Scrumptious Vegetarian Sarmale Recipe for Foodies

Bite into a burst of flavors with my vegetarian sarmale recipe that features traditional Romanian stuffed cabbage rolls made without any meat! These rolls, also known as “sarmale” in Romanian, are an ultimate delicacy in the country’s cuisine. It’s a traditional dish prepared by rolling the filling with pickled cabbage leaves and simmering them over low heat until they’re fully cooked.

As a vegan chef, I’ve put together this foolproof recipe for anyone who loves to indulge in authentic food while still sticking to a plant-based diet. This recipe is not only perfect for those who want to embrace veganism but also for meat-lovers who are looking to transition into a more plant-based lifestyle. My delicious vegetarian sarmale recipe will prove that you don’t need meat to enjoy traditional food!

My recipe is relatively easy to make and substitutes the traditional ground pork with soy crumbles while keeping all the classic flavors intact! The rice stuffing is mixed with onions, carrots, and the perfect combination of sauces that add an extra layer of richness and zestiness to it. Trust me, you won’t be able to resist these incredible rolls once you give them a try!

So why wait? Follow my step-by-step guide and indulge in these wholesome, hearty rolls that are brimming with nutrients and flavor. This dish makes for an ideal dinner party centerpiece or a warm family meal on a cozy winter’s day. Get ready for a truly comforting experience filled with loads of goodness in every bite!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Vegetarian Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)
Vegetarian Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)

Picture this: it’s a cold winter night, and you want to curl up with a warm, hearty meal that will satisfy your cravings and nourish your body. Look no further than this vegetarian sarmale recipe! Trust me when I say that you won’t miss the meat in these flavorful cabbage rolls.

Not only is this recipe delicious, but it’s also packed with nutrients from the vegetables, rice, and walnuts. You’ll feel satisfied and energized after enjoying a plate of these stuffed cabbage rolls.

There’s also something special about trying a traditional Romanian dish like sarmale. You’ll feel like you’re taking a trip around the world without ever leaving your kitchen. And with the option to make this dish vegan, you can enjoy it guilt-free as well.

So get ready for some serious comfort food that will warm both your belly and your soul. Give this vegetarian sarmale recipe a try – your taste buds (and your body) will thank you.

Ingredient List

 These savory vegetarian sarmale are the perfect comfort food.
These savory vegetarian sarmale are the perfect comfort food.

Before we begin with the recipe, let’s take a look at the ingredients. This recipe yields vegetarian sarmale, which is a Romanian dish traditionally made using pickled cabbage leaves and ground meat. However, we’ll be making it meat-free and using regular cabbage leaves instead. Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

Cabbage Rolls:

  • 2 large cabbages or 5-6 smaller ones
  • 2 white onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 dl of tomato paste
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 4 lb of walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of rice, washed and drained
  • 1 dl of lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • canola oil for frying
  • bay leaves


  • 2 lb of granulated gluten
  • 2 lb of soy crumbles
  • 9 lb of rice, washed and drained

Note: while not traditional, some recipes use sour cream as a topping after cooking. To keep this recipe vegan, simply omit the sour cream.

The Recipe How-To

 Rich in flavor and texture, these cabbage rolls are sure to impress.
Rich in flavor and texture, these cabbage rolls are sure to impress.

Get ready for some rolling action!

So you’ve got your ingredients all set up and you’re excited to start rolling up the Vegetarian Sarmale. Let’s begin!

  1. First things first – Preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. Heat a large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Take off the large outer leaves from 2-3 cabbage heads and plunge them into the boiling water, one by one. Boil them for 5 minutes then drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water so that they’re cooled instantly. Set aside.
  3. In a pan, heat two tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat until hot. Saute 1 chopped onion until it turns golden-brown (for about 5-7 minutes). Turn off the heat then add two grated carrots and half a cup of roughly chopped walnuts.
  4. Rinse then mix well a cup of rice, half cup of soy crumbles, half cup of cooked lentils, and the sauteed onion-carrots-walnut mixture together in a medium bowl.
  5. Time to roll! Take a piece of cabbage leaf, put one spoonful spoonful, maybe two depending on how big your leaves are, in the center Fold in the sides then roll it up!
  6. Repeat step five until all you’re ingredients have been used up!
  7. Assemble all rolled Sarmale side by side in a thick bottomed pot, layering each section row by row.
  8. Once that’s done, mix tomato paste with soy sauce and spread it over the sarmale, followed by bay leaves and a generous amount of tomato sauce.
  9. Pour enough water into your pot until everything is just covered, placing cabbage rolls only meat side up so that they keep their shape.

Cook ’em Up!

  1. Bring your pot to boil then reduce to low heat and simmer gently for about an hour or until the rice is fully cooked and soft.
  2. Once done cooking, remove from heat and let cool for a couple of minutes then serve.

Enjoy your hearty vegetarian version of Sarmale!

Substitutions and Variations

 Wrapped up in cabbage leaves, this recipe is a vegan twist on a classic Romanian dish.
Wrapped up in cabbage leaves, this recipe is a vegan twist on a classic Romanian dish.

Now, let’s talk about ways to modify this delicious vegetarian sarmale recipe. One fantastic alternative is to swap the soy crumbles for lentils or mushrooms. These plant-based ingredients will give your cabbage rolls a savory flavor that is sure to please even the weakest of carnivores.

In addition, walnuts can be replaced with hazelnuts or almonds, which add a distinct nutty depth to the recipe. You could also choose to use different grains like quinoa or barley for your stuffing, and even add some dried fruit like raisins or apricots for a sweeter taste.

If you are looking to go low-carb or keto, skip the rice altogether and use cauliflower rice instead. Another low-carb option is zucchini noodles as they make a great substitute for traditional cabbage leaves.

To please those who love spicier food, try adding hot chili peppers or red pepper flakes to the mix. You could also give it a smoky kick by incorporating chipotles in adobo sauce into the tomato paste mixture.

Finally, for those who prefer a creamier texture, top your sarmale with some vegan sour cream before serving. It’ll add a tangy touch that’ll set them apart from any other cabbage rolls you’ve ever tasted.

Feel free to experiment and find creative alternatives that work best for you. Whether you choose the classic recipe or one of its variations, Romanian stuffed cabbage is always going to be one of my go-to dishes either you enjoy it as a main course or an appetizer.

Serving and Pairing

 Perfect for a cozy dinner at home or a potluck with friends.
Perfect for a cozy dinner at home or a potluck with friends.

Serving the Vegetarian Sarmale is an experience in itself. The moment you take a bite, it’s like being transported to the heart of Romania. The flavors hit you like a ton of bricks, and the aroma fills your taste buds with a sense of nostalgia. I love serving this dish hot off the stove, with a dollop of sour cream. It’s creamy and rich with a tangy twist that adds flavor to every bite.

The Vegetarian Sarmale is perfect on its own, but it pairs extremely well with a side of bread or boiled potatoes. The bread soaks up the delicious tomato sauce, while the potatoes add a nice texture contrast to the cabbage roll.

For those looking for something extra, try pairing it with a fresh green salad or steamed veggies like carrots and green beans. The fresh vegetables act as palate cleansers while still adding texture and nutritional value to your meal.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try pairing it with a full-bodied red wine. The tannins in the wine work beautifully with the acidity of the tomato paste and sauce.

In conclusion, serving vegetarian sarmale is always an exciting culinary journey. Its versatility with sides and beverages make it suitable for any occasion- be it a quick lunch or elegant dinner party. No matter how you choose to serve it, this traditional Romanian dish will not disappoint your taste buds or your guests.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 The combination of flavors make this dish unforgettable.
The combination of flavors make this dish unforgettable.

Alright, dear reader, let’s talk about how to make this vegetarian sarmale dish ahead of time, store it properly, and reheat it like a pro. Trust me, as a vegan chef, I know the importance of meal prep and how to maintain the freshness of your food.

First things first: can you make the cabbage rolls ahead of time? You sure can! The secret is to prepare them up to the point where you would put them in the oven to bake. Instead of browning them in the oven right away, refrigerate or freeze them for later use. When it’s time to cook or serve them, just place them in a baking dish and continue with the baking steps.

Now, let’s talk about storing your vegan sarmale dish. You can keep any leftovers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. If you live alone or have a small family but made a larger batch of sarmale than needed, freezing them is an excellent solution. Wrap each cabbage roll individually with plastic wrap or aluminum foil so that they don’t stick together and freeze away! Frozen cabbage rolls can last in your freezer for about three months.

Finally, let’s touch on reheating techniques. For best results, carefully take your stored cabbage rolls out of the storage container or freezer and let them defrost naturally if they were previously frozen. To reheat leftovers or fully cooked sarmale, place your rolls into a slightly buttered shallow baking dish and add some tomato sauce over each one for moisture. Cover with tinfoil and place into the oven at 400°F (200°C) for 20-25 minutes until hot through-out.

And there you have it! Some tips for making ahead of time, storing properly, and reheating these tasty vegetarian sarmale so that they stay fresh and delicious every time. Remember that sour cream is an excellent topping for when serving this fantastic Romanian dish at its best taste!

Tips for Perfect Results

 Each bite is a delicious blend of spices and savory filling.
Each bite is a delicious blend of spices and savory filling.

They say perfection is hard to achieve, but with these tips, your Vegetarian Sarmale will turn out perfect every time. As a vegan chef who has made countless cabbage rolls over the years, I’ve learned some tricks that will ensure the success of this recipe.

Firstly, when filling the cabbage leaves, use small portions. Overstuffing will cause the rolls to burst during cooking. Using smaller portions will also make it easier to roll the leaves tightly, increasing their chances of remaining intact throughout cooking.

Another important tip is to cook the cabbage rolls in a pot that’s not too spacious- you want them to be snug. When they are packed together tightly, not only does it prevent them from falling apart, but it also results in more flavorful sarmale.

Making small slits in the bottom of each roll is also a technique that leads to perfect results. This allows for better circulation of the tomato sauce and allows flavors to seep in while cooking.

Add bay leaves and roughly chopped walnuts on top of your sarmale before putting them in the oven (or on your stove if cooking on low). This will add an extra note of flavor that true Romanian-style sarmale enthusiasts won’t be able to get enough of.

Lastly, making sure that you season everything properly is crucial for delicious and flavorful vegetarian sarmale. Salt and pepper are necessities, but adding a dash of soy sauce ramps up flavor complexity that’ll leave your diners talking about your dish long after they’ve left.

Follow these tips for Vegetarian Sarmale success every time you make this traditional Romanian dish!


Now that we have covered the essential aspects of this vegetarian Sarmale recipe, it’s time to answer some frequently asked questions. From ingredient substitutions to cooking tips, these answers will help you achieve the best possible results and enjoy this traditional Romanian dish to the fullest. Keep on reading, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any additional inquiries.

Is Sarmale Turkish or Romanian?

Sarmale, also known as Romanian cabbage rolls, are a popular and beloved traditional dish in Romania. These rolls are made by filling cabbage leaves with an assortment of ingredients before rolling them up and serving them.

What is the English name for sarmale?

In this recipe article, I’ll be sharing a guide on how to make Romanian Cabbage Rolls, also known as Sarmale. We’ll dive into the details on how to make this traditional Romanian dish, step-by-step.

How long does sarmale last in the fridge?

These cabbage rolls have a great shelf life of up to 10 days in the refrigerator, and their flavor becomes even more enhanced with time.

Why is the cabbage tough in my cabbage rolls?

When preparing cabbage rolls, a common issue is that they turn out too firm or tough. One easy way to avoid this is to let the cabbage sit overnight before assembling the rolls. This will help to soften the leaves before cooking. However, if your rolls are still too tough after cooking, you can simply return them to the oven and cook them for a longer period.

Bottom Line


I know that after reading this recipe article, you’ll be inspired to make a batch of vegetarian sarmale for yourself. This dish is not only delicious and comforting, but also packed with nutritious and wholesome ingredients that your body will thank you for.

Whether you’re looking for a new vegan meal to add to your weekly rotation or want to impress your family and friends with a traditional Romanian recipe, sarmale is definitely worth trying. And with the tips and tricks I’ve shared in this article, you’ll be able to make the best vegetarian cabbage rolls anyone has ever tasted.

So gather your ingredients, put on your apron and get cooking! You might discover a new family favorite that will bring joy and comfort for years to come. Don’t forget to pair it with some traditional side dishes like pickled cabbage leaves or sour cream for the ultimate authentic experience. Happy cooking!

Vegetarian Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls)

Vegetarian Sarmale (Romanian Cabbage Rolls) Recipe

Sarmale are tradditional Romanian cabbage rolls that are always served at weddings and during Christmas, as well as other occasions or for no occasion at all. My Romanian friend, Carmen, gave me this family recipe that she altered slighty since becoming vegetarian. It can be a lot of work and a little complicated as you first try rolling/stuffing the cabbage leaves, but after a little practice you'll get it and the results are fantastic!
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Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Romanian
Calories 136.4 kcal


  • 2 large cabbage
  • 5 white onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 lb rice, washed and drained
  • 9 ounces tomato paste
  • 1/2 lb granulated gluten or 1/2 lb soy crumbles
  • 1/4 lb walnuts
  • 3 1/2 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 -3 bay leaves
  • canola oil, to saute the vegetables
  • pepper
  • salt
  • soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos
  • other spices, to your taste (optional)


  • Filling: Chop 4 of the onions and grate one of the carrots. Saute them for a couple of minutes with about 2 Tbsp oil. Add the rice and continue to saute them for 10 minutes add a little water, but only a small amount to keep it from sticking.
  • Add the tomato paste, the walnuts, and the granulated gluten. Season it with salt, pepper, a dash of soy sauce, and other seasonings you may want. Heat for a minute or two and then turn off the stove and let cool down a little.
  • Remove the hard core of the cabbage. Ceave the cabbage in a bowl/pot with hot water and salt for 5-10 minutes (until the leaves can be removed easily, but it shouldn not stay too long because the leaves will be easily broken).
  • Drain the cabbage and wait for it to cool off until you can work with it. Remove the spine from each leaf (leaving two halves with each leaf about the size of your hand). From the cabbage around 20 medium leaves should result. Some leaves may rip, but don't use those to add filling to, instead set aside.
  • Chop the remaining onion and carrot, and the extra cabbage leaves that had been set aside because they had torn. Saute them in a large pot with a little oil. Add the tomato sauce and mix well. Put 2-3 bay leaves over this mixture. Turn off the heat and set aside (this is not the filling, but where the cabbage rolls will later be placed).
  • On every cabbage leaf place about 1 Tbsp of filling (the first mixture sauteed and put aside from direction steps 1 and 2) and roll. Roll by folding one of the width sides over the filling and then roll the length of it. One side should be still open, stuff that side inside with your finger to close. If there is too much filling to stuff the opened side inside then you can remove a little bit of the filling.
  • In the large pot with the other sauteed vegetables lay down the cabbage rolls in a circle. Don't have them touching the sides of the pot. Put the heart of the cabbage or more chopped cabbage in the center of the pot with the cabbage rolls around it. The cabbage in the middle is there to keep the cabbage rolls in place while boiling. Once a circle has been made in the pot you can put more cabbage rolls on top of the last ones making another circle, etc.
  • Boil enough water in another pot to cover the cabbage rolls. Add the lemon juice to the water if you want to add a little sour taste to them. Add the boiling water and lemon juice to the pot with the samales and make sure the samales are covered by the water. Place a large soup plate over them that covers them all and keeps them in place in the pot.
  • Cook them on a low flame for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours and add water if necessary.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 193gCalories: 136.4kcalCarbohydrates: 23.4gProtein: 4.4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 0.4gSodium: 155.5mgFiber: 4.6gSugar: 7.8g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Christmas, European, For Large Groups, Free Of..., Greens, Lactose-free, Rice, Vegan, Vegetable
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