Stacey loves these and orders them any time we are at a Mediterranean or Lebanese restaurant. I wanted to make these at home so I poured over many, many recipes. The variations are endless. Some feature rice and vegetables only, but many include meat. For the meat options some recipes use ground beef (I don’t feel that is particularly authentic, but it is much more common in the U.S. than lamb), and the really authentic ones use lamb or a combination of lamb and beef.
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After questioning her about all the details of the grape leaves she ate growing up, and what was in the ones she liked in restaurants I had a list of key ingredients. 1) Lamb was a must on her list. It turned out ground lamb wasn’t as hard to find as I thought it would be here in the US. 2) Rice – but not too much. 3) Lemon – lots and lots of lemon. 4) Grape leaves – sort of goes without saying but they are a critical component.
Those were her “must haves”. After trying a couple of batches I settled on some basic spices to round out the dish. Lest I forget, get extra lemons to garnish the plate and squeeze over the grape leaves as you are eating them, you won’t regret it. I hope you enjoy my take on Lebanese stuffed grape leaves.
My Pampered Chef lemon juicer was a life saver for this recipe. It gets every last drop of juice out of a lemon, strains out the seeds, and catches the juice in a convenient built in cup with a pour spout. Only $14 and you can buy it directly off my PC consultant page.
Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves
Savory lamb with rice and mild spices swaddled in tender grape leaves. Absolutely delicious.
- 1 Jar grape leaves
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 Cup instant rice
- 3 whole lemons (or more)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- Unpack grape leaves. Drain, rinse and separate them. Remove any stems you find and set small or damaged leave aside, these will line the bottom of your pan when you cook them.
- Cut in half and juice all three lemons. Save the juice and the lemon peels.
- In a medium size bowl combine lamb, rice, salt, pepper and cumin.
- Use your hands to mash everything together and mix it well.
- Lay a grape leaf out flat with the top of the leaf pointing away from you. Take about 1 Tbsp of the meat/rice mixture and shape it into a small log. Place the “log” about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the grape leaf.
- Fold the bottom of the grape leaf up over the “log”, then fold each side over making a small pocket.
- Roll the log towards the top of the leaf until the whole leaf is rolled around the “log”
- Keep repeating this process until you run out of the meat filling (I have yet to run out of leaves first).
- Line a deep pan with your damaged and left over grape leaves.
- Place your rolled up leaves in the pan. Alternate directions if you need more than one layer.
- Pour the lemon juice over the leaves in the pan. Place a small plate or bowl (don’t use plastic) on top of the leaves, then add water to the pan until it is about an inch over the plate. Add the lemon peels to the water.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to a slow boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove the grape leaves with tongs and stack on a plate for serving. Garnish with mint and fresh lemon wedges. Serve warm.
These can also be enjoyed cold. They are delightful with a little salt and fresh lemon juice.