How to roll grape leaves

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Learn how to roll grape leaves with ease for this favorite Lebanese dish. Use my step-by-step instructions to roll grape leaves beautifully and successfully!

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Just like with our baklawa, there is a distinction to be made between Lebanese grape leaf rolls and Greek-style dolma. They’re not the same! Ours are always more slender and smaller in general. How small you go is a matter of preference, as well as the size of your leaves. Aunt Hilda’s were about the thickness of a standard cigar and the length of your pinkie if your hand is large, or your fourth finger if your hand is small. Here she is years ago, rolling her fresh leaves at the table in Harbor Springs. Gold bangles and all.

Grape leaves that are preserved in a jar are brined, which means they are very salty. Rinse them well and cover them in cold water for a few minutes, then pour off the water and separate them (my leaves from Lebanon are a little wrinkly looking because much of the brine they were in seeped out in the luggage and got all over everything. So did a bottle of arak. That luggage is still in my mother’s garage airing out. Good thing she likes the scent of anise.).

Fresh leaves need simply to be washed and dried.

Snip the short stem off of each leaf with kitchen shears. If the leaves are larger than your hand, consider cutting them in half so that your grape leaf roll is not huge.

How to roll grape leaves

Add the Stuffing

1. Place a heaping teaspoon full of the meat and rice stuffing mixture lengthwise across the leaf. This stuffing has the same ingredients, and therefore flavor, as hushweh. In fact, it is hushweh. Hushweh is “stuffing” in Arabic and it was this word alone that my brother Chris used to get my nephew John to actually eat a grape leaf roll.

Fold the sides in and roll

2. Fold the two sides on the right and left up over the meat. Extend these folds all the way to the far edge of the leaf to make a kind of rectangle in front of you of the leaf. Continue holding the folded edges up over the meat. Take the edge nearest you where the stem is and pull that up over the meat. Now roll the meat up in the leaf all the way to the far edge of the leaf, ending with the open edge facing down to keep the roll closed. You may need to keep tucking the right and left sides in as you roll up the leaf.

Tuck into the pot

3. Place in the pot with the open edge on the roll facing down. Line the pot with rows of rolls, then change the direction of the next layer of rolls, and so on. The bottom of the pot can be filled with meaty bones (chicken wings, pork chops, or lamb shanks) for added flavor, or just lined with leaves to prevent sticking. I find the rolls taste wonderful whether or not the meaty bones are used.

Rolled stuffed grape leaves lined up in a large pot.

Seems like there are lots of steps when it’s all written out here, but once you do it, you’ll see that it’s not complicated at all. I’ve never known anyone to make a small batch of grape leave rolls. A jar contains somewhere around 100 grape leaves, and Aunt Hilda kept about that many in her stacks of fresh; that’s how many we typically roll at one time. It’s especially fun if you get a production line going with some people you like. A glass of Lebanese wine in hand makes rolling extra pleasurable. Before you know it they’re all rolled up, and you find yourself in the rhythm and kind of sorry they’re all done.SaveSave

More info about Stuffed Grape Leaves

Here is the full recipe to make Lebanese Stuffed Grapeleaves

Curious about how to identify and pick fresh grape leaves? Find out all of the info in my post How to identify and preserve fresh grape leaves.

We love our stories…read about my grape leaves inspiration from my visit to our family village in Lebanon.Save

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How to Roll Grape Leaves

Roll grape leaves with any filling, vegetarian or meat, the same way. Use any size leaf, but the smaller leaves tend to be more tender. Large leaves can be cut in half. This method works for any quantity of grape leaves, large or small batch.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Servings: 100 stuffed grape leaves

Ingredients 

  • 1 jar or 80-100 grape leaves
  • 1 batch meat or vegetarian stuffing
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Instructions 

Step 1: Prep the leaves

  • For jarred leaves:
    Grape leaves that are preserved in a jar are brined, which means they are very salty. Rinse them well and cover them in cold water for a few minutes, then pour off the water and separate them (my leaves from Lebanon are a little wrinkly looking because much of the brine they were in seeped out in the luggage and got all over everything. So did a bottle of arak. That luggage is still in my mother's garage airing out. Good thing she likes the scent of anise.).
    For fresh leaves:
    It's helpful to blanche fresh leaves so that they will roll properly. Do this by submerging them in a large bowl of hot or boiling water for 10 minutes.
    For frozen fresh leaves:
    The freezing process softens the leaves, so they need only to be thawed and rinsed in warm water.

Step 2: Trim the stems

  • Lay out several leaves on a counter or work surface with the heavier vein side facing up. Use kitchen shears to trim the stem as close to the leave as possible without cutting the leaf.

Step 3: Add the stuffing

  • Place a heaping teaspoon full of the meat and rice stuffing mixture lengthwise across the base of the leaf.

Step 4: Fold in the sides and roll

  • Fold the two sides on the right and left up over the meat. Extend these folds all the way to the far edge of the leaf to make a kind of rectangle in front of you of the leaf. Continue holding the folded edges up over the meat. Take the edge nearest you where the stem is and pull that up over the meat. Now roll the meat up in the leaf all the way to the far edge of the leaf, ending with the open edge facing down to keep the roll closed. You may need to keep tucking the right and left sides in as you roll up the leaf to tuck in the the pointy leaf tips.

Step 4: Place in the pot

  • Your pot is prepared by lining the bottom first with a few of the leaves (use torn or too-large leaves for this), then with either bone-in chicken or pork chops (optional). Place the rolls in the pot with the seam side of the roll facing down. Line the pot with rows of rolls, then change the direction of the next layer of rolls, and so on.

Step 5: Cook the grape leaves

  • Fill the pot with liquid just to cover the grape leaves. Try a mixture of chicken broth and lemon juice (2 cups of each). Salted water with lemon juice also works. Lay a plate over the top of the grape leaves to hold them in place and prevent them from floating and unraveling while they cook. Start with the pot on medium heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours.

Video

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Author: Maureen Abood
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 100 stuffed grape leaves
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8 Comments

  1. debbie says:

    Where is the recipe and amounts for the grape leaves made with meat and chicken broth and lemon juice.
    Thank you
    Debbie
    gdmcy@aol.com

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      It’s here, as well as in my cookbook! Also, use the search feature in the top nav bar of this site to search for recipes like this!

  2. Scotslass says:

    I am enjoying your recipe book, Maureen, lots of fresh different recipes. I was trying to find the video demonstrations you mentioned in the book. I think they’d be more than helpful .
    Thanks!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Thanks very much–I am in production on these videos right now and they’ll be out soon! Please stay tuned!

  3. barbk says:

    This is my 3rd time making veg grape leaves. I was rolling wrong! Well the last half (I’m making them now with Dedeme’s recipe),will be right!

    1. Maureen Abood says:

      Fantastic! I feel like I learn something about rolling every time I do it!

  4. Gregory Jarous says:

    Wonderful, i am showing this to my wife. That is about the only thing she has made for us. My mom used pork steaks at the bottom and they were go to eat as well. Your writing is wonderful, still missing Aunt Hilda and always will.

  5. Diane Nassir says:

    Such lovely memories you evoke for me!