Were you on a visit to Hungary and tried the cabbage pigs in a blanket and now you’re trying to make it at home? Or maybe you had a Hungarian grandmother which did those for you in your childhood? In both cases, I think you were surprised by how delicious this dish is. I tried to describe everything in detail to help you to recreate this comfort food in your kitchen.
Delicious stuffed cabbage rolls called cabbage pigs in the blanket are basically ground pork meat mixed with some sauteed vegetables and rolled in cabbage leaves. Is a comfort food widely popular in Hungary called Toltottkaposzta.
Also, a similar variation you will find in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. They are called “Sarmale” but they are a lot smaller than these ones. If we will compare the Romanian sarmale with Hungarian pigs in the blanket then the difference will be in the ratio of the ingredients.
Pigs in the blanket have about 10% rice or bulgur and 90% meat and vegetables while in Romanian Sarmale, we have 80% rice and 20% meat and vegetables.
It is called Cabbage Pigs in the Blanket because we have mostly pork meat that is covered in a blanket of a cabbage leaf.
Even if there is some work to make this delicious dish, the steps are very simple and easy to follow. I tried to describe everything in detail so you shouldn’t encourage any difficulties in the process of making them.
Highly encourage to give them a try!
Let’s dive in!
👩🍳 What You Will Find in This Post?
- Best substitute suggestions in case you don’t have some of the ingredients.
- How to get a more intense taste of the cabbage pigs in a blanket.
- How to roll correctly the cabbage pigs in order to keep their shape.
- How to give them a creamy texture to the meat.
- You should pay attention to get a juicy inside stuffing mixture.
🥰 Why You Will Love This Recipe?
- It is a perfect recipe for the cold seasons when you want something that reminds you of your grandmother’s comfort food.
- It is a healthy recipe with low carbohydrate content.
- If you got bored of the traditional recipes of ground meat, this is a refreshing alternative.
- This type of food keeps perfectly for 3-5 days in the refrigerator, which allows you to prepare a larger portion on the weekend and serve it during the week.
- Serving suggestions and a lot more tips.
🥘 Ingredients and Substitutes
- Ground Pork. I used minced pork shoulders. If you want less fatty meat, you can use pork loin. But in this way, you will have to add more vegetables because the composition will be dry. Or if you prefer fattier meat, use pork neck. The optimal variant would be meat with a fat content of 20-25%.
- Carrot. I used 1 large carrot, but beside it, you could also add other root vegetables such as parsnip or celery.
- Cabbage. I used classic cabbage, but if you want this recipe to cook faster, then you may consider replacing classic cabbage with Chinese cabbage (napa cabbage) because the latter has a shorter cooking time.
- Onions. I used white onions but you can replace them with any other type of onion that you have on hand.
- Garlic. I used fresh garlic, but if you don’t fresh garlic at hand, you could replace it with dried granulated garlic.
- Tomatoes. We need to use fresh tomatoes for additional acidity in this recipe.
- Bulgur. If you don’t have it on hand, you could replace it with rice in the same proportions. If you want a recipe completely without carbohydrates, you can remove the bulgur from the recipe, but in this case, you will risk that the contents inside will be drier. In that case, consider adding more vegetables.
- Tomato Paste. I used tomato paste to make the sauce in which the cabbage rolls will be baked. But if you have several slightly acidic fresh tomatoes on hand, I really encourage you to use grate the tomatoes and use them instead for the sauce. By using fresh tomatoes, the taste will be more balanced.
- Water from the boiled cabbage. We only need it if you are going to use tomato paste. In this case, we will use water to dissolve the paste until we get a consistency of a sauce.
- Dill. If you don’t have fresh dill at hand, you could replace it with a dry one, or you could omit it altogether if you don’t like the taste of the dill.
- Salt & pepper. I only used black pepper, but if you prefer spicy dishes, you could also add chili flakes.
- Olive oil.
👩🍳 Step-by-step Directions
We will start this recipe by chopping finely the onions and garlic cloves. After this, take a larger saucepan and heat a little oil in it.
When the oil has heated up, add the chopped onion and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
After that, when the onion gets a slightly transparent color, add the grated carrot. Mix well again and cook the vegetables until the carrot becomes softer. This should take about 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
Quick Note: Don’t forget to mix the vegetables from time to time to avoid burning them.
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When the carrots have softened, add the grated fresh tomatoes and cook all the vegetables for about 3 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave the pan aside to cool.
In the meantime, we will prepare the cabbage leaves.
For this, take a large saucepan in which you can fit the whole cabbage. Half fill it with water and put the pan on the heat to boil the water.
In the meantime, wash the cabbage well and remove the stem.
When the water starts to boil, put the cabbage in the pan of water and turn it with the stem down. When you see that the leaves start to soften, start to separate them one by one.
Quick Note: There is no need to boil the cabbage entirely. All we will need is to soften the cabbage layers so that they come off and you can roll them afterward.
Put all the leaves aside on a plate to cool. In the meantime, we’ll get to work on the cabbage filling.
Quick Note: If you will use tomato paste, don’t throw away the water in which we just warmed up the cabbage. We will need it later to dissolve the tomato paste in order to make a sauce consistency.
Now, take a deep bowl and put in it the pan-fried vegetables, minced meat, bulgur, and chopped dill. and Season everything with salt and pepper.
Mix well until you get a uniform composition.
Now we are ready to roll the cabbage leaves together with the filling we just made.
Quick Note: If you picked a large cabbage, then cut the leaves in half. If the cabbage you used is medium or small, then you should only cut the thick part of the leaf to be easier for you to roll the cabbage leaf.
After this, carefully arrange the cabbage leaf on the work surface and put the meat composition on the cabbage roll.
I used about 2 tablespoons of the filling for each roll. But it all depends on how large you plan to make the cabbage rolls and how large is your cabbage leaves.
Quick Note: It is important to put a sufficient amount of meat in such a way that will be easy for you to roll it in the cabbage but at the same time not too little stuffing mixture because you will have the wrong balance between the cabbage and meat.
Pro Tip: Place the meat on the cabbage leaf so that there is a little space on the sides so that you can seal the ends well at the end.
Follow the steps as you see in the collage below:
After you have rolled all the cabbage rolls, if you decided to use sauerkraut or (sliced) pickled cucumbers, arrange them in a thin layer on the bottom of the pan in which you will bake them in the oven.
After that, arrange all the cabbage rolls in one layer in the oven pan.
After you have arranged the stuffed cabbage in the pan, it is time to prepare the tomato sauce that we will pour over the cabbage.
Quick Note: If you decided to use fresh tomatoes, then you need 1 1/2 cups of grated fresh tomatoes.
If you decided to use tomato paste, then put the tomato paste in the frying pan in which you sauteed the vegetables and fry it for about 30 seconds until it starts to emit a pleasant smell.
After this, gradually add 1 1/2 cups of water in which the cabbage was boiled and mix until the tomato paste is completely dissolved.
After this, pour the obtained sauce over the cabbage rolls. If you used fresh tomatoes, then just pour the grated tomatoes on over the rolled cabbage.
Preheat the roll to 350°F (175°C) and cook for approximately 90 minutes.
Pro Tip: Position the tray in the oven at the 2nd level from the bottom to avoid burning the top layer above and to help the sauce evaporate. By doing that, the sauce will have a creamier texture.
In the end, you will get some juicy rolls with a rich golden color. And the leftover sauce that will leak in the oven tray will be perfect to be served on top of the rolls when you put them on the serving plate.
For more color and taste on your plate, I recommend you add a tablespoon of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
Quick Note: Average portion per person is 2-3 rolls per person.
🍽️ Serving Suggestions
Serve with yogurt or sour cream base sauce. You could also serve them with some pickled vegetables or near a green salad.
🏆 Expert Tips. What to Pay Attention To?
- For an optimal taste balance, I will recommend adding a touch of acidity. For this, you can use “Sauerkraut” (which is a German pickled cabbage without vinegar) or some pickled cucumbers. As an alternative, you can replace the tomato paste with fresh tomatoes that have a more acidic taste.
- This is a starting base recipe to which you could add other spices that you prefer to use with the pork to personalize the recipe to your taste.
♻️ Make Ahead, Storage and Heating:
Yes, you can prepare the cabbage pigs in a blanket ahead of time and keep them for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Because of that, if you know that you will not eat the entire amount of this dish in the next day or two, consider dividing the food into portions from the very beginning to minimize contact with the air with it.
Thus, you will be able to take out of the refrigerator the exact portion that you will eat in one sitting without affecting the other portions.
If you have a vacuum sealer, you could use it to keep even more taste and extend the storage time.
Yes, you can freeze the cabbage pigs in the blanket for up to 3 months without losing their texture and taste. Make sure to use airtight containers or freezing bags to improve the taste of the dish after thawing.
You can heat the stuffed cabbage in a pan on low heat or in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.
If you want to heat frozen cabbage, I recommend you to leave it overnight in a refrigerator to thaw slowly and not lose its texture and taste.
If you don’t have time to defrost the cabbage pigs in a blanket, you can put them directly in a frying pan on low heat or in the microwave, but in this case, you risk that the meat will dehydrate and be drier.
📋 Recipe Card:
Cabbage Pigs in the Blanket (Cabbage Rolls)
Saute the vegetables
- Sauté the onion with the garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper.2 Onions, 2 Garlic cloves
- Add the carrot and cook it until it will become softer. (For about 5 minutes).1 Carrot
- Add the grated tomatoes into the pan. Cook them for about 3 minutes. Let the composition cool down.5 oz Tomatoes
Prepare the cabbage leaves
- Wash the cabbage well and cut the stem.1 Cabbage
- Take a pan big enough to fit your entire cabbage in it.
- Half fill the pan with water and put it to boil. (Without cabbage)
- When the water starts to boil, put the cabbage in it with the stem down.1 Cabbage
- Remove the cabbage leaves one by one as they soften. Leave it on a plate to cool.
- Mix the minced meat with the cooked vegetables, bulgur, and chopped dill. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the composition well.2.2 lb Ground Pork, 2 Garlic cloves, 2 Onions, 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt, 2/4 teaspoon Black Pepper, 3 tablespoons Dill, 2 1/2 tablespoons Bulgur, 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
Assembly the cabbage rolls
- Put one cabbage leaf on the table and put the desired amount of filling on it.
- Roll tightly and then seal the ends of the cabbage.
- Arrange all the cabbage rolls on the baking tray.
- Mix the tomato sauce with the water in which you boiled the cabbage. Or you can use fresh grated tomatoes instead for the sauce. Pour it over the rolls in the baking tray.2 1/2 tablespoons Tomato paste, 1 1/2 cup Boiled Water
Baking the Cabbage pigs in a blanket.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and bake the rolls for about 90 minutes.