Try this authentic Lebanese styled Stuffed Cabbage Rolls - which is also known as Malfouf - with step-by-step easy instructions to help you make the recipe!
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.
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
You want to place the cabbage head in a large pot of boiling water and loosen the leaves. You can cut the core out or you can leave the core in tact and just a use a knife to cut separate each leaf from the rest. Either way it helps to hold the cabbage steady using the fork in core method.
For the best stuffed cabbage rolls, 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. Use the thick stems later to line the bottom of the pot. Stack the cabbage leaves on a plate and set them aside.
The Arabic word for stuffing is hashweh, and there are many variations of stuffing you can use for the cabbage rolls. But the two popular ones are ground beef with rice with spices and the vegetarian version with no meat.
Just cook the ground beef with 7 Spice, then add the uncooked short grain white rice on top and stir everything together.
Stuff and roll the cabbage leaves
Lay a cabbage leaf flat on a cutting board, add the rice mixture into the center of the cabbage leaf, and roll it slowly and tightly. It helps to 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.
Cook the stuffed cabbage
Next I use a deep pot for cooking the stuffed cabbage. I start by layering the pot with the stems from the cabbage along with tomatoes. Many even place a lamb rack on the bottom of the pot. Whatever you use, it helps to ensure that the leaves don’t touch the bottom of the pot, which can result is charred leaves.
Neatly arrange the stuffed cabbage in rows, alternating directions, to completely cover the circumference of the 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.
Tips for making stuffed cabbage rolls
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
More Lebanese Recipes
- Stuffed Grape Leaves
- Kousa (Stuffed Squash)
- Beef Shawarma
- Chicken Kafta
- Peas and Carrots Stew
- Authentic Falafel Recipe
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
- 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
- 16 garlic cloves sliced
- 4 large tomatoes sliced
- ½ green pepper sliced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ½ cup lemon juice
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!
- 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.