Skip to Content

Vegan Cabbage Rolls with Mushroom Stuffing (Romanian Sarmale)

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying vegan cabbage rolls, you’re in for a delightful treat! Vegan cabbage rolls are not only delicious but also unique, making them the perfect addition to your next family dinner. Prepare to impress everyone with this flavorful dish!

vegetarian cabbage rolls with mushrooms

Cabbage rolls, known as sarmale, are a beloved traditional dish in Eastern European cuisine, often gracing special occasions and holiday feasts. Let’s take a closer look at this culinary gem.

Traditionally, sarmale are prepared during the winter season, known for their rich, meaty filling, typically a blend of pork and ground beef. The classic cabbage roll consists of minced meats, rice, and vegetables, all lovingly wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves.

Looking for more cabbage rolls recipes? Try mu red cabbage dolmas and grape vine leaves dolmas.

vegan recipe for cabbage rolls with mushrooms

Vegan cabbage rolls – A recipe ideal for Christmas Lent

The love Romanians share for cabbage rolls extends to lent cabbage rolls, the vegan counterpart enjoyed just as much as the traditional version. These vegan versions replace meat with ingredients like rice, vegetables, nuts, or raisins, resulting in a delicious and often preferred option even for non-vegans.

Mushrooms and the Vegan Filling

Mushrooms can also go splendidly with any chopped vegetables. The texture of finely chopped mushrooms will resemble that of meat, given that mushrooms have a high protein content, therefore you won’t miss out on anything if you eat this type of vegan cabbage roll – not even if you’re the biggest carnivore that you know of!

A meatless dish doesn’t automatically mean it will feel less consistent. A vegetable filling can be very nourishing depending on the ingredients used. This filling is usually wrapped in pickled cabbage leaves, but one can also use stevia leaves, spinach or even horseradish, depending on the region.

how to make cabbage rolls

How to roll dolmas (visual guide) + Tips for the best pickled cabbage rolls

Prepare the Cabbage Leaves:

How to make dolmas or cabbage rolls
  • Choose a medium head of pickled cabbage and remove any damaged outer leaves.
  • Place the whole pickled cabbage in a large bowl with water, to remove excess salt. Leave it there for at least half an hour.

Roll the Sarmale:

  • Take a cabbage leaf and place it flat on a clean surface, with the rib side facing up.
  • Trim the tough rib from the center of the leaf to make it easier to roll.
  • Place a spoonful of the filling (or about 1-2 tablespoons, depending on the size of the leaf) near the base of the leaf.
  • Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, then roll it up tightly, starting from the base and continuing to the tip of the leaf. Roll it as tightly as possible to prevent the filling from falling out during cooking. With your finger, push the outside margins inside.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining cabbage leaves and filling.

Layer the cabbage rolls:

  • Line the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot with pickled cabbage leaves to prevent the sarmale from sticking to the pot.

Arrange the cabbage rolls:

  • Place the rolled dolmas, seam side down, in layers in the pot. Continue until you’ve used up all the cabbage leaves and filling. Make sure the rolls are packed tightly in the pot.
traditional pickled cabbage rolls with mushrooms

Serving cabbage rolls

Cabbage rolls, whether vegan or not, are typically served as a main dish alongside polenta and sour cream or yogurt. They may also be garnished with hot pepper, potatoes, or bread. While traditional cabbage rolls are best enjoyed hot, their vegan counterparts, being lighter, can be served at room temperature or even straight from the fridge.

cabbage rolls with mushrooms

How to make vegan cabbage rolls – recipe

traditional pickled cabbage rolls with mushrooms sarmale de post in foi de varza cu ciuperci si orez

Vegan Cabbage Rolls
Have you heard of cabbage rolls before? If not, you must absolutely try this recipe for vegan cabbage rolls for your next family dinner – it’s delicious and unique! Everyone will be impressed!
4.75 from 4 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine European
Servings 30 rolls
Calories 51 kcal


  • 1 pickled cabbage large head
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 110 g tomato paste


  • 500 g Champignon button mushrooms
  • 1 large onion finely chopped
  • 200 g round-grain rice soaked in water for about 15 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 bunch dill chopped
  • 2 carrots small, grated
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil


For the filling:

  • Place the sliced mushrooms and grated carrots in a food processor and process them until finely minced. If you have a grinder, you can put them through the grinder whole.
  • Soak the rice in 1/2 cup of water for 15 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add the mushroom paste and carrots, and sauté for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Add the rice, without draining it, and another half cup of water.
  • Stir and let it simmer for 10 minutes, or until the excess liquid has been absorbed by the rice. The rice shouldn't be fully cooked as it will continue to expand in the oven.
  • Remove from heat and add the chopped dill, salt, and spices.
  • Allow the mixture to cool slightly.


  • Separate the leaves of the pickled cabbage. Cut out the tough core from each leaf.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of the filling in each cabbage roll and fold them into rolls as shown in the picture above.
  • The cabbage leaves with holes or the tough parts should not be discarded. Place them at the bottom of the pot where you'll cook the cabbage rolls.
  • If any cabbage rolls have holes, cut a small piece from another cabbage leaf and wrap it around to cover the hole.
  • Place the cabbage rolls in the pot. Arrange them in a circle, from the outer edge to the center, filling the pot tightly.
  • Add the bay leaves on top and sprinkle sweet paprika over them.
  • Cover them with pickled cabbage leaves.
  • Add enough water to cover them.
  • Place the pot in the oven at 200°C (392°F) for an hour and a half. Check every half an hour to see if there's enough water in the pot to prevent the cabbage rolls from burning.
  • Half an hour before removing them from the oven, add the tomato paste on top.


Serving: 1rollCalories: 51kcalCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 116mgPotassium: 175mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 886IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 0.5mg
Keyword cabbage rolls, mushrooms, rice, stuffed cabbage
Liked this recipe?Join the community and receive monthly recipes, straight to your inbox!

The origin story of stuffed cabbage rolls – From Turkey to Eastern Europe

The origin of cabbage rolls, or sarmale, traces back to Turkey, from the Turkish word “sarmak,” meaning “to wrap” or “to bind.” This delightful dish later spread to Eastern Europe and beyond, becoming a staple in countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, and even Germany and Sweden.

Every cuisine that has come across cabbage rolls has made them their own particular way. They don’t diverge that much from one another, but each country has its own distinct version of the cabbage roll, with unique twists.

traditional dolmas cabbage rolls with mushrooms
  • In Greece: Greek Cypriots call these veggie rolls gemista (”filled”), dolmas or dolmades. They even have a name for vegan veggie rolls (which are usually served during the Lent), that is pseftika, or ”fake”, because they don’t contain meat.
  • In Bulgaria: They use a mix of minced meat, rice, and yogurt, something quite unusual for the Romanians, who prefer using sour cream or fat yogurt as a side rather than the main ingredient, in order to ”cool off” the rolls. In Romania, the pickled cabbage leaves are the most popular wrap for these rolls, whereas in the West this is less likely, as westerners prefer vine or stevia leaves.
  • In Azerbaijan: They fill their cabbage rolls with rice and herbs such as coriander, mint, and dill; they also add onions and meat. There’s also a meat-free variation known as yalanchi.
  • In Romania: They’re usually served on special occasions such as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, weddings, etc. As a filling, they usually use ground pork with caramelized onions and rice. Sometimes they even use smoked pork fat, smoked ribs or smoked sausage to add flavor.
  • In Poland: Cabbage rolls are actually very popular in Poland. The most common filling is made out of pork and beef mixed with rice or barley. They’re usually cooked in the oven or the stove.
  • In Egypt: Meat is rarely used for the filling of cabbage rolls. Instead, they use onion, tomato, herbs, and spices like mint, dill and cumin. To serve, the rolls are boiled in broth or a tomato-based sauce.
  • In Russia: The filling consists of mincemeat, and cooked rice or buckwheat. The rolls are commonly stewed in a mixture of sour cream and tomato sauce.
  • In Sweden: They’re also a very popular dish in Sweden. The filling is usually made out of minced pork and rice. They’re usually accompanied by mash potatoes, gravy and lingonberry jams.
Recipe Rating


Saturday 25th of May 2019

Even though this recipe requires some time to prepare, the end result is sooo delicious and special! Never tried these before but I'm so glad I made your recipe, thank you! :)

Ruxandra Micu

Tuesday 9th of July 2019

So happy you liked it, Nina! :D