Maw's Cabbage Rolls


Bright and tangy, these cabbage rolls tell one family's personal story.

Maw's Cabbage Rolls
Photo: Emily Laurae
Total Time:
2 hrs 30 mins
10-12 servings (2 rolls per serving)

Writer Maria Lewczyk shares her family's treasured recipe for cabbage rolls. She also shares how this recipe has been shaped by the people and places her family have experienced—and how she's come to love the humble dish's power to connect strangers and family alike. Read her essay about Maw and the delicious meals she's made for generations.


  • 1 lb. lean ground beef

  • ž cup uncooked white rice

  • 1 (6-oz.) can unsalted tomato paste

  • 1 medium white onion, diced (1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • ½ tsp. black pepper

  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • ½ cup lemon juice

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 large (or 2 small) green cabbage heads


  1. In a large saucepan, bring 6 to 7 cups of water to boil.

  2. While you wait for water to boil, mix the first 7 ingredients together (through black pepper). Set aside. Mix the lemon juice and water together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

  3. Remove the outer, tough leaves of the cabbage head. Then, dip the whole cabbage head into the boiling water. Leave the cabbage in the boiling water for 20 seconds. Then remove the head of cabbage from the water, and peel off 1 to 2 outer leaves. Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel. Cut the large vein from the center of the leaves. Place a small amount (about 1/4 cup) of meat mixture on the leaves. Press and shape the meat into a cigar-sized bundle. Then roll the cabbage around the meat.

  4. Continue dipping the cabbage head in the boiling water and removing the outer leaves of the cabbage head, 1 to 2 at a time. Remove the veins, then fill and roll each leaf until you have used up all the meat mixture.

  5. In a second large pot, place a wire rack, and stack the cabbage rolls in a lattice pattern (alternating directions). Add the lemon juice-water mixture to the pot, pouring over the rolls. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat, and cover. Simmer on low 1 to 2 hours until meat is cooked through and rice is tender.

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