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bowl of unstuffed cabbage rolls
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4.86 from 27 votes

Instant Pot Cabbage Rolls Unstuffed

These unstuffed instant pot cabbage rolls taste exactly like my grandmother's without all the work! They're a breeze to make in about a third of the time. And just delish. 
Prep Time6 minutes
Cook Time11 minutes
Rising to pressure & release18 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Eastern European
Servings (change as needed): 6 -8


  • 2 teaspoon oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or ground chicken or turkey or plant-based meat substitute)
  • 1 medium onion, yellow or sweet (about 2 1/2-3 cups chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (3 tsp)
  • 5 cups cabbage chopped (about a 2 lb cabbage)
  • 1 medium carrot, diced small to ~1/4 inch
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped (optional) to be added after pressure cooking


  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  • 3 cups Tomato sauce
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth plus extra if too thick, particularly the next day


  • PRESS SAUTÉ BUTTON ON INSTANT POT. Let it heat until it says HOT while you chop vegetables.
  • SAUTÉ: Add oil, then ground meat (or chicken). Sauté until browned, about 3 minutes. Add onions and garlic. Sauté another 2 minutes. Add cabbage, carrots and all seasonings. Stir well and sauté 1 minute. Press CANCEL.
  • ADD LIQUIDS: Add broth and tomato sauce on top of vegetables and meat. DO NOT STIR.
  • SET PRESSURE COOKER: Place lid on top of instant pot and set valve to 'SEALING', then set PRESSURE OR MANUAL button on High for 5 minutes (use + or - buttons). The Instant Pot will take about 10 minutes to come to pressure depending on size of pot before it starts the 5 minute cooking process. 
    When finished (it will beep), do an 8 minute natural release. Then quick release the remaining pressure by turning valve to VENT using a spoon (be careful as the steam may be quite strong from the pressure). When button drops, you can open the lid.
  • FINISH AND SERVE: Give the cabbage and beef mixture a good stir. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add baby spinach if desired and stir 1 minute until wilted. The unstuffed cabbage rolls will thicken upon standing and even more in the fridge. Serve in bowls (over white or brown rice if you like) with a dollop of sour cream or with crusty warm bread for dipping.


  1. Variations
    • Add baby spinach at the end for color and extra nutrition.
    • Some recipes include raisins to add sweetness. If you do, you might want to cut down on the sugar a little.
    • Add cooked rice, there are two options:
      • Simply serve the unstuffed cabbage rolls over white rice or
      • Mix in cooked rice at the end after the pressure cook step.
  2. Can you double the recipe? I would not suggest doubling the recipe if you have a 6 quart instant pot. If you have an 8 quart pot, you should be fine. 
  3. Adjustments for thickness: If too thin after cooking, select the sauté button and cook the unstuffed cabbage rolls down for a few minutes until desired thickness. Another tablespoon of tomato paste may help as well. If too thick (and it will be the next day), add a bit of water or broth. 
  4. No Instant Pot? Use the stove top instead: Sauté meat, onions and veggies as per recipe above. Add seasonings, broth and tomato sauce. Heat to a boil. Cover, lower heat to simmer and simmer the unstuffed cabbage rolls for 30-40 minutes until cabbage and carrots are tender.
  5. Make Ahead: This is a perfect make ahead recipe. It tastes even better on day 2 or more (it will keep for at least a week in the fridge). Store it in an airtight container. It also freezes well for 2-3 months. Defrost in fridge and reheat in the microwave, covered, for a few minutes, stirring in between. 
Nutrition values are estimates.  
Calories: 193kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 1181mg | Potassium: 1012mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 3754IU | Vitamin C: 38mg | Calcium: 83mg | Iron: 4mg