How To Make The Best Meatless Cabbage Rolls (Holybtsi)

21 Jan

Cabbage rolls aka Holybtsi (“Голубці”)

I don’t even have a picture of the finished product – they were gone as soon as I served them.

My mom was a cabbage rolls queen and she used to make amazing cabbage rolls for the holidays.  They always bring great memories of my childhood.  They are usually made with meat and are full of flavour.  It doesn’t get more Ukrainian than that!

If you wish to make tradition cabbage rolls with meat you will need a pound of ground pork (or beef, or turkey) and 1/2 cup of rice.  These cabbage rolls freeze well; do so before baking.  Recipe can be doubled.


  • 1 small head Savoy cabbage (regular green cabbage stays tough)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice (arborio, short grain or sticky rice work well too; basmati rice – not so much)
  • 1 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 can tomato juice (low sodium)


  • Using a sharp knife, cut around the core and remove it.  Separate the outer leaves  – Savoy cabbage works best.
  • Bring a pot of water to to a simmer over high heat.  Place 2-3 leaves at a time into the water and cook for up to 2 minutes, just until they are pliable.  Remove and set aside.

  • Heat oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add onions and carrots and cook for 10 minutes until they are tender.  

  • Stir in tomato paste, salt and pepper.  

  • Add this mixture to rice and mix it well with dill.

  • Trim large centre vein of each leaf.  

  • Place the rice mixture in the centre of each leaf.  

  • Fold bottom of of each leaf up over the filling, then fold each side up and over.  Roll up snugly 🙂

  • Transfer rolls to pot and add tomato juice.  

  • Cover and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes.
  • Serve with sour cream.

43 Responses to “How To Make The Best Meatless Cabbage Rolls (Holybtsi)”

  1. errinspelling January 21, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    thank-you so much! i always want stuffed cabbage, but i haven’t eaten meat in years.

  2. mpanchuk January 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm #

    Reblogged this on virtualborscht and commented:
    Great recipe and with Savoy Cabbage! Just wondering if there is a good recipe for Holubtsi with buckwheat.

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 21, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

      Oh, love those too 🙂 You would need to replace the cooked rice with 1 cup of cooked buckwheat. Lots of fried onions and mushrooms (instead of carrots)!

      • mpanchuk January 21, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

        OK. What do you recommend as a binder–an egg,or not?

      • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 22, 2013 at 12:29 am #

        No, no egg – they will not fall apart, the leaves will keep everything together . I’ll make this variety(Grechani Holybtsi) soon.

      • mpanchuk January 22, 2013 at 12:40 am #


  3. rebecca2000 January 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    They look yummy

  4. Mimi January 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I’ve never made meatless ones! Fabulous!

  5. Esenga' s Voice January 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    MMMMMMMMMMMMM………….one of my absolute favourites, have been for….ages. Another version I am making is the same mixture but wrapped in vine leaves. As yummy as Голубці!

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      I ate stuffed grape leaves but never made them. Как они правильно называются…долма?

      • Esenga' s Voice January 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

        Я научился делать их в Болгарии и там они называются “Sarmi”. Но я думаю, что в некоторых странах их называют “Dolma”. 🙂

      • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

        A в Румынии они называются “Sarmale” 🙂

      • Esenga' s Voice January 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

        🙂 Close, I would have recognized and definitely tasted also there!

  6. scott2608 January 21, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    This looks fantastic and thanks for sharing!

  7. jgann22 January 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    You sgould definatly have a pin it button! Because I would love to pin this to my board 🙂

  8. dearferrero January 21, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

    Delicious. Seems like a lot of work to make them but it’s definitely worth the effort!

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 21, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      I find many traditional foods are time consuming but they are not complicated to make. You are right though – these totally worth the effort 🙂

  9. Boomdeeadda January 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    Look very yummy and your photo’s were great. (I also loved you manicure..giggle). My husband love this variety. My Aunty sours her cabbage, which I love love love.

    • The Kat and The Falling Leaves January 21, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

      I had to make meatless cabbage rolls as it was for our Christmas. My daughter likes this variety more. Don’t even mention the sour cabbage (“kusla kapusta”), it takes cabbage rolls to another level.
      P.S. That’s the manicure with the real 18-karat gold flakes that I got for NYE.

  10. Rexlin Victor January 21, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Looks so delicious!!!

  11. Kim @ Tranquil Dreams January 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

    Looks super delicious! I’ll definitely try this out some time 🙂

  12. essentjewels January 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    These look so tempting!!!!

  13. dedy oktavianus pardede January 24, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    awesome recipes, looks very yummy….
    veggies goodness yet delicacy……
    thx for such inspiration

  14. paranoiasnfm February 7, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Nham… nham!

  15. tribute0928 August 12, 2013 at 4:24 am #

    Reblogged this on tribute0928's Blog and commented:
    (๑╹ڡ╹๑) I love it♥!! Thank You!


  1. Svjata Vecherya / Holy Supper – Ukrainian Christmas Eve « The Kat & the Falling Leaves - January 21, 2013

    […] Cabbage Rolls […]

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