Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves (Warak Enab, Dolma, Dolmades)
Stuffed grape leaves are so authentically Middle Eastern. When i see them on a menu, no matter how “modern” or “American-influenced” the restaurant may be, I know that there’s a chef or owner behind the scenes with a little Middle Eastern heritage influencing this menu.
Throughout the Middle East, North Africa and even in Europe, many different versions of these little bundles of love exist. And somewhere out there, there’s a teta (grandma) passing down her recipe to her grandkids, making sure that this delicious, authentic piece of home never dies. I too, like many others out there have learned how to roll grape leaves by sitting at the table with my grandmothers, mom and aunts while we talk about life and roll these yummy bundles up for the family to enjoy. Often times, rolling grape leaves becomes a family activity instead of just mama sitting behind that counter rolling on her own. The more hands on deck, the faster they get done, but also, the more hands on deck, the more love that’s put into this delicious meal. I have so many beautiful memories of making stuffed grape leaves, both the vegetarian and the meat versions. I wanted to share a few tips with you on how to make stuffed grape leaves authentically and well. Here’s what i’ve learned over the years and from the generations before me:
Rinse the leaves and squeeze out excess liquid. It makes for a tighter and tastier stuffed leaf.
Always trim your stem off if they haven’t already been trimmed
If you decide to use fresh leaves instead of the jarred alternative, be sure to blanch them first.
The tighter you roll your leaves, the better. While they cook, the rice will expand and a well rolled leaf will always keep its shape.
If you think you’ve added too much lemon juice, add a bit more. No such thing as too much lemon juice in this recipe.
Cooking your leaves at a high heat is the easiest way to burn the bottom and evaporate the liquid quickly without actually cooking the rice and the leaf.
You can use a pressure cooker to cook these! It’s great and quick! Not authentic but super helpful!
Adding the layers of tomato and potatoes is essential because the juice from the tomato adds a different dimension to the meal when it cooks down and dissolves.
If you want a step by step video tutorial on how to roll the leaves, check out my highlights on instagram. It’s easy to follow along! Follow me at @hungrilyhomemade and click on the stuffed grape leaves highlight icon for the video tutorial!
Give this recipe a try! Share your comments and some love. If you make this recipe and share it on social media, tag it with the hashtag #hungrilyhomemaderecipe
Total Time: 4 1/2 hours. (2 hours prep time, 2 1/2 hours cook time)
Yield: 6-9 adult servings
1. 1 jar grape leaves drained
2. 1 ½ cup short grain rice
3. 4 bunches of parsley rinsed and chopped/shaved
4. 2-3 T dried mint or 1/3 cup chopped fresh
5. 3 diced tomato
6. 3 green onions, diced
7. 3/4 cup olive oil for mixture
8. 5 lemons, juiced
9. 2 tomato sliced and put on bottom of pot
10. About 8 baby potatoes sliced to layer on bottom of pot
11. ½ tbsp salt
1. Mix rice and onion, parsley, tomato, mint, olive oil, 4 lemons, juiced and salt.
2. Remove stems from leaves, if there are any, rise with water and squeeze excess liquid from them.
3. Place about 1 tbsp of filling in the bottom center of the leaf
4. Roll the leaves with filling using the following technique: 1) tuck the sides 2) grab the bottom and fold over the filling, tucking and tightening as you go 3) roll the leaf to the end and tuck any stray ends in.
5. Begin to layer your leaves, tomatoes and potatoes in a deep pot.
6. First, lay down 1 thin layer of excess, unfilled grape leaves if you have any left over. Then, lay one thin layer of potatoes down. Follow that by a tightly packed layer of grape leaves, then a layer of tomatoes, more leaves and a final layer of more tomatoes.
7. Squeeze your final lemon over the top of the pot along with the left over liquid you’re your mixture that you’ve strained out. Finally, season with a dash of salt, and follow that by enough water to almost reach the top of the leaves. Cover with a ceramic plate laid upside down to pack down the pot while it simmers.
8. Cover the pot with your lid and bring to a boil. Once your pot boils, reduce your heat to low and cook your pot covered with lid, on low heat for 2-3 hours or until rice is cooked and the liquid has almost completely disappeared.
9. Remove from heat, finish off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and serve hot or cold. Can be served with a yogurt, cucumber and mint sauce on the side.