We’re in the home stretch for Ramadan 2018, and I’m sure many of us who fasted this month are looking forward to the big Eid feast and celebration with lots of our favorite foods, family and friends. For us, our Eid meal always includes stuffed grape leaves. Sometimes we make the ones stuffed with ground beef and rice, and other times we make these Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves. Both are popular versions of this Mediterranean classic!
Essentially the Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves is a mixture of short-grain rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, garlic and crushed red peppers, with lots of lemon juice and lots of olive oil. There are many variations of the recipe from different countries. This version is a typical Lebanese recipe that I learned from my parents.
This seems like a hard recipe, but really it’s just a tedious recipe. Don’t be intimidated. Follow my easy steps below and you’ll learn how to make stuffed grape leaves. You’ll be rolling in no time!
Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients
To get started, you’ll need to measure out 2 cups of rice, and get chopping. Finely chop the parsley, tomatoes, green onions and green peppers. You can use a food processor here to make it easier, but it’s important to chop them finely since the stuffed grape leaves are about the size of a finger. Hence we want to make sure all the flavors are well incorporated into each bite.
The next ingredient to prepare is the grape leaves. They usually come in a large jar with brine. So, you’ll want to soak the leaves in boiling water. Then, drain out the water and stack them on a plate.
Step 2: Prepare the Mixture
You did the hard part in step one. Now just put all the ingredients in a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Give it it a good stir and you’re ready to roll. There’s no need to cook the rice in advance.
Step 3: Roll the Stuffed Grape Leaves
Here comes the tedious part. And that’s why this is not a recipe that most people make regularly. It’s a special treat, perfect for holidays and dinner parties. When I make it, I usually leave the rolling for after the kids go to bed. It’s kinda therapeutic and takes about an hour to roll 60 of them. I like to place the mixture in the middle of the leaf, and carefully fold in the sides and roll it like you would when making a wrap.
Fact: I’ve been rolling grape leaves since I was 12 years old. I loved helping my mom with this! But it only took me about 5-7 leaves to get it right. It’ll be the same for you. Special thanks to my mother-in-law for rolling this batch with me!
Before you know it, you’ll have a whole plate of stuffed grape leaves.
Step 4: Cook the Stuffed Grape Leaves
After rolling the grape leaves, I add large slices of tomatoes to the bottom of a large heavy pot. You can also use potatoes or any torn up grape leaves you find. Then add the stuffed grape leaves over them. I like to add salt and pepper on top of each layer, drizzle some olive oil, and repeat the layers.
For 2 cups of short grain rice, I will then add 5 cups of boiling water to the pot, cover it with a small plate to keep the leaves steady. Then, I cook until it’s tender, juicy and utterly tantalizing! Trust me, you will be eating them straight from the pot while they’re still piping hot!
And the result is small bundles of perfectly cooked and seasoned rice wrapped in warm and lemony grape leaves. This is where the fruits of your hard labor will pay off. And you’ll easily find yourself making these again next time you have a special occasion.
If you make this healthy-ish feelgood Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
More Lebanese Recipes
- 1 jar grape leaves about 60-70 in brine
- 2 cups short grain rice
- 1 large tomato finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 bunch parsley finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 bunch green onions finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 green pepper finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil + 1/2 cup
- 1 large tomato sliced
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- Remove the grape leaves from the jar, and soak them in a large bowl of boiling hot water for a few minutes. Drain the grape leaves in a colander and stack them on a plate.
- It is best to cover them with a damp cloth so they don't dry out, until you are ready to start rolling them.
- Combine the rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, crushed red pepper and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 1/4 cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss to combine well.
- To stuff and roll the grape leaves, lay a grape leaf flat on a cutting board, scoop out a heaping teaspoon of the rice mixture into the center of the grape leaf, and carefully fold in the sides and roll it like you would when making a wrap.
- The trick is to roll it tightly enough so that it doesn't unravel while cooking, but not too tightly since the rice needs room to expand as it cooks. Repeat until all the stuffing has been used.
- Place all the wrapped grape leaves in a tray.
- Line the bottom of a large pot with tomatoes and/or potatoes and season with salt/pepper. The vegetables at the bottom are used to buffer the grape leaves from burning at the bottom while the stuffing/filling cooks.
- Neatly arrange the stuffed and rolled grape leaves in rows, alternating directions, to completely cover the circumference of the pot. Make sure to tightly pack them in the pot to prevent them from floating up and unwrapping during cooking.
- Drizzle each layer with some of the 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- When you've filled the pot with all the grape leaves, place a plate upside down on top of the grape leaves in the pot. Next use something to weigh it down (a second plate works well or a bowl full of water). This will hold down the grape leaves in place, and prevent floating while they are cooking).
- Add enough boiling water to completely cover the grape leaves and the plate. I use 5 cups of water for 2 cups of rice. Then cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
- Add the lemon juice on top of the grape leaves, then cook on low heat for an additional 45 minutes. Cooking time may vary depending on the type of pot used and the stovetop heating. You can remove a grape leaf and check if the rice is cook and the leaf is soft.
- Remove from heat and let cool uncovered. Transfer to a dish and enjoy warm or at room temperature.
Cooking Tips: Here are a few tips that may help you while prepared this stuffed grape leaves recipe.
- You can cook this using a pressure cooker. In that case, no plates are needed to hold down the grape leaves. Just pack the stuffed grape leaves in the pressure cooker, add the water, close and cook for 15 to 20 minutes at the first pressure mark.
- If you have very large leaves, you can cut the stem and use half the leave per roll. This will also make sure there aren’t any rough stems in the rolled grape leaves.
Make Ahead Tip: You can wash the grape leaves from the brine in advance. You can also make the stuffing, roll the grape leaves and freeze the uncooked grape leaves in a single layer. Then when they're frozen, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge and then cook as usual.
Storage: Store any leftover grape leaves in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Leftovers: Leftover stuffing can be cooked alone or used to make stuffed vegetables like, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant.
Sourcing: You can find jars of grape leaves at Middle Eastern markets, natural-foods stores or even in large supermarkets, often located with other Middle Eastern ingredients. You can also buy on amazon.com. These are my favorite brands: Orlando or Cortas.