Hungary has long been famous for its paprika-packed cuisine. You must have already heard of the most well-known Hungarian food, goulash soup, and the fattiest but most delicious street food, lángos. But local delicacies don’t stop there. Stuffed cabbage rolls are also on the top of the locals’ all-time favorites. Made of fermented cabbage leaves, sauerkraut, and minced pork, stuffed cabbage is a much-awaited guest at Hungarian Christmas and wedding tables. Hot and filling, it is also the perfect meal for autumn and winter, especially when served with sour cream on top and fresh, crispy bread to tuck into the sauce. Read on to find out the best places to taste stuffed cabbage in Budapest or to learn how to make it yourself. Let’s dig in!
Although stuffed cabbage (töltött káposzta) or cabbage rolls are one of the classic dishes of the Hungarian cuisine, this meal and its variants are known and eaten near and far, from Asia to North Africa. The Central-Eastern European take on stuffed cabbage rolls features lots of meat, mostly pork, bacon, and sausage, which makes it a heavy, greasy but very tasty dish. In contrary to other regions where it is served as a starter or a tapas, the Hungarian stuffed cabbage is definitely a main course. It rolls up as a typical Christmas dish, as well as the midnight meal at weddings, as according to folk tradition, cabbage brings wealth and health to the house. As a celebratory food, it is often accompanied by some quality Hungarian wine, which can be found in many regions of the country.
Part of the truth, however, is that stuffed cabbage is originally a Turkish dish called sarmak, which made its debut in Hungary during the Ottoman occupation in the 16th century. Stuffed cabbage was a preferred meal among the Hungarian aristocracy as early as the 17th century, but it became an all-time favorite in the 18th century. Yet, the locals did more than merely copying the Turkish recipe, which was (and still is) made with grape leaves instead of cabbage. Using pork for the filling was also a Hungarian addition, as the Turks, according to the Muslim tradition, made it with lamb meat. And needless to say, paprika and sour cream, the two staple ingredients of the Hungarian kitchen, were also added locally. Yet, the recipe still varies from region to region, with the Szabolcsi and the Kolozsvári (Transylvanian) recipes being the most popular.
Pest-Buda is one of the oldest restaurants in Hungary, with the building originally built as an inn in the 17th century. The restaurant prides itself on offering authentic grandma’s home-style Hungarian meals with quality ingredients. It serves stuffed cabbage with spare ribs, as well as other Hungarian classics from soups to stews and more.
07:30:00 – 23:45:00
Calling itself the Hungarian Hell’s Kitchen, Nagy Fatál Konyhája can be found in the historic downtown of Pest. The restaurant offers a complete folk experience with family recipes, live gypsy music, and folklore design all over the place. Their stuffed cabbage comes with smoked meat and fresh farmer’s bread.
10:30:00 – 23:00:00
Famous for folk flavours, Fakanál Étterem takes its rightful place on the first floor of the Central Market Hall in Budapest. With the market situated just below the restaurant, you can be sure that all the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. They offer breakfast and lunch menus, as well as special events from sausage-making workshops to wedding receptions, and everything in between. During lunchtime, you can munch on your meal while listening to live gypsy music too.
tuesday 09:00:00 – 18:00:00
wednesday 09:00:00 – 18:00:00
thursday 09:00:00 –
friday 09:00:00 – 18:00:00
saturday 09:00:00 – 15:00:00
Traditionally Hungarian dishes are meat-based, but in the past few years, a few adventurous venues took on the challenge to recreate them with plant-based ingredients. Napfényes is one of the most well-known vegan restaurants in Budapest. Unlike many new-wave chic vegan places that boast minimalistic and Scandi vibes, Napfényes proudly presents retro restaurant vibes which makes it attractive not only to tourists but to more and more locals as well. Their stuffed cabbage rolls are made with seitan, grilled soy-wieners, and soy yogurt for the complete meat-free experience.
11:30:00 – 21:00:00
Making stuffed cabbage rolls at home is not for the faint-hearted – it takes time, dedication, and meat, lots of meat. The preparation alone demands almost an hour and then you still have to cook the rolls for some 2 more hours. So get ready and start in time, or else the whole family will get hangry by the time you serve this delicious dish. Oh, and did we say that you can’t really make stuffed cabbage rolls in small portions? Go big or go home with this one.
- 1 kg sauerkraut
- 8 medium-size fermented cabbage leaves
- 0.5 kg minced pork
- 20 dkg smoked bacon
- 20 dkg sausages
- 1 onion
- 20 dkg cooked rice
- Spices: 2 cloves garlic, 3 tsp paprika, 1 tsp ground cumin, 5 bay leaves, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp lard, approx. 2 l water, and salt (to taste)
Start by cutting the bacon into strips and fry them in a pan. Use the bacon fat to then fry the finely chopped onion and garlic pieces. Put the minced pork into a larger bowl and add the cooked rice, the fried onion, the bacon, and season it with salt, pepper, ground cumin, and paprika. Mix it by hand and ease the mass with 100 ml water. This will be your stuffing for the cabbage leaves, which you can now set aside.
Wash the sauerkraut and spread some of it to the bottom of a large pot and throw in a few bay leaves. Add a few sausage slices on top and cover it all with some sauerkraut again. Now that you made the bed for the cabbage rolls, it’s time to wrap your stuffing with cabbage leaves.
Create 8 roll shapes from the stuffing and cover each carefully with a cabbage leaf so that they don’t fall out. Place the rolls side by side on the top of the last sauerkraut layer in the pot and cover it all with another layer of cabbage-bay leaves-sausages. If you have some leftover stuffing without the cabbage leaves, create “naked rolls” and place them on top. Cover the whole with the last layer of sauerkraut and add as much water as it takes to cover all the layers. Cook it for 2 hours on low heat.
Make a roux. Melt the lard in a small skillet and add the flour and the remaining chopped onion. Cook it slowly for 10 minutes or until it gets golden yellow and smooth. Turn off the heat, add 1 tsp of paprika and pour it immediately on top of the stuffed cabbage. Using a wooden spoon, gently distribute the roux over the cabbage. Cook it for a few more minutes. Serve it with sour cream and fresh bread. Bon appetit, or as the Hungarians say, jó étvágyat!
Add chicken paprikash, fisherman’s soup, and lángos to your menu, and wash the meal off with a good old shot of wine or pálinka. If you prefer strolling along while discovering the Hungarian cuisine, dive into the street food palette of Budapest.
- What is stuffed cabbag
- Stuffed cabbage or stuffed cabbage rolls (töltött káposzta) is a typical main course meal in Hungary made of fermented cabbage leaves wrapped around the minced meat filling. It’s served with cooked sauerkraut and sour cream.
- Is stuffed cabbage a typical Hungarian dish?
- Stuffed cabbage (töltött káposzta) is one of the classic dishes on a Hungarian menu, but its variants can also be found in many other Central-Eastern European countries, such as Romania, Serbia, Poland, and Bulgaria, as well as Russia. In Hungary, the rolls are filled with minced meat and rice and covered with sour cream, but Asian and North-African alternatives range from seafood and tofu fillings to tiny little rolls served with lemon as tapas.
- What are the Hungarian stuffed cabbage rolls made of?
- With regional recipe variations even within the borders of Hungary, the most important ingredients of stuffed cabbage rolls are fermented cabbage leaves, minced pork, rice, sauerkraut, paprika, and sour cream.