Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

5 from 28 votes

Try this authentic Lebanese styled Stuffed Cabbage Rolls - also known as Malfouf - with step-by-step easy instructions to cook the recipe!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

If you are a fan of my Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe, you should try these Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. The recipe uses the same stuffing, but with cabbage leaves instead. In Arabic, we call this recipe Malfouf, which translates to cabbage or we also called it Malfouf Mih-sheh, which translates to stuffed cabbage.

Plate of stuffed cabbage rolls - lebanese style served with lmone slices

This is a traditional Lebanese recipe made by stuffing lightly cooked cabbage leaves with a mixture of rice, ground beef and spices. Then we cook the stuffed cabbage rolls all together in a pot with cumin and a lemon garlicky sauce. Yup, you will need 16 cloves of garlic for this recipe!

How do you make stuffed cabbage rolls

Prepare the cabbage laves

  • Place the cabbage head in a large pot of boiling water and loosen the leaves.
  • Cut the core out or leave the core in tact and use a knife to separate each leaf from the core.
  • Lay the cabbage leaves on a plate while working your way through the center of the cabbage.
Raw cabbage with fork inside

Prepare stuffing (hashweh)

  • The Arabic word for stuffing is hashweh, and there are many variations of stuffing you can use for the cabbage rolls. The simple version is to brown the ground beef and season it.
  • Then fold in the uncooked rice and the stuffing is ready. Be sure to also check out my vegetarian version with no meat that you can use for the cabbage rolls.
Cabbage leaves before stuffing with hashweh

Stuff and roll the cabbage leaves

  • Lay a cabbage leaf flat on a cutting board, add the beef and rice mixture into the center of the cabbage leaf.
  • Tuck one side, then fold over the cabbage leaf over the stuffing.
  • Continue to tuck and roll to make sure it’s secure.
  • You can squeeze the cabbage roll after you roll it to help secure it. Depending on the head of cabbage you have, you’ll make about 30-35 rolls.
Hashweh mixture: rice beef and spices

Cook the stuffed cabbage (malfouf)

  • Layer the bottom of the pot with the stems of the cabbage to help ensure that the leaves don’t touch the bottom of the pot, which can result is charred leaves. Then Layer the the cabbage rolls all around the pot.
  • Add garlic, cumin and fresh tomatoes either on each layer or on the top of all the layers and make sure to season with salt and pepper.
  • Place a heavy round plate on top of the cabbage rolls to help keep them in place while cooking and add enough water to cover the rolls in the pot. Then you’re ready to cook it.
Layered rolls of cabbage in a deep wide pot

The top layer is especially important, so be sure to alternate directions of the stuffed cabbage rolls. You can also add more tomato slices here in between the rolls along with green pepper (which is completely optional). Don’t forget the sliced garlic and the cumin in each layer.

It will take some time to cook the stuffed cabbage rolls, starting at a medium temperature and the decreasing to a low temperature for a longer period of time. You’ll know they’re cooked when the leaves are super tender, yellow-ish in color and most of the sauce is absorbed.

Showing the alternating layers of stuffed cabbage in a large pot with garlic, tomato slices and green peppers

Tips for making stuffed cabbage rolls

  1. Turn over the cabbage head in the pot of simmering water as necessary. This ensures that all parts of the cabbage get exposure to the boiling water so they peel off easier. If you try to peel the leaves away and the cabbage is too raw, the leaves will tear.
  2. Don’t over boil the cabbage leaves. You want the leaves to be pliable enough to fold over, but not overly soft since you’ll be cooking them later. If you find really large leaves or ones with thick stems in the middle, make sure to cut those in half.
  3. Remove the thick stem from the middle of the leaves. This is not mandatory, but it helps them roll easier and you can use those thick parts for lining the bottom of the pot.
  4. Don’t over stuff the leaves. Remember that the stuffing contains uncooked rice that will expand once cooked. So use two heaping tablespoons per leaf and spread it out into a thin line over the middle of the cabbage leaf.
  5. Squeeze the stuffed cabbage rolls after rolling them. Roll them tightly enough so that it doesn’t unravel while cooking, but make sure to also squeeze them afterwards which just helps the cabbage leaves mold around the rice mixture and stay in place.
  6. Place the rolls with the greenest leaves on the bottom of the pot. They will need more heat and a longer time to cook well, so this tip will help if you can remember that.
  7. Allow time to rest before serving. Of course, you’ll need a taste test when the timer goes off. But before transferring the cabbage leaves to a serving dish, allow them to rest for half an hour in the pot to absorb any remaining liquid and set. This also helps prevent any from unrolling accidentally.

Frequently asked questions

What type of cabbage is best to use?

You want to use green cabbage but look for the ones that have soft wide leaves with minimal stems. on the outer layers. They are not always easy to find, but they are easier to work with than the standard green cabbage you find all year round.

How I make the rolls vegetarian?

You can easily make these stuffed cabbage rolls vegetarian by substituting the ground beef for onions, tomatoes and parsley mixture. It’s the same stuffing I use for my Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Can I make stuffed cabbage with brown rice?

I have not tried it myself because I’ve heard of poor results. Brown rice needs extra cooking time as compared to white rice. That extra cooking time can result in overcooking the cabbage. If you do try it, instant brown rice might be your best option.

Large plate of stuffed cabbage - lebanese malfouf

More Lebanese Recipes

If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feel good Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Try this authentic Lebanese styled Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – also known as Malfouf – with step-by-step easy instructions to cook the recipe!
5 from 28 votes
Servings 12 servings
Course Entree, Main Course
Calories 171
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cabbage head
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons 7 Spice or Cinnamon or All Spice
  • 1 cup short grain rice rinsed
  • 10 garlic cloves sliced
  • 4 large tomatoes sliced
  • ½ green pepper sliced (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Instructions

Prepare Cabbage Leaves

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cut the core from the cabbage and place the cabbage in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  • As the leaves loosen, you can place a fork in the core of the cabbage to hold it steady and use another fork or knife to gently separate the outer leaves away from the core one at a time. The leaves just need to be soft enough to be pliable without being too soft. The inner leaves may need to sit in the water for an extra few minutes if they are not soft enough.
  • Stack the cabbage leaves on a plate and set them aside. Make sure to cut any super large leaves in half and keep the smallest leaves or tough ones to line the bottom of the pot for cooking.

Prepare Stuffing (Hashweh)

  • Heat a large skillet with olive oil; add ground beef, season with salt, pepper and 7 Spice, and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add uncooked rice to the ground beef mixture and season with the remaining salt; mix well until everything is incorporated. You could alternatively not cook the beef and just mix it raw with the ingredients.

Stuff, Wrap and Cook

  • To stuff and roll the cabbage leaves, lay a cabbage leaf flat on a cutting board, scoop out 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture into the center of the cabbage leaf, and carefully roll it slowly and tightly, but without tucking in the corners. Squeeze the cabbage roll to help secure it and set aside. Repeat until all the stuffing has been used and place the stuffed cabbages on a tray. It should yield 30-35 rolls.
  • Line the bottom of a large pot with the small cabbage stems and tomato slices and season with cumin. Neatly arrange the stuffed cabbage in rows, alternating directions, to completely cover the circumference of the pot. Add the sliced garlic along with tomato slices, green peppers if using, and cumin.
  • Place a small round plate on top of cabbage in the pot to hold them down and prevent floating while they are cooking. You can also place a heavy pot filled with water to hold them in place
  • Add 6 cups of water to completely cover the cabbages leaves and the plate, then cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. You want most of the water to be absorbed (there should still be some at the bottom of the pot) and the leaves to be tender
  • Add the lemon juice on top of the cabbage leaves, then cook on low heat for an additional 45 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool uncovered for 30 minutes. Transfer to a dish and enjoy warm!

Notes

Recipe: There are so many variations of this stuffed cabbage recipe depending on the region adapted from. There is no absolute one way to make this dish, but this was the recipe passed down from my Lebanese parents.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are frequently asked substitution questions
  • You can use ground lamb instead of ground beef or a mixture of both.
  • Avoid using brown rice. If you use brown rice, you have to increase the cooking time by 30 minutes, which may result is overcooking the cabbage.
Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 3-4 days in the fridge. 
Make Ahead Tips: You can make the hashweh stuffing up to 2 days in advance. You can also prepare the cabbage in advance and store in the fridge.
Equipment: If you have a pressure cooker, the stuffed cabbage rolls can be made with that. Just pack cabbage rolls in the pressure cooker, add the water, close and cook for 15 to 20 minutes at the first pressure mark. Be sure to let them rest for 15 minutes before releasing the steam.
Nutritional Data: Please note that the nutrition label provided is an estimate only. It will vary based on the specific ingredients used.

Nutrition

Calories: 171kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 23mg, Sodium: 242mg, Potassium: 420mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 539IU, Vitamin C: 42mg, Calcium: 51mg, Iron: 3mg

Share this recipe

Share it with the world! Mention @feelgoodfoodie or tag #feelgoodfoodie!

Plate of stuffed cabbage rolls - lebanese style served with tomato slices

Rate and comment

Recipe Rating




Comments

  1. None of my water evaporated. What did I do wrong? I followed all your instructions. I added 6 cups of water, covered for 30 minutes. I tried taking the cover off for 30 more minutes on medium heat but that didn’t help either. 😭

    1. I would add just enough water to cover the rice and cook it for 15 minutes on low heat. Then leave it to steam for 5-10 minutes without heat and fluff it.

  2. Absolutely delicious. As a Lebanese person, I have high standards for malfouf and it came out like my mom’s! Thank you.