Stuffed Cabbage Leaves with Ground Meat (Etli Lahana Sarması)


Stuffed cabbage leaves come directly from the kitchens of the Ottoman palace. There are different versions of this dish: with ground meat, with olive oil aka vegetarian one, with chestnuts, with bulgur, with mussels, etc. Although stuffed cabbage leaves are, I must say, absolutely delicious with chestnuts and mussels, meaty one is still my favorite. The reason why I haven’t posted it so far is that they’re usually gone before I can take a picture. These are actually the last three of the last batch I made. It might seem hard to deal with cabbage leaves, yet they are very forgiving. So don’t be scared to try.


1 medium (leaning towards big) cabbage [Pick one that is not rock hard, but kind of soft when press on top, they’re easier for taking the leaves out)
1/2 lb ground meat (beef – ~80% lean)
1/2 cup short grain rice
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped dill
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp or 1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp butter
juice of half lemon


-Put ground beef, onion, rice, tomato paste, parsley, dill, black pepper, olive oil, and salt in bowl and mix well.
-Cut the 1 1/2-2 inches from the bottom/stem of the cabbage. Carefully try to take the leaves out one by one. [Check this site out for step by step how-to pictures]
-Boil some water with salt in a big pot.
-Boil the cabbage leaves 4 0r 5 at a time depending on how big a pot you are using for ~5 minutes flipping them over once. Take them out and place on a tray or a flat plate to cool down.
-Once the leaves cool down. Place one on a flat surface. Cut the big vein of the leaf out; it might be too stringy for rolling. If you have a very big leaf, cut it into two.
-Line the bottom of a pot with the cut out veins and the very outer leaves.
-Add 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp of rice and ground meat filling to one cabbage leaf, closer tot the bottom. Fold sides of cabbage over the filling. Roll it up starting from the stem end, it looks something like this. Repeat the same for the remaining leaves.
-Place rolled cabbage leaves in the pot lined with cut out veins and leaves in an orderly fashion.
-Chop butter in small pieces and scatter it on top. Pour lemon juice and hot water to cover the stuffed cabbage.
-Place a flat-ish plate on top of stuffed grape leaves so that they won’t move around.
-Let it boil first on medium. Then cover and cook on low for 30-35 minutes.

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