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German Cabbage Rolls (Kohlrouladen) - traditional


"Kohlrouladen" used to be a staple on the menu for regular people in Germany during winter time. The relatively long preparation and cooking time pays out, because it can be easily reheated over a couple of days and gets even better and tastier then. Fried potatoes complete the picture, but you can cook the potatoes also in the pot with the sauce, if there is space left. This recipe can be varied in many ways, be it the stuffing (ground meat here), or the sauce. The recipe is as traditional as it can be; the ingredients are adjusted to availability in North America (like Savoy cabbage in lieu of "Weisskohl", bacon to replace "Speckwuerfel"). For sure the ground meat can vary depending on preferences or diets - I bet quite often in the "good old times " regular people did not exactly know what's in the ground meat they got from the butcher - at least it was some meat, for most of the families only once a week.















Cabbage rolls
1 piece savoy cabbage
Blanche, use 6 leaves, remainder for the sauce
1.5 pounds ground meat
Can be poultry, pork, beef, lamb, but not more than 50% beef and lamb combined in it - traditional was rather pork or undefined
4 piece eggs
Take them out of the fridge 1 hour before use
1 piece sweet vidalia onions
Cut in cubes
5 tbsp bread crumbs
when you have old hard bread , put it in the blender
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp paprika
2 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tsp caraway seeds
2 ounces butter
can be be replaced by oil
savoy cabbage
chop the remainder of the cabbage after using the leaves for the rolls
2 ounces butter
can be replaced by oil
4 ounce bacon
uncured, no sugar added, hickory smoked - chopped in small pieces (can be replaced by oil and some salty spice)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp maple syrup
can be any sugar
6 cup chicken broth
Heat the broth to broil in a separate pot
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
To thicken the sauce - put it in a blender with 1 cup of water and mix it; alternatively other sauce thickener without dairy


Cabbage alert!

One important thing upfront in case you are cooking cabbage the first time: It smells, and nobody likes that smell as good as the result may taste! If you don't have the privilege of a complete outdoor or basement kitchen, you want to make sure that the doors of all bedrooms are closed, all other doors and windows are open, the vent is on highest speed and you store the pot with the leftovers in the oven or the garage,

Tools and Dishes

  • A big bowl to prepare the dough for the rolls
  • A large pot (larger than the cabbage) to blanche the cabbage
  • A large frying pan
  • A large pot (ideally turkey roaster size), ideally Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, rather avoid stainless steel
  • A medium pot for the chicken broth
  • Cooking twine for the rolls
  • A large slotted spoon for the cabbage
  • Two large plates or cutting boards (for the cabbage and rolling the rolls)
  • A sharp small kitchen knife (for onions and bacon)
  • A big kitchen knife for cutting the the cabbage
  • A blender
  • A meat thermometer
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Preparation of the rolls

  • Preparation of the cabbage leafs

    • Put the cabbage in a large pot full of water so that the cabbage is covered
    • Heat the water until it broils
    • Let it simmer for 15 minutes (you can start now the preparation of the dough rolls)
    • Take 6 large leaves; they should be easily removable from the cabbage
    • Store the rest of the cabbage on a cutting board
  • Preparation of the dough for the rolls

    • Mix ground meat, eggs, onion cubes, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, paprika, mustard in the bowl
    • Stir and mix it until it forms one homogeneous dough
    • Form six rolls out of the dough adjusted in size to the width of a leave minus the room you need to fold the leave around
  • Preparation of the rolls

    • Distribute the caraway seed on the inner side of the leaf; the caraway seed does not only add flavor, it makes the cabbage more digestible
    • Roll the leaf around the the dough rolls so that the sides are covered
    • Tie the rolls with the cooking twine

Preparation of the sauce - Chop the remaining cabbage in small pieces - Chop the bacon in small pieces - Mix the flour in the blender with water to produce sauce thickener


  • Heat the butter and bacon in the large sauce pot until the butter melts, and reduce the heat accordingly to low to medium
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Add the chopped cabbage
  • Let it simmer, constantly stirring, for 15 minutes
  • Heat the chicken broth in a separate pot, until it broils
  • Heat the butter in the frying pan until it melts (avoid that it is getting dark), and adjust the heat accordingly to low to medium
  • Add the broiling chicken broth
  • Add the syrup
  • Keep stirring everything
  • Add the flour sauce thickener
  • Make sure that the sauce does not broil, and keep it simmering with a closed lid on low to medium heat so that not much steam evaporates
  • Slowly fry the rolls in the pan from both sides, avoid that it burns
  • Place the rolls in the sauce
  • Turn the rolls after 45 minutes in case they are not fully covered by sauce
  • Let it simmer with a closed lid for 90 minutes

Final preparation

  • Control the inner temperature of the rolls and let it cook until a temperature of 160° F (71° C) is reached to make sure that the ground meat is well done
  • The rolls can be easily reheated in the same sauce and are even tasting better the next day
  • A beer is better pairing than any wine


* not incl. in nutrient facts

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