Stuffed Cabbage Recipe with Tomato Caramelized Onion Sauce

A rich, warmly spiced sauce wraps itself around each of the beef and rice filled cabbage rolls, making for the most delicious comfort food this winter!Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato SauceMy Grandmother was an excellent cook.

Everything was always delicious and the table was always set perfectly.  (I told you about how fancy I thought my Grandparents were when I shared my version of my Grandmother’s Spicy Quick Pickled Broccoli.)Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato SauceMy dad still talks about how my Grandmother followed every recipe  to a T.  I wish I could give you a visual of my dad holding his finger in the air and motioning it sideways to show how she’d level off a ½ teaspoon measurement perfectly, so as not to add a spec too much or too little. Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato SauceI’m so fortunate to have a collection of my Grandmother’s recipes.  Some came from her friends, and some from family, and all were rewritten in her pretty handwriting.Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato SauceI haven’t tried all of them — but over the years, I’ve been working my way though the book.  I had not looked at the collection for a while, but I woke up a few days ago with a sudden urge to make the stuffed cabbage.  I just had to have it!  Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato SauceI made the recipe twice — the first time I followed it exactly, since I knew my Grandmother would have.  It was super delicious, though sweeter than I’d remembered.  The second time I made it, I changed it up a bit, taking out some of the sweetness and adding a few additional spices just to dress it up a bit.  I think my Grandmother would approve.  🙂

I have to tell you, it was hard to stop eating this — right out of the baking dish.  It’s absolutely scrumptious.


5.0 from 5 reviews
Stuffed Cabbage Recipe with Tomato Caramelized Onion Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 8
For the cabbage
  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 1-pound grass-fed beef
  • ½ cup grated brown/yellow onion (from about 1small onion)
  • ⅓ cup canned tomato sauce (sometimes called tomato purée)
  • ½ cup raw long grain rice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
For the sauce
  • olive oil for the pan
  • 3 cups thinly sliced brown/yellow onion (from 1½ about medium-sized onions)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (from about 3 small cloves)
  • 1½ teaspoons allspice
  • 1¼ teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1½ cups (canned) peeled tomatoes in tomato juice
  • ¾ cup tomato sauce (sometimes called tomato purée)
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • ½ cup beef broth
  • 2½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
For the cabbage
  1. Cover a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels and set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the whole head of cabbage in the water, root end up. Let it sit in the boiling water for a few minutes, and then use metal tongs to lift it out and onto a kitchen towel.
  3. Very gently lift the 8 outermost leaves off of the cabbage head, trying to keep them as intact as possible. (If some of the leaves are harder to remove, you can put it back in the water for another couple of minutes.) Place 2 to 3 on the towel-covered baking sheet. Then place another paper towel on top before adding the remaining leaves. Set aside. (Save the rest of the cabbage for another use.)
  4. In a large mixing bowl, add the beef, grated onion, tomato sauce/purée, rice, salt, paprika and Worcestershire sauce. Use your hands to blend everything together, and do not continue to mix once everything is evenly incorporated. Cover with plastic and set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and adjust a rack to the center.
For the sauce
  1. Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil and place it over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté, stirring every couple of minutes, until he onions are soft and golden, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the allspice, mustard and paprika, mix and let it sauté until it's aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the tomato sauce/purée, tomatoes, wine, broth, vinegar, lemon juice and sugar and stir to blend. Use a wooden spatula to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  1. Add a few large spoonfuls of the sauce to the bottom of an (approximately) 9 X 13 X 2-inch baking dish.
  2. Lay the cabbage leaves, round side down, on a clean, dry surface, and use a paper towel to dry them if they're still damp. Use a paring knife to cut out the lower portion of the root if it's tough. Then add about ½ cup of the meat mixture to the bottom of each leaf.Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce
  3. Roll the cabbage leaf around the meat, folding in the sides as you go. Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce
  4. You should have a nice, tight bundle once it's rolled. Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce
  5. Seam side down, place each roll into the baking dish. Stuffed Cabbage-Recipe with Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce
  6. Once you've made all of the rolls, pour all of the remaining sauce over them, cover the dish with foil, and place in the preheated 325 degree F oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.


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  1. says

    The stuffed cabbage sounds great. The perfect meal for a rainy day (and it looks like we are in for a few here in Southern California). And, Valentina, your photography blows me away every time. I can’t decide if you are a better cook or photographer?????

    • valentina says

      So kind of you to say, Tom! Thank you for making my day. 🙂 And yes, this sort of meal is so perfect for this (finally!) cooler weather in S. CA! Hope you try it and enjoy!

  2. says

    Actually I remember my mom making cabbage rolls. Funnily, even though I loved them I haven’t had them as an adult. Time to get cracking on that! I love that caramelized onions in this recipe! looks Scrumptious indeed!

  3. says

    That’s such a lovely story. It’s wonderful that you have your grandmother’s recipes that you can pass on to a new generation!

    These look delicious! I’ve never had cabbage rolls before, but I’ve been dying to give it them a try. Definitely saving this recipe.

  4. says

    Yummy…another version of the stuffed cabbage rolls…we in the Middle East use more rice than meat, and no tomato sauce but lots of garlic and dill with lemon…I need to give this a shot…thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • valentina says

      Thanks. Oh I love the idea of adding dill, and having lemon be a more prominent flavor And more rice sounds good too! 🙂

  5. says

    This is wonderful and sounds almost like a classic Hungarian töltött káposzta (stuffed cabbage), the principle difference is that Hungarians would use some pickled cabbage in the sauce… You could do something by adding some sourkraut, trust me it really works 😀

    • valentina says

      Hi Brian. Thanks for visiting my site and checking out this recipe. I love the idea of adding sauerkraut to the sauce. Next time for sure! 🙂

  6. Rob says

    This is an excellent recipe, which, with the exception of substituting fire-roasted diced tomatoes for the whole tomatoes, I made as directed. The sauce, prepared a day ahead, is delicious and distinctive, especially with the allspice, and could be used for other purposes. The filling is also good, and the combination with the sauce may be the best stuffed cabbage that I’ve every had. Thanks!

    • valentina says

      Hi Rob, Thanks so much for sharing your experience with this recipe. I’m so happy you loved it, and it sounds divine to use the fire-roasted tomatoes. Great idea! I think this sauce is great to have around for rice, pasta, meats, etc. 🙂

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