Sarma (Macedonian Cabbage Rolls): Recipe

RECIPES | Sarma, or Macedonian cabbage rolls, are a delicious meal that Paul and I both grew up with. You’ll find a variant of it in all the places that were part of the Ottoman Empire (sarma comes from the Turkish word “sarmak”, meaning “to wrap”).

The exact make of of the recipe differs depending on where you’re from, but essentially it’s beef mince, diced onion, medium grain rice, a spice and herb mix, and tomato sauce/paste wrapped in cabbage leaves and oven baked in a shallow smoked pork hock broth. It’s so simple to make and lasts for several days in the fridge. A surefire hit any time of the year.

For another Macedonian winter warmer, check out my recipe for mandza (Macedoanian stew).

Preparation Time: 25 minutes / Baking Time: 2 hours/ Serves: 6


  • 1 head savoy cabbage
  • 1 large brown onion, diced
  • 250g beef mince
  • 250g pork mince
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 200g medium grain rice
  • salt and pepper
  • Vegeta gourmet stock powder (optional)
  • 20ml olive oil
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 690g passata
  • 1 smoked ham hock


  1. Preheat your oven to 170°C fan forced.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  3. Place the cabbage into the pot and boil for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Remove the cabbage from the heat and place it into a bowl of cold water for 2-3 minutes until it is cool enough to handle.
  5. Carefully separate the cabbage leaves gently cutting them away from the stalk.
  6. Set aside 20-25 cabbage leaves for later use.
  7. Coarsely dice the remaining cabbage and place it into a bowl.
  8. Add the mince, rice, garlic, onion, paprika, salt, pepper and Vegeta gourmet stock powder to the diced cabbage and mix well.
  9. Lightly grease the base of a 30cm dutch oven or any high walled oven-safe pot with the olive oil.
  10. Place one of the cabbage leaves in front of you with the vein/ stalk end closest to you.
  11. Lightly trim off any course piece of the vein and discard them.
  12. Place approximately 80g of the stuffing on the base of the cabbage leaf (the side closest to you).
  13. Fold both sides of the cabbage leaves over the mince and roll the mince away from you to form a tight stuffed roll. Place the roll into the dutch oven.
  14. Repeat until all the stuffing has been used.
  15. Place the smoked hock on top of the stuffed cabbage.
  16. Mix together the passata and vegetable stock and pour it over the stuffed cabbage rolls.
  17. Place any remaining cabbage leaves on top of the cabbage rolls (do not cover the hock).
  18. Place the dutch oven/pot into the oven and bake uncovered for 2 hours.
  19. Remove from the heat and set the hock aside for use in other recipes.
  20. Serve the sarma warm.


Once I have used the smoked hock in the recipe I then remove it and simmer it in 3L of water for 3-4 hours to create a smokey stock that I can use for soups or for boiling vegetables.



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