Healthy Halupkis (Slovak Stuffed Cabbage)

From sushi to grape leaves, the concept of rolling meat and rice in a leaf is a recipe common in nearly every cuisine.  In my family, we make halupkis (pronounced: haloopies).  Halupkis or holubky are Slovak stuffed cabbage traditionally made with butter, ground beef and pork. As I made this batch of halupkis, I thought of my PopPop who would make a big pot on Sunday afternoons while watching football (Go Eagles!).  

For this “lighter” version, I added more vegetables; opted for brown rice instead of white; replaced butter with olive oil; and used ground turkey instead of beef and pork. My family actually ended up liking this version better.

They take a little time to prepare (about 5 hours) but are worth the wait!

Makes about 18 Slovak stuffed cabbages or holubky or halpuki

Prep Time: 45 minutes. Cook Time: 4 hours


1 (4-pound) whole head of green cabbage

1/2 cup raw brown rice

3/4 cup water

1 finely chopped medium onion

½ red bell pepper, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds ground turkey

Salt and pepper

1 large egg

1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika

1 pound drained (reserve juices) sauerkraut

½ teaspoon caraway seeds

1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Prepare the Cabbage Leaves

Remove large outer leaves from cabbage and set aside. Place whole head in a large pot filled with boiling, salted water. Cover and cook 3 minutes, or until softened enough to pull off individual leaves. When leaves are cool enough to handle, use a paring knife to cut away the thick center core from cabbage and separate the leaves. You will need about 18 leaves. Chop the remaining cabbage, still reserving large outer leaves, and place it in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven.

Meanwhile, rinse rice and cook it in 3/4 cup water until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool. Sauté onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil in a medium skillet until tender and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix rice, cooked vegetables, and let cool to room temperature. Add ground turkey, salt and pepper to taste, egg, paprika, reserved sauerkraut juices, and blend thoroughly.

Prepare Cabbage Rolls

Place about 1/2 cup of meat on each cabbage leaf. Roll away from you to encase the meat. Flip the right side of the leaf to the middle, then flip the left side. You will have something that looks like an envelope. Once again, roll away from you to create a neat little roll.

Slow Cook

Place the cabbage rolls on top of the chopped cabbage with sauerkraut, caraway seeds, and some chopped tomatoes in between the layers in the large pot or Dutch oven. Top with all the crushed tomatoes, remaining sauerkraut, and a few of the reserved whole cabbage leaves. Add enough water to cover completely. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to very low, cover and simmer 3 to 4 hours. Watch carefully so stuffed cabbages don’t burn. 

Serve with pan juices, and if desired, mashed potatoes and crusty bread.

NOTE: Cabbage rolls freeze well before or after cooking and can be made in a slow cooker (see your manufacturer’s instructions).

Recipe by Karen Kruza, MPH RDN LDN, Kruza Nutrition

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