Home MealsMain Dish Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

by Adina 12/09/2016 20 comments

Syrian stuffed vine leaves

 

Deliciously sticky, tender Syrian stuffed vine leaves with a lemony and garlicky rice filling and cooked over a bed of chicken legs.

 

Let me begin by telling you that these stuffed vine leaves, Syrian style, are one of the best meals I have had for years. I like food, most of what I cook or eat somewhere else, but this recipe is just out of this world!

As far as it concerns me, it is really not an overstatement. It is time consuming to make, not exactly something one would make on a regular occasion, but if you do take your time and make it, you will be amazed.

And after making it once, you will just not care about all the work it involves anymore and you will make it again and again just because it is so good and you will start craving it just by thinking about it.

 

grape vine leaves Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

 

STUFFED VINE LEAVES RECIPE

This Syrian stuffed vine leaves recipe is an original Syrian recipe brought to me by Nesrin, a Syrian friend, who has been living in our village with her family for about one year now.

You must all be familiar with the Syrian (and not only Syrian) refugee situation in Europe and I have to use this opportunity now to say how proud I am about the way Germany reacted and deals with the refugee situation.

Not that every German person I know is that open and welcoming, but many people are and that is amazing. Although we live in a very VERY small village (about 500 inhabitants), we did get our share of refugees coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. In the next village, which is larger there are much more of them as well. And you will not believe how many people do take their time and try to help as much as they can.

 

grape leaves syrian 683x1024 Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

 

I got to know Nesrin and her family better than the other families, due to the fact that we both speak English and have children of more or less the same age. Her oldest daughter goes to school with my Bruno and this is how we got to know each other better. And I have to tell you that she is one if the best cooks I know. I had the luck of tasting quite a few of her dishes and I was amazed by each one of them.

She made these grape leaves for a kindergarten party a few months ago and although the choice was large and one got to taste quite a few different things brought by many mothers, these rolls were by far the best thing on the table. I was so awed and so greedy, I kept going back to the table to take yet another one of the thingies until they were all gone. After I had the first one I was not even tempted to eat anything else anymore that afternoon, not even cake. 🙂

I immediately asked for the recipe and, as usual, Nesrin told me she cannot really explain or write down the recipe, she has to cook it in front of me and I could help and take notes.

And so we did, like a few times before. It took us quite some time to make the stuffed vine leaves and another couple of hours to cook them. But all the work and time were well worth it.

My whole family loved them, everybody else who tried them was amazed and we had enough food for 3 days, so when I put it that way, I realize that although they took a long time to make, I still didn’t have to cook anything else for the next 3 days, so…

And trust me, eating these stuffed vine leaves for 3 days in a row won’t make you tired of them. You will wait for the next lunch or dinner just as greedily as you would wait for a new dish every day. They are that good!

 

grape leaves rice Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

 

HOW TO MAKE STUFFED VINE LEAVES WITH RICE

Rice:

  • Place the long grain rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour.
  • After soaking it, massage the rice with your hand in the bowl, drain it through a fine mesh sieve and wash it again under running water very well.
  • Let drain well and place it in a large bowl.

Vine or grape leaves:

  • I used two large jars of grape/vine leaves in brine%name Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves, each jar 350 g/ 12.3 oz drained net weight. This amount of vine leaves make enough food to serve 8 to 10 people or enough servings for a few days.
  • You can halve the amount of the ingredients to make less stuffed vine rolls, but making a large batch it is worth it.

While the rice soaks, prepare the vine leaves:

  • Drain the vine leaves from the jars very well. Carefully take the leaves apart and remove the stems. If some of the leaves break, you can put some pieces together when filling them and still be able to get a nice roll. Nesrin says, that really good quality leaves don’t break so much.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the leaves for about 15 minutes, turning them around in the water 3 or 4 times in between. Drain well.

 

grape leaves 683x1024 Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

 

Filling:

  • While the leaves are cooking chop the onion and the herbs very very finely. Peel the cloves of 1 ½ of the garlic bulbs and grate them finely.
  • Give these ingredients to the drained rice and add the cayenne pepper, sweet paprika, black pepper and about 2 teaspoons of the salt. I have never seen anyone being so generous with the spices in her cooking, Nesrin throws them in by the handful, but it works. The food is unbelievably tasty and delicious without being overladen.
  • Mix well, add 2 tablespoons of the pomegranate molasses, about 170 g/ 6 oz of the tomato paste, the olive oil and about half of the lemon juice. Mix very well with your hands.

Pomegranate molasses:

  • Pomegranate molasses%name Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves is a very much used ingredient in the Middle Eastern cuisine. It is basically a syrup made from pomegranate juice. It is tart and very aromatic.
  • You can buy it in Middle Eastern shops and in many larger supermarkets nowadays. It keeps well and it is only used in rather small quantities. You will also need it to make this amazing Syrian Muhammara or this Onion Pork Stew.

Stuff the vine leaves:

  • Place one or two grape leaves on your left palm (if you are right handed). If you have some broken leaves, place more of them on your palm, so that you have a nice even layer.
  • Give a small amount of the filling about 1 cm above the base of the grape leaves.
  • Start rolling, first the lower side over the filling, then the left and right side over the filling, then again from below forming a relatively tight roll.
  • Take a very large pot and place the chicken legs in it.
  • Place each vine roll in the pot, over the chicken legs, starting circularly around the edge of pan and continuing with smaller circles towards the middle of the pan. You will have several layers.

 

stuffed vine leaves 1 Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

 

Cook the stuffed vine leaves:

  • Place a large plate, upside down, on top of the rolls. Fill a metal bowl with water and place this on top of the plate. You have to do this, so that the rolls will stay put in the pan and not flow around when you add the cooking liquid.
  • Give 2 ½ liter/ 10.5 cups boiling water to a jug. Grate the remaining bulb of garlic and give the garlic to the jug. Add the remaining lemon juice, the remaining tomato paste, the remaining tablespoon molasses and the remaining salt (2-3 teaspoons to taste). Mix well and taste, it should taste salty and lemony.
  • Carefully give about ¾ of this mixture to the pot with the grape leaves. Pour the HOT liquid slowly into the pot around the edges of the upside plate in the pot.
  • Add the remaining bulb of garlic, cloves finely grated, to it.
  • Add the remaining lemon juice, the remaining tomato paste, the remaining tablespoon molasses and the remaining salt (2-3 teaspoons to taste). Mix well and taste, it should taste salty and lemony.
  • Carefully give about ¾ of this mixture to the pot with the grape leaves. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook for another ½ hour.
  • Take one roll out of the pan and check to see if the rice is tender. It should be really soft and a bit sticky.
  • If it’s not done, add some more of the reserved cooking liquid and continue cooking on low, checking from time to time, until the rice is soft, about 20-30 minutes more.
  • Use as much of the remaining liquid as needed to keep the rolls stewing in it, but you don’t have use it all.

 

grape leaves pot Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

 

HOW TO SERVE THE STUFFED VINE LEAVES

Of course, you can easily halve the recipe for the Syrian stuffed vine leaves, but making more of them is worth it.

They are delicious hot or cold, you can have them as a main meal or as a snack, you can arrange them on a platter and take them to a party (leave the chicken legs at home if you do that 🙂 ), and you can keep them, covered, in the fridge for up to a week, or so Nesrin says, I don’t know, they never last more than 3 days in our house…

We served the vine leaf rolls with pieces from those incredibly soft chicken legs at the bottom of the pot. So good, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Serve hot with the chicken legs yogurt or only the stuffed vine leaves at room temperature with yogurt.

 

grape leaves rice 480x480 Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

Syrian Stuffed Vine Leaves

Yield: 8-10
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 4 hours

Deliciously sticky, tender Syrian vine leaves stuffed with a lemony and garlicky rice filling and cooked over a bed of chicken legs.

Ingredients

Instructions

Filling for the stuffed vine leaves:

  1. Place the rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour. Massage the rice with your hand to clean it, drain it through a fine mesh sieve and wash it again under running water very well. Let drain well and place it in a large bowl.
  2. While the rice soaks, drain the two grape leaves jars. Carefully take the leaves apart and remove the stems. If some of the leaves break, you can put some pieces together when filling them and still be able to get a nice roll.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the leaves for about 15 minutes, turning them around in the water 3 or 4 times in between. Drain well.
  4. While the leaves are cooking chop the onion and the herbs as finely as possible.
  5. Peel the cloves of 1 ½ of the garlic bulbs and grate them finely.
  6. Give the onions, herbs and garlic to the drained rice and add the cayenne pepper, sweet paprika, black pepper and about 2 teaspoons of the salt.
  7. Mix well, add 2 tablespoons of the pomegranate molasses, about 170 g/ 6 oz/ ¾ cup of the tomato paste, the olive oil and about half of the lemon juice. Mix very well with your hands.

Prepare the rolls:

  1. Take a very large pot and place the chicken quarters in it.
  2. Place one or two grape leaves on your left palm (if you are right handed). If you have some broken leaves, place more of them on your palm, so that you have a nice even layer.
  3. Give a small amount of the filling about 1 cm above the base of the grape leaves.
  4. Start rolling, first the lower side over the filling, then the left and right side over the filling, then again from below forming a relatively tight roll.
  5. Place each roll in the pot, over the chicken legs, starting circularly around the edge of pan and continuing with smaller circles towards the middle of the pan. You will have several layers.

Cook the vine leaf rolls:

  1. Place a large plate, upside down, on top of the rolls in the pot. Fill a metal bowl with water and place this on top of the plate. You have to do this, so that the rolls will stay put in the pan and not flow around when you add the cooking liquid.
  2. Give 2 ½ liter/ 10.5 cups boiling water to a jug. Grate the remaining bulb of garlic and give the garlic to the jug. Add the remaining lemon juice, the remaining tomato paste, the remaining tablespoon molasses and the remaining salt (2-3 teaspoons to taste). Mix well and taste, it should taste salty and lemony.
  3. Carefully give about ¾ of this mixture to the pot with the grape leaves. Pour the HOT liquid slowly into the pot around the edges of the upside plate in the pot.
  4. Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 1 hour.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and cook for another ½ hour.
  7. Take one roll out of the pan and check to see if the rice is tender. It should be really soft and a bit sticky.
  8. If it's not done, add some more of the reserved cooking liquid and continue cooking on low, checking from time to time, until the rice is soft, about 20-30 minutes more.
  9. Use as much of the remaining liquid as needed to keep the rolls stewing in it, but you don't have use it all.
  10. Serve hot with the chicken legs and yogurt or at room temperature with yogurt.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 468 Total Fat: 28g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 22g Cholesterol: 24mg Sodium: 2100mg Carbohydrates: 46g Fiber: 6g Sugar: 9g Protein: 12g
Nutritional information is not always accurate.

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20 comments

grace 12/09/2016 - 20:28

while i have had stuffed grape leaves before, i don’t believe they were authentic because they didn’t look as good as these or contain nearly the amount of spices! thank you for sharing this recipe!

Reply
Adina 13/09/2016 - 17:30

I suppose there are many ways of filling grape leaves, my grandmother had her recipe as well and they were nice, but not nearly as good as these ones. 🙂

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Chris Scheuer 12/09/2016 - 21:53

Wow, they sound amazing. Lucky you to have a friend like this!

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Adina 13/09/2016 - 17:29

I am lucky, Chris! 🙂

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Nammi 13/09/2016 - 17:19

Being a Muslim it makes me happy to learn that there are refugees who are welcomed into communities. I am born Muslim but we were never taught to be violent quite the opposite in fact and to treat people with respect despite their backgrounds. I think its the media that makes everything bad and of course those lunatics . have never tried these stuffed grape leaves dish, always wondered how they taste. have a nice week

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Adina 13/09/2016 - 17:28

Thank you for your comment, Nammi. I know what you mean, it would never cross my mind to blame the entire Muslim world for the bad things some lunatics are doing, if there is one thing I hate in this world than that’s intolerance of any kind – the intolerance that leads to fanatism and the intolerance of those blaming Muslims generally for everything…

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Anu - My Ginger Garlic Kitchen 14/09/2016 - 08:22

I love grape leaves recipes. My granny used to make grape leaves fritters and these stuffed leaves look and sound wonderful. I know I will love these beauties! 🙂

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Monica 14/09/2016 - 13:16

Sounds amazing. And clearly, you did a great job with the recipe. I’ve never even had this and I know I’ve been missing out!!

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Dawn @ Girl Heart Food 16/09/2016 - 12:46

I’ve never had stuffed grape leaves before, but they look delicious! So nice of your friend to share her recipe with you, especially actually being in the kitchen and showing you by cooking it. Nothing better than that! My grandmother makes stuffed cabbage rolls with ground beef & rice and there’s a tomato based sauce which they are cooked in. Such comfort food. I would love to try these too 🙂

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Sissi 17/09/2016 - 16:12

I have no idea about Syrian cuisine, but these stuffed grape leaves look fantastic! (And I’m sure I’d love other dishes cooked by your neighbour as long as she throws spices by handfuls! This is exactly the way of cooking I love most).

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mjskitchen 20/09/2016 - 03:14

These look so different from the Greek grape leaves I’m used to. They look darker and richer and after going through the recipe, the filling sounds fantastic. Thanks for sharing such a unique recipe from my perspective anyway. Love it!

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Liz 04/06/2017 - 15:05

My 76 yr old Syrian mother in law tells me that no real Syrian cooks these with chicken, lamb yes but never with chicken. I don’t know what kind of Syrian your friend is but her recipe is not authentic, maybe made up by her.

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Adina 04/06/2017 - 19:59

Well Liz, I am sure there are as many authentic Syrian recipes for stuffed grape leaves as there are Syrian cooks out there and each one of them probably claims their own recipe is the true one. My friend is born and raised in Syria and only came to Germany two years ago and if she tells me that this is her authentic recipe for stuffed grape leaves, that is definitely good enough for me. Thanks for your comment.

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Jovina Coughlin 12/10/2017 - 18:29

Lovely recipe

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Jeffrey Elias 24/11/2017 - 14:41

Tried this recipe to change up my usual stuffed grape leaves for thanksgiving, was dubious of the cayenne pepper so only added a third of what this recipe asked for . Even with the reduced cayenne pepper it was still over powering , would never use this recipe again .

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Adina 24/11/2017 - 14:57

I am sorry to hear the cayenne was too much for you, it could be that mine is not as powerful as the one you use. We don’t find the dish very hot and we don’t usually eat very hot dishes.

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Christine Edwards 29/04/2018 - 01:20

Hi there. I work for Preemptive Love Coalition—a nonprofit based in the Middle East. We are a relief and development organization actively involved in helping people affected by the war in Syria.

We want to help people in the U.S. stay engaged with the crisis and thought of using the connecting power of food to do that. Will you help us in this effort?

Tragically, many people in the west only think of Syria in terms of destruction and war. They have no idea about its beautiful culture and ancient history! We hope to challenge that misperception and highlight our shared humanity by creating a series of articles about pre-war Syria that include pictures, recipes, and stories.

While searching for Syrian recipes, we came across your beautiful blog. Would it be ok if we shared your site with our people and linked back to it? We’ll feature some Syrian food bloggers as part of this piece and would love to include you in that.

We also want to talk about what displaced families eat today. One of our programs in Syria is an emergency food kitchen that feeds 31,000 people a day. Most of the time, they serve simple versions of traditional Syrian dishes like mujadara. We would love to build empathy by encouraging people to make a simple Syrian dish like that.

Would you join us in our effort to build bridges, foster empathy, and create a more beautiful world? We thought of several ways we could collaborate but would love to hear your ideas as well. We thought perhaps you could repost or share our story when it runs (hopefully within the next 3-4 weeks)? Or write your own post about these issues? Or share another simple, Syrian recipe that you think everyone should try? We would love to hear your ideas.

Thank you for your time, and please let us know what you think.

Sincerely,
Christine Edwards

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Adina 29/04/2018 - 07:05

Hi Christine, it was nice to read your comment. Of course, you can share my post and link to it. I will certainly post another Syrian recipe, I have a few from a Syrian refugee friend living in our village and they are all amazing. If there is more you want to talk about, please write me an email.

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RAchelle 08/06/2019 - 08:46

Thank you for this! I’ve never tried cooking them on top of chicken thighs. What a delicious idea!
Do you know which city this recipe hails from? I’m interested about regional differences between Syrian dishes. I make a dolmas recipe from Homs.

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Adina 08/06/2019 - 11:39

Hi Rachelle. Nesrin, who gave me the recipe, used to live in Aleppo.

Reply

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