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Vegetarian Stuffed Grape leaves is a popular Middle Eastern recipe that’s made with short grain rice and vegetables rolled in brined grape leaves. There is a second version made stuffed with ground beef and rice. Both recipes are truly a labor of love, but the end product is a tantalizing treat for your taste buds!
Essentially the Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves is a mixture of short-grain rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper, 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.
How to make vegetarian stuffed grap leaves
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! Be sure to check out my helpful tips below.
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: Mix the stuffing
You did the hard part in step one. Now just put all the ingredients in a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and ¼ 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: Stuff and roll the 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.
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.
Tips for making stuffed grape leaves
- Remove the thick middle stem from the grape eaves. If it’s a large leaf, you can cut it half and remove the stem, or you can simply trim the top of the stem.
- Cover the with a damp paper towel which preparing the mixture. This helps to ensure that the grape leaves don’t dry out before you start rolling them.
- Don’t over stuff the leaves. Since the stuffing contains uncooked rice, it will expand once cooked. I recommend using a heaping teaspoon per leaf and spread it out into a thin line over the middle of the leaf.
- Fold lightly to allow for expansion. 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.
- Make sure to line the bottom of the pot with vegetables before adding the grape leaves. Vegetables like tomatoes or potatoes are used to buffer the grape leaves from burning at the bottom while the stuffing/filling cooks.
- Allow time to rest before serving. This resting time allows the grape leaves to settle in so they don’t unravel quickly, but is also allows them to absorb the remaining liquid in the pot for added flavor.
- Use a pressure cooker instead. In that case, no plate is 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.
Frequently asked questions
Absolutely! There are many variations of this recipe, most of which use rice with other ingredients. The more common version of this recipe is the ground beef and rice stuffed grape leaves.
I have not tried it myself because I’ve heard of poor results. Brown rice needs extra cooking time as compared to white rice. That extra cooking time can result in overcooking the grape leaves.
More Lebanese Recipes
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!
Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves
- 1 jar grape leaves about 60-70 in brine
- 2 cups short grain rice
- 1 large tomato finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 1 bunch parsley finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- 1 bunch green onions finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- ¼ green pepper finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper or to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¾ cup olive oil divided
- 1 large tomato sliced
- ¾ cup lemon juice
Prep Grape Leaves & Stuffing
- 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.
- Combine the rice, tomatoes, parsley, green onions, green peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle ¼ cup of the olive oil over the mixture. Toss well to combine.
Stuff & Wrap Grape Leaves
- 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.
- Carefully fold in the sides and roll it like you would when making a wrap. Repeat until all the stuffing has been used and place the wrapped grape leaves on a tray while wrapping. It will make about 60 rolls.
Cook the Stuffed Grape Leaves.
- Line the bottom of a large pot with tomatoes and season with salt/pepper.
- 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 remaining ½ cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- 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 water (about 5-6 cups) to completely cover the grape leaves and the plate. 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.
- Remove from heat and let rest for 30 minutes. Transfer to a dish and enjoy warm or at room temperature.
- You can use ground lamb instead of ground beef or a mixture of both.
- Avoid using brown rice. If you use brown rice, you have to increase the cooking time by 30 minutes, which may result is overcooking the grape leaves. I have not tried it but heard of poor outcomes.