These stuffed grape leaves are made with softened grape leaves wrapped around a flavorful filling of rice, fresh herbs, lemon, and toasted pine nuts. They are the perfect appetizer, side dish, or vegetarian entree.
Easy Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves
Being from Macedonia, stuffed cabbage rolls and stuffed grape leaves hold a strong place in my heart. Light yet full of flavor and healthy fats, they are the perfect appetizer, dinner, or grab-and-go lunch. Don’t let these tender little morsels intimidate you. They take attention to detail and tender loving care, but this recipe is actually relatively straightforward and well worth the effort.
Stuffed grape leaves are loaded with tender rice, fresh herbs, and the perfect pop of lemon flavor. I love the slight crunch from the toasted pine nuts and the way the olive oil-drenched grape leaves dissolve on your palate. Store-bought versions are delicious, but they are so much better when made from scratch.
What Are Stuffed Grape Leaves?
Stuffed grape leaves are a delicious appetizer, side dish, or vegetarian entree that can be found throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. They are particularly popular in Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Macedonia, Syria, Armenia, and Israel. They are prepared with hydrated grape leaves wrapped around rice filling, some herbs and spices, and a bit of lemon juice. Some may add pine nuts, walnuts, and/or ground meat such as lamb or beef to the filling.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Long-grained rice: Jasmine or basmati would be great options.
- Jarred grape leaves: Jarred grape leaves are more widely available and easier to use but you are more than welcome to use fresh leaves. Just soak the fresh leaves in piping hot water for 15 minutes, drain them, and pat them dry before using.
- Olive oil: Grab a high-quality extra virgin olive oil here. It makes a difference.
- Onion & Garlic
- Lemon juice: I highly recommend using freshly squeezed lemon juice instead of bottled.
- Fresh dill and fresh parsley
- Toasted pine nuts
- Salt and pepper
Where Can I Find Grape Leaves?
Grape leaves may sound like an obscure ingredient, but you can find them at many grocery stores. They are usually stocked in the international section, the deli section, or the condiments section. More commonly, you will see them jarred, but some markets also carry fresh leaves. You can order grape leaves online if you cannot find them at your local grocery store. Try these Orlando California Grapes Leaves or these Krinos Imported Grape Leaves from Amazon.
How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves
Tie your apron tight and get ready for an adventure. Making these is a process, but I know you can do it. Follow my instructions closely, look at the “Tips for Success” section below, and you’ll be on your way. Be sure to scroll to the recipe care below for more detailed instructions.
Prepare The Rice and Grape Leaves
- Soak the rice in warm water for 20 minutes and drain it.
- Rinse the grape leaves in a colander with cold water.
- Cook the rinsed leaves in boiling water for 3 minutes or until softened.
- Drain the leaves and allow them to cool.
Make The Filling
- Cook the veggies. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Put it all together. Remove the pan from the heat and add the rice, lemon juices, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh dill, fresh parsley, toasted pine nuts, sea salt, and ground black pepper. Stir to combine.
Stuff the Grape Leaves
- Add the filling. Lay a grape leaf flat. Place 2 tablespoons of filling at the stem side of the leaf, ½ inch from the edge. Roll the stem side of the leaf over the filling.
- Seal. Pull the sides toward the center. Roll from the stem side over the folded sides and the filling. Keep rolling until sealed.
- Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Cook The Stuffed Grape Leaves
- Fill the pot. Arrange the stuffed grape leaves in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Pour ¼ cup of olive oil and enough water to cover them.
- Secure the stuffed grape leaves. Place a plate over the stuffed grape leaves.
- Cook. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the water has absorbed.
Tips for Success
Stuffed grape leaves can be a little finicky. They take patience and attention to detail. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you succeed.
- Be gentle. Grape leaves are notoriously easy to tear. So, when handling them, be sure to work carefully. Otherwise, the filling will fall right out of the grape leaves.
- Double up. If you find yourself with a torn grape leaf or a leaf that is smaller than the others, add a second leaf. This will help keep the filling from falling out.
- The closer the better. Arranged the stuffed grape leaves as tightly together as possible in the pot. This will help keep them from floating around and unraveling.
Should Stuffed Grape Leaves Be Served Hot or Cold?
It depends on the recipe! Vegetarian stuffed grape leaves such as these are traditionally served cold or at room temperature. Stuffed grape leaves whose fillings contain meat are generally served warm.
Stuffed grape leaves can be enjoyed as an appetizer, a tasty side dish, or a vegetarian entree (if you make enough). Here are some of my favorite things to serve them.
How to Store Leftovers
- Refrigerate: Let the stuffed grape leaves cool. Put some olive oil in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Gently put the grape leaves in the container or bag. Close it and put it in the fridge. It can last up to a week.
- To Freeze: Cool the stuffed grape leaves. Oil a zip-top bag and carefully put the grape leaves in the bag; seal the bag. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- To serve, let them thaw in the fridge overnight.
More Appetizer Recipes
Looking for more delicious appetizers? Here are some fun ideas that will have your mouth watering.
To prepare the grape leaves
Rinse the grape leaves in a colander with cold water.
Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Drop the rinsed leaves in the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes or until softened.
Drain the leaves in a colander and set aside to cool.
To make the filling
In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.
Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté for 15 seconds or until fragrant. Remove the pan from the heat.
Add the soaked, drained rice, lemon juices, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh dill, parsley, toasted pine nuts, sea salt, and ground black pepper to the pan. Stir to combine.
To fill the grape leaves.
Lay a grape leaf flat and place about 2 tablespoons of filling at the stem side of the leaf about ½ inch from the edge.
Roll the stem side of the leaf over the filling.
Pull the sides toward the center.
Roll from the stem side over the folded sides and the filling until sealed. 1 done.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients. You might have extra filling. If so, stuff any grape leaves you have left over or discard them.
To cook the stuffed grape leaves.
Arrange the stuffed grape leaves in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. They should be arranged so that they are as close together as possible. This will keep them from falling apart during the cooking process.
Pour ¼ cup of olive oil over them and enough water to just cover them.
Place a large dinner plate over the stuffed grape leaves to keep them from floating.
Bring the water to a boil before reducing it to a simmer.
Cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes or until the water has been absorbed completely.
Remove from the heat. Serve them warm or cold.
- Rice: Use long-grained rice like Jasmine or Basmati.
- Jarred grape leaves are common and easy to use, but you can use fresh leaves. For fresh leaves, soak them in hot water for 15 minutes, drain, and dry before use. Also, it’s good to have a few extra leaves on hand as you might need to double up if you come across a grape leaf that is torn or slightly smaller.
- You can find grape leaves in grocery stores or online, typically in international, deli, or condiment sections.
- Handle grape leaves gently to avoid tearing. If they tear or are small, use an extra leaf.
- Pack stuffed grape leaves tightly in the pot to prevent them from opening.
- Vegetarian stuffed grape leaves are usually served cold or at room temperature, while those with meat are served warm.
- Storage: Let the stuffed grape leaves cool. Put some olive oil in a zip-top bag or airtight container. Gently put the grape leaves in the container or bag. Refrigerate for up to a week.
Serving: 5 stuffed leaves | Calories: 361 kcal | Carbohydrates: 25 g | Protein: 4 g | Fat: 28 g | Saturated Fat: 4 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 19 g | Sodium: 586 mg | Potassium: 157 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 2 g | Vitamin A: 4232 IU | Vitamin C: 8 mg | Calcium: 73 mg | Iron: 1 mg | Net Carbs: 22 g
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.