Hearty Cabbage (Halupki) Stew

Everything you love about Halupki (stuffed cabbage) but heartier, richer, and more substantial for these cold winter days. 


I’m half Polish and grew up in a heavily ethnic area filled with first and second generation immigrants. It’s the home of the legendary Endicott Johnson, and the homes, parks, carousels, and tight knit communities George Johnson created for his workers and their families. That also means loads of meals heavy on the cabbage! 

Cabbage is one of those foods that people either love or pass on. Not all varieties are easy, especially the simple green cabbage. The thick leaves of green Cabbage require some effort and a long cook time to render soft, and I know I’m not alone in saying that I’ve struggled through my fair share of really tough cabbage in meals.

Growing up I had no idea that cabbage was a staple because of how long it would keep during the equally lengthy winter months, or that it was often the only the thing families could afford. All I knew is that it turned into Halupki during Christmas and Easter, at weddings and funerals. Sometimes it was fried with bacon or ham and served with noodles, which is my favorite.

There are many varieties of cabbage and the simple pale green head form is most common when it comes to Polish, Czech or Russian foods, but my favorite is Savoy. Savoy has a softer leaf, more texture, and to be honest I just love the look of it. It’s a bit milder and cooks quickly, making it a great choice for the deconstructed stew I made this weekend. 

One of the things I’m not fond of when it comes to Halupki is the lack of texture. The meat and rice sort of become this homogeneous mass that doesn’t thrill me. It’s also a LOT of work to make them unless you’re making hundreds and putting a whole day into it...which for the two of us just doesn’t make sense. I could go with the easy Halupki Casserole option, but again, it’s not a thrill in the texture department. But this stew has is going on!

Instead of the heavily tomato and tomato juice, white rice, green cabbage and hamburger of traditional Halupki and Halupki Casserole, I swapped in Savoy cabbage, Wild Rice, Beef Stock, and added spicy Italian Sausage. Dear readers, it was exactly what I was looking for. Less acidic, with richer taste and more texture, it’s my new obsession! 

This makes a mountain of stew. It’s easy to cut the recipe in 2, or even less, but the flavor develops over time and you’ll find yourself craving it for leftovers. It also freezes for the short term, and you can top it with some shredded cheddar or mashed potatoes and pop in the oven for an excellent casserole type dish too!

Hearty Cabbage (Halupki) Stew

by Colleen Cheechalk

Makes approximately 7 quarts


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, diced

1 lb ground beef

1 lb Italian sausage (sweet or hot)

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups good tomato sauce

8 cups chopped Savoy cabbage (1 large head)

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoon ground black pepper (omit if using hot sausage)

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Pinch of red pepper flakes

10+2 cups beef stock

2 cups wild rice


Heat olive oil in a large skillet (I use an 8-1/2qt deep skillet) and cook diced onion until golden and translucent. Add in ground beef. Remove sausage from casings and add to the pan. Cook it stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.

Add garlic, sauce, cabbage and other seasonings. Cook it covered over medium heat for about 5 minutes to wilt the cabbage.

Pour in 10 cups of stock and stir in rice. Bring it to simmer and cook covered until rice is cooked through and the cabbage is soft, about 35-40 minutes Add the remaining 2 cups of stock as needed to loosen the stew if it becomes thicker than you like.

I love this served with the easy No Knead Skillet Bread!

I hope you’ll give this Hearty Cabbage Stew a go soon. It’s affordable, family friendly, and delicious too!