Lahanodolmades is a traditional Greek winter and Christmas dish. It consists of cabbage leaves, stuffed with rice, herbs, spices, and pork meat. Served with a delicious egg-lemon sauce called "avgolemono".
Pork is very festive meat in Greece, mainly because people in the past were poor and only butchered their stock during Christmas and Easter.
It is comfort food, and even though there are quite a few steps to make this dish, it is absolutely delicious and worth every minute. Plus, it is gluten-free and dairy-free, and we can serve it as a main dish or appetizer.
What are Lahanodolmades?
Lahanodolmades literally means cabbage ("lahano") and stuffed rolls ("dolmas"). Although stuffing leaves with meat were well-known in ancient Greece with the name θρία ("thria"), the word "dolmas" derives from the Turkish "doldurmak" which means to stuff vegetables (different types).
In the Greek region of Epirus, lahanodolmades are called yaprakia (from the Turkish "yaprak", which means leaf). They are made with cabbage preserved in brine and pork meat. Yaprakia traditionally represents the swaddling of baby Jesus.
Nowadays, lahanodolmades is a very popular dish in all eastern Mediterranean countries and the Balkans.
Minced meat: Pork, beef, or a combination of those two can be added to the mixture, but you can use any kind of meat that you prefer.
Cabbage: White cabbage is what normally is used to make lahanodolmades. Because I cannot easily find the particular large cabbages that are used in Greece, I use curly cabbage (savoy) or 2 small white cabbages.
Rice: Carolina rice is what I use for this recipe. It is medium-grain rice and if you cannot find it, use Arborio rice instead.
Flavorings: White or red onion, spring onions, and herbs.
Spices: Salt, pepper, and a dash of cumin.
Tips & tricks
A trick that I've learned from my aunt is to place the whole cabbage in the freezer 2 days prior. Thaw it at room temperature 1 day prior, and you don't need to boil it. The leaves are ready to roll.
When you boil the whole cabbage, boil the leaves until they are just pliable.
Buy a cabbage that is firm and has smooth leaves. We prefer savoy cabbages because they have tender leaves and a sweet flavor.
If possible, boil the cabbage outdoors or open a window, because it smells unpleasant.
Use enough water to just cover the layers of the cabbage rolls in the pot. While the cabbage rolls boil they extract more water.
Be careful not to bake the egg white when making avgolemono sauce. The protein of the egg starts to cook above 60ºC (140ºF). Temper the egg: whisk constantly while adding small portions of the hot juices into the eggs.
To ensure that the avgolemono sauce will always be perfect, make it in a different pot and then add it to the pot with the lahanodolmades.
How to serve lahanodolmades
We serve lanadolomades mostly warm, but you can also eat them cold.
Use a generous amount of avgolemono sauce, crusty bread, feta cheese, and a fresh green salad.
How to store lahanodolmades
Lahanodolmades can keep well in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
You can freeze them for up to 3 months in an airtight container, without the sauce. I personally don't like freezing dishes that contain rice.
Reheat the lahanodolmades in the microwave, or in the oven, or simmer them over medium heat in a pot.
Do you like cabbage?
You can also try this cabbage recipe:
Greek Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Lahanodolmades)
- 1 large cabbage head, about 1 ½ kg/53 oz (or 2 medium)
- 500 g/17.6 oz half ground beef half ground pork
- 120 ml/½ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 medium red onion
- 2 spring onions
- 200 g/1 cup uncooked medium grain or arborio rice
- ½ tablespoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoon chopped dill
- 2 tablespoon chopped spearmint/mint
- 80 ml/⅓ cup white wine
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 720 ml/3 cups water or vegetable stock
- 480 ml/2 cups of the cooking liquid
- 2 medium eggs
- 80 ml/⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon water
- pinch of salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- First, start with the preparation of the cabbage. Remove and discard the outer leaves and wash the cabbage(s).
- Turn the cabbage head over and remove the stem (core) using a sharp knife.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the cabbage cored part down.
- Boil for about 15 minutes or until the leaves start to become soft and can be easily released.
- Remove the whole leaves one by one, as they become soft. Be careful not to tear them and place them in a colander to drain.
- In a deep bottom frying pan over medium heat, add half of the olive oil.
- When the oil is hot add the onion and spring onions and sauté until soft.
- Add the ground meat and sauté until caramelized. Then add the rice and the wine and cook until it evaporates.
- Add 1 cup of lukewarm water, salt, pepper, spearmint, dill, and cumin, and give it a good stir.
- When the rice absorbs the water remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool.
- On a cutting board, lay the cabbage leaf vein side up.
- Make a v cut in the leaf stem and remove all the thick parts. Set aside the cores for later.
- Depending on the size of the leaf, add ½ to 1 ½ tablespoon of the stuffing at the end of the v cut.
- Fold inward toward the center and over the filling. Bring the one side (left) in towards the center then the other side (right) roll and fold the side in.
- Roll the leaf toward the top making sure you wrap it a bit tight but leave some room to expand. Continue the same process until the whole filling is used.
- Use a large flat-bottom saucepan/pot with a lid.Place the small cabbage leaves and the inner veins of the leaves, at the bottom, and then place the cabbage rolls seam side down in tight rows.
- Make sure that you leave no gaps between them and that they are tight, so they don’t open while cooking.
- Cover the rolls with more of the leftover leaves.Pour at the top the rest of the olive oil, and water and invert a heatproof plate on the top of the rolls to keep them pressed and stable during cooking. Add more water until is enough to barely cover all the cabbage rolls and is at the plate’s level.
- Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer about 30 to 45 minutes until the leaves are tender.
- Beat the egg whites with a hand whisk in a heatproof bowl. When they start to become frothy add the yolks, lemon juice, and cornstarch diluted in the water.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then start tempering the sauce.
- Drain the cooking liquid out of the saucepan and incorporate it slowly into the eggs-lemon mixture.If you don’t have enough of the liquid add some extra water.
- Remove the plate and the extra leaves from the top of the pot.Pour the tempered mixture into the saucepan over the cabbage rolls.
- Shake the pot carefully from side to side to distribute the sauce equally.Place the pot over medium heat and bring it to a light boil.
- Remove from heat and let it rest until the sauce becomes creamy and thick.
- Serve lahanodolmades, warm, and spoon some of the egg-lemon mixtures on top.Sprinkle with some extra freshly ground black pepper, extra lemon juice, and garnish with fresh dill.
- Enjoy 🙂
One serving normally consists of 4-6 lahanodolmades (depending on the appetite).
Servings: 1 (88g) | Calories: 94kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 5.8g | Saturated Fat: 1.5g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 109mg | Potassium: 155mg | Fiber: 1.6g | Sugar: 1.11g | Vitamin A: 408IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 29mg | Iron: 0.56mg