Kåldolmar – Cabbage rolls

If there’s one dish that’s really Swedish (?), it’s cabbage rolls, even though cabbage rolls are eaten over entire Northern Europe.

There’s a story (probably not true) behind the Swedish cabbage rolls. The Swedish king Charles XII with his entorage had fled to the Osman empire after losing a battle to Peter the Great of Russia in the beginning of the 18th century. He was allowed to stay in Bender, in present-day Moldova for 6 years.  The people working for him brought the dish dolma (stuffed vine leaves) back home and because there’re no vine leaves in Sweden, they used cabbage instead. However, in a famous Swedish cook book from 1765 there was a recipe for the original dolmas with vine leaves, minced beef (instead of pork) and lemon juice.

However the version with the cabbage is what most people cook and what I can remember eating.

The version below is my version, combining a Swedish, Polish and Russian recipe. This is real comfort food. Flavourful, rich and you can serve it with a lot of things.

You’ll need (for about 20 rolls plus two small hamburgers):

The ingredients
The ingredients
  • 1 big onion, color doesn’t matter
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cabbage head
  • 50 grams of uncooked rice, any kind
  • 500 grams half/half or only pork minced meat
  • 250 grams mushrooms
  • handful of parsley (and other seasonings if you like, for instance marjoram, thyme, rosemary – anything you like)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt , pepper to taste
  • mayonaise, about 3 table spoons (this acts as clue)
  • tomato sauce (home-made of store bought)

Cook rice. Concerning the rice, you can use whatever you have. Traditionally the rice for rice porridge is used in Sweden, I guess sushi rice could work as well, even though it’s a bit of a waste, because you won’t be able to taste the rice in the rolls later on. Here I used Pandan Rice.

Cooked rice
After the rice is boiled, leave it to cool

Chop the onion and the garlic.

Onion and garlic
Chop the onion and garlic like so

Chop up mushrooms.

It looks like a lot of mushroom, but don’t worry, it’ll shrink

Chop up the parsley.

Like so, doesn’t really have to be neat

Fry the onion first 2-3 min and then add the garlic to avoid burning the garlic.

Frying onion and garlic
You want it to look like this, when you add the mushrooms

Add mushrooms to the onion frying and sauté for a few minutes. Increase the heat in order to evaporate the liquid that comes from the mushrooms. When the mixture is more or less dry, take it out of the pan, put in a bowl and put aside.

Adding mushroom
Cover the onion mixture with mushroom!
Almost finished
At this stage increase the heat


Boil up water in a big pot. Put in the cabbage head and let it simmer for about 10 min.

Boiling cabbage
It took more than 10 min to get the cabbage ready. It took me 3 times of boiling for about 10 min each to get the core more or less done.

You could also remove all the leaves and boil them. Take the cabbage head out and let it cool down so you can handle it with your hands. Watch out, it’s super hot.

Let the cabbage cool for awhile

Save some of the water for making tomato sauce or for classical Swedish cream sauce.

cooking liquid
Remember to save some of the cabbage cooking liquid

For the filling, mix rice, onion, garlic and mushroom mixture, minced meat, parsley, seasonings, mayonaise.

meat mixture
It doesn’t look so nice, but trust me on this one, the result is flavourful, full of herbs and creamy from the rice and mayonnaise

Remove the leaves of the cabbage head.

Removing leaves
Here you can already see that the leaves weren’t cooked all through. Put some water on again if that’s the case, and put the leaves in for about 3-5 min and throw in the head again for another 10 min.

Trim the stem of the leaf:

Take a leaf (upper left), trim the bottom (upper right). With a sharp knife, trim the vein of the leaf so the leaf gets easier to roll up, see result in the bottom picture above. Be careful so you don’t make holes in the leaf.

Put about 2-3 tablespoons of filling (depends on the size of the leaf) and roll up to rolls.

Fry them in a pan in some butter and oil on both sides until they get some color and move them to a dish.


Pour tomato sauce over them and put the dish in a oven on 200 degrees for abot 30 min. Can be coverd by using ugly cabbage leaves. Let them rest for 10-15 min after taking them out.

finished product
After taking them out of the oven

Serve with tomato sauce and salad.

First dinner

Which was what we had them with the first day.

You could also serve them with potatoes and for that Swedish touch – lingon berry jam and cream sauce.

The second day we had the rolls with potato wedges, a fava bean salad with sundried tomatoes and a faux Swedish cream sauce (didn’t have cream nor frying liquids from frying the rolls).

Second day dinner

I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe and that you’ll try it out to get a taste for Swedish cuisine 🙂

Tomorrow we will finish the rolls and the hamburgers, so stay tuned for the next blog post, where I attempt some fusion cooking 🙂


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