polish/ rice/ soups

Unstuffed cabbage roll soup (stove or pressure cooker)

22 November 2019

Delicious cabbage, tomato, and rice soup. This unstuffed cabbage roll soup is made from all the ingredients that you would use to make cabbage rolls. It’s super easy, feeds a crowd and freezes well. If you’re craving cabbage rolls, this is the quickest way to taste all these flavors without all the fuss! This is a simple and hearty comfort food. The post includes instructions for the stovetop and pressure cooker (sneak peek: it makes no difference).

Unstuffed cabbage roll soup

What are cabbage rolls?

Stuffed cabbage rolls is a popular Polish dish (called gołąbki) consisting of cooked cabbage leaves wrapped around ground meat and rice filling. It’s also popular in Russia, Ukraine, German-speaking countries, Scandinavia and Balkan countries. Cabbage roll soup is a spin on this dish, transforming the rolls into a soup. This soup is not a traditional Polish soup, but it gained popularity in recent years. It’s called in Poland “zupa gołąbkowa”. By the way, did you know that gołąbki means little pigeons in Polish? (yes, like the birds!).

cabbage roll soup ingredients

Ingredients/Substitutions:

  • Meat: I used ground pork and beef mix and this is what I highly recommend. You can also use just beef, but in my opinion, a mix of pork and beef tastes much better. I have also tried it with ground turkey meat and I didn’t like it.
  • Rice: Use plain long-grain rice. You can cook the soup with the rice, instead of cooking the rice separately. I would do that if I was preparing the soup for a large amount of people. If you’re cooking the soup just for a small family and plan to eat it the next day or freeze it, it would cook the rice separately. Rice will soak up the liquid from the soup pretty fast and will become mushy. This results in a very thick stew and I personally much prefer a soup consistency. The soup with separately cooked rice (it’s added to the soup just before serving), taste so much better. If you’re cooking the soup in the pressure cooker you need to cook the rice separately, otherwise, you would need to stop the pressure cooker (make the QR), then add the rice and let it come to the pressure again and cook the rice for 4 minutes. It would just take too much time. You would also need a bigger pressure cooker than 6qt/6l.
  • Tomato passata: Tomato passata is pureed strained and uncooked tomatoes that are sold in a jar. It tastes amazing, it’s already thick and smooth (doesn’t need to be cooked down like crushed tomatoes). This is what I prefer to use. If you can’t find that you can use canned crushed tomatoes or tomato puree. Don’t substitute for tomato paste or tomato sauce. This article explains very well the differences between these ingredients.
  • Spices: I used paprika powder, oregano, thyme, and cayenne pepper for a very small touch of heat. Besides these, marjoram and lovage would also work.
  • To improve the taste: I added Worcestershire sauce (adds a wonderful umami punch/extra flavor to the soup but can be omitted) and just a tablespoon of sugar to balance the sourness of tomatoes.
  • What you could also add: This would be a different soup, but you could add potatoes instead of rice (add them 15 before the cooking time and cook with the soup), and chopped bell paprika and celery stalks (add them along with the onion and carrots).

How to make stuffed cabbage soup step by step:

I poked around to see how other bloggers are cooking this soup and a lot of instructions tell you to basically dump everything in a pot and cook it. This also can be done but I believe that a couple of small steps in between yield much better results. First, browning the meat – it’s really hard to brown ground meat, but if you let it cook for 1-2 minutes over high heat without stirring, a part of it will brown = extra flavor. If you have more time you could also cook the meat in batches. Less crowded meat = better browning. Then we are taking the meat to a plate to let the onions, carrots, and spices to properly cook, leaving a lot of brown bits at the bottom of the pot, and again = extra flavor. Then we can add all the other ingredients and simmer them until tender and extremely flavorful. These small steps add another layer of flavor to the dish.

unstuffed cabbage roll soup preparation steps

1. Prepare all the vegetables: Dice 2 medium onions and 1 big carrot, finely chop 5 cloves garlic (they should not be pressed, its taste would be too harsh), chop 1.5 lbs white cabbage (700g, this is about 7.5 cups chopped cabbage, lightly packed) into big, 1-inch pieces.

2. Cook the meat: Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat in a big pot, add 1.5 lbs/650g mix of ground pork and beef in an even layer. Don’t stir for the first 1-2 minutes (to let it lightly brown), then cook, stirring, until the meat is cooked through. Transfer the meat to a plate.

unstuffed cabbage roll soup preparation steps

3. Cook the aromatics and spices: Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot, then add the chopped onions and carrots. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the spices (1.5 teaspoons of paprika powder, 1 teaspoon of thyme, and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano), and chopped garlic, cook for 1 minute.

4. Cook the soup: Add the meat back to the pot. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 1 jar tomato passata (24 fl oz / 680ml) or 2 (14 oz/400ml) cans crushed tomatoes, chopped cabbage, and 6 cups of water to the pot. Season very lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. Take the pot off the heat. Season the soup with salt, pepper, sugar and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls, add rice (cooked separately – 1 cup rice in 2 cups water) and stir in chopped parsley.

How to make stuffed cabbage soup in a pressure cooker:

Stove vs Pressure cooker: Cooking time is the same whether you’ll cook the soup on the stove or in the pressure cooker (it needs 25 minutes to come to the pressure + 15 mins cooking time). So, choose the method that you personally prefer. I tested this recipe with Instant Pot Duo 6qt/6l.

  1. Cook the meat, transfer on a plate.
  2. Cook the onion, carrots, garlic and spices.
  3. Add all the other ingredients, including meat (but not the rice) to the pot.
  4. Cook over high pressure for 15 minutes.
  5. Make a quick release.
  6. Season and serve with cooked rice and chopped parsley.

Storing and freezing:

This soup is amazing for storing and freezing. Taste the same or even best the next day and can be easily frozen. It’s best to store and freeze it without the rice, because as mentioned above it will soak up the liquid and the soup will be extremely thick and the rice mushy. You could always add more water/broth to dilute it and warm it up like that, but the texture of the soup will be worse.

For more Polish recipes check out this category: Polish cuisine.

unstuffed cabbage roll soup in a blue bowl
cabbage roll soup
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5 from 1 vote

Unstuffed cabbage roll soup (stove or pressure cooker)

Delicious cabbage, tomato, and rice soup. This unstuffed cabbage roll soup is made from all the ingredients that you would use to make cabbage rolls. It’s super easy, feeds a crowd and freezes well.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 448kcal
Author Aleksandra

Ingredients

  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 big carrot
  • 3 tablespoons frying oil
  • 1.5 lbs ground meat 650g, I used a mix of beef and pork
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 teaspoons paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 jar tomato passata 24 fl oz / 680ml, OR 2 (14 oz/400ml) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups water or vegetable/chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1.5 lbs white cabbage 700g, 7.5 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped dill to garnish
  • 1 cup rice 7oz/200g, + 2 cups water

Instructions

On the stove:

  • Prepare all the vegetables: Dice the onion and the carrot, finely chop the garlic (should not be pressed), chop the cabbage into big, 1-inch pieces.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat in a big pot, add the meat in an even layer. Don’t stir for the first 1-2 minutes (to let it lightly brown), then cook, stirring, until the meat is cooked through. Transfer the meat to a plate.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot, then add the chopped onions and carrots. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the spices (paprika powder, thyme, and oregano), and garlic, cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the meat back to the pot. Add the tomato paste, tomato passata, cabbage and water to the pot. Season very lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. Take the pot off the heat. Season the soup with salt, pepper, sugar and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls, add rice and stir in chopped parsley.
  • Cook the rice separately (add to a medium pot with 2 cups of water, season with salt, cover, bring to a boil, then cook over very low heat for 15 minutes).
  • If you would like to cook the soup with rice (read more in the notes): simmer the soup for 30 minutes, then add the rice and 2 cups of water into the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes more. Season as described above.
  • Enjoy!

In a pressure cooker:

  • Prepare all the vegetables: Dice the onion and carrot, finely chop the garlic (should not be pressed), chop the cabbage into big, 1-inch pieces.
  • Press the saute function on your pressure cooker and heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the pressure cooker pot. Add the meat in an even layer. Don’t stir for the first 1-2 minutes, then cook, stirring, until the meat is cooked through. Transfer the meat to a plate.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot, then add the chopped onions and carrots. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the spices and garlic, cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the meat back to the pot. Add the tomato paste, tomato passata, cabbage and water to the pot. Season very lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Cover the pot with the lid, lock it into its position. Make sure the steam release valve is in the ‘sealing’ position. Press cancel then choose the Pressure Cook setting. Set manually to pressure cook for 15 minutes.
  • Cook the rice separately (add to a medium pot with 2 cups of water, season with salt, cover, bring to a boil, then cook over very low heat for 15 minutes).
  • When the soup is ready, do the quick release on the pressure cooker. Using a wooden spoon, push the valve to the venting position. You can place a kitchen cloth on the valve sou you won’t steam your kitchen. Wait until the pin drops (pressure and steam are released). Open the pressure cooker.
  • Season the soup with salt, pepper, sugar and Worcestershire sauce to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls, add the rice and stir in chopped parsley.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Stove vs Pressure cooker: Cooking time is the same whether you’ll cook the soup on the stove or in the pressure cooker (it needs 25 minutes to come to the pressure + 15 mins cooking time). So, choose the method that you personally prefer. I tested this recipe with Instant Pot Duo 6qt/6l.
  • Rice: You can cook the soup with the rice, instead of cooking the rice separately. I would do that if I was preparing the soup for a large amount of people. If you’re cooking the soup just for a small family and plan to eat it the next day or freeze it, it would cook the rice separately. Rice will soak up the liquid from the soup pretty fast and will become mushy. The soup with separately cooked rice (it’s added to the soup just before serving), taste so much better. If you’re cooking the soup in the pressure cooker you need to cook the rice separately, otherwise, you would need to stop the pressure cooker (make the QR), then add the rice and let it come to the pressure again and cook the rice for 4 minutes. It would just take too much time. You would also need a bigger pressure cooker than 6qt/6l.
  • Meat: I used ground pork and beef mix and this is what I highly recommend. You can also use just beef, but in my opinion, a mix of pork and beef tastes much better. I have also tried it with ground turkey meat and I didn’t like it.
  • Tomato passata: If you can’t find that you can use canned crushed tomatoes or tomato puree. Don’t substitute for tomato paste or tomato sauce.
  • What you could also add: This would be a different soup, but you could add potatoes instead of rice (add them 15 before the cooking time and cook with the soup), and chopped bell paprika and celery stalks (add them along with the onion and carrots).

Nutrition

Calories: 448kcal
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American, international, polish
Keyword cabbage roll soup, pressure cooker cabbage roll soup, stuffed cabbage roll soup

Did you make this recipe? Let me know how you liked it and give it a star rating in the comments below! You can also add a photo of your creation!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Melissa
    1 December 2019 at 22:02

    5 stars
    This was so delicious and satisfying. My husband and three picky kids all loved it and went for seconds. I served it with crusty garlic bread which we dipped in the broth. I made this in the instant pot and it couldn’t have been simpler. Omitted the sugar but otherwise made it as described. I used the recommended combo of beef and pork, and my local grocery had the passata. So glad I stumbled across this recipe. Will definitely make again.

    • Reply
      Aleksandra
      2 December 2019 at 06:31

      I’m glad to hear that, Melissa! Thank you for the comment 🙂

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