Stuffed cabbage soup

Stuffed cabbage soup, in an overhead shot. A slice of multigrain bread rests on the rim of the bowl, and a big dollop of sour cream floats in the middle of the brick-red soup. Bowls of produce peek in at the edges of the image.

Oftentimes, when I’m writing these headnotes I know exactly where a recipe idea came from. In this case, however, I find myself scratching my head because I just can’t recall.

Maybe it was from a work potluck where a colleague brought in a ‘stuffed pepper soup’, and I started thinking about what other baked dishes could be besouped.

Maybe it was from a conversation with a friend about the conflict between the glories of stuffed cabbage rolls and our shared laziness when it comes to finicky prep.

Bowls of cabbage, onion, rice, and garlic crowd into the photo; there's a surprising number of very pale, whitish vegetables in stuffed cabbage soup

Or maybe from another friend’s birthday party, where his boyfriend made some spectacular cabbage rolls in a slow cooker, and toward the end of the party we kept coming back to the pan and scooping out the little bits of meat and cabbage that had fallen away into the tomato sauce.

Another group-ingredient shot: same onions, but now brightly colored crushed tomatoes, raw turkey, and an orange box of turkey stock

Honestly, I don’t know — I’ve slept too many times and made too many batches of this soup to recall. But that in itself should tell you something: I’ve made this at least three times in the last month! Sure, I sometimes remake dishes to test them before I post them, but in general I rarely make the same thing twice. This stuffed cabbage soup, though? It’s been promoted into my regular rotation, which is a very big gold star.

Stuffed cabbage soup, another overhead shot, but without the bread this time

And why? Because it’s so easy, but has great outcomes. Here’s the deal: I love stuffed cabbage (or golumpki, or cabbage rolls, or holubky, or holishkes, or whatever you call them where you’re from). But there’s just no way I’m going to come home from work, blanch cabbage leaves, and then wrap up little parcels of meat. Maybe on a weekend, but it ain’t happenin’ on a weeknight. This soup, however, hits the same spot (for me at least), and I can chop cabbage and onions on autopilot. And as long as I remember to grab a cabbage and a pound of meat on the way home, I can have a hearty dinner on the table an hour after walking in the door. Sold!

Stuffed cabbage soup, straight-on. A slice of multi-grain bread dips into the thick soup, while in the background a bright red bowl filled with avocados and a bowl of grapefruit and oranges mirror the rich red of the soup itself.

Stuffed cabbage soup

  • Servings: 8-10 (around 3 quarts)
  • Print

This soup is, in essence, a deconstructed cabbage roll: same great flavor, way lazier prep. The spicing below is very simple, and suits my tastes. If your family or upbringing uses a different flavor profile, however, it should be very easy to adapt: just add the same kinds of flavorings you’d use in a baked dish and let it bubble away.


1 Tbsp vegetable oil (opt.)
1 lb. ground turkey, beef, or pork
1 med. white or yellow onion, diced
3-6 cl. garlic, minced (depending on your love of garlic)

6 c stock
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 c raw white rice
1 small head cabbage, cored and chopped (about 8 c)
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (omit/adjust if you use a salted stock)
2 tsp black pepper

Sour cream, for serving


Begin browning the ground meat, using the optional oil if the meat is very lean. When there is only a bit of pink remaining, add the onion and garlic. Continue cooking until the onions have softened and turned translucent.

Add all the remaining ingredients except sour cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the cabbage is very soft.

Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve hot, with a big dollop of sour cream.

Note on leftovers

The rice will continue absorbing liquid as the soup sits in the refrigerator, so you may want to add a splash of water when reheating, just to loosen it up.


This makes a very thick soup, almost a stew. If you’d like a thinner soup, just add more stock. You may need to adjust the salt, sugar, and vinegar in that case.

If you’d like to diversify the vegetables in the soup, dice some carrots and celery ribs (about 2 of each) and add along with the onion and garlic.

Not traditional to this style, but still delicious: add something spicy, either in the cooking or when serving. Hot sauce, chile paste… you get the idea.

More traditionally, the seasoning here is very simple, but you could jazz it up with any of the following if you like: marjoram, thyme, dill, caraway, celery seed, nutmeg, mace. Just don’t add them all: I can attest, from a version of this soup where I went a little overboard, that you’ll end up with musty, funky, overspiced mess.

Spices, a whole wall of stacked bottles: salt, pepper, caraway, mac, marjoram, thyme celery. Don't go crazy, lest your stuffed cabbage soup taste overwrought


5 responses to “Stuffed cabbage soup

    • My knowledge of Turkish cuisine is sadly lacking, so I had to go out and look up kapuska recipes. And then I laughed out loud, because the very first image I saw looked almost exactly like my dish! Yes, kapuska looks delightful, and I love the idea of using a pepper paste where I’m more naturally inclined to reach for tomatoes. Thanks for the tip-off!

      • Your welcome! You can also go for tomato paste or a tomato/pepper blend depending on how spicy you want to go. I think kapuska is traditionally spicy, but we reach for the blend in my house. Afiyet olsun!

  1. I love your blog, Mike, and I’ve saved this recipe. Do an old man a favor and make your font a little larger. It looks very elegant, but also makes me squint!

    • Ha, sorry about that! I’m actually looking at some small redesign changes fairly soon, and I’ll bear that in mind. In the meantime, I’ll put on my tech hat and say that perhaps Ctrl-+ can be your friend! (Still with my apologies, of course.)

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