Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe with Photos

A few years ago I planted a single grape vine in my backyard and am amazed at how it took off...come autumn I have more grapes than I can consume. For the past few years I've said I was going to make wine (something I've never done) and I still haven't...this may be the year. But I have to admit that having a basement full of wine does concern me a a kid in a candy store.

Anyhow, for those that know me personally probably also know that I am of partial Lebanese dad's family was right from "the old country." I grew up eating this stuff and still love it. I've read that the sense of smell (and taste, but mostly smell) is a person's strongest memory sensor. And I believe this is true because whenever I cook this, and even more so chicken-and-rice, the aroma of chicken broth and cinnamon is like a memory elixor to me...I can vividly picture my aunts and sitto (grandmother) working away in the kitchen.

After picking, blanching, and stuffing the grapeleaves, I cooked them in my backyard under the vine on which they grew...while drinking wine, listening to NPR, and yelling at my pugs to not pee on the vegetable plants.

One of the differences between this recipe and a Greek-style grape leaves is that the Greek recipe (while equally delicious) are often topped with a light lemon sauce; the Lebanese variety are cooked in a light cinnamon-scented tomato broth.  If you don't have access to fresh vine leaves you can use jarred.

It's difficult to tell you in words alone how good these smelled as they cooked, and even more specifically how good they teenage son ate 14 of them. Anyhow, here's the pictures first; a basic recipe follows (click any photo for a larger view).

Stuffed Grape Leaves
                                      Yield: 4-5 dozen grape leaves
The Stuffing:
1 pound ground beef or lamb
1 1/2 cups long grain rice
1 cup canned, diced tomatoes
4 ounces minced onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh chopped mint
5 dozen grape leaves

The Sauce:
1 1/2 cups tomato puree
6 cups water or chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients for the stuffing. Stuff the grape leaves forming cigar shapes.

Line the bottom of a pot with a rack (or a sliced onion) to keep the grape leaves from sticking.
Layer the grape leaves in the pot taking care to place the sealed side down to keep them from unraveling. Combine all of the ingre­dients for the sauce in a large bowl, and then pour it over the grape leaves. Place a small plate or lid (smaller than the diameter of the pot) over the grape leaves to keep them submerged in the sauce. Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. After the grape leaves have simmered for 30 minutes, shut the flame off and allow them to rest for an additional 20 minutes.


Bflo Gal said…
How about giving us a vegetarian version?
Joe said…
Hi Bflo Gal,

A vegetarian version is simple to prepare (and one that is often eaten during Lent).

Replace the meat with cooked lentils, and the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

Thanks for reading.