Lahana Sarma (Turkish Cabbage Rolls)

Turkish cabbage rolls with tomato sauce in a white pan.

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

4.8 from 4 reviews

Turkish style vegetarian cabbage rolls stuffed with a spicy rice filling flavored with herbs, onion, garlic and tomatoes. The rolls are cooked in a tasty tomato paste sauce for perfection.


  • 1 head cabbage 


  • 2 cups rice (uncooked)

  • 1 large onion, chopped finely

  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely 

  • 2-3 tomatoes, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste  

  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped 

  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon dried mint

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon paprika 

  • 1 and ½ teaspoons salt 

  • ½ teaspoon sumac

  • Half lemon, juice only

  • ¼ cup olive oil


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste 

  • 1 teaspoon paprika 

  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed 

  • 2 teaspoons dried mint 

  • 2 cups hot water


  1. Filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Taste and increase the amount of lemon juice and salt if needed. 
  2. Blanch the cabbage: Cut off the hard root part on top of the cabbage and separate the leaves. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the cabbage leaves in batches until they are soft and flexible, for 2-3 minutes. Don’t over-cook them. Using a slotted spoon, remove from the simmering water and transfer into a strainer. 
  3. Prepare the blanched cabbage leaves: Cut off the thick vein in the middle of each cabbage leaf. Don’t throw them away, we’ll put them at the bottom of the pan. And cut cabbage leaves into two if they are too large. 
  4. Assemble the cabbage rolls: Place the removed thick veins or any other unwanted cabbage pieces in the pan as a bottom layer. This will keep the rolls at the bottom from getting over-cooked. Place a blanched cabbage leaf on a cutting board. Put about 1 tablespoon of filling on one side of it and roll it up.  Place the stuffed cabbage rolls in the pan.
  5. Sauce: In a saucepan, combine olive oil, tomato paste, mashed garlic, dried mint and paprika. Add in the hot water and bring it to a boil. Remove from the heat. 
  6. Cook the rolls: Sprinkle a little salt over the cabbage rolls in the pan. Pour the sauce over them. Place a plate upside down on the rolls. This will help the cabbage rolls to keep stable and cook equally well. Bring it to boil over medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to the lowest and cook until the rice is tender, for about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


  • Don’t buy red cabbage or white cabbage. They are too tight and it is hard to separate their leaves. 
  • Buy a large head of cabbage that is not very heavy and has loose leaves.
  • Don’t over-cook the cabbage leaves when blanching them. Remove when they get soft and flexible enough, after 1-2 minutes.
  • Cut the thick part on the root end of each cabbage leaf so that it is easier to roll. 
  • If the leaves are too large, cut them into two or even three.
  • The rolls don’t have to look perfect but try to roll them tight.
  • If you have any leftover filling after finishing the cabbage leaves, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days and in the freezer for 3 months. You can cook it on its own to serve as a side or use it in your next stuffed cabbage sarma. 
  • To store the leftovers: Put the leftovers in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • To freeze: You can store these cabbage rolls either cooked or uncooked in the freezer for 3 months. If they are cooked, just put them in an airtight container and freeze. If they are uncooked, it is better to pack them in batches in freezer bags. When you are ready to cook, thaw them a little and then cook.