Kålruletter – a forgotten spring classic

Summer is on its way and the season in Norway is celebrated with a bit lighter, traditional pre-summer dinners.   Cabbage is in season in Norway from May through the end of June, and has always been an important vegetable for Norwegians. Hearty and able to tolerate a variety of temperatures, many people grow it in their backyards.  What better way to utilize this vegetable than by whipping up some kålruletter? An old classic, this consists of ground pork that is spooned into blanched cabbage leaves and sauteed (or steamed) in a pan.   Perhaps this is Norway’s answer to spring rolls?


I would venture to say that kålruletter,  a simple (although somewhat time consuming to make) but flavorful and not to mention healthy, dish – is rarely prepared in Norwegian homes anymore. What a pity! But as you know, the goal of this blog is to bring back old classics, and perhaps put a new spin on it to make it more appealing to the newer generation.   Back in the 1950s and 1960s, this dish was however a classic in Norwegian homes, and it was almost a luxury to be able to get a hold of ground meat, especially so soon after the war (WWII).  The dish is said to have appeared in a cookbook as early as the 18th century, and that it arrived from Turkey via Sweden.

Another famous dish using cabbage is “fårikål” – a mutton and cabbage dish that is just boiled together in a large pot.  Very  simple but with a distinct, flavorful taste.  You can read more about fårikål and get a recipe in my previous blog post here.

Below is a fairly classic recipe for kålruletter but I have added some spices and my own touch to it.  Some newer recipes are adding more bold flavors into the meat mixture such as garlic, chili, other exotic spices,  which you can certainly do if you feel the dish needs a little kick.  Kåruletter has sometimes been described as not much to look at, as the colors do not exactly pop, but the flavor more than makes up for it.

Some people choose to add a tomato sauce instead of white gravy with this, which I think sounds like  a great idea too. Play around with it and let me know what you think!  Don’t forget to like me on Facebook for more tips, videos, photos and history surrounding Norway!


Serves 4

1 lb ground pork (you can also use beef, chicken or turkey)

2 tsp salt

1 egg

2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp cornstarch or potato starch

about 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk

1 Vidalia onions, peeled, halved and diced small

2 tbsp for sauteing onion

16 large nice, fine and green cabbage leaves, picked and cut off the thickest part of the stem running down the middle  (Napa Cabbage works well too as the leaves are a bit more pliable)

about 1 quart water

salt for water

butter for sauteing

Make the ground meat mixture:

Saute the onions in a saute pan over medium heat with the 2 tbsp of butter and plenty of salt and a dash of sugar. They should be caramelized and browned, adjust heat and avoid stirring too much but don’t let them burn. It will take about 15 minutes or so.  Reserve.

Combine the ground pork with the sauteed onion, egg, salt, pepper, spices, parsley, cornstarch and cream/milk, either by hand or pulse in a food processor. Set aside in fridge while you blanch the cabbage leaves.

In a large pot over medium heat, pour in the quart of water and season with salt.   Reduce to a simmer and blanch the leaves for about 1 i minute until bright green, remove and place in a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking.  Pat them dry with a paper towel,  place a spoonful of the meat mixture in the lower half of the leaf, and roll it up.  * Note: if you find it difficult to enclose the meat mixture in the cabbage leaf, you can use a small piece of butcher twine to tie the cabbage leaves with, or as some people do, enclose it further with a strip of bacon for additional flavor 🙂


Images from bama.no

With the seam down, place the kålruletter in a large saute pan over medium heat with some butter, and saute them on both sides. Place a lid on the pan to finish cooking.


Serve the kålruletter with boiled potatoes and carrots and white gravy (gravy is optional).


Photo from Opplysningskontoret for egg og kjøtt/Morten Brun

White Gravy with Dill Recipe

2 cups milk

3 tbsp flour

3 tbsp butter

1-2 tbsp freshly chopped dill

salt, pepper, freshly ground nutmeg

In a small sauce pot over medium heat, pour in the milk and heat up until warm.Place the butter into a shallow sauce pan over medium heat, as soon as it has melted add in the flour and whisk until combined.   Gradually add in the warm milk,  while constantly whisking until smooth and a bit thick or until it has the consistency you want from the gravy (add more milk if it gets too thick).  Season with dill, salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.


Image from frukt.no

13 thoughts on “Kålruletter – a forgotten spring classic

  1. Loren Riley says:

    Oh my goodness! My great-grandmother used to make these, and I have never known what they’re called (I still think I’m going to get the pronunciation wrong to be honest) and I haven’t been able to find a recipe. I am so glad I found this post today! Thank you for the recipe.

    • Sunny says:

      Hi Loren and thanks for your comment, that made me really happy to read! The reason why I have this blog is to expose people to Norwegian cuisine or bring back memories from old, traditional foods Norwegians and people with Norwegian ancestry. I hope to provide both classic and new recipes from my country so thanks so much for stopping by and hope you will continue to check in! 🙂

    • Sunny says:

      Thanks, Amanda! I do like the white sauce as an accompaniment, it makes it more hearty and flavorful. Let me know how you like the recipe! 🙂

    • Sunny says:

      Hi Cindy and thanks for your comment! I would love to hear what you thought of my recipe once you make it… thanks so much for checking out my blog and hope you’ll stop by again soon! 🙂

  2. saucygander says:

    This looks really interesting, and I have seen cabbage or vine leaves rolls in middle eastern cookbooks that look like they share a common ancestry with kålruletter. Isn’t it fascinating to think about how recipes evolve and change?

    • Sunny says:

      Thanks saucygander! Yes, in fact in my post I mention that these cabbage rolls actually came from Turkey – I am very interested in doing more research on this as I wasn’t able to find any further detsils, but I am obsessed with finding out about the true ancestry of our dishes, especially the old school, traditional ones. Fascinating indeed!

  3. Sophie33 says:

    What a truly appetizing recipe! We make a similar recipe like this here in Belgium but without the dill & we eat it in wintertime! 🙂 MMMMMMMM! Beautifully predsented too!

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