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Sarma {Cabbage Roll} Soup

Sarma soup, or Cabbage Roll Soup, is a hearty, filling, and delicious meal that your whole family will enjoy. I like to make the rice on the side, so the leftovers hold up better! This can be made in a dutch oven or adapted for your slow cooker or Instant Pot.

Cabbage Roll Soup Sarma

Sarma – Cabbage Roll Soup

This past December, I got the opportunity to see Florida for the first time for a little vacation with my husband, and to attend one of the most kick-ass weddings I’ve EVER been to.

The groom just happens to be my brother.

Nicole & Nick

My brother and I didn’t have the pleasure of growing up in the same household, or even the same state. In fact, I didn’t even know that I HAD a brother until I was in my teens. (That’s a story for another time!)

He’s a youngster, compared to me, and though we met a few times pre-adulthood, we didn’t really get to spend much time together until we were adults.

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Sarma Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup

Fortunately, the lack of shared history hasn’t equaled a lack of connection. I am fairly certain I have the coolest brother in the land.

Getting to meet his family that have such a huge influence on his life was an amazing experience. I hope I get the opportunity again!

One of the things that came out of that was this amazing soup.

More great soup ideas here!

Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Soup
Beef Stroganoff Soup
20 Minute Taco Soup

Sarma Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup

At the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, the families got together and threw an epic party. The dinner alone,was amazing and included multiple freshly roasted pigs, chickens, salads, and the best cabbage rolls I’ve ever had in my ENTIRE life.

I wish that picture did the meal justice. I went back TWICE MORE for more of those cabbage rolls. And somewhere between trip 1 and 2, I started my, “OMGosh WHO made these and what do I need to do to get the recipe?” quest.

After being informed pretty quickly that these were NOT cabbage rolls, but in fact were “sarma”, I knew I’d found food people, like me.

The next day we enjoyed a beautiful wedding.

Seibert family photo
Some of my Minnesota family! 3 cousins, 2 aunts, and an uncle. 😉

It took me a little while to track down the recipe after we got home from Florida, and even longer after that to actually get to making it. Even then, I didn’t quite get to the actual rolling of these which definitely is a great way to enjoy these flavors. I think this soup is a great stand-in.

It is also faster, with less manual labor involved.

If you have the time and the extra hands, I highly recommend making the original version of these. Until then though, try this hearty soup as soon as you have the opportunity!

cabbage roll soup

Yield: 12 people

Sarma {Cabbage Roll} Soup

Sarma {Cabbage Roll} Soup

This hearty soup is filled with vegetables and amazing traditional flavors. Traditional Sarma, or cabbage rolls, are deconstructed and made into a rich and filling soup. It is so much less work than rolling cabbage rolls!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 red bell peppers, cored and diced
  • 3 pounds shredded cabbage, *approx weight. I used 1 medium-sized head, shredded, it filled a 6 quart dutch oven to the top
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons chili flakes (I used Korean Gochugaru and it was amazing!)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt, like Lawry's or Johnny's
  • 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 28 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 3 cups cooked rice


  1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Place the onion, carrots, celery, and bell peppers inside, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. 
  2. Add in the cabbage, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cabbage has started to soften and become pliable.
  3. In a separate pan, put the ground beef, ground pork, chili flakes, salt, pepper, oregano, seasoning salt, and paprika. Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is cooked through. Drain off any excess grease, and place the meat into the dutch oven. 
  4. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water to the pot. This is going to completely fill a 6 quart pot. If you have a 7 or 8 quart, I'd recommend using it! If you need to add a little less water, feel free. 
  5. Reduce heat to low or medium low. Just enough to keep the soup at a simmer.
  6. Cook until the vegetables are tender. Serve with steamed rice on the side.



Most versions that I've seen of this include rice right in the soup. I prefer to make the rice in my rice cooker, and keep it separate until you serve it. This prevents your leftovers from having soggy overcooked rice the next day. 


The amount of salt you need will vary according to taste, and also what brand of tomato sauce you use. Some are much saltier than others! Taste the soup at this point, and add in some additional salt/seasoning salt as needed.


This isn't spicy at all with the amount of red pepper flakes called for. I'd add in some additional if there aren't any sensitive palates eating.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 370Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 817mgCarbohydrates: 29gFiber: 6gSugar: 10gProtein: 25g

Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate. If you are tracking these things for medical purposes please consult an outside, trusted source. Thanks!

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Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson, a self-taught expert in grilling and outdoor cooking, launched Or Whatever You Do in 2010. Her blog, renowned for its comprehensive and creative outdoor cooking recipes, has garnered a vast audience of millions. Nicole's hands-on experience and passion for grilling shine through her work. Her husband, Jeremiah Johnson, also plays a pivotal role in recipe development, adding his culinary flair to the mix. Together, they form a dynamic duo, offering a rich and varied outdoor cooking experience to their followers.


Monday 23rd of August 2021

Hi! Does anyone have a recipe to make traditional Albanian sarme that is actually rolled? Double points if I could also find a traditional dhalle (yogurt) recipe to go with it. I’m teaching my kids about different countries’ cuisines, and this is at the top of their list to try for Albanian food! If not, I think the soup will be a nice stand-in! I’ve just read that every Balkan country does it a little bit differently, and I’d like to stay as close to traditional Albanian as I can. Thanks I’m advance!

Nicole Johnson

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

I don't have a recipe for that. This soup is very close though. My brother's family makes Sarma regularly and he gave me the general overview. It is one of those recipes that never actually has amounts and usually relies on your grandma tasting it to see if it is right. I just didn't want to take the time to mold and roll (7 kids will do that to you) so this soup was born. It is still one of my favorites, and I make it a few times a year!


Monday 1st of January 2018

Greеtings! Vеry useful advice wіthin this post! Іt is tһe little changeѕ that will mɑke tthe largest changеs. Manny thankѕ for sharing!

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