Cabbage stuffed dolmas or a.k.a. sarmas

Stuffed Cabbage Dolmas

Stuffed cabbage dolmas, also called cabbage sarmas are a personal favorite. The cabbage combined with the ground beef, garlic, tomatoes and rice renders an incredible flavor. As they cook slowly in the tomato garlic mint sauce, the leaves become extremely soft and delicate. Although they haven’t gained the same notoriety as stuffed grape leaves, these dolmas will “melt in your mouth.”

Skill level: Advanced
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Stuffed Cabbage Dolmas
Serves 8
Traditional “Armenian” Recipe
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Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
1 hr 30 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 1 large Taiwanese cabbage (see note #1 below)
  2. 1 1/4 cup Calrose rice
  3. 2 cups ground beef
  4. 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  5. 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  6. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  7. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  8. 2 teaspoons salt
  9. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 1/4 teaspoon all spice (optional)
  11. 1/4 teaspoon red pepper
  1. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  2. 6 cloves garlic crushed
  3. 2 teaspoons dried mint
  4. 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  5. 3 cups water
  6. 1/2 cup lemon juice
  7. 1 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (optional)
Preparing the cabbage leaves
  1. Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Cut the bottom center portion of the cabbage and remove the hard round core. This will create an empty hole in the center of the cabbage.
  3. Plunge the whole cabbage into the boiling water and reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Press the cabbage down with a large slotted spoon, to prevent the cabbage from rising to the surface of the water.
  5. Leave in the water and after a few minutes the leaves will pull and peel off.
  6. Once they get soft enough to wrap, remove from the boiling water and place in a bowl. This step take only a minute or two for each leaf to come off. Do not overcook, otherwise they will get “mushy” when you cook them with the filling.
  7. Slowly peel the rest of the leaves one by one as they become soft.
  8. Use the entire cabbage. Keep the small leaves to lay on the bottom of the pan and to cover over the top of the domlas.
  1. In a large bowl mix all the filling ingredients together and set aside.
  1. In a saucepan, add the tomato paste crushed garlic, dried mint and vegetable oil, and stir fry on low heat for about a minute.
  2. Add the water, lemon juice, salt and chicken bouillon, and bring the content to a boil.
  3. Remove the tomato sauce from heat and set aside to cool.
  4. Wrapping
  5. In a large sauce, lay some of the small flat cabbage leaves in one single layer on the bottom.
  6. Using one leaf at a time ( if the leaf is too large, divide it into two ), add about 1 tablespoon of filling across the center and wrap the cabbage leaf up. (see note #2 below)
  7. Arrange the stuffed dolmas on top of the small leaves in a circular fashion creating an open area in the center of the saucepan. (see note #3 below)
  8. Arrange the rest of the small flat leaves over the top of the stuffed dolmas
  9. Place a plate on the very top to weigh the dolmas down.
  10. Pour the tomato sauce gently over the stuffed cabbage leaves.
  11. Bring to a boil on high heat, lower and cook for 45 minutes.
  12. Using one hand to hold the plate down, strain the sauce into a heat proof bowl. (see note #3 below)
  13. Arrange the dolmas on a platter and drizzle some of the sauce over the top.
  1. 1. I prefer to use the Taiwanese cabbage because they have larger leaves which helps when rolling and shaping each dolma.
  2. 2. Remove the hard end in the center of the larger leaves in order to make the wrapping easier.
  3. 3. If you have any filling left, wash a red bell pepper, cut the top of the bell pepper, remove the seeds and stuff the red bell pepper with the dolma filling. Cover the filling with the top piece of the bell pepper and place it in the center cavity of the arranged dolmas.
  4. 4. Try not to keep too much of the sauce in the dolma, because that too will cause the dolmas to get soft and the filling will spill out.
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