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Bulgarian Meatless Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (sarmi)

Bulgarian meatless stuffed cabbage rolls (sarmi) with prunes and fennel seeds

This recipe, taken directly from the notebook of grandma Grozda from Bankya, together with the traditional appetizer made of old bread, walnuts and garlic, the dried peppers stuffed with beans and leek, hot grappa and the soda bread are always part of the Christmas Eve feast at home. However, I like to prepare those Meatless stuffed cabbage rolls not only on special occasions. Once you try it, I’m sure they’ll become part of your culinary diary.


  • 3 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek stalk (or more)
  • 12 cabbage leaves
  • 300-350 g rice
  • 2 tbsp. fennel seeds (you can substitute them with aniseed)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 30-36 prunes
  • 1 cup cabbage juice (optional)


In a pot, heat the oil and fry the onion and the finely chopped leek. Use both the white and the green part of the leek. Add the fennel seeds and the rice. Cook until the rice turns transparent. Add some salt and pepper.

Make big rolls by putting rice stuffing and 3 prunes on each cabbage leaf. Use the prunes whole so they don’t boil and to make their taste richer.

When the rolls are ready, put them in a small pot or tray. Cover with either water or a mixture of water and the cabbage juice.
If you decide to use cabbage juice, be careful with the amount of salt you add since it may become too salty.

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