Mother-in-Law’s Lahana Sarmasi

My Mother-in-Law’s Cabbage Rolls are so comforting, of course delicious, and a real family favorite. They are Turkish-style cigar-shaped cabbage leaves stuffed with a mixture of bulgar and rice, spices, and of course, motherly love.

Mother-in-Law's Lahana Sarmasi

A Weekend in Istanbul

After spending a great weekend in Istanbul with my in-laws, my mother-in-law, Gulseren, headed back home with us to Izmit. Over time, chai (Turkish tea) was drunk and many Meditteranean meals were eaten.

Fast-forward to today, I thought, wouldn’t be so awesome if I shared one of her amazing recipes with us on the blog?..

Of course, yes!

I felt that Lahana Sarmasi ( rolled cabbage leaves) would be perfect since the cabbage is in season.

Mother Gulseren

Meet My Mother-in-Law

My mother-in-law, Gulseren, is so kind-hearted and looks just like my husband and twin girls.

When we are together, we always gravitate to the kitchen. Even though I know very little Turkish, we always learn how to communicate through food.

I’m going to be completely honest.

I don’t make some Turkish recipes because well…they can be a little time-consuming.

With that being said, knowing that I have two demanding 7-year-olds to feed, I typically like to whip up something quickly. So when my mother-in-law comes over, she slows things down, and we get to eat delicious food that takes hard work, and tastes AMAZING!

Rolled Cabbage

Tips from My Mother-in-Law

  • You’ll want to buy a large cabbage because you need large leaves.
  • Use thin leaves. Usually, the outer leaves are the tiniest and the inner leaves tend to be tougher.
  • Remove the inner rib of the leaf if it gets to be too hard to roll.
  • Be patient. Roll carefully.
  • Though she uses both bulgar and rice in the filling, she mentioned that it’s completely ok to use one or the other.

More Crave-worthy Recipes

rolled cabbage over yogurt

Mother-in-Law’s Lahana Sarmasi

 Cigar-shaped cabbage leaves stuffed with a mixture of bulgar and rice, spices, and of course, motherly love.

Prep Time 20 min Cook Time 45 min Total Time 1 hr 5 mins



  1. First peel off the cabbage leaves, then boil the leaves for 2-3 minutes until slightly wilted. This step will help them be more flexible in the rolling stage. Set aside. Now we will prepare the filling. 

  2. Wash the rice and bulgar. Set aside. 

  3. Next heat a pan over medium heat. When ready, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic. Cook until the onions have become translucent. Once the onions are translucent, add the tomato and red pepper paste. Fry for 30 seconds. When ready, add the rinsed rice and bulgar, spices, and a cup of water.  Mix until fully incorporated then cook until the water evaporates. Set aside to cool. 

  4. Once the filling has cooled, find a straight edge on the leaf, then add about 2 tbsp of filling to the edge of the leaf, spread it out—keeping all filling in the center and roll into a cigar-like shape. Repeat until all desired amounts of leaves are rolled. 

  5. Next, place the rolled cabbage carefully in a pot. Make sure to place them soldier-style, side-by-side. Make sure not to leave any gaps in between them.  Stack on top in the same manner. Repeat until all rolls are in the pot. 

  6. Finally, add 4 cups of water or broth into the pot and cook on medium-low heat until all of the water has completely evaporated. This can take about 45 minutes. 

  7. Once fork-tender,  cool for 15 minutes before enjoying. Eat hot or cold. 


Step 6: feel free to use any broth of choice in place of water for more flavor. 

You can boil extra leaves then place them on the bottom of the pot before adding the rolled cabbage. This can help prevent them from burning. 

However, I personally do not add extra leaves to the bottom because I like it when the sarma gets nice and caramelized.

Keywords: Lahana Sarmasi

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