These easy Turkey Cabbage Rolls, aka Golumpki, are hearty and delicious
Turkey Cabbage rolls are a delightful Eastern European method of preparing meat stuffed cabbage. My husband’s family calls them Golumpki, which is the Polish name for cabbage rolls.
Imagine slicing through a piping hot cabbage roll; a puff of steam is released and you take away a fork full of ground turkey, rice, sauce, and tender cabbage. The sauce is a thin but traditional tomato sauce that mixes well with the turkey and cabbage. Use some mashed potatoes or a roll to pick up the leftover drippings, and your meal is complete.
Why use ground turkey in cabbage rolls?
Golumpki is traditionally made with ground beef, so why use turkey? I use ground turkey in cabbage rolls for two reasons, both of which have to do with fat content.
- Greasiness: These cabbage rolls are made with raw meat, which means we don’t have an opportunity to drain off the fat from cooking. These cabbage rolls bake with the sauce, so there’s no real opportunity to drain them after cooking either. Ground turkey has a lower fat content than ground beef, so they don’t create a layer of liquified fat at the bottom of the foil pan.
- Health: Turkey is leaner than ground beef, and has correspondingly fewer calories. This makes it easier to plan turkey cabbage rolls as a diet conscious meal, and to pair the meal with more foods. I serve a couple cabbage rolls with some perogies for a varied weeknight meal.
What to serve with Turkey Cabbage Rolls
- Cabbage rolls are traditionally served with mashed potatoes. I like to mix some turkey, sauce, and cabbage into my potatoes. Bread rolls also go very well this meal, as you can mop up leftover sauce.
- If you want to enhance the meal further, try substituting in my yellow rice. It’ll make the rice and turkey mixture a bit richer.
- You can also use smoked tomatoes for your sauce. Smoked tomatoes add a fun smokey flavor that permeates the meal. The flavor difference works well and is a great way to change up an old meal.
- Lastly, this polish food goes great with a pierogi! Try out my cabbage pierogi. I’ll typically serve 2-3 cabbage rolls and 2-3 pierogi as a meal.
Tips on working with Cabbage
Here are some tips on working with cabbage leaves
- Remove the exterior leaves on a new head of cabbage. You only need to remove the outer leaves, typically one on each side. These outer leaves take a lot of damage, and the inner leaves will be more tender and useful.
- Run the head over warm/hot water. If you’re having trouble getting the leaves to come aparts, try running the head under some hot water. The temperature differences will help the leaves separate.
- Remove more of the core. After coring the cabbage and removing the first few leaves, you might need to remove some more core to get at the next leaves.
- Stop removing leaves when they get too small. The cabbage leaves get smaller the closer you get to the center of the cabbage. It’s not worth peeling them apart if they’re too small to use. You can chop up the core and use it in soup, sauerkraut, or kimchi.
How do you know if your stuffed cabbage rolls are done cooking?
Since we bake the cabbage rolls with raw turkey, knowing when they are done is an important question. Without cutting open a sacrificial roll, the easiest way to check turkey cabbage rolls for doneness is with an electric temperature thermometer. Stick it into the middle of your largest cabbage roll and make sure the inside is at least 165F.
How to make Turkey Cabbage Rolls
Turkey Cabbage Rolls
- 1 Pot (large)
- 3-5 Foil Metal Trays
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1-2 Large Cabbage Heads
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 2 quarts whole peeled tomatoes
- 2 tbsp butter or margarine
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 large onion split in 2
Cabbage Leaf Instructions
- Start by removing the outer layer(s) of the cabbage heads. Remove any loose outer leaves and the topmost layer of the main head.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully cut out the core of the cabbage head.
- Gently pull apart the cabbage leaves, going slowly and careful enough to not tear the leaves. Only use leaves that are large enough to make a roll, they should be able to wrap as much meat as you could fit in the palm of your hand.
- Rinse the leaves, and start a pot of water boiling. The pot should be big enough to blanch the leaves in batches.
- Once boiling, boil as many leaves as will fit in the pot for 3-4 minutes, then pull them out and let them drip in a colander.
- Keep the leaves covered while working on the rest of the meal.
- Start by chopping and frying half an onion (if large) in oil.
- When the onion starts to turn translucent, add 1 tbsp of garlic and fry a couple minutes longer.
- Drain off any excess water from the tomatoes and add them to the pan.
- Add the butter, stir well, and simmer until the sauce thickens, 10-20 minutes.
- If you want to add optional enhancements, you can add salt, pepper, and paprika at this point, but it's not required.
Stuffing and Overall Preparation Instructions
- Finely mince the remaining onion and add it to a large bowl
- Add one cup of cooked rice, all of the ground turkey, a half cup of sauce, salt, 1 tbsp of garlic, and pepper. Mix the ingredients well so they are evenly distributed.
- Set out a foil tray to hold the cabbage rolls. Line the bottom of each tray with a little sauce.
- Begin filling cabbage leaves. With one leaf open in a hand, fill the roll with the meat mixture from the other hand. Each cabbage leaf is a little unique, and will require ¼ to ⅓ cup of meat mixture depending on its size.
- Fold the cabbage roll and set it fold-side down into the foil tray. Continue to fill the tray with cabbage rolls.
- When all of the cabbage rolls are formed, distribute the remaining sauce on top of the cabbage rolls.
- Cover the trays of roll and bake them at 350F for 60-90 minutes. The center of the rolls should be at least 165F.