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Molokhia is one of those classic Lebanese recipes that I grew up eating and learned how to make from my mom. It’s a jews mallow stew made with shredded pieces of tender chicken cooked in a lemony broth and served over Lebanese rice.
What is molokhia?
Also known as jews mallows or jute leaves, molokhia is basically a leafy green vegetable similar to spinach or kale. It can be hard to find fresh, so I generally purchase it dried from Middle Eastern stores. After washing, you can cook it with a lemony chicken broth to make a delicious hearty stew.
How to make Lebanese Molokhia
- Start by cleaning the molokhia leaves. They often have large thick stems or yellow or dark leaves that should be discarded. Do your best to pick out what you can.
- Then rinse it well a few times while running your hands through it. Make sure to squeeze out the liquid until the water runs clear. This step also takes about 15-20 minutes minutes. But then you’re ready to cook it all together.
- Make the chicken broth by cooking together chicken breast and thighs with onions, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and water. You can skip this step if you already have cooked chicken and broth. Strain the chicken broth and set it aside.
- In the same pot, cook the cilantro and garlic with olive until it’s fragrant. You can also cook the onions at this time.
- Add the washed molokhia along with the spices and sautee until well combine.
- Add the chicken broth on top of the sauteed molokhia and cook covered. This is a good time to roast some onions in the oven which enhances the flavor of the final dish!
- When the chicken broth thickens and the molokhia softens, add roasted onions, shredded chicken and lemon juice or lemon slices.
- Allow everything to simmer together so the flavors set, and then serve.
Tips for making molokhia
- Pick any large stems off the molokhia. This is a tedious step but will result in softer leaves with more flavor.
- Take the time to wash the molokhia properly until the water runs clear. This not only removes excess dirt from the dried leaves, but also improves the common slimy texture that molokhia has.
- Fry the onions with the cilantro and garlic instead of roasting. This is another option which is very popular and allows everything to happen in one pot. However, roasting the onions is something I learned from my mom, and it adds so much extra flavor!
- Adjust the liquid to your taste. I start with 8 cups of water to boil with the chicken, which usually yields a little less. You can start with more water to yield more chicken broth or just add more water during the cooking process.
Frequently asked questions
You can use fresh, dried or frozen jute leaves for this recipe. I have only found them at Middle Eastern stores. I prefer to use the dried leaves which come in 7-8 ounce cardboard boxes.
You can skip the cleaning step and add the frozen molokhia to the sauteed cilantro and garlic. There’s no need to thaw the molokhia first; just allow it to cook in the pot and then add the chicken broth.
Washing and rinsing the molokhia helps to alleviate the slime, which is similar to the texture of cooked okra. Placing whole lemon slices in the pot also cuts through some of that slime, so I highly recommend it.
More Lebanese Stews
- Baked Kibbeh
- Lebanese Bean Stew
- Beef and Spinach Stew
- Peas and Carrots Stew
- Kafta and Potato Stew
- Okra Stew
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For the chicken
- Bring 8 cups of water to boil, add the chicken along with the bay leaves, salt and onion. Cook for 20 minutes until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Remove chicken and set aside. Sift the chicken broth and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F, place the onions on a baking sheet and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on top of the onions. Roast in the oven until browned, about 30 minutes.
- Pick through molokhia to remove any stems or debris. Soak for 15 minutes and rinse a few times. Squeeze out any liquid and set aside.
- Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in the pot used to make the chicken broth. Add the cilantro and garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute.
- Add the molokhia to the mixture along with the 7 Spice, coriander, salt and pepper, and saute until the molokhia softens and becomes fragrant, about 5 minutes. Pour the chicken broth on top of the molokhia and cook on medium heat covered for 30 minutes.
- Lower the heat to simmer, add the roasted onions, shredded chicken, lemon juice and lemon slices, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Serve warm over Lebanese rice, if desired.
- Instead of 7 Spice, you can substitute any mix of paprika, cumin, coriander, ground cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon
- To make it vegan, just leave the chicken out. You can add other vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, eggplant or zucchini.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.