Sarmale recipe – Romanian food stuffed cabbage explained by a local

Today I am making sarmale as they are called in Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls. Sarmale is a delicious traditional Romanian food that we do mostly on Christmas and Easter. They are also part of the traditional dishes served on weddings and baptism celebrations with mamaliga (polenta) on the side. But let’s see the sarmale recipe.sarmale recipe


  • 1 kg of minced pork

  • 100 g of rice

  • 5 tablespoons of sunflower oil

  • 1 large onion

  • 2-3 pickled cabbages (so that you have a choice of beautiful leaves for sarmales)

  • 1 l tomato juice or broth

  • a teaspoon of salt

  • pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoons thyme,

  •  3 bay leaves

  • 300 g of mice/ pork ribs/ pork breast/ bacon as you like

How to make sarmale:

Prepare a large pan/wok. Chop the onion finely. Saute it in a little sunflower oil and when it is glassy, ​​add the tomato juice. Add salt, pepper, thyme and mix well to form the sauce. Let it boil for 5 minutes on low heat.

Wash the rice well and put it over the tomato sauce just prepared. Stir a few times and let it boil for 3 minutes. We stop the fire and taste the rice – it must only be half cooked (it must be crunchy). Stay calm – it will have enough time to cook in the pan.

Leave it aside for 20 minutes and when the rice has cooled down (very important!) add the minced meat and mix well in the same pan.

In the meantime, open the cabbage leaves and choose the biggest and most beautiful ones. We wash them with cold water and taste them. If they are very salty, leave them in cold water until the composition cools down.

We started to roll sarmale. Take the cabbage leaf, put a little filling in the middle, roll once, tuck the ends inside and roll once more. We continue like this until we finish all the leaves.

Chop the rest of the remaining leaves into small pieces. Put 2 tablespoons of oil in a big pan and add the finely chopped leaves to cover the bottom of the bowl. We start to arrange the sarmale next to each other, but without piling them up so that the rice in the sarmale has room to swell.

Between them we add the mouse or rib and a bay leaf per layer. If we have finished one row, we start the second one, depending on how tall our vessel is. Finish everything with chopped cabbage on top.

Pour enough water to cover them, put the lid on and put them in the oven preheated to 180° for 3 hours. As I have already told you, I like to make sarmale in the oven in a yena dish, because it is transparent and I can see when I need to add more liquid without opening the oven. (Otherwise I would have had to remove the very heavy pan, check and then put it back in the oven.) After 2 hours, check and add tomato juice. When we have 30 minutes left, remove the lid so that it browns nicely. And this is it!

If you followed my sarmale recipe now it’s time to eat! Enjoy or Pofta buna, as we say in Romanian!

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