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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls {Zelevi Sarmi}

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Bulgarian
Servings: 6


  • 10 large cabbage leaves or 20 small, fresh or pickled
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 3,5 oz/ 100 g cremini mushrooms finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cup/ 230 g rice any kind
  • 1/3 cup/ 50 g raisins optional
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried savory
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped, optional
  • 1/2 tsp dried spearmint optional
  • salt to taste


If using pickled cabbage:

  • Cut the large leaves in two, removing the hard ribs at the bottom of each leaf. Stack the leaves on a plate and set aside.

If using fresh cabbage:

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Add 3 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice and 1 tbsp sea salt. Insert the cabbage leaves in the boiling water and lower the temperature. Cook for 3-5 minutes covered with a lid or until tender and flexible.
  • Remove the cabbage from the water and let cool. Cut in half the large leaves, removing the hard ribs.

For the filling:

  • Heat the oil in a non stick pan and sauté the onion for 1-2 minutes. Add the carrots and the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Add the rice and cook for few minutes, until translucent. Add the spices and the raisins, stir and remove from heat.

Assemble and cook:

  • Extend the cabbage leaves on a kitchen board. Fill each one with 1-2 tbsp of the filling, depending on the size of the leaf. Wrap the filling into the leaf and roll it.
  • Arrange the cabbage rolls in a pot with the wrapped part facing the bottom. Place them closely one next to another. You can make 2 or 3 layers of sarmi, depending on how big is your pot.
  • Place an inverted plate on top of your sarmi and cover the pot with a lid. Pour 1 - 1,5 cups of water into the pot: make sure the water level reaches the top roll sarmi so that the rice gets cooked.
  • Cook for 25-30 minutes on the stove at a low heat. Don't allow the water to boil violently so that the cabbage rolls stay neat.
  • The dish is ready when the rice is completely cooked. Remove from heat and serve immediately with some of the sauce from the pot.


  • Store leftovers in airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • You can serve the leftovers cold or reheated in a microwave.