Ideal for entertaining or simply snacking on at home, a tasty surprise awaits you inside these authentic Stuffed Grape Leaves.
A humble leaf stuffed with a tantalizing filling; these bite-sized appetizers are loved all over the world.
Using just a few ingredients and a little bit of know-how, you can recreate these flavor-packed restaurant favorites at home for just a fraction of the cost.
The edible leaves of the grape vine plant are used in this dish to envelop a fragrant rice filling. These leaves are a common feature in various cuisines across the world, primarily in the Mediterranean, Balkans and the Middle East.
Grape leaves have a mild tangy taste not dissimilar to collard greens, and when cooked act as a sponge, soaking up all the delicious flavor from the herby rice filling.
In the US, grape leaves can be purchased in a jar and preserved with brine. This means that all you have to do is rinse and drain your leaves and they are ready to stuff!
You should be able to find jarred grape leaves in the international section of your local store, but if not, you can also purchase the Jar Grape Leaves from Amazon (affiliate link).
Fresh leaves are also available but not as easy to find. If you can get your hands on them, make sure to wash them well and blanch them in water first, allowing them to fully drain and cool before use.
There are many variations of Stuffed Grape Leaves (also known as “dolmas or dolmades”) depending on the type of cuisine. However, generally speaking, you often will find a mix of rice, onion and fresh herbs with or without meat.
This Stuffed Grape Leaves recipe omits the meat, making it an excellent vegan appetizer option.
The rice filling in this dish is cooked together with onion, mint, chili pepper flakes and pine nuts (which is also optional).
Mint may seem like an unusual choice of herb, but it brings a beautiful freshness to the dish and enhances the flavor of the rice filling.
Pine nuts are an optional ingredient, but I’d highly recommend adding them for a bit of added texture and a pleasant nutty taste that brings a little more complexity to the rice mixture.
The key to successfully stuffing your grape leaves is to not overfill them. Remember that rice expands while cooking, so packing them too tightly will cause your leaves to burst.
Similarly, you want them to be wrapped tight enough to contain the filling, but not so tight that the rice doesn’t have room to expand. This would result in an undercooked filling.
If you would prefer to cook your rice first as it done in this recipe, see the full step-by-step guide below.
Ingredients & How To Prepare
The full list of ingredients and exact measurements are listed in the recipe card. For now, listed below are the ingredients you’ll need, a quick video and step-by-step guide to help you make this dish perfectly each time.
Rice – Best to pre-cook the rice before adding it as a filling.
Red Pepper Flakes – This will provide a hint of heat.
Water & Olive Oil – Is needed to cook the rice and the grape leaves.
Grape Leaves (fresh or jar) – This is easily available in the international market or, you may find it online (as stated above).
Salt And Pepper, Onions, & Lemon – Is used to season the rice and grave leaves.
How to make stuffed grape leaves?
Watch the video to help you make these stuffed grape leaves with ease.
To begin, wash the rice and set aside. In a saucepan add the olive oil. Then add the diced onions and cook for about 30 seconds. Next, add in the rice.
Then add in the fresh chopped mint, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt (we used Kosher salt). Stir to combine then add the water. If you don’t want to use water, you may also use vegetable stock for extra flavor.
Remove the rice from the pan and transfer on a plate. Set aside to cool.
Working with one leaf at a time, add the dessert spoon size of the rice almost to the edge of the leaf. This will allow you to tightly roll the leaf and rice like a wrap.
To roll: Start with one side by folding it over the rice, then repeat with the next side. Then from the edge closes to you, roll upwards tightly and keeping the sides snug tight.
Roll to the top of the leave and place down in a casserole.
Repeat and Continue with this process until you have used all the rice.
Add the lemon slices and water. Cook on medium low heat for an additional 15 minutes or until the water has almost evaporated.
Serve as a side, appetizer, or as a main dish and enjoy.
Stuffed Grape Leaves are traditionally served at room temperature or cooler as part of an appetizer platter.
Lightly toasted pita breads, tzatziki and olives are all great options to serve alongside your Stuffed Grape Leaves.
To make a delicious and healthy main course, you could also serve them warm alongside a large Greek salad or tabbouleh.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Coming from the Turkish verb “Dolmak” which means “to be filled,” is used when referring to all stuffed foods including grape leaves.
Grape leaves can be stuffed with almost any vegetables, meat, or fish. The choice is entirely up to you. However, in this recipe, we stuffed our grape leaves a rice mixture and bold spices.
Yes, you can stuff your grape leaves with meat. It is great with ground beef or lamb.
Yes. Simply do not add meat but add dices vegetables of your choice. Or with rice as done in this recipe.
Grape leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. Grape leaves are rich in vitamins C, E, A, K and B6, plus niacin, iron, fiber, riboflavin, folate, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.
Cooking Tips & Tricks
While making this dish, we discovered some tips and tricks to make this dish stress free.
- Although other recipes ask that you use uncooked rice, we find that precooking or par boiling the rice first helps to ensure that your dish is properly cooked all the way round. However, if you are using “uncooked rice or soaked rice, here’s what you need to do: Be sure to soak the rice first (after washing to remove the starch); recommend for at least 30 to 45 minutes. Once you are done, take one grain and break the rice with your finger to make sure it is soft. This will help when it’s time to stuff and cook the grape leaves with the rice mixture.
- Use a measuring spoon, about 1 tablespoonful to add the filling to the grape leaves. Do not over stuff the grape leaves as you risk it falling apart when doing the final cooking.
- If you are using meat, it is best to cook the meat while the rice soaks. That way, the meat is ready when you are ready to add the other ingredients in to mix with the rice when you are ready to stuff the grape leaves.
- After you have combined the rice (and meat) with the other ingredients, it is time to roll! Be sure to roll the leaves tightly. Start with one side first, then the next side of the leaf, then roll upwards to finish the “wrapping” or rolling processing.
- When you add the grape leaves in the casserole, be sure to keep them close to each other. This will ensure that they stay intact, and the do not overfill the casserole or pot with too much water as this can cause the grape leaves to hem to move freely while cooking.
- Be sure to cover the grape leaves while they are cooking. Your grape leaves are complete when you see that the water has evaporated when cooked on medium or medium low heat.
Haitian Dishes – Serving Suggestions
We recommend serving your healthy stuffed grape leaves with one of the following Haitian recipes listed below to make it a complete meal.
For dessert, consider trying this Haitian Cake.
More Mediterranean Dishes To Enjoy
If you loved these vegetarian grape leaves recipe, try one of these dishes next:
Also, we would appreciate if could give it a star rating below!
How To Make Stuffed Grape Leaves
- Jar Grape Leave
- Small Pan
- 1 Jar Grape Leaves About 1 Lb.
- ⅓ Cup Diced Onions
- 1 ½ Cup Rice We used Jasmine Rice
- ⅓ Cup Pine Nuts Optional
- ½ Tsp. Black Pepper Fresh ground
- 2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Mint
- 1 ½ Tsp. Kosher Salt Or to taste
- 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 2 ½ Cup Water Divided: 1 ½ To cook the rice (Or vegetable stock for extra flavor). 1 Cup to cook the leaves
- 1 Lemon Sliced
- To begin, wash the rice until the water runs clear, drain and set aside. In a saucepan add the olive oil. Then add the diced onions and cook for about 30 seconds. Next, add in the rice.Then add in the fresh chopped mint, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt (we used Kosher salt), and the pine nuts if using. Stir to combine then add the water. If you don’t want to use water, you may also use vegetable stock for extra flavor.Cover and cook on medium heat until soft. Fluff when done cooking.
- Remove the rice from the pan and transfer on a plate. Set aside to cool.Working with one leaf at a time, add the dessert spoon size of the rice almost to the edge of the leaf. This will allow you to tightly roll the leaf and rice like a wrap.To roll: Start with one side by folding it over the rice, then repeat with the next side. Then from the edge closes to you, roll upwards tightly and keeping the sides snug tight.Roll to the top of the leave and place down in a casserole.Repeat and Continue with this process until you have used all the rice.
- Add the lemon slices and water. Cook on medium low heat for an additional 15 minutes or until the water has almost evaporated.Serve as a side, appetizer, or as a main dish and enjoy.