Lithuanian Cabbage Rolls (Balandeliai)

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Was yesterday “say something snotty on Facebook” day?  Hidden aaaand hidden, dudes.  I wish there were a Facebook app that would automatically turn certain status updates to photos of cake.  Also acceptable: photos of puppies, Seinfeld quotes, Flight of the Conchords videos…  Whatever it is you’re into.


There, James.  That’s better.  (Image borrowed from Lamebook)

Step one: figure out how to make Facebook apps.  Someday (ha!).  Meanwhile, let me show you item #1 that I can knock off my “to-cook this year” list.

It’s Lithuanian cabbage rolls!  Mad success.

Not everyone likes cabbage, but perhaps that’s because they’ve never experienced it rolled around a tasty meat-rice-onion-bell pepper mixture and soaked in a tangy, creamy, tomato-based sauce?

You’d think that the meat mixture would be the best part, but in my book, those tasty braised cabbage leaves are magical.  They absorb the flavor of the sauce fantastically.

The whole thing is time-consuming, but not croissant-time-consuming.  Not even close, actually.  It’s mostly prepping the leaves and rolling the rolls.

Other than that, you put them on the stove for an hour and forget about it.  Except you can’t, because it smells fantastic!

The extra cabbage is chopped up and goes on the bottom of the pot.  Waste not!

The finishing touch is the addition of sour cream to the braising liquid to make the sauce.  Important…  And delicious.

Lithuanian Cabbage Rolls (Balandeliai)
(Adapted from

1 head green cabbage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cooked rice
1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, pork or turkey (I used turkey)
1 egg, beaten
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken or beef stock 
3 tablespoons sour cream

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and boil the head of cabbage for a few minutes, until the outer leaves are pliable enough to be pulled off.  Remove about 12 leaves, putting the cabbage back in the boiling water for a minute or two to soften the inner layers of leaves, if needed.  Once you have about a dozen leaves, remove the core from the cabbage and coarsely chop the remaining cabbage, then scatter it over the bottom of a large pot or dutch oven.

Allow the large leaves to cool a bit, then use a knife to cut away some of the tough center stem from the outside of each leaf (see photo above).  Don’t cut all the way through the leaf–it should remain intact.

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute onion, bell pepper and garlic for a few minutes, until softened.  Allow the mixture to cool a bit before combining it with the cooked rice, ground meat and egg in a large bowl.

Place about 1/2 cup of the meat mixture on each cabbage leaf, on the end that was closest to the core and has the bottom of the center stem.  Flip up the sides and roll to encase the meat mixture.

Once you have your rolls, place them over the chopped cabbage you have in your pot or dutch oven.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over each layer.  Mix the tomato sauce and stock together, then pour it over the rolls.

Bring the pot to boil over medium-high heat on the stovetop, then lower the heat to low and simmer, covered, for an hour or so.  Remove the rolls from the pot and mix in sour cream into the pan juices to make sauce–serve rolls with sauce spooned over the top.

Serves 4-6.

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  1. says

    Yes :) these are really great! I can eat them almost everyday :) Only traditionally we don’t put bell pepper and on the bottom of the pot we put not only cabbage but carrot slices too :)

  2. Jane says

    As I recall, we would put our rolls in the pot with a mixture of shredded cabbage, sauerkraut and a small amount of smoked meat. But however you make it they are great!

  3. says

    I just made these for dinner. It was the first time I made cabbage rolls and they turned out great! I also added some sliced carrot to the bottom of the pot with the chopped cabbage.