Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Jacqueline Rafidi
These are the BEST vegetarian stuffed grape leaves. And when I make them, I can’t get enough. They’re like popcorn I can’t stop eating them.
Making the best vegetarian stuffed grape leaves
Grape leaves: Start by boiling your grape leaves. My parents have a large grape vine in their backyard and I luckily use those often. We even freeze them so we can use them even after the season is over! If you’re using the jarred variety, I prefer the alafia brand. I find that the leaves are thinner and 90% of the stems are cut off the leaves for you! It makes prepping this meal so much more efficient.
Boil the fresh leaves for about 10 minutes. If you’re using the jar, rinse and drain them well, the boil for 15-20 minutes until the leaves become more tender.
The filling: I’ve really been liking to use basmati rice for this in the last couple years. But jasmine rice is the next best alternative. Rinse and drain it thoroughly then work on your veggies.
I like to use a blend of parlsey, cilantro, yellow and green onions and garlic. Blend that up to start, then toss in some red and green bell peppers and tomatoes. This becomes like a delicious salsa that you’ll then add to your rinsed and drained rice along with your spices, lemon zest and juice and olive oil.
While you’re filling the grape leaves, you’ll notice extra liquid in the bowl. At that point, I add the rice mixture to a metal sieve and let the excess liquid drain out. Keep that liquid, it’ll add lots of flavor to the entire pot as part of the broth.
Rolling the grape leaves: Start with one grape leaf in front of you, vine side up and smooth side down. Place 1-2 teaspoons of filling towards the bottom of the leaf near the stem leaving about 1/2 an inch at the bottom. Fold it up, then bring the sides in similar to a burrito. Roll them gently and a bit tightly towards the tip of the leaf. Continue this till you’re out of grape leaves.
The pot: Line the bottom of a large pot with a touch of olive oil, then some sliced tomatoes, then peeled and sliced potatoes on top. Line up the rolled grape leaves on top in a tight formation to keep them from moving while they’re cooking.
The broth: To make the broth, combine tomato sauce (not marinara), water, salt and olive oil plus the excess filling liquid.
Place a heat proof plate upside down over the grape leaves to keep them in place, then pour the broth right over. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for 1 1/2 hours and you have the BEST vegetarian stuffed grape leaves ever! I love serving these with a drizzle of pomegranate molasses for a nice tart flavor and a subtle sweetness.
Its hard for me to resist these. When I say they’re the best vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, I mean it! While I’m putting away leftovers, in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, I just keep going back for more! I hope you give these a try! You’re going to LOVE them!
More traditional Arab dishes to love!
If you’d like to try grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat, find the recipe here:
Mahshi & warak
When you make the best vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, comment down below and rate this recipe to let me know your thoughts! Also share a picture or tag me on Instagram @thebitewithjackie, I love seeing your remakes!
The BEST vegetarian grape leaves
For the grape leaves
- 1 jar of grape leaves drained and rinsed – I like the Alafia brand best or about 2 lbs of fresh grape leaves
- 2 ½ cups jasmine or basmati rice rinsed thoroughly
- 1 bunch parsley only bottoms of the stems removed
- ½ bunch cilantro only bottoms of the stems removed
- 6-8 cloves garlic peeled
- 3 green onions cut in ½ or 1/3
- 1 medium yellow onion peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 red bell pepper veins and seeds removed and cut into large pieces
- 1 green bell pepper veins and seeds removed and cut into large pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 3 tomatoes cut into quarters
- 2 ½ Tablespoons allspice
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- Zest from 1 lemon and juice from ½ lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup olive oil
For the pot:
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tomatoes sliced
- 3 potatoes peeled and sliced
For the broth:
- 3 cups water
- 6-8 Tablespoons tomato sauce
- Salt to taste
- Excess liquid from the filling
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add your rinsed and drained grape leaves to the pot, gently separate them with a wooden spoon and let these boil for 10-15 minutes. If the grape leaves are jarred, the longer they boil – the better. I usually do this for about 20 minutes or in the time it takes me to make the filling. Carefully remove the boiled leaves to a large tray and set aside till you are ready to roll them up.
- Add your rinsed rice to a large bowl. Then, in a food processor, add the parsley, cilantro, yellow and green onions and garlic. Pulse this until finely chopped. Add in the bell peppers and tomatoes and pulse again until everything is finely chopped. You can also add a yellow or orange bell pepper here if you’d like. Add the chopped veggies directly to the rice and mix everything together well. If you find any pieces or stems larger than a normal diced size, chop it down farther. This could puncture the grape leaves making them more difficult to roll up.
- Add the allspice, nutmeg, lemon zest, salt and pepper and mix everything well. Then, finally add the lemon juice and olive oil. Mix everything very well to make sure each piece of rice is coated.
- To a large pot with a fitting lid that you plan to cook all the grape leaves in, add 2 teaspoons of oil to the bottom and spread it out. Add your sliced tomatoes, the top with the sliced potatoes.
- Start the rolling process. Place one grape leaf in front of you vein side up/smooth side down on a plate or cutting board. If there is a stem left, remove it completely. If there are some holes in the grape leaf, fold it under slightly so that a non-ripped part is covering it. Depending on the size of the leaf, place about 1-2 teaspoons of the rice filling in a line just above the bottom of the leaf where the stem was, leaving about ½ inch of space from the bottom. Then fold like a burrito – fold the grape leaf from the bottom up to cover the line of rice. Then, fold the right side towards the left and the left over towards the right. Tightly and gently roll it up to the tip of the leaf. Be careful doing this making sure the leaf doesn’t rip and that you leave room for the rice to expand. Continue this process 1000x till you’re done haha.
- Once the filling is 1/3 to ½ gone, I place it all in a metal sieve on top of the bowl to catch the extra liquid. This liquid will go into the pot and add flavor to the broth used to cook the grape leaves. As you finish rolling the leaves, line the pot above the tomatoes and potatoes with the grape leaves snugly so they don’t move.
- Make the broth by combining the extra liquid from the filling, tomato sauce, water and salt into a bowl and mix well. Place a small, heatproof plate upside down over the top of the filled pot with the rolled grape leaves. This keeps them in place as it boils. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil, cover and bring it down to a simmer and let this cook for 1 ½ hours or until most of the water has evaporated, the leaves are tender and the rice inside the leaves are cooked.
- Place a large baking pan larger than the width of your pot upside down on the opening of the pot. Carefully flip the pot over and lift it to reveal the grape leaves – the potatoes and tomatoes will be on top. I love drizzling a bit of pomegranate molasses on my own plate of these grape leaves. It lends a bit of a tart and slightly sweet flavor and just rounds out each bite perfectly! This This meal is absolutely delicious and comfort food at its finest! Enjoy!