Holiday,  International,  Vegan Meats

Vegan Golubtsi

Golubtsi (and its variant) is a Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish stuffed cabbage dish that is usually served during the holidays. It’s intimidating to make, but if you’re up for an international culinary challenge, it is worth it.

The vegan version doesn’t come close to the taste of real meat, but it’s guilt free, comparable, and delicious.

The recipe calls for regular cabbage, but it sold out at the store but Napa cabbage was available. I made it work.

Vegan Golubtsi

Author: ellaarkhipova


  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 3 large carrots grated
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes (or marinara/spaghetti sauce)
  • 1-2 medium head of cabbage cored
  • 1 cup water from boiled cabbage
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1/2 package Gardein Beefless Ground
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked jasmine or white rice
  • 1 salt pepper to taste


  • 1-2 vegan bouillon cubes


Boiling The Cabbage

  • Wash the cabbage and remove the two outermost layers.

  • Cut out the core (stem) inwards so that there's a hole at its base.

  • Submerge in a deep pot full of water and bring to a boil. Place in low to medium heat until the top layers separate. Don't wait until the leaves are wilted.
  • Drain cabbage in a colander, run with cold water, and then gently separate the leaves. Set aside.

Stuffing & Sauce

  • Saute onions in olive oil at medium heat until translucent. Add the carrots and saute for 3 minutes.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and the bay leaf. Mix. Add salt pepper to taste (or optional: a vegan vegetable bouillon)
  • Leave a quarter of the sauce in the pan while setting aside the main sauce in a separate bowl. Add in the Gardein Beefless Ground and mix.
  • Add the cooked rice and mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the stuffing in a large bowl and set aside.

Stuffing The Cabbage

  • Take one or two small leaves and remove the hard stem. If the cabbage leaves are small, overlap the two so that you have one big enough to roll.
  • Place 1-2 tbsp on the stuffing in the cabbage.
  • Roll the cabbage all the way through and then tuck the sides in with your fingers. Set the rolls aside. 

Stove Top vs. Instant Pot vs. Oven

  • Stove Top: Put a layer of sauce at the bottom of the pan. Place one layer of the cabbage rolls and then a layer of sauce on top (generally 1 tbsp of the sauce on each roll). Place another layer of the cabbage rolls and top with the remaining sauce. Add 1 cup of the cabbage water. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Instant Pot: Place a layer of the cabbage water in the Instant pot and then put in the wire rack. Place one layer of the rolls and then sauce and then another layer. Pour all the sauce on top. Set Instant Pot on manual and pressure cook for 5 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  • Oven: While stuffing the rolls, preheat oven to 350° F.  In a dutch oven or an oven safe baking dish, do the same as the stove top. If your dish ware can only do one layer, use another oven safe baking dish for the other layer. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350° F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cabbage leaves look soft and tender.


  • Optional: eat with vegan sour cream.
  • You can wrap the rolls like a burrito or an egg-roll, but it is more difficult.
  • While cooking this dish in the Instant Pot is speedier, the stove top and the oven method gives you more flavor.

I’ve cooked this dish using the stove top and oven method, so it was time to experiment with the Instant Pot. Although cooking it in the Instant Pot is less time and hassle, it packs less flavor because the rolls will not be covered with sauce. Stick with the traditional way of cooking this dish.

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