I don’t often make cabbage rolls (or holubtsi or golubchi or whatever) with meat. Ground meat is hard to roll. Even if you have a small amount of rice, it just doesn’t hold together like 100% rice cabbage rolls like my traditional-Instant Pot cabbage roll recipe or even the beet leaf holubtsi recipe.
Enter buckwheat or kasha! Buckwheat filling in cabbage rolls is also great – and healthy. But, on its own it’s not spectacular though it’s a great alternative for dairy-free and gluten-free vegetarians. Here, I’ve combined some ground pork along with buckwheat to make a unique filling for your Instant Pot. You could also use ground beef or a vegan ground meat product.
Buckwheat isn’t a wheat at all because it’s not a grass like wheat. So, it’s gluten-free. Yet it’s got “wheat” in the name. Tricky.
It’s a super-healthy grain. Buckwheat groats are гречка (hrech-ka) in Ukrainian and grech-ka in Russian. When they’re prepared as a dish, it’s каша (ka-sha). But, a lot of people just refer to the raw grains as kasha, too. I have a lot of recipes that just serve it as a side dish or a porridge. In other recipes, it’s a filling for perohe (perogies) or cabbage rolls.
Buckwheat is phenomenally easy to make in the Instant Pot. Using a ratio of 1.5 cups water to 1 cup of buckwheat, you’re guaranteed great kasha in 3 minutes of pressure cooking time.
The first step is to toast the buckwheat in a low oven – around 250°F to 300°F for about 10 minutes. Just until they groats brown a little.
Dissecting another innocent cabbage
In this recipe, I’m using a Savoy cabbage. The leaves are have more veins, and it’s a little prettier. As always, choose a cabbage that fits inside your Instant Pot.
After you have removed the core with a small knife, remove more of the core with a melon baller.
This allows more steam to get inside the centre of the cabbage when it’s steamed. Don’t remove the outer leaves that may be blemished. They’ll come in handy later.
Steam the cabbage for about 10 to 15 minutes. Just until the outer leaves are wilted and soft.
While the cabbage is cooling, start making the filling by frying the onions, garlic and meat together in the Instant Pot with butter. Add the buckwheat and 1 3/4 cups of water or stock along with that bay leaf.
Now that the cabbage has cooled, unfurl all of the leaves. I’m proud of this cabbage pyramid that I built.
Save the largest and smallest leaves to create the base in the Instant Pot that will prevent burning. I also throw in the stems that I trim off of leaves as well. With large leaves, remove the stem to yield two half-moons of cabbage.
With smaller leaves, you can use one leaf per roll. But, trimming some of the hard stem makes it easier to roll them later.
If the inner leaves aren’t soft enough, a quick zap in the microwave can soften them up. The smallest leaves won’t be usable but save them to layer the bottom of the Instant Pot.
The rolling principles are the same as my other recipes. The buckwheat helps the meat adhere together into a ball. For myself, it’s a lot easier to make these with buckwheat than to have meat everywhere.
Fold up the bottom to cover the filling-ball.
Fold in the left and right sides of the cabbage leaf.
And, roll towards the edge. Give a gentle squeeze to get out any air.
Cooking and layering
You can layer all of the rolls in a casserole, cover them with sauce and finish in a 325°F oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. In this case, you’ll take those large outer leaves that you save and lay them on the top of the casserole after you put in the sauce.
To finish the rolls in the Instant Pot, layer the cabbage stems, scraps and smallest leaves on the bottom of the Instant Pot.
Top that with the largest leaves:
Layer in the cabbage rolls and top each layer with the diluted tomato sauce.
Cook the cabbage rolls using the Manual pressure cooker settings on the Instant Pot with Less + Low pressure for 25 minutes. Do a manual release after 10 minutes. When I’ve made them, the pressure has already dropped after 10 minutes.
- Instant Pot (any size as long as it’s smaller than your head of cabbage)
- Small knife
- Melon baller
- Instant Pot steaming rack/insert
- Instant Pot glass lid (helps you see what’s going on)
- Medium-size casserole dish (greased) with a lid or foil to cover (if you’re baking them in the oven)
How long does the traditional recipe take? There’s still your manual labour but…
- Buckwheat filling: 30 minutes on the stove now 3 minutes in the Instant Pot. Ok, it’s 30 minutes from pressurization to depressurization so there’s no time gain here. But, you’re saving an extra pot you don’t need to clean.
- Baking: 2 hours at 325°F now 45 minutes in the Instant Pot
* Instant Pot times are estimates but include pressurization, cooking and depressurization on the Instant Pot.
Serves: 24 cabbage rolls
- 1 cup buckwheat groats
- 1 Savoy cabbage head
- ½ onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 14 ounces / 400 g ground pork or lean beef
- 1¾ water or stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Tablespoons dried chives (or green herb of your choice)
- 23 fluid ounces / 680 mL canned tomato sauce diluted with ¾ cup water
- Spread out the buckwheat on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 300°F or until lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, trim the head of cabbage to remove the core.
- Steam the cabbage head core-side down in the Instant Pot using the steaming insert for about 10 minutes - until the outer leaves are wilted and soft.
- Place the cabbage somewhere to cool.
- Clean the Instant Pot and set to Saute / Normal.
- Add the 2 Tablespoons of butter and fry the onion and garlic. When softened, add the pork or beef.
- When the meat is no longer pink, add the buckwheat, 1¾ cups of water or stock and the bay leaf.
- Pressure cook on High pressure for 3 minutes. After 10 minutes, do a natural release.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add dried chives (or herbs). Stir to combine the ingredients.
- Separate out each leaf and trim larger leaves in half by removing the core. For small leaves, trim the outer stem so that it's easier to roll.
- Using 3 to 4 Tablespoons of packed filling, make each cabbage roll as shown.
- Layer cabbage scraps beneath the outer cabbage leaves to create a base inside the Instant Pot. Arrange cabbage rolls on top and layer with diluted tomato sauce.
- Pressure cook on Manual using Less and Low pressure for 25 minutes. Do a natural release after 10 minutes.