Veggie cabbage rolls

There’s nothing more traditional in Romania than cabbage rolls with polenta and a slice of walnut sweet roll (cozonac) for dessert. For this recipe, the cabbage is pickled for several months in a mixture of salt and water, which gives it an absolutely fantastic taste – of course, you can make it with normal cabbage and boil the leaves for two minutes, but it won’t be the same. The best would be to find an East-European or Arabic ethnic store and buy the real thing, I promise, you won’t regret it!

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Normally, my mum would make these with meat, but since for the past 14 years I’ve been a vegetarian, she had to adapt the recipe and boy, did she do wonders with it – so much that I don’t even miss the taste of the old fashioned meaty cabbage rolls! Polenta is always the sidekick of choice, but you see, Romanian polenta is nothing like the Italian version. We use freshly ground corn, coarse, unsifted, strong, with character. We have to boil it for a very long time, until it thickens so much that you can’t even spoon it anymore. I love to mix polenta with creamy butter and soft-boiled eggs (maybe some sour cream?) and a bit of sea salt, but, of course, I don’t always get the right egg yolk consistency. I don’t mind though, it’s still the simplest, best thing you can have on a rainy day. Add some crushed garlic cloves, and you’re in heaven.

Veggie cabbage rolls


  • 1 large pickled cabbage
  • 1/2 kg mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 10 tbs oil
  • 5-6 yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 shredded carrot
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 handful of raisins
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 10 black pepper cloves
  • dried thyme
  • 2 cups water


  1. In a large pot or pan heat the oil then add the onions, braise for 2 minutes, add the carrots, braise for two more minutes then add the chopped mushrooms and braise until tender. Add the rice, thyme, ground pepper and 1/2 tsp salt, raisins, mix a little and remove from hob.
  2. In a cast-iron pot, pour 2-3 tsp oil. Separately, shred some cabbage and spread it on the bottom of the pot, in a 1 cm thick layer.
  3. Take one cabbage leaf, place 1 tbs of the filling in the middle, roll and tuck in the ends. Place each roll in the pot, one next to the other, as tightly as possible. After the first layer, sprinkle with more shredded cabbage, one bay leaf and some pepper cloves and thyme. Proceed similarly with the next layer.
  4. When reaching the top, spread more shredded cabbage, pepper cloves and thyme springs, add two cups of water, put the lid on and simmer on low to medium heat, for about 1h45.

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This is as good as it gets, as simple as it gets: life shouldn’t be more complicated than that, right?

Love and cabbage rolls for Meatless Monday!

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