like it is today in Ottawa. Thanks for sharing this!


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