This recipe is inspired by the Hungarian 🇭🇺 dish – töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage). Recently, I discovered that it is commonly served during Christmas time, however, it is also a popular dish during the cold winter months. With the Christmas season fast approaching, I think it was appropriate to prepare these cabbage rolls.
Töltött káposzta features on several menus of traditional Hungarian restaurants around Budapest. It can vary from one place to another, due to traditional family recipes and the region in Hungary from which the recipe originates.
I am not Hungarian and the following recipe is neither a traditional one nor a copy of a dish I have tasted. This recipe is inspired by the time I spent in Budapest and the multiple times I have seen and eaten it during my time living there. Being the cabbage season right now, my memories went back to Budapest and decided to create something which is similar and equally tasty while putting my own twist on it.
Traditionally, the Hungarian cabbage rolls are stuffed with a mixture of ground pork, beef, Hungarian sausage and rice. I have opted for a mixture of ground beef and pork, adding peas and finely diced carrots, and obviously flavoured with Hungarian paprika. I finished cooking the stuffed cabbage rolls in a simple tomato sauce flavoured with smoked paprika and served them with paprika-flavoured potatoes.
For a vegetarian filling alternative, I would substitute the ground meat with soya mince, add a dash of good vegetable stock for more flavour and bulk it up with quinoa or bulgur wheat.
This recipe is not complicated to prepare, though there are multiple steps to take care of. The cabbage rolls can be served on their own (or with a slice of rustic bread) as a starter, or they can be served with a portion of rice, grain or potatoes for a main course. They are great to prepare in advance which makes them ideal to serve at a family gathering or dinner parties.
Here’s my version of the stuffed cabbage rolls inspired by the Hungarian 🇭🇺 töltött káposzta 😀
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
My version of stuffed cabbage rolls inspired by the Hungarian 🇭🇺 töltött káposzta
- 8 whole cabbage leaves For the filling:
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 150g ground pork
- 150g ground beef
- 1 tsp Hungarian paprika
- 100ml red wine
- 75g frozen peas
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- Salt and pepper For the sauce:
- 400g chopped tomatoes in tomato sauce
- 1 tsp Hungarian mild paprika
- 1 tsp Hungarian smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper For the potatoes:
- 8 potatoes
- 1 tsp Hungarian paprika
- 1/2 tsp smoked chipotle powder
- Salt & pepper
- Fresh parsley
- For the filling: In a large frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and carrot and saute until soft.
- Add the garlic, chilli flakes, caraway seeds and bay leaves and cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the ground pork and beef, sprinkle the paprika and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the meat starts to turn brown.
- Add the wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
- Mix in the peas and chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
- While the filling mixture is simmering, steam the cabbage leaves for 3 minutes over salted water until they are soft and bendy but not overcooked. Set them aside to cool completely.
- For the sauce: In a saucepan, add the tomatoes, paprika and smoked paprika and season with salt and pepper. Bring to almost boil and then let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Open the cabbage leaves flat on your work surface and spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the filling mixture on one end of the leaves. Roll to encase the filling, fold the sides to the middle and roll again to create the cabbage roll. Repeat with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling.
- In a large frying pan or casserole dish, spoon some tomato sauce in the bottom, place the stuffed cabbage rolls, pour the remaining tomato sauce on top and cover. You can either cook them on the stove top or in the oven until warm throughout.
- For the potatoes: Steam* the potatoes over salted water until they are soft and tender. Once cool to handle them, chop them into cubes.
- In a large frying pan, heat 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once hot, carefully add the chopped potatoes, sprinkle the paprika and smoked chipotle and season with salt and pepper. Cover and let it cook until golden and crispy on all sides. Sprinkle some chopped fresh parsley on top.
- Serve warm.
- You can also boil the potatoes. However, I prefer steaming them as they do not absorb as much water and when they are fried, they will be fluffier on the inside and crispy on the outside. You can also baked them in the oven as an alternative.