Instant Pot Lentil Pilaf Whole Stuffed Cabbage! When comfort food and low-fat food come together in show-stopper fashion, it looks like this hunk-of-goodness!
Comfy and healthy, this oil free Instant Pot Lentil Pilaf Whole Stuffed Cabbage is brimming with deliciously seasoned rice and lentils, then cooked to perfection in an herby tomato broth. It makes for a beautiful dinner presentation that is full of wholesome goodness.
Whole Food Plant Based, Vegan, plant based, oil free, refined sugar free, no highly processed ingredients and gluten free.
Hi there, Ameera here!
This has got to be one of my favorite low-fat dishes that feels more indulgent than it is. It’s wholesome comfort food. We absolutely loved it.
You gotta give this one a try!
Tips for Success:
- Flavor Profile: The flavor profile is that of lightly-flavored stuffed cabbage rolls, but in a large whole cabbage.
- Low-Fat Dish Expectations: This dish was designed to be low in fat. Because it is low in fat, you are not going to experience that endorphin rush associated with eating high-fat foods when eating this dish. It is very tasty for what it is, and that is a low-fat dish. We just want to make sure that our Readers recognize this when contemplating making this recipe.
- Cooked and Refrigerated Rice: Cooked and refrigerated rice works best when making this dish. If you use recently cooked rice, it will be too gummy and sticky. Using cooked and refrigerated rice (preferably made the day before or earlier in the day) allows the rice to dry out enough to showcase distinct individual grains of rice making a better textured dish.
- Onion and Garlic: Please note the finely chopped onion and minced garlic are not sauteed. They are chopped and go straight into the sauce mixture. The Instant Pot cooks them to tender perfection.
- Flavors to Marry: Make sure you allow at least 8 minutes for the flavors to marry and the stuffing to set. The flavors continue to develop once it slightly cools.
- Rice Pilaf Stuffing: This is a rice pilaf so while the stuffing will cut into wedges, it does spill over onto the plate when served. It will not stay in a perfectly formed wedge. Reference the photos.
- Green Cabbage: Select a large firm, dense green cabbage, preferably 3 lbs. and up. Make sure it fits into your Instant Pot before starting to make this dish.
- Cut off the Top or Cut off the Bottom of the Cabbage?: If you looking for the best presentation, cut the top off of the cabbage and then hollow it out. If you are looking for the most tender cabbage, then cut the bottom off the cabbage, core it, and hollow out. For pictures, we cut off the top and hollowed out the cabbage. Reference photos.
- NOTE: If you elect to cut off the top, then when you remove the cabbage from the IP, allow it to settle on a serving plater for a minute or two. When slicing the cabbage into wedges, keep in mind that you kept the bottom of the core intact so you will need a really sharp knife to cut through the core at the bottom. If you have dinner guests, you may wish to let them know that the core is present, and its purpose was to simply keep the cabbage wedge intact and not necessarily to be eaten.
- Our Choice: We preferred removing the bottom (core/stem) of the cabbage. Coring and hollowing out to obtain a perfectly tender cabbage.
- Tenderness of the Cabbage: The key to getting a really tender cabbage is to hollow out the cabbage only leaving approximately 1-inch (1 ½ inch) perimeter of cabbage. Additionally arriving at desired level of tenderness depends largely on several things:
- Cabbages: As you know cabbages vary greatly. Some cabbages are very dense while others appear less dense. You want a very sturdy dense cabbage for this recipe, one that can hold up while coring the cabbage. If you want a tender cabbage that cuts like butter, then place in the IP for 20 minutes and do a Quick Release after setting for 20 minutes. If you want a tender crisp cabbage, then you may want to adjust the timings accordingly.
- IMPORTANT – Instant Pot Timing: We tested this recipe multiple times and found that 20 minutes in an 8-quart IP and a 15 to 20 minute natural release creates a very tender (cuts like butter) cabbage. Please feel free to adjust the timings accordingly (less time).
- Instant Pot: We used an 8-quart Instant Pot. If you use a 6-quart Instant Pot, you may need to reduce the time in the Instant Pot accordingly.
- Hollowed out Cabbage: The cabbage pieces that are being hollowed out, should be chopped into semi-small pieces and placed in the bottom of the IP to stabilize the cabbage. It will then mix with the sauce as it cooks. Note: Discard any hard stem/core pieces.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda is often used as a neutralizer for dishes that contain a lot of acidity, typically from tomatoes. We use it in this dish to remove some of the tomato acidity (from the petite diced tomatoes) without losing the tomatoey flavor. However, if you prefer that ‘tinny’ flavor that comes from canned tomatoes, then leave out the baking soda or perhaps use a tiny pinch.
- Broth: There is plenty of broth with this recipe. The broth should be very generously spooned over the cabbage wedges when served. Please note the broth is thin with chunky bits of tomatoes, onions, and garlic.
- Hot Sauce: The use of hot sauce does not make the dish hot or spicy in any way. It just adds some depth of flavor. If unsure, use less.
- Chili Powder: The use of chili powder does not make the dish hot or spicy in any way. It just adds some depth of flavor. Make sure you use a regular chili powder and not a hot one.
- Leftover Pilaf: Really pack the rice pilaf into the hollowed-out cabbage. If you have any left-over (we had about a Tablespoon in one kitchen test), pile it on top of the cabbage or allow it to fall into the sauce mixture. If you have a lot of leftover rice pilaf mixture (more than a couple Tablespoons), then perhaps the cabbage selected was either too small or not hollowed out enough. If more than a couple tablespoons do not allow it to fall into the sauce mixture. Leave it out as it will absorb all that lovely sauce.
- Stove Top Method: We kitchen tested on the stove top and it took way too long to get the cabbage perfectly tender.
- Sea Salt: Our family was completed divided over the amount of sea salt used in this recipe. Please feel free to adjust to suit your own personal preferences.
- Long List of Ingredients: Don’t let a long list of ingredient deter you from making this delicious meal. Most of the ingredients list is herb and spices.
- Holiday Dinner Table or Dinner Guest: We strongly suggest test-driving this recipe to ensure your IP timings are perfect.
Leftovers and Freezing:
Leftovers will generally keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. Store in a tightly-covered container.
This dish freezes well.
Pantry Products Used in this Recipe:
- Vegetable Stock: We use Pacific Organic Low Sodium Vegetable Stock. We love this brand because it is Whole Food Plant Based compliant, as it does not contain MSG, has no oil, and does not contain any highly-processed ingredients.
- Hot Sauce: We used Frank’s RedHot Original Hot Sauce.
- Lentils: We used Delallo Imported Italian Lentils. They come in a 14 oz. can. Most grocery stores carry them in the specialty aisles. If using dry lentils, select brown or green lentils that hold their shape after cooking. Cook dry lentils separately, adjust time accordingly. If cooking dry lentils, use 1 2/3 cups of cooked lentils.
- Dry Lentils Option: If you decide to use dry lentils, cook them until tender, but not mushy, and allow to come to room temperature. We strongly suggest Palouse Brand Small Brown Lentils. They are delicious. They hold their shape well and have a slightly nutty taste to them. However, please feel free to use your favorite brown or green lentils. Again, we used canned Delallo Imported Italian Lentils as indicated above.
- Tamari: We used San J Tamari Soy Sauce, Gluten Free, Reduced Sodium. You can substitute the tamari with reduced sodium soy sauce, Braggs Liquid Aminos, or Braggs Coconut Liquid Aminos.
- Regular Chili Powder: Feel free to use your favorite chili powder, just be sure to select a mild one and not one that has a lot of heat to it.
- Sea Salt: Please adjust the sea salt based upon your family’s sea salt preferences and/or based upon dietary needs.
Kitchen Products Used:
- Instant Pot
If you try this hearty dish, we would love to know if you enjoy it as much as we do! Please leave us a review! Post a picture on Facebook or Instagram and tag us! We would love to hear from you.Print
Instant Pot Lentil Pilaf Whole Stuffed Cabbage
- Prep Time: 35 Minutes
- Cook Time: 20 Minutes (IP)
- Total Time: 55 Minutes (+Rest Time)
- Yield: 5-6 Servings 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Instant Pot
- Diet: Vegan
Comfy and healthy, this oil free Instant Pot Lentil Pilaf Whole Stuffed Cabbage is brimming with deliciously seasoned rice and lentils, then cooked to perfection in an herby tomato sauce.
- 1 large green cabbage, cored and hollowed *
- 1 medium yellow onion, fine dice
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 – [ 14 oz. can ] petite diced tomatoes
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth *
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari *
- 1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (+/-) *
- ½ teaspoon pure maple syrup
- 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
Base Spice/Herb Ingredients:
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 Tablespoons dried minced onions
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon regular chili powder *
- ½ to 1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt (+/-) *
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (+/-)
- 1 – [ 14 oz. can ] lentils, drained and rinsed *
- 2 cups cooked and refrigerated rice *
- 1 Tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari *
- 2 Tablespoons sauce mixture (from above) *
Stuffing Spice/Herb Ingredients:
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon dried minced onions
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (+/-) *
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper (+/-)
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Chopped fresh parsley
Instant Pot Instructions
- Place all the Base Ingredients (except the cabbage) and Base Spice/Herb Ingredients into a large bowl, stir well to combine. Set aside.
- Next place all the Base Stuffing Ingredients, Stuffing Spice/Herb Ingredients and 2 Tablespoons of the juice from Step 1 above into a separate bowl, mix well. Set aside.
- Place the cabbage firmly on its side on the counter to stabilize it with the core facing down to the side. Carefully cut approximately 1 to 1 ½ inches off the cabbage off the top or the bottom (see notes) of the cabbage.
- Next hollow out the center of the cabbage, leaving a 1-inch shell. Reference photos.
- Take all the excess cabbage and removed-hollowed-out cabbage pieces and dice into small pieces and place in the bottom of the Instant Pot. These pieces will add flavor as well as stabilize the cabbage in an upright position while cooking.
- Stuff the hollowed-out cabbage with the lentil/rice mixture from Step 2 above, pack it in, then place the stuffed cabbage into the Instant Pot with the stuffing-filled cabbage sitting up.Settle it and give a little twist in the chopped cabbage pieces to keep it from falling over.
- Gently pour the Sauce Mixture from Step 2 over top of the stuffed cabbage.
- Set the Instant Pot to Manual Pressure High for 20 minutes (see blog post on tenderness). When finished, press Cancel and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes*, then do a Quick Release.
- Once all the pressure is released, carefully remove the lid, and allow to sit for 8 minutes for the pilaf stuffing to set up.
- Carefully remove the cabbage from the Instant Pot using two large-slotted spoons, set on a plate, stuffing side up. Cut into wedges with a sharp knife and serve with a generous amount of sauce over top.
*Please reference the blog post for Tips for Success, Pantry Items Used, Storage and Freezing, and Kitchen Products Used.
*Sea Salt: Please adjust the sea salt based upon your family’s sea salt preferences and/or based upon dietary needs.
*Servings: 5 to 6 Servings
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Have you used wild rice for this recipe?
Hi there Lyn,
Thank you so much. We have not, but you can easily substitute wild rice in this recipe.
-Ameera and Robin
There seems to be some confusion in the first instruction – “remaining base ingredients?” Which are those?
Hi there Susan,
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We needed to remove the word “remaining” which we did.
-Ameera and Robin
Since I don’t have an instant pot, but have a crock pot… what is your guess for cooking time in the crock pot. Thanks in advance!
Hi there Kerry,
Thank you for your question. As you know, we have not tested this recipe in a slow cooker, however, our best guess would be 6 to 8 hours, checking every 2 hours (after 6 hours) for “supposed” tenderness. If you give it a try, we would love to know how it turned out.
-Ameera and Robin
If anyone tries this in a slow cooker please post the results< I do not have an IP
Hi there Louise,
Thank you for your question. Kerry (above) had the same question. See our response.
-Ameera and Robin
Do you think quinoa would work as a gluten free alternative?
Hi there Teri,
Thank you for your question. The recipe is already gluten free. If you are looking for gluten free alternative to rice, then you could potentially use cooked quinoa. Our guess is that the filling would be very soggy. We have not tested it ourselves so we honestly are not sure. If you give the cooked quinoa a try, please let us know. Thank you.
-Ameera and Robin
I’m sorry, For some reason I thought it required barley which as you know is not gluten free. Not sure where I got that! Perhaps a senior moment!🤣
Being a new subscriber and cabbage lover, I fell in love with your site as soon as I saw the picture of the InstantPot stuffed cabbage. The flavor was wonderful!!! But, I need some further training in cabbage hollowing and/or IP settings. My cabbage disintegrated!. Didn’t look as pretty as your picture. I’ll try again.
Hi there Joe,
We are happy that you enjoyed this recipe; however, we are sorry that your cabbage disintegrated. We go into lengths on the cabbages and timing as there are many influences on this one, which we try to explain.
Let us know as all of these items influence the timing.
Thank you so much.
-Ameera and Robin