This cabbage roll soup recipe makes a comforting soup inspired by the Russian cabbage rolls called golubtsi (голубцы), filled with savoury minced meat and rice and baked in a rich tomato sauce. This cabbage roll soup is by no means an authentic Russian dish. My Russian grandmother did not make this, nor did my mother. In fact, my baboushka is probably rolling in her grave, but this cabbage roll soup is incredibly delicious, rich, and hearty.
For once I can’t say that my cabbage roll soup recipe makes a Russian family recipe or even an authentic Russian recipe, as I’d never even heard of cabbage roll soup until a few years ago and research brought up very little. When I did stumble across it, I screwed up my nose, and resisted the urge to give a try. Although I have to confess that I was very tempted. Now I wish I’d tried it earlier. They say good things come to those who wait. But don’t wait. Make this now. It’s so good.
It was while recently cooking this traditional Russian soup called rassolnik, a hearty barley pickle soup with chicken and vegetables, which I make like a stew rather than the more common thinner consistency, that I envisaged my cabbage roll soup recipe based on baboushka’s golubtsi – savoury mince and rice swimming alongside soft yet still crunchy cabbage in a rich tomato broth fragrant with spices.
If you’ve made and enjoyed my rassolnik recipe, my cabbage soup recipe for shchi (Щи) or my baboushka’s Russian cabbage rolls, then you’re going to love this cabbage roll soup recipe, as strange as it might sound. But before I tell you about this cabbage roll soup recipe recipe, I have a favour to ask.
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Cabbage Roll Soup Recipe for Deconstructed Russian Cabbage Rolls
When I started sharing my Russian family recipes here – along with my own takes on my mother’s and grandmother’s dishes and recipes that resulted from exploring my culinary heritage – my quest was rooted in tradition and experience, whether that was in the family kitchens, my family’s history, or our own travels.
I never envisaged experimenting with a recipe for a cabbage roll soup, which I’d never heard of, never eaten, haven’t been able to locate in any cookbooks or other reliable culinary sources, and could never have even imagined making.
Like a cabbage roll casserole, which also appears to be a thing, it sounded like something silly invented for Tik Tok. I can’t recall where I even saw the first cabbage roll soup recipe I spotted, but it was probably on Pinterest or Instagram, however, I couldn’t even get my head around it, so I didn’t even click through.
Someone somewhere has invented it, but for the life of me I can’t find the source. While I’ve seen it called everything from a Hungarian cabbage roll soup recipe to a Ukrainian cabbage roll soup recipe, I can’t be certain from my research that it’s actually a traditional Hungarian or Ukrainian dish.
It may very well have come from a Russian, Hungarian or Ukrainian diaspora somewhere. If any of our readers know the origin of the cabbage roll soup, please do let me know.
Regardless, I decided that if I was going to develop a cabbage roll soup recipe, then it was going to taste like my grandmother’s Russian cabbage rolls, and I reckon this is pretty close.
It’s absolutely delicious. And, like cabbage rolls, the soup tastes even better the next day. If you’ve made both, I’d love to know what you think.
Tips to Making this Cabbage Roll Soup Recipe for Deconstructed Russian Cabbage Rolls
Just a few tips to making this cabbage roll soup recipe as it’s really very easy. After putting the cabbage on to boil, the next part of the recipe is like making fried rice, which you then transform into a hearty soup.
If you don’t have any leftover steamed rice in the fridge that you can use, get out the rice cooker and steam a cup of jasmine rice or another long-grain rice. The ratio is usually one cup of dry rice to three cups of water – but best to follow your rice cooker instructions in case it differs.
Next you need to boil your red cabbage – or purple cabbage. In fact, while it’s called red cabbage, it’s really purple, it becomes a mauve-blue after you boil it and drain it, and then it becomes pink after you add it to the soup.
Unlike white cabbage, which you could add directly to this soup, you will need to drain the red cabbage first. Because as you’ll quickly notice from the water it’s boiling in, which is probably a deep dark purple, it will transform the colour of your soup if you don’t drain it.
The cabbage can boil while you get on with the rest, but once the cabbage is cooked and softens, drain it well, then set it aside until you need it.
We recommend a round flat-bottom wok for frying the onion, garlic, carrot, ground pork and rice, as this part is really like stir-frying rice for fried rice. But you could also use your favourite non-stick frying pan or skillet, as long as the pan is large enough to hold it all.
I know you’re going to be tempted to stop at the stir-fry and dish that right up, as it’s super tasty, but at that point, when you’re wondering whether to get some Asian greens out of the fridge or not, add the canned tomatoes and water.
I’ve said 1-2 litres of water, so add a litre first, then, as the soup continues to cook, add a little more water if necessary depending on the consistency you prefer. You could keep this as a really hearty soup that’s almost a stew, or you could thin it out if you like.
The last step is to add the cooked cabbage, combine it well, and simmer for another five minutes, which is when you’ll notice it change colour yet again, from mauve-purple to a pink-purple.
Your cabbage roll soup should now be ready, but do taste it before ladling it out, and adjust the seasoning to your palate, adding more salt, spices or even sugar if you like. At this point I might add a little more paprika, salt and chilli.
Just before serving, sprinkle in a tablespoon of fresh fragrant dill – or parsley, if you prefer, as I know not everyone is as mad about dill as I am – then after you ladle the soup, top each bowl with a dollop of sour cream, and sprinkle on some more aromatic dill (or parsley), and serve with dishes of gherkins or dill pickles, and rye bread or sourdough.
Cabbage Roll Soup Recipe
- 1 cup jasmine rice steamed
- 400 g red cabbage grated or finely sliced
- 2 tbsp neutral cooking oil
- 150 g onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 100 g carrot finely grated
- 150 g minced pork
- 2 tsp sea salt or to taste
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp ground paprika
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp sugar optional
- 2 bay leaves
- 400 g tin of crushed tomatoes
- 1-2 litres of water
- 2 tbsp fresh dill or parsley
- sour cream
- fresh dill or parsley
- If you don’t have any leftover steamed rice you can use, in a rice cooker steam one cup of jasmine rice and three cups of water (or follow your rice cooker instructions).
- Fill a medium sized pot with hot water, bring it to boil, add the grated or finely chopped red cabbage and a pinch of salt, and boil until the cabbage is soft, then drain.
- While the cabbage is boiling, in a flat-bottom round wok, fry pan or skillet, heat the cooking oil and sauté the finely chopped onion, garlic and carrot on low until the onion and carrot are soft and fragrant.
- Add the minced pork, turn the heat to medium-high and stir-fry, combining well to break up any clumps, then add the salt, black pepper, paprika, chilli powder, sugar (optional), and bay leaves, and continue to stir-fry until well-combined.
- Add the cooked rice and continue to stir-fry, combining everything well, as if you’re making fried rice, ensuring that the rice is separated and coated with the spices. If needed, add a splash of cooking oil.
- Pour in the can of crushed tomatoes, stirring to combine well, then add one litre of water, and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir frequently, adding water if necessary, as the rice will continue to expand.
- Lastly, add the cooked cabbage, stir to combine, simmer for another 5 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning to your palate, adding more salt, spices or sugar if you like.
- Just before serving, sprinkle in a tablespoon of fresh dill or parsley, ladle the soup into bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle on more fresh dill or parsley, and serve with dishes of gherkins (dill pickles) and rye bread.
Please do let us know if you make this cabbage roll soup recipe in the comments below, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you. And please do rate our recipe, if you wouldn’t mind, as it only takes a minute.