Russian Monday:"Golubtsy" Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed cabbage or golubtsy (“go-lub-tzy”) in Russian is a dish of Middle Eastern as well as European cuisine. This name usually refers to ground beef mixed with boiled rice or buckwheat wrapped in cabbage leaves. However, there are many varieties of fillings and the dish is popular in a many countries – Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Balkan countries, Moldova, Russian, Turkey, and Ukraine etc.

Stuffed cabbage is easy to cook, but the origins of this dish are somewhat confusing. Word “golubets” in medieval Russian meant name of the dance or structure made of logs. This word started being used as name of the dish from approximately mid-18th century when Russian food culture has been under great European, especially French cuisine influence. At the time among aristocracy grilled dove was a widespread dish; however, not everyone could afford it. Hence, some started cooking “fake doves” made of minced meat wrapped in cabbage leaves. Word “dove” in Russian sounds like “golub” and hence those “fake doves” got nickname of “golubtsy” (i.e. “small doves”, plural). Slowly, “fake doves” became more popular than the real ones but nickname stuck to the dish – “golubtsy”.

In Turkey golubtsy were never about stuffed cabbage. Lam with rice wrapped in grape leaves made a fine Turkish version of the same dish. In fact, even Greece and China had their own variations of the similar foods, but it is really impossible to say who was first.

This dish emerged on different continents and at different times under many names, but the essence of it remained the same: put some cooked grains and minced meat in large leave (grape, cabbage etc), wrap neatly and serve.

One more interesting version of origin of stuffed leaves dishes is based on the fact that nettle leaves are capable of keeping meat fresh for few days, and our distant ancestors were using them for this quality, thus creating the very first version of stuffed leaves dish known to mankind.

For more Russian recipes, visit Russian Cuisine page.


Cabbage leave must be large enough so they could wrap the stuffing. Young cabbage is preferred, it is tender and tastier. To soften leaves, the whole cabbage head can be boiled until it softens. Instead of ground beef you can also use rice with onions and boiled eggs, rice with onions and mushrooms, mushrooms with parsley root and celery. Buckwheat and porridge can replace rice, they can be used with onions and some butter.

Golubzi 1 Golubzi 2 Golubzi 3 Golubzi 4

My mom used to cook traditional golubtsy – minced beef with rice wrapped in cabbage leaf. This is the recipe I would like to share with you today.

Golubzi - Stuffed Cabbage 2

Serves 6

Note: To cook the rice for the meat filling, place 1/2 cup of rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Drain well. Bring the rice, pinch of salt and 1 cup of water to boil in a small or medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until rice is almost done, 10 minutes. Allow rice to cool slightly.


For the meat filling:

  • 2 Tbsp. clarified butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 lb. ground (minced) beef 
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, cooked
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice 
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

For the cabbage rolls:
  • 1 medium head cabbage
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato sauce, (I used Ragu Traditional)
  • salt to taste
  • plain whole-milk yogurt or sour cream for serving

Golubzi - Stuffed Cabbage 3


Preheat the oven to 350F.

To make meat filling, heat clarified or oil in easy to cook frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and fry until soft, about 7 minutes. Place in a bowl with beef and remaining filling ingredients. Mix well to combined.

Core cabbage and place whole in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook just long enough to soften leaves, about 10-15 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool under cold running water. Carefully remove the leaves.

Cut thick ribs from larger leaves, then halve the leaves; keep smaller leaves intact. You will need 14-16 leaves. Use leaves and trimmings to line a deep saucepan.

To make the rolls, place a generous tablespoon of meet filling at base of each leaf, roll one turn and tuck in sides to contain filling. Roll firmly to end of leaf.

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the stock and tomato sauce to a boil. Add the garlic, lemon juice and salt. Cook for one more minute.

Arrange the rolls in a large pot, pour the sauce over the top. Cover and bring to boil. Place in a oven for about 45-50 minutes.

Serve the rolls hot or warm. Serve with yogurt or sour cream.

Golubzi - Stuffed Cabbage 4


Medeja said...
September 9, 2013 at 1:22 AM  

When I was going home for holidays this was the first thing I asked my mom to make :) Oh they were so good, they are always good!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...
September 9, 2013 at 1:45 AM  

A delicious dish! So comforting and healthy. I'd love to try that recipe soon...



La Table De Nana said...
September 9, 2013 at 9:01 AM  

A great pictorial also:) Love the woodland spot:)

rustykalna kuchnia said...
September 9, 2013 at 9:02 AM  

In Poland, the "gołąbki / голубцы" we consider traditional dish, which necessarily occurs in the fall on our tables in unlimited quantities. My whole family loves them. We have a slightly different recipe, but very similar.

Yelena Strokin said...
September 9, 2013 at 9:41 AM  

Dear rustykalna kuchnia, Russian Cuisine is very similar to Poland, we have the same dishes. Stuffed vegetables are always on our table, specially when Autumn comes. Thank you for visiting my blog and very nice to meet you!

Eric Pepple said...
September 9, 2013 at 10:17 AM  

Oh man I love cabbage rolls! Definitely want to try your recipe :)

Happy Blogging!
Happy Valley Chow

Shema George said...
September 10, 2013 at 9:06 AM  

I want to try this out some day... i loved stuffed cabbage but I have never tried to make it on my own.. Loved the recipe and the dish looks very delicious and comforting
Shema | LifeScoops

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...
September 10, 2013 at 1:38 PM  

Japanese have similar dish but maybe this dish originally came from Russia! Maybe one day I'll make it and you can see it. :) I love stuffed cabbage - perfect fall/winter dish!

Lydia Schljachovskaja said...
September 12, 2013 at 12:48 AM  

Очень красиво! Мы любим голубцы.

Julia said...
September 15, 2013 at 6:00 PM  

Who doesn't like golubtsi? When I was a kid, we also used to use grape leaves instead of cabbage leaves. Maybe, that made them something else than golubtsi, but the idea was the same. Pinned!

Natasha of said...
September 25, 2013 at 7:09 PM  

I can't believe I did not find your blog sooner, those golubtsi look beautiful :).

Yelena Strokin said...
September 26, 2013 at 6:25 PM  

Welcome to my blog Natasha, I hope to see you soon!

backroadjournal said...
December 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM  

Your cabbage rolls brought back nice memories of my grandmother…I loved her cabbage rolls. She used sauerkraut juice whereas you used lemon juice but I think the flavor would be similar.

glutwin said...
January 29, 2014 at 3:34 AM  

Exquisite!….I used "riced"..whirled in the food processor... celeriac for the rice component…and it really worked! These little bundles were obviously done with lots of fond family "transmission" of culinary tradition…and lots of love.

Debbie Avino said...
March 8, 2014 at 2:44 PM  

This sounds wonderful. are very good. I will try your recipe soon.

Unknown said...
April 15, 2014 at 1:28 AM  

Julia, the grape leaf galubtsi are traditionally Greek "Dolmades."

Yelena these were good, but I had to simmer them for 45 more minutes after I baked them for 45 min. at 350 degrees. Did I not follow the recipe correctly?

St. Francis Assisi said...
May 30, 2014 at 9:06 AM  

Thank you for sharing the recipe. These look so scrumptious!

Jack said...
October 14, 2014 at 9:43 PM  

Hello Yelena Strokin- I was in Chelyabinsk in the fall of 3010 where I first sampled these. I am happy to have found this recipe. I made them tonight and all I could think of was "WOW" loved them Thanks.
Jack in Las Vegas

Елена Григарчук said...
December 6, 2016 at 4:17 PM  

Здравствуйте, Елена! Случайно натолкнулась на ваш блог. Очень нравятся ваши фотографии. Они чудесные! Вы снимаете с естественным освещением? Особенно мне понравилось то, что вы к каждому рецепту пишите его историю происхождения. Очень познавательно. Спасибо!

Yelena Strokin said...
December 6, 2016 at 4:33 PM  

Здравствуйте Елена, спасибо вам за теплые слова! Снимаю я только с натуральным светом у окна на кухне. Истории я и правда люблю и мне кажется многим людям это интересно. Спасибо что заглянули, у меня много русских рецептов, если будут какие вопросы пишите! Всего вам наилучшего!

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