Malfouf- Palestinian Cabbage Rolls

Palestinian cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors and aromatic dishes that have delighted palates for centuries. One such culinary gem is Malfouf, a delightful Middle Eastern recipe that will transport your taste buds to a world of savory goodness. Malfouf, also known as cabbage rolls, is a culinary art that combines tender cabbage leaves with a mouthwatering meat and rice filling. In this blog post, we’ll explore the steps to master this exquisite dish in your own kitchen.

The Cabbage

Simmer the Cabbage

For this recipe, you’ll need a whole head of cabbage. Remove the outer layers and discard. Then make slits around the stem/core of the cabbage. The goal is to get the water to seep into the core of the cabbage and not just the outside for more even cooking.

Put a pot of water over high heat and add the cabbage. Don’t worry if it’s not fully submerged, covering the pot with a lid will help distribute the heat more evenly. Bring the cabbage pot to a boil and leave it for about 15 minutes or until the cabbage leaves are tender.

Remove the cabbage and set aside to cool. In the meantime, prepare the filling.

Malfouf Filling

Meat Filling

To make the meat and rice filling combine ground beef, rice, salt, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, oregano, fresh mint or parsley, eggs, olive oil, lemon juice, pine nuts, and raisins in a bowl and mix well. The filling is the same as the filling for dolmas, or rolled grape leaves.

Assembling the Malfouf

Roll the Cabbage Leaf

Separate all the cabbage leaves from the core. Remove the tough middle corner with a small knife or scissors and cut the leaf in half.

Lay a cabbage leaf flat on a work surface. Place a portion of the meat and rice mixture in the center of the leaf, about 1 teaspoon should do. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling and roll it up, securing it like a burrito. Continue until either the cabbage leaves or the meat mixture runs out.

Cooking the Malfouf

Simmer the Malfouf

Lay any extra cabbage leaves on the bottom of a pot or pan with high sides. Arrange all the cabbage rolls snugly in even layers with the seam side down.

In a separate bowl or measuring up mix together a can of tomato sauce with water, chicken stock cube, and lemon juice and mix well. Add a large plate over the cabbage rolls to keep them from moving around, then pour the tomato mixture over the cabbage rolls. Tilt the pot slightly on each side to ensure there are no air pockets.

Turn the heat on to high and allow the mixture to come to a low boil. Cover and adjust heat to low and simmer gently for an hour or until the rolls are completely tender and the filling is cooked through. Serve Malfouf with lots of lemon juice and, optionally, a drizzling of olive oil and fresh parsley. Enjoy!


Time: 2 hours

Makes: about 50 cabbage rolls

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • Water to boil

For the Filling

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 egg

Simmer Mixture

  • 1 16 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • Juice of two lemons


  1. Make slices around the bottom core of a cabbage and place in a pot of water. Cover and bring to a boil for about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the meat and rice filling and mix well. Set aside
  3. Remove all cabbage leaves and cut out the middle core from each leaf, then cut the leaf in half. Fill each cabbage leave with about 1 tsp of the meat mixture and roll upwards like a burrito. Continue with every leaf until the meat mixture is finished
  4. Place any leftover cabbage leaves in the bottom of a pot or pan with high sides. Arrange all cabbage rolls snugly in even layers along the bottom of the pot. Place a plate on top to keep them from moving around
  5. In a separate bowl, combine together the simmer mixture: tomato sauce, water, chicken stock cubes, and lemon juice. Pour over the cabbage rolls and turn the heat on to high.
  6. Once the mixture comes to a low boil, cover and turn heat down to low and simmer gently for an hour
  7. Once the Malfouf is tender and cooked through, serve warm with an extra drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil. Enjoy!

Malfouf is a true masterpiece of Palestinian and Lebanese cuisine. Its blend of tender cabbage leaves and a succulent meat and rice filling is a culinary delight that you can now create in the comfort of your own kitchen. This dish is not only delicious but also a beautiful representation of the rich Middle Eastern food culture. Share the joy of Malfouf with your loved ones, and let this remarkable recipe become a part of your family’s culinary traditions.

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