Brisket-Stuffed Cabbage

Like many other traditional Ashkenazi Jewish foods I didn’t really grow up eating stuffed cabbage. Italian meatballs and sauce on Sundays? Absolutely. But the stuffed cabbage my grandmother would make to serve perhaps at Rosh Hashanah or another holiday meal was a dish that was terrifying for me as a child. And so I never really ate it.

Brisket-Stuffed Cabbage


Fast forward about 25 years: I was given the The 2nd Ave Deli Cookbook and decided to try out their recipe for stuffed cabbage. Barely having eaten the dish, never mind cooking it myself, I actually found it surprisingly easy. Since then, it has been the only recipe for this dish I have made, and the basis for the recipe below.

But as cooks will do, I wanted to give my own spin to the recipe. So recently I decided to experiment with the classic dish, and instead of stuffing it with ground meat and rice, I opted for some super tender, pulled brisket that I cooked in a similar sweet and sour sauce.I will freely admit: this was not the quickest recipe I have ever made. It requires a hefty time commitment, since you need to cook the brisket for 3-4 hours, and then cook the stuffed cabbage all together another few hours. Despite the time, the taste was worth the effort.

Brisket-Stuffed Cabbage


I know some of you are going to say there is too much sugar in this recipe: you are welcome and even encouraged to use whatever variation of a sweet and sour sauce you like. I also don’t advocate eating or making this kind of recipe every week; this is a “special occasion” sort of dish.

If stuffing cabbage leaves and rolling them up sounds daunting, check out Chanie Apflebaum’s step-by-step photos for Passover-friendly stuffed cabbage. Not a meat lover? Try out our recipe for a traditional but vegetarian stuffed cabbage or Amy Kritzer’s recipe for vegetarian stuffed cabbage with creamy beet sauce.



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For the brisket:

2 lb brisket, trimmed of any excessive fat

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper

1 medium-large onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 ½ cups plain tomato sauce

2 ½ cups water

1 cup red wine

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white vinegar

½ orange, chopped with peel, pits removed

½ lemon, chopped with peel, pits removed

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch red pepper flakes

1 large green cabbage

For the stuffing:

3 cups cooked, shredded brisket

1 ½ cups brisket sauce

¾ cups uncooked white rice

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

For the tomato sauce:

2 cups plain tomato sauce

1 medium onion, diced

½ orange, chopped with peel, pits removed

½ lemon, chopped with peel, pits removed

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white vinegar

2 cups water

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups chopped cabbage


To make the brisket (which I recommend doing a day ahead of time):

Heat a few Tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Rub brisket with salt, pepper and ground cinnamon. Brown brisket on each side until caramelized, around 5-7 minutes each side. Remove brisket and place on plate for later.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook until translucent. Add tomato sauce, water, wine, sugars, vinegar, orange, lemon, cinnamon stick and red pepper. Bring to a boil.

Place brisket back into pot, cover and reduce heat to low medium. Cook for 3 ½-4 hours, until brisket is fork tender.

When brisket is finished cooking and has cooled 20-30 minutes, remove from pot and place on a cutting board. Using two forks or a fork and a knife, gently shred all the brisket. Pour sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove cinnamon stick, orange and lemon. Add 1 ½ cups sauce to the brisket. Place in a container until ready for the next steps.

To make and assemble the stuffed cabbage:

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Prepare a baking tray drizzled with a little olive oil. While the water is boiling, cut the core out of the cabbage using a paring knife. Lift the core out, which will leave a hole in the middle. Take a large fork or knife and stick straight into the middle of the cabbage. Plunge the cabbage carefully into the boiling water for 30 seconds-1 minute, until the outer leaves soften and begin to fall off. Remove the leaves and place on the baking sheet until ready to use.

Repeat until you have removed around 75% of the leaves. Set the remaining cabbage aside. With a paring knife, trim off the tough part of the outer spines of the cabbage. Finely chop the remaining cabbage leaves and set aside.

Begin matching the cabbage leaves with similar sized leaves, so all the leaves are in pairs. Place them on top of one another on a plate and get ready to start stuffing.

In a medium bowl mix together pulled brisket, rice, onion, eggs, garlic, salt and pepper. Using about ¾ cup of the mix, make an oval meatball of the mixture and place at bottom of the cabbage leaf. Fold one side over the mix and then begin rolling very tightly along the spine. Fold up remaining end and tuck inside the cabbage roll. Repeat until you have used all the leaves and filling.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the sauce: In another large bowl, combine tomato sauce, onion, orange, lemon, sugars, vinegar, water, salt, pepper, cinnamon and chopped cabbage.

Place some of the sauce on the bottom of a deep baking dish. Gently lay each stuffed cabbage roll on top. Cover with remaining sauce.

Cover stuffed cabbage with tin foil and bake 2 ½-3 hours, until sauce has reduced and thickened.

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