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Stuffed Cabbage (Sarma) Made Magic

This dish is a labor of love, but it's so worth it.

Stuffed Cabbage, Sarma, Comfort Food, Weeknight, One Pot Meal, Slovenian, Magic, Kitchen Witch, Witchcraft, Correspondence

It's funny that we're talking about so many Slovenian recipes this week, because it's actually the month Slovenia celebrates its statehood. This year marks 31 years since Slovenia fought for its independence from Yugoslavia, and they did it in the most interesting way: they were set to announce their statehood on June 25th, which the opposing army was prepared to stop on that day. But before they could come, Slovenia declared it a day early—effectively becoming independent before the opposing army could stop them and legitimizing their defense.

Sneaky like a fox, I'd say.

Slovenians take their identity, statehood, and culture very seriously, and for good reason. It's a beautiful country, with a culture of peace and friendship and good food, and one such bit of delicious food (that exists honestly all across the Balkans in some shape or form) is stuffed cabbage, or sarma. Other Slavs might know it as Gołąbki (Poland) or Holubtsi (Ukraine), but the food is essentially the same: cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, meats, maybe buckwheat or other grains, and baked or simmered in some kind of sauce.

Here's the recipe I made with my mother once for a project and recreated later, in which my aunt actually told us what to do with the sauce, and my boyfriend's aunt what to do with the cabbage (as Sarma traditionally uses whole heads of pickled cabbage, which we don't have easy access to). Cross-slavic wonder, this dish.

This is a dish that magically brings in a lot of things that, to me, say Slovenia, namely luck, health, and love. Let's take a look at what makes it so.

Magic in Stuffed Cabbage

So as fate would have it, cabbage itself is a pretty magical item. Along with our other suspects, like marjoram, onion, and tomato, cabbage is a very lucky little leafy green. Combine that with all of the fiery protection, money-drawing power, and bold love of the other ingredients, and we have a dish that's bound to pick up the whole family.

The elements of fire, air, and water, along with the planets Mars, Mercury, the Moon, and Venus, tell you right away that there's a lot of power at work in this dish, especially power related to ambition and energy, communication and mental dexterity, and of course, deep emotions, intuition, and sense of love. It's a powerful combination that'll leave your family feeling joyous, robust, and confident as they continue building relationships of all kinds and chasing their goals.

Stuffed Cabbage (Sarma)

Prep time: 45 minutes

Cook time: 60-90 minutes

Makes 4-6 Servings



2 Heads of Cabbage

Boiled, leaves removed

1 Large

Onion, diced & fried

2 Large


3 Cloves

Garlic, minced

2 lbs

Ground Beef (or 1lb beef, 1lb pork)

1 cup

Rice, par-boiled

Salt & Pepper*

To taste


1 28oz can

Crushed Tomatoes

1 Large

Onion, diced

1 Large

Carrot, sliced or chopped fine

2 cloves

Garlic, minced

1 Tbsp


2 Tbsp


1 Tbsp


Salt & Pepper*

To Taste

*If you can find vegeta instead of salt, use that!


  • Boil cabbage for 15-20 minutes.

  • Par-boil rice for 5 minutes & fry one onion until lightly browned.

  • While cabbage boils, prepare your meat mixture. Drain rice and add to meat with egg, fried onion, garlic, salt, and pepper, then mix and set aside.

  • Fry the other onion, then add garlic and fry until fragrant before adding carrot, marjoram, paprika, and mustard. Let simmer.

  • When cabbage is ready, remove from water and let cool before separating leaves. BE CAREFUL: the outermost leaves especially will be very fragile.

  • NOTE: If you have any leaves that rip, tear them up and make a bed of cabbage in the baking dish you'll use for your rolls!

  • Cut a small triangle piece from the stem of each cabbage leaf so they're more flexible

  • From the opposite side of the cut, fill the leaf with a small handful of meat. Roll it halfway, fold in the sides, and then finish rolling to the end.

  • Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Put them all in your baking dish, ladle your simmered sauce over the rolls, and cover with aluminum foil.

  • Bake for 1 to 1.5 hours.

Classic cabbage rolls take a little bit of time, but the result is a delicious dish that is hearty and satisfying without feeling too heavy. Tangy, savory, and so delicious!

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