Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi Recipe (Bulgarian Stuffed Cabbage)

This classic dish is a staple in Bulgarian cuisine, with its flavorful blend of rice, minced meat, and herbs wrapped in tender cabbage leaves.

By xp5u9
August 10, 2022
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If you’re a fan of Bulgarian cuisine, then you’ve probably heard of traditional Bulgarian Sarmi recipe. This dish is a staple in Balkan countries and consists of cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat, rice, and spices. Although it may sound simple, the flavors are complex and delicious.

In this recipe today, we’ll be sharing our favorite Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi recipe that has been passed down through generations.

What is Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi?

Bulgarian cuisine is known for its unique blend of flavors and ingredients. One of the most common ingredients that Bulgarian people use in their food is cabbage. However, there is a distinct preference for sour cabbage over fresh cabbage. The reason behind this preference can be attributed to several factors.

Firstly, sour cabbage has been a part of Bulgarian culinary traditions for centuries. It is used as a staple ingredient in many traditional dishes such as sarmi (stuffed cabbage rolls) and kapama (a meat stew with sauerkraut). The tangy flavor of the fermented cabbage adds depth to these dishes and provides an extra kick that fresh cabbage cannot replicate.

Secondly, sour cabbage has several health benefits over fresh cabbage. It contains more nutrients and probiotics due to fermentation which aids digestion and boosts immunity. This makes it an ideal choice for those who are health-conscious or have digestive issues.

The recipe for Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi has its roots in Ottoman cuisine, which was heavily influenced by Turkish cooking. However, over time, Bulgarians have adapted the recipe to suit their own tastes and preferences. Today, it remains one of the most beloved dishes in Bulgaria and is often served at special occasions such as weddings and family gatherings.

Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi Recipe Bulgarian Stuffed Cabbage

The traditional Bulgarian sarmi recipe of cabbage stuffed with minced meat can be prepared using various cooking methods – boiling in a pot, boiling and then baking in a pan. However, when cooked in a clay casserole, they become irresistibly delicious and develop a mouthwatering crust.

Sarmi is a traditional Bulgarian dish, enjoyed in every home on Christmas Eve. It is a hearty meal that is sure to bring warmth and joy to your holiday celebrations.

Bulgarian cuisine is a mix of Eastern European and Mediterranean flavors, making it distinct from other European cuisines. The use of fresh vegetables and herbs, along with meat and dairy products, are common staples in Bulgarian dishes. One ingredient that stands out in Bulgarian cuisine is the ubiquitous use of yogurt.

How to Make Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi?

First, you need to prepare the cabbage leaves by boiling them in hot water until they become soft enough to wrap around the filling without breaking. Then, you must mix together ground meat with cooked rice seasoned with paprika, salt, black pepper, onions and garlic.

For a traditional Bulgarian sarmi recipe, start by arranging a few sauerkraut leaves at the bottom of a clay casserole. Then, tightly wrap the sarmi and place them on top of the sauerkraut. To prevent unraveling, make sure to arrange the sarmi tightly next to each other.

Once your filling mixture is ready, place a spoonful of it onto each cabbage leaf before rolling them up tightly into small bundles. The size of the Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi may differ depending on the preference and inclination of the cook.

The rolls are then wrapped in large leaves from plants like cabbage (fresh or pickled), vine leaf (fresh or pickled), or chard.

Although the recipes may differ from one area to another, the most preferred way of cooking is by slow boiling in big clay pots. Additionally, a unique ingredient of flour that has been browned in fat is frequently included towards the end of the cooking process.

Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi Recipe Bulgarian Stuffed Cabbage

Traditional Bulgarian Sarmi Recipe (Bulgarian Stuffed Cabbage)

This traditional sarmi recipe is sure to deliver satisfaction with every bite.
Servings 6
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes


  • 1 sauerkraut leaves of 1 cabbage
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 200  g bacon
  • 400 g minced pork
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp savory
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • cabbage juice 
  • water
  • ½ cup rise (uncooked)


  • Put the minced meat, bacon and garlic in a saucepan with a little water. Sauté until the minced meat is broken into small pieces. Add the rice and mix well. 
  • Season with thyme, savory, black and red pepper. There is no need to add salt as the cabbage is salty enough. Even if it is too salty, wash it lightly with water.
  • The leaves of the sauerkraut are carefully separated and their cobs are cut off. Spread the cabbage leaf on a flat surface and put 1-2 tbsp in the center of each leaf. from the stuffing and wrap the sarmi.
  • Prepare a large pot or clay pot. Cover the bottom with cabbage leaves. Arrange the sarmi on top with the folded part down.
  • Preheat the oven to 375℉.
  • Pour equal parts cabbage juice and water over them until they are covered. Place a plate on top of them and put on the stove.
  • As soon as the liquid boils, let it boil for about 45 minutes.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Bulgarian
Keyword: Cabbage rolls, Sarma

Explore More Sarma Recipes?

Did you make this traditional Bulgarian sarmi recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and tag @thebalkanrecipes on Instagram and hashtag it #thebalkanrecipes.

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