This traditional Serbian recipe for pickled cabbage leaves stuffed with a mixture of mince, rice and spices, is bursting with delicious flavours.






Skill level

Average: 3.5 (283 votes)


  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3–4 slices bacon
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled
  • 500 g beef mince
  • 500 g pork mince
  • 70 g tomato paste 
  • 2 cubes beef stock, crumbled
  • sweet paprika powder
  • chicken and herb salt
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup white rice, rinsed
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 12 large leaves pickled cabbage, plus 1–2 large leaves pickled cabbage, extra, to line saucepan
  • 1 kg smoked pork ribs
  • 250 g speck (smoked bacon)

Extra seasoning

  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 garlic clove
  • pinch of chicken and herb salt
  • 1 tsp tomato paste

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. Heat small amount of oil in a deep pot. Add the onion, garlic and chopped bacon and fry until onion is translucent. Roughly chop the tomatoes and add. Then add the beef and pork mince, the tomato paste, crumbled stock cubes, paprika, chicken and herb salt, and salt and pepper. Mix together thoroughly and cook for about 30 minutes or until the moisture evaporates.
  2. Beat the egg lightly and add. Rinse the rice in cold water and add to meat mixture along with the bay leaves. 
  3. Add more spices and salt if necessary after tasting the mixture. The mixture should be quite dry.
  4. Take the sour cabbage leaves and wash them thoroughly to remove any excess salt. Trim any hard bits of stem and cut in half. Smaller leaves can be left whole.
  5. Place a spoonful of the meat mixture onto each individual cabbage leaf and roll it up, tucking the ends in so that the filling is secure. Lay a couple of large outer leaves on the base of a deep greased pot, then begin packing the cabbage rolls on across the top.
  6. In between each layer of cabbage rolls place pieces of the chopped pork ribs and speck to add flavour. Extra bay leaves can also be added at this stage.
  7. Continue making the cabbage rolls until all filling has been used up. 
  8. When pot is completely filled with the cabbage rolls, pour in water to fill up the pot (a little more tomato paste can be added to this water for extra flavour). Then finally place on top some individual layers of sour cabbage leaves to cover all the cabbage rolls. These leaves will hold in the flavour.  
  9. Place tight fitting lid on top and cook on stove top for about one hour. They can be left to rest while extra seasoning is prepared as the final touch.  


Method for extra seasoning
Heat oil in a shallow frying pan, add the plain flour and mix until golden brown and then add all other ingredients and mix. This should take about 5–10 minutes.

Remove the sour cabbage layers that were on top of the rolls and pour in the extra seasoning mixture. Then place the cabbage leaves on top again as a cover and return to the stove to cook slowly for another 30 minutes. 


• This recipe can be made with fresh cabbage leaves. Blanche the leaves in salted water to soften them before using.