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Stuffed cabbage rolls, or sarma, are part of the traditional cuisine of many Central European countries, including Croatia’s. It’s customary to serve it for Christmas and New Year’s and it’s often made in enormous quantities and eaten over the course of several days. Many say it tastes best the day after it was made.  The recipe below serves four.


1 sour cabbage head (around 2 kg)

20 ounces of minced meat

1 teaspoon of red pepper

4 ounces bacon

4 ounces of rice

10 ounces of dry ribs

3 cloves of garlic

2 onions

50 ml of oil

salt and pepper


Clean the onions and slice into cubes, do the same with the bacon. Sautee both the onions and bacon, near the end, add some chopped garlic, and add this mixture to a bowl with the minced meat. Add some red pepper, salt, pepper, rice, chopped parsley into the bowl and combine it all.


Remove the leaves of cabbage and trim them, cutting off thicker parts so they are evenly thin. Put a little of the mixture you’ve made into each leaf, and wrap them. Wrap them so that you first fold one side over, then roll, then tuck in the opposite side. Put some sliced cabbage on the bottom of a pot, then place a layer of cabbage rolls on top, lining them up in a circle.


Leave a hole in the center, where you can place the rest of the cabbage and the ribs, as well as some chopped onions and what’s left of the red pepper. Add enough water to cover the sarma, and cook for around 2 hours, occasionally shaking the pot. At the end, if you like, you can add some roux.


What is your recipe for the roux. My great grandmother would always make cabbage rolls using a roux, not tomato sauce. Your recipe would be greatly appreciated. Thank You


Hi, Karen

Thank you for your questions. Oh, yes- roux was used often in old times. Even today, it is used in variety of meals. Technically, it is a mixture of fat and flour that thickens the sauces. In Croatian, it is called “zaprska”, and is sometimes used with oil instead of fat. We’ll see if our “kitchen team” has more on the subject.

Ankica Miller

Great dish …… make zaprska with 1 tsp of ground paprika, mashed potato goes good with this dish


Indeed, mashed potatoes!!! 🙂


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