Posted by: Rachel | December 18, 2011

get stuffed!

OK, this one is for the vegetarians (and yes, you vegans as well)! I owe you one after last week, after all… and turn about is only fair! I can’t claim the original recipe, but I have added a few notes and some info on how I like to make (and enjoy) these little gems. Mmmm…

You can do this all by hand, but if you have a food processor of almost any kind I highly recommend it for the onions. I mean, you are welcome to hand chop the 3 cups required, but I won’t if I don’t have to!

This is quick and not labor intensive, other than the time it takes to actually stuff the leaves. I buy my grape leaves in a glass jar and honestly, the hardest part of the entire enterprise is extricating them!

These can be made ahead, hours or even a few days. I haven’t tried making them and then freezing them, but I see no reason that wouldn’t work. And, if you are certain there won’t be any vegetarians at your party you can certainly make a carnivore’s delight version, but I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t like them just this way.

The only other slightly tricky thing is hoping the leaves and filling come out close to right at the end. There always seems to be a bit of one or the other left over, and I have learned to “over-make” the stuffing by a bit. I can always buy a bit of ground lamb and use the uncooked stuffing as a “filler” for a meatloaf. Mmmm…

So, this recipe will make as many leaves as are in your jar with a bit left over (at least in my experience). Do NOT overfill the grape leaves and do NOT roll them too tightly as the rice will expand as it cooks and blowouts are not pretty (although they taste fine).

This dish travels well, and is dandy for potlucks as it doesn’t have to be served piping hot. It is actually best, I think, just slightly warmer than room temperature. These can also be served cold for summer picnic fare. Versatile, easy and yummy, can you beat it? So, here is my take on:

Jeff Smith‘s Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves

filling, not yet mixed together

onion and walnuts and herbs, oh my!!

1 C rice (raw)
3 C chopped yellow onions (about 3 medium onions)
2 cloves garlic minced very fine
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C chopped parsley
1/4 C chopped fresh dill
juice of one lemon
1/4 C chopped walnuts*
1/4 C currants

steaming liquid:
1 C water
juice of one lemon
1 T tomato paste

Chop the onions fairly fine. Mix all the filling ingredients well. The original recipe called for pine nuts. I use chopped walnuts rather than pine nuts as I think they are mostly for texture. I could never taste the pine nuts and they are sooo expensive.

rolling  the leaves

this is how I roll...

Fill the leaves (removing the stems, that’s what the little bits are on the table), taking care not to overfill!!! Layer in a skillet, cover with the “steaming” mixture. Cover the pan (it should have a fairly tight lid), bring it to a boil, reduce the heat immediately to a low simmer and “steam” for one hour. Remove from heat.

Without removing the lid (yup, no tasting yet!) let cool for one hour. Serve warm or refrigerate overnight and serve cold or rewarm later.

You can make the filling as chunky or smooth as you like. I like to leave the nuts a bit chunky but mince the onion. Then I make almost a pesto with the fresh herbs and olive oil and lemon juice and mix the whole mess together. I like a bit of garlic although the original recipe doesn’t call for it.

This travels well, as I said, but is happy to stay home and sit out on a buffet. Easy and yummy holiday (or any day!!) fare! Enjoy, be safe, and mmmmm!!



  1. Delicious dolmas! And what a good idea to use walnuts. I usually use pine nuts because that’s how I used to have them in Turkey, but walnuts are used a lot in Turkish cookery too, so why not?!

    • Oh I love pine nuts, don’t get me wrong. Its just that they cost nearly 5 times what walnuts do, here anyway. So, unless I can really taste ’em it just isn’t worth it (imo)! Sort of like eating gold…!

  2. Oh these are wonderful and go so fast!

  3. I absolutely love stuffed grape leaves…as a matter of fact we had some at lunch today. I’m going to try your recipe as I have never had ones that use currents.

  4. in the summer i HAVE grape leaves, so I shall have to return.. if i survive the winter that is!! c

    • I tried to make these with my own grape leaves (mustang grapes), but the leaves were so small that it was beyond tedious… so I chopped the leaves up and cooked them with the “filling” as something closer to a risotto. Not the same, but awfully tasty none the less! Good luck… and keep us posted!!

  5. Like Celi I will now have to wait until summer when my vine perks up again but every year I promsie myself I´ll make these and now I have no excuse!

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