Cabbage Dolma With Fresh Herbs

Hi! This is Chrissie Tsaturyan, and I’m excited to team up with The Stuffed Grape Leaf blog to share a couple of my favorite Armenian recipes.  Be sure to also check out my Paklava recipe. My mother is a cousin to Janelle Leatherwood's mother, so we grew up eating similar recipes that had been passed down from our Armenian ancestors.

A couple of the stand-bys in our moms' repertoires were dolma (stuffed vegetables, most famously bell peppers) and sarma (stuffed grape leaves).

When I married my husband, Sevak, I learned that his understanding of dolma was any kind of stuffed or rolled vegetable, but especially cabbage leaves.

Sevak grew up in present-day Armenia, whereas my ancestors lived in Turkey, so our cuisines have slight variations. Whether it's "Western Armenian" style dolma or "Eastern Armenian" style dolma, it's delicious! Cabbage-Stuffed Dolma With Fresh Herbs is a recipe based on those of my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

This particular dolma version seems to be especially kid-friendly, since some of the traditional dolma tartness is taken out. The spiciness can range from mild to heavy, depending on your family's preferences and the quantity of herbs you add.  You can use any kind of fresh-tasting herbs your family loves. I added flat-leaf parsley to this batch and our kids gobbled it right up! It's also great served with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and minced fresh garlic.

What ingredients do you need to make Cabbage Dolma With Fresh Herbs?

  • Green cabbage: If possible, select a cabbage with loose, thin leaves that can be rolled easily.
  • Ground beef or ground beef/ground pork mixture: 80-85% lean is recommended.
  • Tomato sauce or marinara sauce: Either works great! For this batch, I used Classico Organic Tomato Herbs and Spices.
  • Egg: Helps bind all the ingredients together for the meat mixture.
  • White Rice: Regular long-grain white rice was used for this recipe, but you could try out different varieties, as long as they have the same cooking times.
  • Onion (with a splash or two of milk): Pour a little milk into the blender while blending the onion to make a pureé for the meat mixture.
  • Seasonings: Salt, pepper, dried basil and oregano. You could eliminate the italian seasonings if using prepared marinara sauce.
  • Fresh Herbs: Here's where you can get creative! Parsley, cilantro, basil or dill, just to name a few, are great options.
  • Butter: Salted or unsalted will work just fine. 

How do you make Cabbage Dolma With Fresh Herbs?

First, cut out the hard core from a head of cabbage. You will want to angle the knife so that you make a cone-shaped wedge to pull out. Removing the core makes it easier to pull off the leaves. Then, put the whole cabbage into a pot of boiling water.

Boil cabbage for sarma

As the leaves soften you can begin to pull them off with tongs. If they are still a bit stiff, they can stay in the water a little longer. Removing them also helps the underlying leaves to soften faster. It's also important to use cabbage with loose, thin leaves. The cabbage I bought was very dense with tough leaves, so this batch didn't turn out as well as it could have. 

Take the softened cabbage leaves and remove the hard middle vein from each one. I usually cut the leaf in half and slice off the little bit of vein that's on one side of each one. You can also trim any discolored edges.

To make the dolma filling, purée some onion with a little bit of milk and add it to ground beef (a ground beef/ground pork mixture is also fine), rice, tomato sauce, egg, salt, pepper, dried basil and chopped parsley and/or other fresh herbs (my mother-in-law has used mixtures of cilantro, basil, dill, you name it).

Meat mixture for cabbage dolma

In lieu of tomato sauce and dried basil, I used some jarred marinara sauce, which works great, in my opinion. Mix it all by hand so you can really get everything incorporated well.

Take the cabbage scraps or not-so-pretty leaves and use them to line the bottom of a cooking pot (so the dolma do not scorch). 

Put a small golf ball-sized amount of filling onto the bottom of a cabbage leaf and roll it up as best you can.

My husband likes to use whole cabbage leaves to roll BIG dolma. I prefer to make smaller ones with halved leaves.

Put the rolled dolmas into a pot in tight layers. You can also put a variety of stuffed vegetables into the pot (i.e. stuffed grape leaves, stuffed bell peppers, stuffed zucchini, etc.).

Cabbage dolma

My mother-in-law even makes dolma with apples and usually has an apple dolma thrown into the mix. The melding of flavors is really delicious. If you want to put a few lemon slices in there that can be nice too. You can also scatter some dried apricots amongst the layers.

On the stove top, melt some butter into a mixture of water, tomato sauce (or the marinara) and other dried seasonings. 

Pour this liquid over the dolma so they're covered. Place a heat-proof plate on top so they don't float, then cover with a pot lid. Simmer for about 45 minutes.

The dolma is delicious with sour cream or yogurt. You can jazz up the sour cream or yogurt with minced fresh garlic. When it hits the warm dolma the fragrance and flavor is just fantastic. Enjoy!

cabbage dolma with fresh herbs

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  • ALlison on

    This looks amazing. I love cabbage sarma/dolma but I’ve only made grape leaves versions at home. I have to try the cabbage next. It is true the grape leaves can be too sour for kids. I was surprised about the ground pork recommendation. I hadn’t heard of that. I used to make with ground lamb exclusively but now I do use beef more often.

  • Jackie Jenkins on

    I’ve tasted Chrissy’s Dolma recipe, and it’s delicious! Thanks for sharing.

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