About the author

Originally from London, I moved to Poland to absorb as much of the culture as humanly posssible. Maybe the biggest influence on me has been the food and I credit my adopted babcia, (Polish for grandmother) Ania, with much of the information here. I lived in Zielona Gora and Szklarska Poreba which are in the west and south-west of Poland respectively.
Please feel free to leave any comments, contact me at polishrecipes@gmail.com or visit my other site An Englishman in Poland

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Gołąbki (Golabki - cabbage rolls) recipe

Gołąbki (pronounced go-womp-kee) is translated as pigeon. Although no pigeon is used in the recipe, the name could possibly be due to it's resemblance to the shape of pigeon breast. Legend has it that a king of Poland (Casimir IV Jagiellon) fed his army with golabki before a key battle in 1465 and the subsequent victory was credited to this hearty meal beforehand. Personally I feel like sleeping after a big meal but maybe there was some secret ingredient in the ancient version that 'gave the soldiers wings' (pun intended).

Golabki is basically boiled cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat (traditionally beef but also pork/chicken/turkey), onion and rice (or buckwheat groats/kasia). The cabbage rolls are served with a rich tomato based sauce in which the golabki is cooked.
When I first tasted this, I immediately changed my favourite Polish dish from Bigos to this. Although now I think of both dishes equally as my favourite.

What you need

cabbage rolls and filling

  1. Cabbage (1 or 2)
  2. Minced meat (few pounds of beef or pork)
  3. Onion (1 large chopped)
  4. Rice (few cups)
  5. Carrot (1 or 2 grated)
  6. An egg
  7. Butter (few tablespoons)
  8. Salt and Pepper


  1. Tomato paste (about 1 cup)
  2. Chicken stock (about a cup)
  3. Butter (couple of tablespoons)
  4. Canned tomatoes (1 can)
  5. Flour (2 tablespoons)
  6. Garlic cloves (1 or 2 crushed)
  7. Sugar
  8. Salt/pepper
  9. Fresh thyme and parsley

What you do

  1. Boil cabbage until leaves start to fall off.
  2. Boil the loose cabbage leaves until tender but do not over boil. Roughly 15mins.

3. Place leaves on a colander to drain and cool.

4. Boil rice with salt for about 10mins until tender

5. Rinse rice with water and drain in colander. Leave to dry.

6. Brown onions in a pan with butter.

7. Mix onions, minced meat, rice, salt, pepper, carrot (why not experiment)

8. Trim spines of cabbage leaves.

9. Spoon 2-3 tablespoons mixture onto wider end of flattened out leaf.

10. Fold in sides and roll from wide end to narrower end.

11. Place all cabbage rolls into casserole dish and lined with flat cabbage leaves, cover after half filling with water.

13. Place in preheated oven (about 350f) for 30mins.

14. To make the sauce add butter to a pan and add flour. Heat for a couple of minutes.

15. Add other ingredients and bring to the boil stirring continually. Simmer for 20 mins.

16. Add the sauce to the golabki in the casserole dish, cover and cook for another half an hour.

17. Serve golabki covered in sauce and topped with chopped parsley, with ziemniaki (potatoes) and surówka (similar to coleslaw).

There are a series of adverts I absolutely love involving a supermarket chain called Biedronka (translates as ladybird and unsurprisingly that is their logo). They advertise their products by anthropomorphizing them and in a sea of adverts in which I do not understand, these come as a welcome relief as I can just enjoy the effect. They are are very well done.

Below is one for Gołąbki


januhhh said...

Hello there, just in case you are concerned about such things (and I shall guess you are judging by your 'explication' of pierogi :)), "gołąbki" is a plural form, "gołąbek" being equal to "a pigeon".

Other than that, I too love the dish and am sure going to try and learn to cook that kind of complicated stuff.

Best regards!

whosthedady said...

Thanks januhh, i try to be as accurate as possible, I will edit and add that ASAP.
Thanks for comment

Anonymous said...

Can you please be vert specific about amounts....when you write a few, do you mean 3? When you write add a can of tomatoes, is this small or large?

jw connolly said...

I try to avoid using exact amounts for most recipes because I think it turns it more into a chemistry experiment.
'few' is generally regardedas 3 but it does not matter if you use 2or 4. Taste as you go.
Start with a 'smaller' can of tomatoes and add more if you want a stronger tomato taste.
These recipes vary not only from town to town but also from household to household so you dont have to worry about it being exactly accurate and therefore authentic.
If someome is describing how to make toast to me and states that i should butter the toast, i don't need the amount of butter in grams. Furthermore too much for me might not be enough for another.

Cooking is highly subjective so these are designed as rough guides for you to develop your own variety.

You will enjoy it more that way :)
Thanks for comment

Anonymous said...

These should be placed in a casserole dish and covered in a mixture of tomato sauce and some of the water used to boil the cabbage. That's all the sauce you need.

Moggy said...

I love cabbage rolls. My recipe uses a lot more spices but there are so many variations from so many different coutries. I think that's what makes it such a great dish.

I prepare these in a huge batch and freeze them in pacakages just big enough for a dinner, if I'm going to all the trouble I like to be able to enjoy my work for a long time to come.

Also, I put mine in my crockpot when I leave for work in the morning. Its so nice to come home to dinner all ready to eat!

Anonymous said...

I know this is a silly follow up question but could you possibly have a few photos of how you roll the cabbage leaves and what you do to trim the spines. Sorry but I had troubles rolling them, with some splitting. I am sure it is me and I will get better with time, but your rolls look amazing.

jw connolly said...

These ones are expertly wrapped (by Ania, my adopted grandmother) who has been making them for years. Don't worry if they do not look exactly the same. If they are splitting you are most likely boiling the leaves too much. They should be very rubbery.

Tamara Komorous said...

Looks amazing! I have never made cabbage rolls but I will soon using this recipe. I like how you don't explain with exact amounts because my mother is Czech and explains recipes the same way :) Thank you very much!

Elizabeth Parker said...

I learned another way to prep the cabbage instead of boiling. This would be for times you are planning ahead, like holidays.

An elderly woman had me put the entire cabbagr head in the freezer. Depending on size, pull the cabbage out of the freezer and place in a large bowl in your refrigerator 3 or 4 days in advance. Pull the bowl out of the fridge the morning you're going to use it. It is much easier on the hands than having it boiling hot.