Very popular in several Mediterranean countries as well as a family favorite, these Lebanese stuffed grape leaves are filled with meat, rice and lemon juice.
If I could design the perfect neighborhood restaurant, it would feature the menu above written by my Aunt Paula. After receiving a late-Summer batch of kousa from her younger sister (my mom), Aunt Paula decided to make an entire feast of our favorite Syrian dishes.
It started with stuffed kousa, then she decided to make grape leaves. And while she’s at it, how about some cabbage leaves?
Baked kibbee might be nice as well. What about stuffed eggplant while we’re at it? Of course, you can’t have dinner without Syrian rice and salad. Who will bring dessert? Last weekend family and friends poured into Aunt Paula and Uncle Randy’s home for an evening full of food laughs and full stomachs.
Long story short – it was one of the most delicious evenings of my life. Aunt Paula is my Syrian cooking muse and I will always remember these amazing culinary adventures that explore our heritage. In the coming weeks, I plan to feature several of Aunt Paula’s recipes. Of course, these are all my interpretations of her recipes because real cooks do not measure or weigh or write down recipes. We use a pinch of that, a pinch of this.
What are the steps to making good grape leaves?
- Sourcing good grape leaves. You can technically use the ones that grow in the wild but we prefer jarred ones. There are a few brands out there that bottle them. One brand is Orlando and the other is Ziyad. These are usually my go-to brands.
- Trimming the stems. Nobody wants to eat the stem when eating grape leaves. My husband considers this the more not-so-fun task but it’s a necessary one.
- Not overstuffing them. When the rice cooks it will expand. If you overstuff the leaves you run the risk of the grape leaves breaking.
How do you trim the stems on grape leaves?
All this involves is getting a pair of kitchen scissors and cutting back on the long stem at the end of the grape leaves. He usually does it in batches. Note that you don’t want to cut off the entire stem– just most of it. See below.
Once all of the leaves are trimmed we can start filling them with meat. I’ll take a small amount of of the mixture and apply it to the center
As you’re rolling grape leaves you’ll want to add them to a pot. I will usually Crisscross them on each row.
Oddly enough, when I prepare these dishes they never taste as good as Aunt Paula’s and I’m rarely that hungry by the time dinner is ready. I’m hoping that means it came out perfectly.
Frequently asked questions:
What are stuffed grape leaves named in Arabic?
What meat should be used in grape leaves?
Ground sirloin or lamb are the best meats to use in grape leaves.
How long will grape leaves keep in the refrigerator?
Up to 3-4 days
Do you eat grape leaves hot or cold?
Once you’ve cooked them they can be served either way. They taste amazing either way!
Where do you buy grape leaves?
They can usually be located in a Mediterranean grocery store or select big-box grocery stores in their ethnic section. Orlando grape leaves are usually our favorite.
Can grape leaves be frozen?
They can be frozen up to a few months. They will still taste great!
Can I avoid the meat in grape leaves?
Yes! There is a multitude of variations. You could simply exclude the meat and add in other ingredients such as ground garbanzo beans to provide you the additional protein.
What pairs well with grape leaves?
- Greek Tzatziki Sauce with Garlic and Dill
- Greek Brown Rice Salad
- Grilled Chicken Souvlaki
- Greek Lamb Chops with Tzatziki Sauce
Lebanese Meat Stuffed Grape Leaves
- 1 jar grape leaves (2 pound jar )
- 1 pound ground sirloin (or lamb)
- ½ cup long grain enriched white rice (par-boiled such as Uncle Ben’s)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 lemons (juiced )
- 2 stalks celery (cut into 3 – optional)
- 5 leaves raw cabbage (optional)
- Line a large pot with celery ribs and loose cabbage leaves.
- Remove the hard stems from grape leaves and place on a plate.
- In a large bowl, combine ground meat, rice, the juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper.
- One grape leaf at a time, place the leaf flat on a plate and add 1 tablespoon of meat and rice mixture near stem.
- Form meat into long cigar shape then roll the grape leave starting at the stem all the way to the top. No need to fold in sides but you can if you wish.
- Line rolls in pot, alternating direction with each layer until the pot is filled ¾ of the way or you’ve used all your leaves.
- Cover grapes leaves with a small plate turned upside down to keep them from moving and to weigh it down.
- Add the juice of the second lemon and then cover with water until grape leaves are covered.
- Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil on high. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes before serving with plain yogurt or cucumber laban if you wish.
Check out more Lebanese recipes on my Pinterest board!