One Classic Cabbage Roll in a white plate in tomato sauce.

Classic Cabbage Rolls

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“Cabbage rolls … they are like little meatloaves with rice wrapped in cabbage leaves and cooked in tomato sauce,” is what I told my grandson when he asked what I was cooking for supper. It surprised me how simple that sounded.

One Classic Cabbage Roll in a white plate in tomato sauce.

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Like most southerners, I grew up eating these tasty bundles. We may claim them as our own, but actually, the cabbage roll comes from the cuisines of the Balkans, Europe, Iran, West Asia, and North China. And with that comes a whole lot of different traditions and methods in preparing them.

In this blog post, I’ll show you a few shortcuts of my own with added hints to help make this meat and vegetable dish tastier and effortless.

Hint #1 For Better Cabbage Rolls

There is no need to pre-cook the cabbage leaves before stuffing them with the meat mixture. Does this set you free? I cut out the hard center of the leaf making them easier to roll and a breeze to cut through when eating.

Raw cabbage leaves being cut into on cutting board for Classic Cabbage rolls.

Hint # 2, Cabbage In The Roll

Save the middle of the cabbage head after peeling the leaves away and use it to flavor the meat. Chop it fine and throw it into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

Mixture of meat and vegetables.

Hint # 3, More Cabbage To Roll

Use 2 cabbage leaves to wrap up the meat. The cabbage is my favorite part and I used to feel cheated with just one leaf. Now I use two or more, especially with the smaller leaves.

Cabbage leaves with cabbage roll meat mixture inside.
Two hands rolling up a roll of ground meat in a green leaf.

I don’t use toothpicks to hold rolls together, either. Packing them close together in the pot helps with that

Hint #4, Cabbage Rolls In The IP

For easy and quick cooking, place rolls on the rack in the instant pot or pressure cooker, pour the sauce over them, turn the pot on, and forget about it. There’s no need to babysit these babies. You can spend more time doing what’s important … or what’s not important.

Classic Cabbage Rolls in the Instant Pot with tomato sauce being poured over them.

For more helpful Instant Pot Recipes check out Instant Pot Rolled Round Steak and My Sisters Cowboy Stew.

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Classic Cabbage Rolls

This recipe for Classic Cabbage Rolls has Instant Pot cooking directions and helpful hints for easy preparation and tasty ingredients. You’ll be surprised how much more convenient these are to prepare.

  • Total Time: 38 minutes
  • Yield: 9 rolls 1x



Cabbage Rolls

18 cabbage leaves from 1 head

1 1/2 pounds ground meat, (beef, pork or a mixture of both)

1/4 cup onion, chopped fine

1/4 cup green pepper, chopped fine

1/4 cup celery, chopped fine

1/2 cup cabbage, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 1/2 cups cooked white or brown rice

1/2  cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste


1 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes, processed in food processor

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

pepper to taste

1/4 cup water


Carefully peel 18 leaves from cabbage head after removing its core.

Mix together ground meat, chopped vegetables, rice, breadcrumbs, egg, and seasonings together in a bowl.

Divide evenly into 9 balls and place onto two or more cabbage leaves.

Roll up one end over the meat, then the two sides in, then all the way up to the top, no need for toothpicks to hold rolls together.

Place rolls on the rack inside the Instant Pot.

Make the sauce by combining the ingredients into a bowl, stir and pour over the cabbage rolls.

Close the lid of the Instant Pot, seal with valve pointed to the sealed position, push the manual button, and set the pot on high pressure for 18 minutes.

After the pressure is reduced when the cabbage rolls are cooked, you can serve immediately or keep them warm until ready to eat.


Oven baking instructions are, bake in a covered oven-safe dish in a 350-degree oven for about an hour until meat is done.

For stovetop cooking method, cook in a heavy pot, covered on medium to medium-low heat for about 40 minutes or until meat is done. Check often to see if extra water is needed during cooking.

Make ahead or double the recipe to store in the freezer for future meals.

  • Author: Louisiana Woman
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Category: Main Dishes
  • Method: Pressure Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: cabbage rolls

One Classic Cabbage Roll in a white plate in tomato sauce.

Not everyone has a fondness for cabbage, and if that’s you, you can do what my husband does. He peels back the cabbage and enjoys the meat mixture in the sauce. By my grandson’s reaction, I think he will do the same.

After describing the cabbage rolls at the beginning of this post, I realized I had never perceived them that way before. I believe perception is a gift from God, looking at things in a different light helps us to understand and/or appreciate them better. Not just cabbage rolls, but things that have much more significance. God will use anything, won’t he?

A collage of assembling and cooked cabbage rolls.

” I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. “

C.S. Lewis

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