Töltött Káposzta: The Coat of Arms of Hungary!

In the 19th century, Róza Széppataki, Hungary’s first opera diva, waxed lyrical about the stuffed cabbage served at a banquet given in her honor. In fact, she was so delighted by the dish that she even published the recipe in her memoirs. Called töltött káposzta over here, stuffed cabbage is hugely popular in Hungary. You’ll find it on most restaurant menus. It’s often served on New Year’s Day and at wedding celebrations, too. The sauerkraut, they say, is good for a hangover. So beloved is this national dish that one old Hungarian saying proclaims meat and cabbage as “the coat of arms of Hungary.”

P1080217The preparation of töltött káposzta varies according to the region and family. Every grandma has her own recipe. Sometimes, the sauerkraut is replaced by blanched cabbage leaves. In some areas, the stuffed cabbage is thickened with a roux. In Transylvania, bunches of dill are added to the pot and removed before seving.

Perfect fall food, today I’m going to cook myself some. I’ve included the recipe for you below. Róza Széppataki would approve, I’m sure. Oh, and I’m going to make myself a huge pot so that I can reheat it during the week. The Hungarians have a cute saying about that, too: “Love is not like stuffed cabbage. Once cold – it can’t be reheated.”

Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Cabbage) from Culinaria Hungary

Ingredients: 10 oz/300 g smoked pork ribs (for meat stock); 2 1/4 lbs/1 kg sauerkraut; 8 sauercraut leaves; 1 medium onion; 1/2 cup/50 g cooked rice; 4 1/2 cups/500 g ground pork; 1/4 cup/60 g butter; 3 tbsp four; 2 tbsp mild, sweet paprika; 3/4- 1 1/4 cups/200-300 ml sour cream; salt and pepper

Directions: Rince the sauercraut under running water. Finely chop the onion. Combine the rice, ground pork, half the onion, and the salt and pepper with a little butter. Flatten the cabbage leaves, place a small amount of the meat mixture on each leaf, and roll up firmly, folding the edges under. Saute the remaining onion until translucent, and spread the sauerkraut over it. Layer the stuffed cabbage leaves on top, and cover with the remaining sauerkraut. Pour over enough meat stock (see below) to just cover the contents, and simmer over low heat for 1 hour. Make a roux from the remaining butter, flour, and paprika, and use to thicken the sauerkraut. Remove the stuffed cabbage leaves before doing this, and return them to the sauerkraut when it has been thickened. Cook for another 10 minutes. Serve hot. Accompany with sour cream.

Meat Stock: To soften the flavor of smoked meat, soak in water and boil before use in main recipe. Soak the meat for a minimum in 30 minutes and preferably several hours in cold water, which should be changed several times. Then place the meat in a saucepan, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the meat has lost its strong salty taste. Finally, leave the meat to cool in the stock.


Place the ground meat mixture on the cabbage leaves.


Roll the leaf up firmly, folding over the ends of the leaves.



12 thoughts on “Töltött Káposzta: The Coat of Arms of Hungary!

  1. If you sprinkle one or two tablespoonfuls of flour on top when you cover it with water before cooking, then you don’t need the roux. In our household we only cover it with water, and never use precooked rice. The time while you are cooking it gives enough time for the rice to be cooked, too. By the way…love your blog.

  2. As far as I remember we don’t use precooked rice either. I prefer it slowly cooked so all the lovely flavours come together. My grandma serves it with homemade sausage :) . Oh I can’t wait for Christmas now. :P

  3. Thank you, very good recipe and article. Every Hungarian housewife has a Töltött káposzta recipe. In Szatmar county, the place I live, we use tomato juice. Original recipe came from Turkey, by Ottomans.

  4. Congrats! An American man taking on a challenge of making a Hungarian Toltott kaposzta, you are brave! :-) Looks delicious! Yeah, I think most of us doesn’t precook the rice. As it cooks in the meat it also absorbs all the good flavor from the juices. Now I wanna have some!

  5. Yes, your blog is fantastic. We love stuffed cabbage. We make it with or without rice. My Hungarian mother-in-law made them with tomato juice, but being German, I like it without.

  6. At all times delicious and as you say Phil, it can be re-heated as often as you like – and even gets tastier! Great blog once again :-D Thank you!

  7. My mom used to make it: put some smoked ribs between the layers and she made the roux at the start, making a “soup” of it, and instead of water or stock , she poured this “soup” over the contents and cooked them together from the beginning. I make it similar but I make a stock from smoked shank and legs with a lots of onion, garlic, black pepper, juniper berries and some bay leaves and I use this stock to make the “soup”. I cook it in the oven so it will cook evenly and not burn the bottom and the end I serve the cooked shank and legs with the cabbage. I can’t wait till Christmas when I’ll make it again. Bdw if you don’t live in Hungary you can make your own sauerkraut, but this is an other story.

  8. I have try your recipe for Marion! I did not make stuffed cabbage for a long time – now my mouth is watering.
    Did you make the fabulous photos yourself? Thank you so much!

    • My mother used ground beef instead of pork and always cooked it with tomato juice. It was highly reveered in our house and the neighborhood kids that came by would just about kill each other for some.

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