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5 from 2 votes

Romanian Sarmale

Sarmale are cabbage rolls made with sour cabbage, stuffed with a mix of pork and spices, and topped with bacon and tomato sauce. These aren't your regular cabbage rolls.
Prep Time1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 15 mins
Total Time3 hrs 45 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: european
Keyword: Cabbage, Cabbage Rolls, Romanian Food, Sarmale
Servings: 10
Author: These Foreign Roads


  • Casserole Dish with Lid
  • Bowls
  • Frying Pan


  • 1 Large Sour Cabbage Bought pre-made in Grocery Store
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1.5 Large Onion Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 1 Tbsp Oregano Dry
  • 1 Tbsp Basil Dry
  • 1/4 Cup White Rice Uncooked
  • 1 lb Ground Pork
  • 1 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes Dry
  • 15 Slices Thick Bacon Cut into Lardons
  • 6 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Bunch Dill Fresh, Finely Chopped With a couple sprigs set aside for garnishing.
  • 1 Bunch Parsley Fresh, Finely Chopped
  • 700 mL Tomato Juice (or diced tomatoes, pureed)
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste
  • 1 cup Thick Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt For Serving


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Grab a large pot and place the head of sour cabbage inside, fill to cover with water. Bring to boil for about 5 minutes turn off heat, discard water and cool cabbage. (This will make your house smell, so open a window, and turn on the fan!)
  • In a large pan heat the oil on medium, add 3/4 of the onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft and garlic is fragrant, season with salt and pepper.
  • Add in the dry basil and oregano. Next, add the raw rice and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly, browning the rice. Pull off heat and cool.
  • In a large bowl combine the ground pork, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley, dill. Next, add the chopped onion, garlic, and rice mixture to the bowl and mix well with clean hands (or gloved hands), making sure it is mixed VERY WELL.
  • Core the cabbage to make removing the leaves easier. Remove all of the cabbage leaves, gently not to break them. You will only need the large leaves to make the rolls, so set these aside. Cut each large leaf in half, removing the tough core part too to make it easier to roll. Put 4 big whole leaves aside for later.
  • Roughly chop smaller leaves, and the ones that broke during the rolling process and set aside in a bowl for later.
  • Place big saucepan over medium heat, add oil and bacon cook until almost crisp, add the rest of chopped onions and garlic, and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add half of the chopped sour cabbage leaves and sauté for another 2 minutes. Place 1/3 of the cabbage and bacon mixture and 2 bay leaves on the bottom of a casserole dish.
  • Start rolling your cabbage rolls.
  • Place a leaf on the cutting board, add a tablespoon of the ground meat mixture. Cover the filling with the base of the leaf. Bend edges on both sides and cover over the filling. Roll the stuffed cabbage leaf holding firm, so they won't break during cooking time. This is exactly like rolling a burrito, or wrap.
  • Place each roll on top of the cabbage and bacon mixture until you have one layer. Add another 1/3 of the cabbage-bacon mixture, as well as 2 more bay leaves.
  • Keep making rolls and cover the second layer.
  • Top with the rest of the cabbage-bacon and 2 bay leaves. Pour the tomato juice over the rolls. The juice should cover the cabbage rolls entirely so add additional water or tomato juice if needed. Cover with the four large leaves you set aside earlier. (Like a lid)
  • Cover the casserole dish with foil or a lid and bake for 2 hours. Pull out of oven and let sit for 20 mins, as to not burn your face off.
  • Serve warm with a dollop of thick sour cream or yogurt on the side, and garnish with dill.
  • Save leftovers for lunch the next day, or freeze for another meal. These Freeze great!