Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

4.98 from 308 votes

These Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves are a Mediterranean classic recipe made with short grain rice, parsley, tomatoes and onions - my favorite appetizer!

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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!

top down shot of stuffed grape leave on a plate
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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.

RECIPE VIDEO TUTORIAL

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.

Ingredients for Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves - parsley, tomatoes and green onions on a long white plate. Additionally, there is a cup of short grain rice, green peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper.

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.

The making of Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves - the grape leaves washed from the brine sitting in a large bowl

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.

Ingredients for Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves - Large bowl mixture of rice, parsley, tomatoes, green onions, green peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper.

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.

Rolling Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves - two open leaves with a line of the rice mixture laid in the middle of each. Squeezed lemons on the side.

Before you know it, you’ll have a whole plate of stuffed grape leaves.

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves rolled up on a plate

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.

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves rolled up and stacked in a deep pot with seasoning on top and two slices of lemons - ready to be cooked.

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!

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves rolled up and stacked in a deep pot with seasoning on top and two slices of lemons - after finished cooking

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.

These Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves on a plate

Tips for making stuffed grape leaves

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
These Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves with sliced tomatoes

Frequently asked questions

Can I use a different stuffing?

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.

Can I make this with brown rice?

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!

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Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

These Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves are a Mediterranean classic recipe made with short grain rice, parsley, tomatoes and onions – my favorite appetizer!
5 from 308 votes
Servings 8 servings
Course Appetizer
Calories 369
Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 30 minutes
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Video

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions

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.

Notes

Storage: Store any leftover grape leaves in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Any leftover stuffing can be cooked alone or used to make stuffed vegetables like, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant.
Equipment: If you have a pressure cooker, the grape leaves can be made with that. Just pack the rolled grape leaves in the pressure cooker, add the water, close and cook for 15 to 20 minutes at the first pressure mark.
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.
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.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are frequently asked substitution questions
  • 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.
Make Ahead Tips: You can make the hashweh stuffing up to 2 days in advance. You 
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.

Nutrition

Calories: 369kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 14mg, Potassium: 94mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 347IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 8mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Course: Appetizer

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Comments

  1. Patricia says:

    Hi, I’m looking forward to making these, as I’ve made some of your other recipes & they all turned out great! I’m confused on one part though, in your tutorial you merely rinse the grape leaves, but in your recipe you suggest boiling them, then rinsing. Please advise which is better. Also, how long are you supposed to boil them? Thank you, love your recipes!
    Patricia

    1. Yumna says:

      Hi there, so you sort of do both. You soak the leaves in boiling water, then drain them. Hope that clears things up!

      1. Patricia says:

        Yes it does…partially. How long do you “soak” the leaves in boiling water? I’m assuming this is a rolling boil? Specificity is appreciated, as this will be my first attempt at making them.

        Thank you Yumna! 🙂

  2. Amira says:

    Could you please let me know how much salt you would recommend? I know it says to taste in the recipe, but I’ll be fasting and don’t want to under/over salt it. Thanks in advance!

  3. Rose says:

    Question, do I put the lid back on after the lemon juice is added or cook it with the lid off?

    1. Yumna says:

      I recommend putting the lid back on!

  4. Jules Catbird says:

    Hi, nice recipe page, I have used brown rice, many times and I just cook it for half the amount of time before hand. So I am par cooking it.
    Also, it’s great in the instant pot

  5. Joanne says:

    Hello
    Thank you for the recipe it sounds delicious but I have a question can it be frozen before cooking . I’ve made the meat version and have frozen them with good results but because of all the vegetable I’m concerned about them becoming mushy. And can I use can chick peas? My grand some loved the meat version but has now become a vegetarian.
    By the way my great grandparents came
    From Lebanon maybe we’re cousins 😉

    1. Yumna J. says:

      I’ve actually never frozen them before, but if you’ve had luck freezing the meat version, I think this one will work, too, because the vegetables inside the stuffing are really minimal. I’ve also never made it with chickpeas, but I think it would work well. I would recommend processing them in a food processor, though so they are minced and easier to roll. Hope that helps!

      1. Mauree says:

        I make mine with TVP instead of meat same texture and flavor. I don’t think chicken peas would work but maybe lentils.

  6. Anne Marie says:

    Hi there! I’m about to try your vegetarian grape leaves. I was wondering whether I could add the 7 spice to the ingredients or would it ruin the taste? Thank you! 🙂

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Oh yes, you can definitely add 7 spice in there! It would taste great!

      1. Karin hoffman says:

        Hi there your food illustrations are beautiful I’m Lebanese too,I love our food so healthy n tasty.

        1. Yumna says:

          Hi there, so glad you enjoy the recipes!

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