Sarma (Bosnian Stuffed Cabbage)

My husband grew up eating this as a kid. He said my version is as good as, or even better, than what his parents made. He may just be buttering my bread, but it came out tasty nonetheless. Some of the ingredients can be hard to find if you don’t have a deli or store nearby that carries foreign ingredients. But, it’s also fairly easy to fake most of them.


  • Pickled Cabbage Leaves
  • Pickled Veggie Salad – Traditionally Sauerkraut would be used, but we thought this would make an interesting substitution. It was okay, but next time we’ll probably just use sauerkraut.
  • Ground beef or lamb
  • Bacon, cut into pieces – Pre-cooked bacon can be used, but uncooked, center-cut bacon is better. Nothing in the US really compares to the kind of bacon that’s used in that part of the world, though I’m guessing Slab Bacon, or possibly Pancetta, comes closer.
  • Diced Onion
  • Herbs & Spices: Red Pepper Flakes & Cayenne Pepper, Parsley, Garlic, Turmeric, Salt – Typically the Bosnian “allspice” called Vegeta would be used instead of this list here. However MSG gives me migraines, so I looked up various recipes for a homemade version and kinda winged it.
  • Goat Cheese – The original recipe doesn’t contain cheese, but few things can’t be made better with the addition of goat cheese.


  1. Add a layer of the pickled mixed veggie salad or sauerkraut to the bottom of a slow cooker.
  2. Combine all remaining ingredients except cabbage leaves in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Add spices to taste, there’s great flexibility here. You can even use ground lamb or other meats if desired.
  3. Carefully remove cabbage leaves from packaging and unwrap. Place a lump of the ground beef mixture at one end. Fold the end over and begin to roll it up, folding the ends in as you go.
  4. Place the rolls in the slow cooker on top of the first layer. I was able to create two layers of cabbage rolls before I ran out of room.
  5. Add another layer of the pickled veggie salad or sauerkraut on top of the cabbage rolls. Cook on high heat for 6 hours to ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked. The juice from the salad and the meat juices will form a natural sauce that, once boiling, will help cook the cabbage rolls.
  6. Once done, serve the rolls hot with some of the veggie salad. Optionally, also add a dollop of sour cream.


Of course, we ended up with far more meat mixture than we had cabbage leaves or room in the cooker. So I cooked the rest of it up in a pan, and served some of it with avocado and scrambled eggs. The rest is in the fridge, and we can throw some on our next few meals.

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