Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls) - Give Recipe (2024)

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Turkish Cabbage Rolls aka Lahana Sarma are stuffed with a vegetarian rice filling flavored with Turkish spices, herbs, olive oil and lemon. They are cooked in a tangy tomato paste sauce complementing all the flavors. The result is finger-licking good!

Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls) - Give Recipe (1)

If you lovestuffed grape leaves dolma, you have to try these meatless cabbage rolls or lahana sarmasi as we say in Turkish too. Both recipes are full of flavors and perfect for special dinner parties. You might also want to see our list of thebest Turkish dishes.

Jump to:
  • Why should you make this recipe?
  • About The Ingredients:
  • How To Blanch Cabbage
  • How To Make
  • Expert Tips
  • Variations
  • Serving Suggestions
  • How To Store
  • FAQs
  • Other Turkish Stuffed Vegetables
  • Other Cabbage Recipes
  • 📖 Recipe
  • You might also like

Why should you make this recipe?

  • Lahana sarmasi can be made ahead and reheated right before serving.
  • They can be served at room temperature as an appetizer.
  • You can store them cooked in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • You can keep them cooked or uncooked in the freezer for 2-3 months.
  • The flavor-packed tomato sauce takes the cabbage rolls to the next level.

About The Ingredients:

Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls) - Give Recipe (2)

Cabbage:The type of cabbage really matters for a cabbage roll recipe. So what type of cabbage should you get? Green cabbage is the best option but savoy cabbage works fine too. Make sure the leaves are not packed too tightly. White cabbage and red cabbage are too firm and tight, so they are not good for rolls. You can makepickled cabbageorcoleslawwith them.

Filling:This is a vegetarian cabbage roll recipe, so we stuff them with rice, fresh herbs (parsley and dill), onions, tomatoes and spices.Bulgar wheatcan be substituted for rice or use a combination of these two if you want.

Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls) - Give Recipe (3)

Spices:Among all the spices in these cabbage rolls filling and sauce, dried mint has a key role. It is used very often in Turkish cuisine for its amazing taste. Try to find spearmint, not peppermint from spice shops. Another spice that gives them a Turkish flavor is sumac. It gives a nice tangy richness to the dish. We even sprinkle some sumac on it when serving.

Sauce: We make the sauce with olive oil, tomato paste, garlic, dried mint and paprika. If you can find Turkish pepper paste, you can add it too.

How To Blanch Cabbage

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The first thing you need to do is to cut the top root out of the cabbage. Then remove the outer leaves as they are mostly tough and with dirt.

There are two methods for blanching a cabbage.

Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls) - Give Recipe (5)

Blanching cabbage leaves: Cut the top stem out of the cabbage and separate the leaves. Bring a pot full of water to a boil. Put the cabbage leaves in it in batches and blanch them for 1-2 minutes.Don’t over-cook them.Transfer them on a strainer to cool. This is the method we prefer as we find it easier to know when the leaves are done.

Blanching the whole cabbage head: Cut the top stem off and put the whole head in boiling water. Cook it for 10-12 minutes. Transfer it to a strainer to cool. Separate the leaves when it is cold enough.

How To Make

After making the filling, it is time to make the cabbage rolls.

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  1. Prepare the blanched cabbage leaves:Cut off the thick vein in the middle of each cabbage leaf. Then cut cabbage leaves into two if they are too large. Put them aside.
  2. Don’t throw the seams or deformed parts of cabbage leaves away. You can put some of them in the pan as a bottom layer. This will keep the rolls at the bottom from getting over-cooked. And keep the rest in the fridge to use them insoupsorstews.
  3. Assemble the cabbage rolls: Place a blanched cabbage leaf on a cutting board. Put about 1 tablespoon of filling on one side of it.
  4. Roll it up. (Please see the pictures above). Place the stuffed cabbage rolls in the pan.
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  1. Make the sauce:In a saucepan, combine olive oil, tomato paste, mashed garlic, dried mint and paprika. Add in the hot water and bring it to a boil. Remove from the heat.
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  1. Cook the rolls:Sprinkle a little salt over the cabbage rolls in the pan. Pour the sauce over them. Place a plate upside down on the rolls and then put the lid on. This will help the cabbage rolls to keep stable and cook equally well. Bring it to boil over medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest and cook until the rice is tender, for about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Expert Tips

  • Don’t buy red cabbage or white cabbage. They are too tight and it is hard to separate their leaves.
  • Buy a large head of cabbage that is not very heavy and has loose leaves.
  • Don’t over-cook the cabbage leaves when blanching them. Remove when they get soft and flexible enough, after 1-2 minutes.
  • Cut the thick part on the root end of each cabbage leaf so that it is easier to roll.
  • If the leaves are too large, cut them into two or even three.
  • The rolls don’t have to look perfect but try to roll them tight.
  • If you have any leftover filling after finishing the cabbage leaves, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days and in the freezer for 3 months. You can cook it in a pan on its own to serve as a side or use it in your next stuffed cabbage sarma.
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Variations

  • Make it with meat: In Turkey, it is very popular to make lahana sarmasi with a meaty filling. You can use the filling we use in our sogan dolma,Turkish stuffed onions, which are made with a combination of ground beef and rice. Alternatively, you can add use a ground turkey or lamb filling.
  • Make it with other grains: You can substitute rice withwheat berries,quinoa orbuckwheatalthough it won’t be a traditional Turkish way of cabbage rolls.Bulgar wheat, on the other hand, is quite common as a sub for rice in stuffed veggies in Turkey.
  • Change the filling: Another variation of cabbage rolls in Turkey is with a mixture of rice, herbs, cinnamon, pine nuts and currant raisins. You can use the ingredients in ourMiddle Eastern rice recipeexcept water to make this version. Just combine them all in a mixing bowl without cooking anything and stuff the cabbage leaves with this mixture.
  • Bake in the oven instead of cooking on the stove: You can put the rolls in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake in the oven for 1 hour or a bit longer. Alternatively, you can put them in an oven-proof pan, cook over the stove for about 30 minutes and then bake in the oven for another 30 minutes or so.
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Serving Suggestions

In Turkey, cabbage rolls (lahana sarmasi) or any stuffed vegetables (dolma) are traditionally served withyogurtorthick strained yogurt. We also enjoy it with a bowl ofcacikon the side.

If you make the cabbage rolls with ground beef filling, a bowl ofTurkish shepherd saladwould be a nice refreshing side to serve with them.

How To Store

To store the leftover cabbage rolls: Put the leftovers in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat with a splash of water over the stove.

To freeze: You can store these cabbage rolls either cooked or uncooked in the freezer for 3 months. If they are cooked, just put them in an airtight container and freeze. If they are uncooked, it is better to pack them in batches in freezer bags. When you are ready to cook, thaw them a little and then cook.

FAQs

Why are my cabbage rolls tough?

Maybe you haven't cook them enough. Cooking duration might change depending on the cabbage you use. Some types take longer to cook. So it's always better to check after 40 minutes and cook longer if it is still tough.

How do you get cabbage leaves off without breaking them?

If you buy a large head that is not very heavy and firm, the leaves won't be tightly-packed. So it will be easier to separate the leaves. Alternatively, you can blanch the whole cabbage head in boiling water. This will soften the leaves and make them flexible.

What is the best type of cabbage for cabbage rolls?

Any cabbage with loose leaves would work fine but green cabbage, savoy cabbage and napa cabbage are the best types for rolls. Don't use red cabbage or white cabbage as they are too firm.

Other Turkish Stuffed Vegetables

  • Stuffed Green Peppers
  • Stuffed Dried Eggplants
  • Kabak Dolmasi (Turkish Stuffed Zucchini)

Other Cabbage Recipes

  • Cabbage Roll Casserole
  • Cheesy Cabbage Casserole
  • Cabbage Soup

As always: If you make this recipe, let us know what you think by rating it and leaving a comment below. And post a pic on Instagram too—tag @give_recipe so we can see!

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📖 Recipe

Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls)

Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls) - Give Recipe (12)

Print Recipe
★★★★★4.8 from 4 reviews

Turkish style vegetarian cabbage rolls stuffed with a spicy rice filling flavored with herbs, onion, garlic and tomatoes. The rolls are cooked in a tasty tomato paste sauce for perfection.

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: Turkish
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage

Filling:

  • 2 cups rice (uncooked)

  • 1 large onion, chopped finely

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely

  • 2-3 tomatoes, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon dried mint

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 and ½ teaspoons salt

  • ½ teaspoon sumac

  • Half lemon, juice only

  • ¼ cup olive oil

Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed

  • 2 teaspoons dried mint

  • 2 cups hot water

Instructions

  1. Filling:In a large mixing bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Taste and increase the amount of lemon juice and salt if needed.
  2. Blanch the cabbage: Cut off the hard root part on top of the cabbage and separate the leaves. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the cabbage leaves in batches until they are soft and flexible, for 2-3 minutes. Don’t over-cook them. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the simmering water and transfer into a strainer.
  3. Prepare the blanched cabbage leaves: Cut off the thick vein in the middle of each cabbage leaf. Don’t throw them away, we’ll put them at the bottom of the pan. And cut cabbage leaves into two if they are too large.
  4. Assemble the cabbage rolls: Place the removed thick veins or any other unwanted cabbage pieces in the pan as a bottom layer. This will keep the rolls at the bottom from getting over-cooked. Place a blanched cabbage leaf on a cutting board. Put about 1 tablespoon of filling on one side of it and roll it up. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls in the pan.
  5. Sauce: In a saucepan, combine olive oil, tomato paste, mashed garlic, dried mint and paprika. Add in the hot water and bring it to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  6. Cook the rolls: Sprinkle a little salt over the cabbage rolls in the pan. Pour the sauce over them. Place a plate upside down on the rolls. This will help the cabbage rolls to keep stable and cook equally well. Bring it to boil over medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest and cook until the rice is tender, for about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

  • Don’t buy red cabbage or white cabbage. They are too tight and it is hard to separate their leaves.
  • Buy a large head of cabbage that is not very heavy and has loose leaves.
  • Don’t over-cook the cabbage leaves when blanching them. Remove when they get soft and flexible enough, after 1-2 minutes.
  • Cut the thick part on the root end of each cabbage leaf so that it is easier to roll.
  • If the leaves are too large, cut them into two or even three.
  • The rolls don’t have to look perfect but try to roll them tight.
  • If you have any leftover filling after finishing the cabbage leaves, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days and in the freezer for 3 months. You can cook it on its own to serve as a side or use it in your next stuffed cabbage sarma.
  • To store the leftovers: Put the leftovers in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • To freeze: You can store these cabbage rolls either cooked or uncooked in the freezer for 3 months. If they are cooked, just put them in an airtight container and freeze. If they are uncooked, it is better to pack them in batches in freezer bags. When you are ready to cook, thaw them a little and then cook.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 320
  • Sugar: 11.4 g
  • Sodium: 653.5 mg
  • Fat: 17.2 g
  • Carbohydrates: 41.6 g
  • Protein: 5.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

Keywords: vegetarian cabbage rolls, Turkish cabbage rolls

You might also like

  • Yaprak Sarma (Turkish Dolma)
  • Biber Dolmasi - Turkish Stuffed Peppers
  • Turkish Stuffed Eggplant Karniyarik

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Reader Interactions

Comments

    Leave a Reply

  1. Sherry says

    Would have been helpful if the recipe specified that the filling is prepared with UNCOOKED rice. I peppered it with cooked rice and hoping for the best.
    Spices are wonderful. Sumac is new to me. Smells wonderful!

    Reply

    • Zerrin & Yusuf says

      Hi Sherry,
      We're sorry for the confusion about the rice. You're right, we should have made it clear that we use uncooked rice in our recipe. But don't worry, in many traditional Turkish recipes, rice filling is actually partly cooked before being used for stuffing the cabbage leaves. So your dish with the cooked rice might turn out to be delicious!

      We're glad you're enjoying the spices, especially trying out sumac. It really has a wonderful aroma. Thanks for trying our recipe and for your helpful feedback!

      Reply

  2. Eileen says

    In the video someone takes a forkful but before eating it she dips it into a white sauce. Is that yogurt?

    Reply

    • Zerrin & Yusuf says

      Hi Eileen,

      Yes, it is plain yogurt. In Turkey, any dolma (stuffed veggies) is often served with yogurt.

      Reply

  3. Debbie says

    Is the rice cooked before filling? It's not clear if this is cooked or uncooked.

    Reply

    • Zerrin & Yusuf says

      Hi Debbie,
      Thank you for this question. No, the rice is not cooked. It cooks well in the cabbage rolls.

      Reply

  4. Ozlem says

    It is the best recipe of lahana sarması! Thank you Zerrin and Yusuf🙏 Loved it!

    Reply

    • Zerrin & Yusuf says

      Thank you sooo much for your kind words Özlem! We are glad you liked it!

      Reply

  5. Paul says

    This looks great. Should I sauté the onions and the spices a little before putting them into the cabbage?

    Reply

    • Zerrin & Yusuf says

      Hi Paul,
      Thank you! No need to cook the onions, just chop them finely and add in the filling mixture.
      Would love to hear what you think if you have a chance to try it.
      Cheers!

      Reply

  6. Leesie says

    This used to be my favorite dish when I was in Turkey. Made them today and they turned out AMAZING! Thank you for the step pictures and the video. So helpful!

    Reply

  7. Pat Goff says

    I love this recipe. I do one with gravy instead of tomatoes. I love tomatoes but my brothers can't and won't eat them so it is a sacrafice I have to make I guess. It is hard to find recipes that don't use tomatoes and peppers, or mushrooms etc.

    Reply

  8. Sherry says

    Hi, Zerrin, I am going to try your cabbage roll recipe tonight. I was wondering
    if you had ever tried freezing them?

    Reply

    • Zerrin says

      Hi Sherry! I love to freeze them. They are great when frozen. Just thaw them before you cook. Mom makes these for us and freezes some for later cooking whenever she visits us. I love to remember mom when I cook these when she's away from me.

      Reply

  9. Zerrin says

    Glass is a measurement unit we use in cooking. It equals to 1 cup.

    Reply

  10. Vonn Parker says

    After ogling the picture of these cabbage rolls for a long time, I finally made them. They were extremely tasty. I used meat in my recipe, however I think the vegatarian option would be amazing. I found the recipe made way more filling than one cabbage could handle, but I froze it for future.

    Reply

    • Zerrin says

      Hi Vonn! Thank you for sharing the result here! I love both vegetarian version and with ground meat. Never tried it with meat though. Must give it a try! The amount of filling could depend on the size of cabbage, but freezing it for future is a great solution! I either do the same or cook it as it is, not in cabbage rolls, it becomes like pilaf. It is still tasty that way!

      Reply

  11. Zerrin says

    About 2 cups.

    Reply

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