These Instant Pot Cabbage Rolls are my lazy unstuffed version where cabbage rolls aren’t rolled at all but made into a casserole instead! It’s a quick and easy one-pot meal done in a fraction of the time as the traditional recipe. Enjoy the ultimate comfort food from my Ukrainian grandma but with a modern twist and make it in an electric pressure cooker. A time and money saver that will satisfy even the hungriest teenagers!
One-pot meals like Instant Pot chicken and rice (or with potatoes)and Instant Pot rice and beans are in our regular rotation. You can never underestimate the life-changing impact that one-pot, easy clean-up, wholesome, healthy, and hearty meals can have on your lifestyle and your wallet!
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Cabbage rolls have always been a comfort food. Ground meat and saucy rice, blended with herbs and aromatics soaking up all of the acidic tomato flavours balanced with the hearty texture of the cabbage. A true authentic cabbage roll is a labour of love.
But seriously, who has time for that?!
I get that they’re cabbage rolls, so the idea is to roll them, but if you ask this Ukrainian (me), there is zero point to it. They’re cute for about a minute and then we turn them into deconstructed cabbage rolls as soon as they hit the plate. Topped with sour cream and dill it’s a gloriously messy plate of absolute deliciousness, but again, the roll isn’t necessary!
Sure, old fashioned cabbage rolls will always be special, and if you have the time and energy to put towards rolling them, have at it. This particular recipe, however, is for those of you who are looking for a short cut and fast and easy way to get all of the signature flavours of a delicious cabbage roll, without all of the extra work!
We LOVE cabbage in our home. I feel like there’s cabbage on our table practically weekly, here. With cabbage salad, mango slaw or Ukrainian dill coleslaw, cabbage and carrot stir fry, and cabbage soup – I’ll never run out of ways to use this humble ingredient (and make my kids love it!).
For 2 years straight I have been making this healthy and easy comfort food which is basically a one pot casserole in the Instant Pot! I’ve even shared a baked unstuffed cabbage roll casserole, too. Either way, my mom might disagree but this is how we enjoy cabbage rolls and there’s no turning back. It’s perfect for when you want the cabbage roll ingredients, without all the cabbage roll work…which is basically any weeknight!
Keep this recipe handy for when you want to be lazy too 🙂
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- A time saver recipe. You get all of the flavours of a cabbage roll in a fraction of the time because there is no stuffing, rolling, or simmering!
- A quick and easy recipe that will have dinner ready in just over 30 minutes.
- One-pot meal for easy clean-up.
- It’s budget-friendly comfort food that tastes amazing which means you can serve a large crowd and still save money.
- Take leftovers for work the next day or pack them in a thermos for school lunch. Meal prep made easy!
- It’s healthy, satisfying, and always a hit. It’s make-ahead and freezer-friendly too.
Be sure to check out all my healthy Instant Pot recipes!
Ingredients for Instant Pot Cabbage Rolls
- Ground meat: Ground beef, pork, chicken, and turkey can be used. Ground beef is traditional, but I used ground turkey as a leaner choice. You can also use less meat and not change the recipe.
- Cabbage: Green, red (purple), napa, or savoy cabbage are all great choices. I have tried all of them. The colour will be masked by the tomatoes anyway.
- Rice: Brown rice and white rice will both work, however, keep an eye out for the different cook times. You’ll use the same amount of water, no matter which type you use. If you use purple rice, treat it the same as brown rice. Wild rice is not recommended for this recipe.
- Tomato products: You can use 28 oz of each or a combination of diced or pureed tomatoes, or tomato sauce. Then one small can of tomato paste adds a depth of flavor, especially if you use only diced tomatoes that contain more water and have a more diluted flavour.
- Spices: Dried herbs like thyme and oregano. If you’re not a fan of thyme, feel free to use basil or rosemary.
Tip: Brown rice and white rice will have very different cook times. If you’re using brown rice, cook it for 22 minutes. If you’re using white rice, you’ll only cook it for 10 minutes.
How to Make Instant Pot Cabbage Rolls
I used a 6 quart Instant Pot and the entire batch fit in with no problem. The recipe was tested in 8 quart as well so you can definitely use it if that’s the size you have. For 3 quart, cut recipe ingredients in half and keep same cook time.
- Sauté onion and garlic first, just until fragrant. I like to place my Instant Pot under the hood fan to do this. Just make sure the stove is OFF!
- Then, sauté ground turkey and spices for about 4-5 minutes, crumbling up the turkey into small pieces as you go. Pink pieces are OK. It will continue to cook under pressure.
- Add cabbage and stir. This step helps to prevent the dreaded Burn and shrink the cabbage a bit.
- Then, add remaining ingredients: Pour in broth, uncooked rice, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes, in that order. Do not stir.
- Cancel Sauté and cook: If you’re using brown rice, cook for 22 minutes. If you’re using white rice, cook for 10 minutes. High pressure for both.
- Release pressure right away – Quick Release. Again, I like to do so outside or under a hood fan as it can release a smell in all of that intense steam being released.
- Season more with the freshly grated garlic clove (trust me, life-changing Ukrainian hack) and add fresh herbs like dill or parsley.
Tips for Best Results
- Don’t pre-cook the rice: You add uncooked rice to the Instant Pot and allow it to cook under pressure with all the surrounding liquids.
- White rice: A few readers have reported success with 10 minutes of cooking time on high pressure.
- Regular canned tomatoes: If you are not using a can with low sodium, add less salt to the overall recipe.
- Total recipe time with pressure build-up is 40 minutes: 20 minutes is your idle time to fold the laundry or read a book.
- Don’t stir after you add the tomatoes: This way you will not get the Burn message.
- Shred cabbage not too thin: You want sturdy pieces so it doesn’t “dissolve” under pressure. Not too thick, however, so the casserole texture is enjoyable.
In the past 2 months, I have made Instant Pot lazy cabbage rolls 3 times. That’s how much we love it! Hope you do too!
You can! This is a deconstructed cabbage roll with no actual rolling, so there’s no need for it to be as flexible. Adding frozen cabbage is just fine!
Hmmm. Rice can be a bit tricky sometimes and it could really be for a number of reasons. So let’s troubleshoot.
1. Do you live at high altitude? Different altitudes will impact the cook time needed for any recipe.
2. Did you see IP come to pressure? Sometimes when we think it’s building pressure, it’s really not. This is due to the valve not being set properly to sealing or the silicone ring that seals the lid is not in properly or worn out.
3. The type of rice matters. Keep in mind the difference in cook times for brown rice and white rice. Brown rice takes longer but 18-20 min should be plenty.
4. Last, what you could try doing is giving it a stir and allowing it to sit with the lid on. The residual heat will continue to cook the rice and you should be good to go.
Next time you could try adding a few extra minutes of cook time or doing a natural release rather than a quick release.
Despite the name, buckwheat isn’t wheat at all and it is still totally gluten-free. If you would rather use that instead of rice, I would cook it for 10 mins on high with quick release.
How to Serve Cabbage Rolls
The best I advice I can give you is from my heart. The way we enjoy cabbage rolls is with a generous amount of sour cream or plain yogurt on top and a slice of dark rye bread or the North American version which is toasted whole grain bread. That’s it! Literally the best way to eat them, pure and simple.
Don’t forget to sop up all that sauce at the bottom of the plate. That sauce is the best! Seriously, YUM!
Making Stuffed Cabbage Instant Pot in Advance
Make ahead freezer meal: Saute the turkey on its own and crumble it up into small pieces. Add all the ingredients, except broth, to a gallon-size freezer-friendly bag (I love these reusable ones) with tomato products going first. The cabbage will be kept separate in a 2nd bag just for the sake of saving space. Freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to cook it, cook from frozen with the broth following the directions as listed.
To store: Refrigerate leftover casserole in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
To freeze (cooked casserole): Once completely cooled, transfer to an airtight container for up to 3 months. It freezes beautifully! Thaw on a counter for 6-8 hours or in the fridge overnight. Reheat from thawed.
To reheat: Simmer with a splash of water or stock on low heat. The tomato and spice flavour is so rich, a splash will not dilute the final dish.
More Instant Pot Recipes to Try
- Instant Pot jambalaya
- Instant Pot chicken fried rice
- Instant Pot stir fry
- Instant Pot stuffed peppers
- Instant Pot cabbage soup
Feel free to check out my collection of other 45 Instant Pot recipes too!
Instant Pot Cabbage Rolls
- 2 lbs cabbage medium-coarsely shredded
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves minced + 1 clove, grated (divided)
- 2 lbs ground turkey or other meat
- 2 tsp thyme dried
- 2 tsp oregano dried
- 1 3/4 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 1/2 cups water + 1 bouillon cube OR any stock low sodium
- 2 cups uncooked brown rice rinsed & drained
- 6 oz can tomato paste low sodium
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes low sodium
- 1 small bunch dill finely chopped
- Greek yogurt or sour cream for serving
- On Instant Pot, press Sauté and let appliance preheat on high until display says Hot.
- Swirl oil to coat, add onion and 2 cloves of garlic; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add turkey, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper; cook for 4 minutes, constantly breaking meat into small pieces with spatula. Meat won’t get browned and some pink pieces are OK.
- Add cabbage and stir.
- Add water + bouillon cube (stock), rice, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Do not stir.
- Close the lid, set pressure vent to Sealing and press Cancel to turn Sauté off.
- Then press Pressure Cooking on High for 22 minutes. Display will say ON, Instant Pot will take about 15 minutes to come to pressure, you will see a bit of steam coming out from a valve, then float valve will rise and countdown will begin.
- After 22 minutes, display will say OFF. Turn pressure vent to Venting position and let steam out, which takes 2-3 minutes. I recommend doing so outside to avoid the smell and mess in the house.
- When float valve (pin) is down open the lid, add 1 grated garlic clove and dill, then stir gently but well.
- Serve hot with Greek yogurt and whole grain toast.
- Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Freeze: Fully cook, cool completely and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw on a stovetop covered on low.
- Freezer Meal: Saute just turkey until small pieces. Add all ingredients to gallon size bags with tomato products going first, no broth and cabbage in a 2nd bag (too much to fit into 1). Freeze for up to 3 months. Cook from frozen with broth for 22 mins (brown rice) or 10 mins (white rice) on High pressure with QPR or NPR.
- Don’t pre-cook rice: You add uncooked rice to Instant Pot.
- White rice: A few readers have reported success with 10 minutes cooking time on high pressure.
- Not low sodium canned tomatoes: Add less salt.
- Total recipe time with pressure build up is 40 minutes: And 20 minutes is an idle time to fold the laundry.
- Don’t stir after you add tomatoes: This way you will not get Burn message.
- Shred cabbage not too thin: So it doesn’t “dissolve” under pressure. And not too thick so casserole texture is enjoyable.