Instant Pot Grandma Lil’s Stuffed Cabbage

When certain foods enter our mouths, they are so much more than just the delicious flavors we are tasting – they are also about nostalgia, family and love.

One bite of my beloved Grandma Lil’s old-school, delicate and outrageous stuffed cabbage does that to me every time.  So I just KNEW I had to do her and this magnificent meal of hers justice and convert it to the Instant Pot!

Cherish your family and loved ones. Savor the seconds cooking with them and the time you’ve shared. Share their story and spread it onto others so they may leave a mark in this world – no matter how big or how small. It is up to us to carry on the legacy of others. This way they live forever.

From our family to yours, we hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Here’s How I Made It!:

My mom and I are about to show you how to make her mom’s (my grandma’s) stuffed cabbage.  So pull up a chair and a loved one because this one is what family cooking is all about!

Let’s start by adding the trivet and some water to our Instant Pot.

And then laying a head of cabbage on top.  Secure the lid and cook on high pressure.

Meanwhile, boil some water on the stove and cook some rice.

Now we’ll focus on our meat mixture.  We’ll start with some ground chuck beef and an egg….

..and a little kosher salt.

Now let’s grate an onion into the meat…

…grind in some pepper…

…and add in a little garlic.

So at this stage it should look like this.

Once our rice is done cooking, add that to the meat mixture…

…and mix it up by hand.  Nothing as therapeutic as kneading some meat together!  Set aside when done.

Once the cabbage is finished, we’ll remove it from the pot (and clean the inner pot out quickly and return it when done)…

…and peel off each layer.

As each layer is peeled off, take note of the thick vein that is grown down the center…

…and using a knife, carefully slice that thick part of the vein off…

…and then take the leaf, shaved vein side down.

Now, using our meat mixture, take about a typical meatball-sized amount…

…and roll it up in the cabbage leaf starting from the bottom…

…and work your way to the top…

…pinching in the sides along the way and making sure the seam side is on the bottom.

Repeat the process until all many of the cabbage leaves have been used, stuffed and rolled up.

Now taking the remaining inner core of the cabbage and a knife…

…chop it up and set aside because now we’re going to make…

…THE SWEET & SOUR SAUCE!  We’ll begin with some tomato juice…

…some salt…

…some pepper..

…a little fresh squeezed lemon juice…

…some white sugar…

…and some tomato paste.  Mix it up well and set aside.

Back to the Instant Pot, let’s add the trivet back in along with a little water…

…and ladle in some of the sauce…

…along with some of the chopped cabbage.

Set half of the stuffed cabbages on top of the trivet…

…and cover with some of the sauce.

Looking good!  Now, in typical lasagna fashion, we’ll repeat the same steps again with our remaining chopped, cabbage, stuffed cabbage and sauce.

Repeat after me: chopped cabbage…

…some sauce…

…the remaining stuffed cabbage…

…more sauce…

…the rest of the chopped cabbage…

…the rest of the sauce…

…and a little bit of Crisco for good luck (this was a secret ingredient my grandma used – it’s used to make the sauce even smoother)!  Secure the lid and cook at high pressure.

And when done cooking, it’s going to look like this!

Transfer our beautiful stuffed cabbages into a serving dish…

…along with that amazing sweet & sour sauce!

Ain’t the beautiful?!

We love you, Grandma Lil and hope we did you proud and are thankful we get to share your legacy with the world!

Yield: 6

Instant Pot Grandma Lil’s Stuffed Cabbage

Instant Pot Grandma Lil’s Stuffed Cabbage

This is the very dish that awoken my curiosity (and love) for cooking. My Grandma Lil made THE best stuffed cabbage - but there was a catch. She never wrote her recipes down. So my mom & I decided to re-create it to the best of our knowledge and for the Instant Pot.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 1 minute
Total Time 1 hour 6 minutes


  • 1 large head of cabbage (get one that will fit your Instant Pot), steamed with leaves peeled and remaining core chopped
  • 5 medium yellow onions; 2/3 of one grated for the meat mixture, the remaining 4 chopped into chunks for the sauce mixture
  • 2 lbs of ground beef (85% – 90% lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of either long grain white or brown rice, cooked according to instructions (optional, it’s really just a texture thing)
  • A few pinches of black pepper
  • A few pinches of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp of crushed or minced garlic
  • Two 46 oz cans of tomato juice
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 3 fresh lemons, squeezed and juiced
  • 4 tbsp of white granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp of Crisco (I don’t know exactly why my grandma added it, but she did, so we do too ?)


  1. Place the head of cabbage, core facing down, on the trivet in your Instant Pot with 2 cups of water. Hit “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” High Pressure for 5-8 minutes (the larger the head, the more time). Quick release, transfer the cabbage to a bowl or plate, let cool and dump out the water from the pot once done. I find this is SO much easier than boiling it and makes the leaves much easier to peel!
  2. While the cabbage is cooking, immediately boil water on the stove to make the rice for the meat filling. Cook according to package (usually about 15-20 minutes)
  3. Make the meat mixture which includes the ground beef, 2/3 of one grated onion, the egg, garlic, the rice (make sure it’s cooled down some) one pinch of salt and pepper. Mix by hand (it’s fun!) Note: The rice is totally optional if making this for Passover and want to keep kosher for it
  4. Take the cooled cabbage and carve out a a little circle around hard core on the bottom and remove – only carve about an inch deep into the cabbage. This will make the leaves easier to peel. CAREFULLY peel off each layer of leaves and set on a plate. Be sure to shave down the thick vein which runs down the center and is toward the bottom of each leaf as well. Layer all the leaves on top of each other, shaved vein side down
  5. With the vein side of each cabbage leaf facing down, take about a meatball sized amount of the meat mixture and place at the bottom (the wider part) of the leaf and then roll it up and tuck in the sides. Repeat this until all the flexible cabbage leaves are used up and set aside on a plate. Make sure you stop when about 3/4 of the cabbage is gone and you are left with the harder, whiter part. When done, depending on the size of your head of cabbage, you can get as many as 18-20 rolls!
  6. Chop the very white and harder remaining part of the cabbage up into thick flakes and also chop the 4 remaining onions and set aside (you may not use all of this but better safe than sorry in case you do)
  7. Make the sweet & sour sauce by mixing together the tomato juice, tomato paste, sugar, lemon juice, pinch of salt and pepper. Taste it! Make sure it’s up to your tastes. If you want more lemon, add more lemon! If you want more salt and/or sugar, add more salt and/or sugar!
  8. With the trivet in the Instant Pot, we are going to assemble our stuffed cabbage and sauce lasagna-style. Start by adding in 1/2 cup of water and then spooning in enough of the sauce so that the bottom of the pot is covered. Add a handful of the chopped onions and chopped cabbage. Then, layer in as many of the stuffed cabbages you can (but don’t squeeze them in there) with the seam of the roll facing down. Pour more sauce over the layer of stuffed cabbage. Now cover with more chopped cabbage and onions and pour more sauce over that. Add another layer of the stuffed cabbage covered with more chopped cabbage and onions and top off with the rest of the sauce and add the Crisco to the top. (Note: Be mindful of your Instant Pot’s brim. We filled our 8qt. to the max line but if you have a smaller pot like the 6qt, you should do this portion in 2 batches)
  9. Secure the lid and hit “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” High Pressure for 18 minutes. Because there is SO much going on in this pot, it is entirely likely it will take a good 35 minutes or so for the screen to switch from “On” to the 18 minutes countdown without the pressure pin popping up yet. It may not even come up until the final 10 or 5 minutes of cooking. THIS IS PERFECTLY NORMAL AND FINE FOR THIS RECIPE. It will cook PERFECTLY!
  10. Allow a 15 minute Natural Release when done and when the display reads “L0:15” or “00:15,” finish with a quick release. All-in-all, you’re looking at about an hour of cooking time
  11. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the stuffed cabbages to a nice, big serving dish and add the sauce with the chunks of cabbage and onions to it
  12. Enjoy this as much as we did!

Jeffrey's Tips

Due to the size and volume, I used an 8qt Instant Pot instead of a 6qt to make this. You can totally make it in the 6qt, you’ll just need to likely make in two batches instead of one.

With this dish, if the pin doesn’t pop up and it begins to count down before it does, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it – it’s just because there’s a LOT of volume being taken up in the pot. It will still still cook perfectly.

You can totally make and freeze this ahead of time and then defrost and warm up in a pot the day of serving!

Reader Interactions


  1. Mickey Cashen

    Thanks, Jeffrey, for this excellent variation on cabbage rolls. Most of the Polish recipes I’ve seen from relatives or online use tomato sauce or tomato soup (and much less volume) so the sweet-and-sour sauce is a new and great idea for me! Less tomato liquid volume might be the solution for those of us with 6 qt. Instant Pots.
    As a type-II diabetic, I use low-GI Index Basmati Rice and cook it as is common for long-grain rice: rice added to twice its volume of boiling water (and optionally a dash of cooking oil to prevent sticking) in a small cooking pot. When the water begins to boil again, cover the pot, simmer on very low heat for 12 min. then let it sit off the hot burner for 18 min., never removing the lid for that half hour. Let it cool, as you wrote, so it won’t turn to mush as it’s mixed in with the ground beef, etc.

  2. Susan

    This sweet and sour version of stuffed cabbage is exactly what I was looking for! Thank you for sharing your grandmother’s recipe. I also loved the endearing video with your mom. I haven’t yet made the rolls but I bought your cookbook (which I love) and made Grandma Lil’s Unstuffed Cabbage Stew which as your mentioned has the same flavor profile. It is absolutely delicious! I added a dollop of sour cream before serving. I just finished a bowl and had to let you know how much I enjoyed it.

  3. Robin

    Oh BOY, I am in love with this post! Being 100% Jewish, AND from the projects of NYC, I grew up on stuffed cabbage, and make it myself quite a bit. Just got an IP. This is going DOWN so soon in it! Also, ever use sour salt!?

    Happy Chanukah!

  4. Elaine Steinke

    Hi Jeffrey and Mom, I am so enjoying your instant pot recipes! But I also learned a new cabbage rolling technique from your Mom! She tucks in the end of the rolls after the roll is completed and this holds the cabbage better than my method of ‘tuck as I roll’. So glad your Mom took cooking classes! I am on my second batch as Santa brought the IP for Christmas and I have been making many of your recipes thank you! Grandma Elaine.

  5. Helen Aarness

    I must follow the FODMAP diet, thus no onion or garlic for me. What would you substitute? I try horseradish, dill, ginger and radish in recipes. Any other ideas?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *