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rice filled cabbage rolls arranged in a white braiser.

Macedonian Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

Katerina | Diethood
This easy recipe for Macedonian Cabbage Rolls (Sarma) is hearty, flavorful, and vegan! You’ll love the savory rice filling stuffed with herbs and spices, in tender cabbage leaves.
Servings : 8
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 35 mins
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins


  • 25 to 30 pickled (fermented) cabbage leaves, if you can't find pickled cabbage leaves, use fresh cabbage, instead
  • 1 head cabbage leaves separated (use these if you can't find pickled cabbage leaves)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 cup halved walnut pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 cups hot water or vegetable broth, you can also use chicken broth, or beef broth


  • Preheat oven to 350˚F.
  • Grease a 9x13 baking dish, or a 3.5-quart braiser, with cooking spray and set aside.
  • If you are using fresh cabbage leaves:
    Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.
  • Add cabbage leaves to the boiling water; cover and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the leaves are pliable.
  • Drain well and set aside on paper towels to dry.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onions to the heated oil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir in the garlic and parsley; cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add in the tomatoes; season with paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and lemon pepper seasoning, and continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until tomatoes are tender.
  • Add the rice and saute for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  • Using a paring knife, cut off the raised part of the vein on each cabbage leaf. This will make it easier to roll.
  • Lay the leaf flat on your hands and place a heaping spoonful of the filling on one side of the leaf; add a piece of walnut in the middle of the filling. Don't add too much filling because it will be too stuffed to roll it up.
  • Roll it up tightly, tucking in the sides of the leaf, kind of like you would roll up a burrito.
  • Place the stuffed cabbage rolls in previously prepared baking dish, seam sides down. Season tops with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan.
  • Add garlic to the heated oil and cook for 15 seconds.
  • Mix in the sweet paprika.
  • Stir in the hot water (or broth) and bring to a boil.
  • Pour the hot liquid over the cabbage rolls.
  • Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the cover and continue to bake for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and check to make sure that the rice is cooked through; if not, put it back in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes longer.
  • Serve.


  • Fermented Cabbage: If you can't find fermented cabbage, but would like to try the cabbage rolls with it, you can “sour” the cabbage yourself by boiling it in water with a cup of vinegar and 1/4-cup of salt. You are looking to achieve a “pickled” flavor.
  • Tip for Fresh Cabbage: You can place a whole head of fresh cabbage into a pot of salted boiling water; reduce heat to a simmer and cook the cabbage for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.Carefully peel away the leaves and place them on paper towels to dry off.


Serving: 3 cabbage rolls | Calories: 182 kcal | Carbohydrates: 40 g | Protein: 4 g | Fat: 1 g | Saturated Fat: 1 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g | Sodium: 635 mg | Potassium: 160 mg | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 1 g | Vitamin A: 1310 IU | Vitamin C: 2 mg | Calcium: 30 mg | Iron: 1 mg | Net Carbs: 38 g

Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

Course: Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: Macedonian
Keyword: cabbage rolls, sarma, stuffed cabbage, vegan recipes, vegetarian meals