Varza a la Cluj (baked cabbage casserole)
How to make Varza a la Cluj, a Romanian version of a delicious vegan baked cabbage casserole
If you're a fan of Romanian Cabbage Rolls (Sarmale) then you are going to love Varza a la Cluj. Varza a Cluj or literally translated as Cluj type Cabbage is a layered baked cabbage casserole. Traditionally, this dish is not vegan, although in recent times the vegan version of Varza a la Cluj became more popular during traditional fasting times in Romania.
Nevertheless, we wanted to create a delicious vegan baked cabbage casserole which follows the flavours of the original Varza a la Cluj and tell you a little bit about its origins.
Varza a la Cluj - A brief history
Varza a la Cluj has an old recorded history and it was originally called Kolozsvári rakott káposzta. The recipe first appeared in 1695 in a dedicated cookbook from Cluj printed by Miklos Misztotfalusi, the most important printer from Transylvanian region. This cookbook became a best seller at the time.
However, as it turns out, Mr Misztotfalusi was not the original inventor of the recipe, he was the mere messenger. The manuscripts of the original recipe lead back to a monastery in Şumuleu Ciuc, which, back then, was the largest Catholic institution in Transylvania. Several historians believe that one of the monks might have written the manuscript for the Varza a la Cluj recipe.
So does Varza a la Cluj actually originated in Cluj? The current historical evidence points out to the Şumuleu Ciuc region which is located in Miercurea Ciuc. Cluj, however, is the largest city in Transylvania and no doubt that the whole region loved eating layered baked cabbage. Together with the cookbook which became a best seller and very likely primarily sold in larger cities, the rest of Romania associated this type of baked cabbage casserole with the largest Transylvanian city, therefore becoming known as Varza a la Cluj (cabbage from Cluj, Cluj type cabbage).
How to make Varza a la Cluj
Making Varza a la Cluj is incredibly easy. It's basically a delicious layered casserole with rice, fermented cabbage and buckwheat. Here's what you need to do.
Preheat the oven to 175C / 350F. Cook the buckwheat according to the pack instructions. Usually, you need to boil it for around 20 minutes and use a ratio of 2:1 water to buckwheat. If you want a deeper, herbier flavour profile, add a cube of vegetable stock to the water.
Cook the brown rice according to pack instructions. We created a handy skill on how to cook the brown rice to perfection, every single time. To give it extra flavour, you can add a cube of vegetable stock to the rice water. When the rice is ready, mix with a tbsp of flour, a tsp of cornstarch and 3 tbsp of ground flaxseed.
In the meantime, chop the fermented cabbage. Set aside. Please make sure to use fermented cabbage and not pickled cabbage. It's a difference between the two and Varza a la Cluj specifically asks for fermented cabbage.
In a casserole dish, add one layer of brown rice. Then add a layer of fermented cabbage. Then add a layer of buckwheat and another layer of rice. Top up with another layer of cabbage, then another layer of rice. Finally, add the last layer of cabbage.
Pour the tomato sauce over the last layer of cabbage and scatter the peppercorn and bay leaf. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-45 minutes until the cabbage feels tender.
Allow the baked cabbage casserole to cool down slightly before serving. When serving it, there is a good chance the layers might collapse. That's because we are not using egg in the mixture so apart from the cornflour, flour and the flaxseed, there is nothing that binds the layers together. So be very very careful. However, after the baked cabbage casserole cools slightly or has been in the fridge overnight, the layers are better stuck together and easier to manoeuvre.
How to store Varza a la Cluj
It keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days. Just make sure to cover it as the cabbage can smell up your fridge. To heat it up you can microwave it for 30-60 seconds or reheat it on the hob with a little water at the bottom of the pan so the rice doesn't stick.
Serve it with mamaliga on the side for a traditional Romanian dish.
This recipe has been developed entirely by Yuzu Bakes. Any resemblance with other recipes is purely coincidental.
Varza a la Cluj
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total: 1 hour 5 mins
- Serves 6 people
Categories: Dinner, Lunch Cusine: East European, Romanian
A delicious Romanian dish called varza a la Cluj which literally means Cluj type cabbage. This is a vegan baked cabbage casserole created in layers. Varza a la Cluj has similar ingredients as Romanian sarmale (cabbage rolls) but made as a casserole. It's delicious, filling and full of fibre.
- 1 head fermented cabbage
- 2 2/3 cups brown rice
- 1 1/2 cup buckwheat
- 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
- 5 dried bay leaf
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorn
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 tsp corn starch
- 3 tbsp, ground flaxseed
- Preheat the oven to 175C / 350F.
- Cook the buckwheat according to the pack instructions.
- Cook the brown rice according to pack instructions. When the rice is ready, mix with a tbsp of flour, a tsp of cornstarch and 3 tbsp of ground flaxseed.
- In the meantime, chop the fermented cabbage. Set aside.
- In a casserole dish, add one layer of brown rice. Then add a layer of fermented cabbage. Then add a layer of buckwheat and another layer of rice. Top up with another layer of cabbage, then another layer of rice. Finally, add the last layer of cabbage.
- Pour the tomato sauce over the last layer of cabbage and scatter the peppercorn and bay leaf. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-45 minutes until the cabbage feels tender.
- Allow it to cool before the Varza a la Cluj casserole into 6 parts. Carefully remove from the casserole as the rice may fall apart.
Because this is vegan, we don't use egg in the rice to bind the casserole. This is a super delicate dish so the rice can collapse on the plate when you remove it from the casserole. This is perfectly normal. You can use sushi rice instead of brown rice for stickier layers.
Total Nutrition Facts
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 3 g||4%|
|Saturated Fat 0 g||2%|
|Trans Fat 0 g||0%|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat 1 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0%|
|Sodium 357 mg||16%|
|Total Carbs 47 g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 9 g||32%|
|Sugar 9 g||18%|
|Protein 8 g||16%|
|* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.|
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice
What do you think?
Did you like this recipe? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Leave a comment below.
I'm unfamiliar with Romanian cabbage rolls but I am familiar with my MIL's German style stuffed cabbage. When I saw your recipe I knew I had to try it. It was delicious! Although the German version has meat in it -- I didn't miss it at all with this recipe. And layering is so much easier than rolling the cabbage leaves. This is a recipe we'll be making again.
This is such a great vegetarian dish that is hearty because of the buckwheat. Thanks so much!
This looks so interesting! I really like cabbage but I don’t know many ways to cook it and your recipe sounds delicious. Now I need to find some buckwheat but I have everything else. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
this looks incredible, i loved learning about the origin of the dish and history behind it. Cabbage has never looked so delicious!
This is such an interesting post - I'm such a food history geek and loved your discussion of this dish's origins. And honestly, it's gotta be about the prettiest cooked cabbage recipe I've ever seen! So simple, too, and very nourishing with so many healthy ingredients!
Cabbage is a rare dish at home but this recipe is super yum. This looks like a one pot meal too. A total filler.
Drooling over this delicious casserole. Great recipe too. Pinned to try it weekend.
What a great dish of comfort food...I've never heard of this particular dish with buckwheat but my Hungarian Grandma used to make a similar dish that we called 'lazy cabbage rolls'. It had meat and we used fresh cabbage, though sometimes I would buy a fermented cabbage or use sauerkraut.
This is such a great way to use up cabbage! I love the nutrition it also has and makes a perfect side dish to any meal. Thank you!
Varza a la Cory! Next time add mushrooms next to rice. Tell me your opinion!
:) haha yeah, pretty much all traditional Romanian dishes must be turned vegan. Having said that, mushrooms sound very good with this dish! I wanted to imitate the mince with the buckwheat.