Cabbage casserole

Cabbage casserole (kaalilaatikko) is a traditional Finnish casserole dish, made of cabbage, ground meat, rice or pearl barley. Flavoured with onion, syrup, salt and pepper. It is usually served with lingonberry jam.

Finland was very much an agricultural society until the 1950s. In such societies the sufficiency of food depended on the success of the harvest, so it’s quite clear that there were good years and bad years. The aftermath of wars lasted long and scarcity continued for many years after the wars.

Industrialization led to a major restructuring, which influenced also the food culture, but the great changes in food choice didn’t happen before the 1970’s.

Anyhow, cabbage casserole has always been a part of Finnish cuisine. People made food from cabbage because it stayed fresh over the winter in storage and thereby it wasn’t only seasonal food. Nowadays cabbage casserole is made especially from early cabbages because at that time they are at their sweetest. Originally this casserole was made from pearl barley, rice came later. I still prefer barley in my stews.

When I was a child I hated this food (not to mention summer soup made from milk and vegetables, cabbage rolls and herring stew). Now I absolutely love it, cabbage casserole is one of my favorites.

If possible, use pearl barley. If you use rice, choose Arborio.

PORTION: 6 servings
TIME TO MAKE: preparation 30-40 minutes, baking for about one hour


  • 400 gr minced meat – beef or pork/beef
  • 1 small cabbage, about 400 gr
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1½-2 dl pearl barley or Arborio rice
  • ½ l water (for barley/rice)
  • 1½ – 2 meat bouillon cubes cooked with 7 decilitres or water
  • 1 tablespoon of syrup
  • salt, pepper, paprika powder


Cook barley/rice in lightly salted water until all the water has absorbed. Barley/rice does not have to be evenly cooked, because it still continues to cook in the oven.


In the first kettle barley, the other one is rice.

Bring the meat bouillon to boil. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (428°F)


Cut the onion in small pieces and fry it with minced meat. Spice with salt, pepper and paprika powder. Put in a big bowl to wait.


Cut the cabbage in small pieces and simmer a while to smoothen it before cooking. Add one tablespoon of syrup, mix well and put in the bowl to wait.


Add barley/rice into the bowl and mix well.

Oil an oven casserole pan evenly and pour the mixture in. Add bouillon enough to cover all the ingredients. Add more during cooking if the stew is about to get too dry.


Bake for about one and a half hour or until barley/rice is evenly cooked and the surface of the stew nicely browned.


Tags: cabbace casserole cabbace stew Finnish cuisine

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