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Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves (Yalanji)

vegetarian stuffed grape leaves on a plate topped with sliced lemon

Growing up in a Middle Eastern household, stuffed grape leaves were a staple on a dinner table, especially for special occasions. These vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, known as yalanji are my absolute favorite. They are tangy, melt in your mouth, and are just flavorful. These are truly a labor of love, but worth every effort it takes to make them. I want to think this is my signature dish, so I am excited to share this recipe with you all.

Essentially, these vegetarian stuffed grape leaves (yalanji), are filled with white rice, typically short grain, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, parsley, garlic, and more. This is my mother’s recipe, who is known to make some of the best yalanji. I have tweaked it to make it more adjusted to my preferences, and it is a winner. Anyone who tries these; instantly loves them and asks for the recipe!

How to prepare Grape Leaves:

You can either use fresh or jarred grape leaves. I happen to have grape vines in my backyard, so in the summer months, I will pick the leaves and make a pot of these but jarred is most commonly used because it is found conveniently in most ethnic stores. How you would prepare the two would be different, however. 

If using fresh leaves, you want to lightly rinse and place them in boiling water for 15 minutes to soften them and get a vibrant green color. You would also have to remove the stem. If using jarred grape leaves, you will need to release the liquid (brine) from the jar and wash the leaves thoroughly before. My preferred brand of grape leaves is Al Afia; they also take off the stem, which is a time saver.

How to make vegetarian stuffed grape leaves:

Although grape leaves seem intimidating, they are simple and tedious. Just follow the steps below to ensure a delicious pot of grape leaves. You will be a pro in no time!

Filling: To start, you want to make the filling. You will need 2 cups of white rice for these grape leaves, preferably short grain such as Calrose or Egyptian rice, but you can also use long grain or jasmine rice. Silly me, I used to finely hand chop all of the vegetables for this meal, which took a long time! As of the last 2 years, I have used my handy food processor to chop the veggies for this filling, and it works perfectly and saves me lots of time. 

Once the vegetables are chopped, and the rice is rinsed and soaked, you will combine the two. You will add umami flavors with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, and shatta (Arabic chili sauce if you like). I also like to toss in dried mint, allspice seasoning, and salt. All of these ingredients make these dynamite and irresistible. 

Filling for vegetarian stuffed grape leaves
Filling for vegetarian stuffed grape leaves

Stuff & Roll: This is the most time-consuming part of making grape leaves, and there is no way to make it easier or quicker. With time, you will gain confidence in stuffing and rolling and therefore gain speed to make these faster. Typically, I will have the filling prepped a day or hours in advance, and I will stuff and roll these when I have time. I find it therapeutic and enjoy making them. A jar makes about 70 so roll up those sleeves and get rolling. You start by laying the leaf flat on your surface with the smooth side facing down and the rough side up. You will be stuffing the rougher side. Add a spoonful of the mixture along the center. Roll the end of the leaf over and tuck in the sides and keep rolling until you have a cigar-like shape. Please watch the video below for a demonstration of how to roll grape leaves. Before you know it, you will have a plate of stuffed grape leaves ready to be cooked!

Assembling the pot: First, use a non-stick pot and spray it with nonstick spray. To the bottom of the pot, add a layer of sliced tomatoes followed by sliced potatoes. If you want to add meat to the bottom of the pot, you can do so now. I know this is a vegetarian recipe and you can strictly keep it so but if you want the option of protein, you most definitely can add lab chops to the bottom of the pot as well. They will taste spectacular alongside the tangy grape leaves and give some flavor to them as well but of course, totally optional. This is fantastic without any meat, but I highly recommend adding potatoes. The tomatoes are essential as they will protect the stuffed grape leaves from getting scorched at the bottom. 

stacked lamb chops
stacked lamb chops

Then, you will start layering the stuffed grape leaves into even layers in the pot until you aren’t left with any. I then like to cover the stuffed grape leaves with any leftover torn grape leaves and a heat-proof plate that fits the pot. This will help keep the grape leaves intact as they simmer. 

stacked grape leaves
stacked grape leaves

Cooking the grape leaves:

You want to submerge the grape leaves in a flavorful cooking liquid of crushed bouillon, tomato paste, olive oil, and lemon juice with boiling water. This stock will yield an even more flavorful pot of grape leaves! The cooking liquid should cover the grape leaves entirely by an extra inch. Let this come to a boil then simmer on medium heat for 2.5 hours. Most of the liquid will be cooked off at that point and the grape leaves will be tender!

Tips when making Grape Leaves:

  1. Roll the leaves tightly enough to where the filling won’t come out or the leaves won’t open but not too tight as you want to leave room for the rice to expand in the leaves.
  2. I would not recommend making this with brown rice. Brown rice takes much longer to cook than white rice. Your risk the grape leaves overcooking if you wait for the brown rice to cook through.
  3. Ensure the bottom of the pot is lined with tomatoes and potatoes to protect the grape leaves while cooking.

I typically enjoy these grape leaves with plain yogurt and lemon wedges. But you can also make these as an appetizer for a special occasion and serve them with dishes like beef kofta kebab, chicken tawook, and Arabic salad.

If you prefer stuffed grape leaves with meat filling, check out my cookbook, Dine in Palestine. I have a delicious recipe for those in the main entree section of the book!

Let me know if you try this recipe by leaving a comment below! I would love to see your remakes over on my Instagram page too!

vegetarian stuffed grape leaves (yalanji) close up of roasted potatoes
Print Recipe
5 from 9 votes

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves (Yalanji)

These vegetarian stuffed grape leaves known as yalanji are aboslutely delicious. They are a staple Middle Eastern dish full of tangy flavor that just melt in your mouth.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time2 hours 45 minutes
Course: Appetizer, dinner
Cuisine: Arab, Arabic
Keyword: dawali, grape leaves, stuffed grape leaves, vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, waraq ainab, yalangi, yalanji
Servings: 70 grape leaves
Author: Heifa

Ingredients

  • One jar of Grape Leaves Al-Afia is my preferred brand, rinse the leaves

Stuffing Ingredients

  • 2 cups White rice preferably short grain such as calrose or Egyptian rice but long grain works too, soaked & rinsed
  • 1 Bunch of parsley
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 1 Yellow onion
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1.5 Lemon's juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Allspice powder
  • 1 tbsp Pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbsp Dried mint
  • 1 tbsp Shatta (Arab chili paste) sambal works too or omit (it is optional)
  • 1 tbsp Tomato paste
  • Salt to taste Salt a decent amount-it will bring out the flavors. at least 1 tsp.

Cooking Liquid for the Grape Leaves

  • 3 cups Water boiling
  • 1 Bouillon cube
  • 1 lemon’s juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Tomato paste
  • Drizzle of pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 4 Cardamom pods

Instructions

  • In a food processor, add the vegetables other than the tomatoes and pulse a few times until fine. Then, add the tomatoes and pulse 2-3 times.
  • Add the pulsed vegetables with the drained rice. To this, season with salt, pepper, allspice, dried mint, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, lemon juice, olive oil, and shatta. Mix well.
  • At this point, the filling is ready. You can have this prepared up to 2 days before if you would like.
  • For the grape leaves, if using jarred, make sure to rinse the grape leaves well and that the stem is removed. If using fresh grape leaves, you should boil the leaves in hot water for 15-20 min to tenderize them.
  • To stuff, place the grape leave on a clean flat working surface with the shiny side facing down and the rigid up. You will add the rice stuffing to the rigid side. Add about 2 tsp depending on size of grape leave across of the leaf above the stem.
  • Fold the bottom of the leaf up over the stuffing, and then fold over the sides of the leaf onto the stuffing.
  • Roll up the leaves making sure that the sides are tucked in as you go. Roll somewhat tightly; you don't want the rice falling out when the grape leaves cook. You also do not want it too tight so the rice can expand well.
  • Line the bottom of a big pot with extra grape leaves or torn ones, slices of tomato and/or slices of potato. You can also add lamb chops at this point seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon pepper.
  • Start stacking the grape leaves on top of whatever you choose to line the bottom of the pot. I would recommend all 3 but for sure the tomatoes and potatoes! Make sure they are tightly packed next to one another, leaving no room for them busting open while cooking.
  • Stir together all the ingredients for the cooking liquid with the boiling water.
  • Place a fitting plate on top of the grape leaves. Pour the liquid mix over the grape leaves after they are stacked. Make sure the liquid is covering the grape leaves entirely with an inch extra. If not, add more water to do so.
  • Bring to boil over high heat, then cover the pot and let it simmer on low to medium heat for 2 1/2 hours till grape leaves are tender.
  • Once slightly cooled, flip over the pot onto a large serving plate.
  • Serve with plain yogurt for dipping and wedges of lemon. You can also make a refreshing arabic salad alongside this.
dawali
dawali

Cover photo credit: Doaa ElKady

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37 Comments

  1. Best grape leaves EVER I ate like 20 lol I the flavor is so delicious and tangy, it’s so simple to make but the flavors are just amazing. Best food blogger out there I swear all of the recipes I’ve tried from you come out amazing and I can’t say the same about other bloggers so keep up the good work!! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. My new go to recipe ! We loved it and I did it about 4 times already ! Every recipe I Tried is sooo good . I tried the stuffed bell peppers and that was off the hook as well ! And that’s why I want to do each and every recipe of yours ! Thank you for your time and for helping us to learn ! Can’t ask for a better cook !

  3. Haifa’s tagline on her website is “Where Delicious Food Is Made Easy!” and really, that is no lie. I’ve always been afraid of making grape leaves, it’s a staple in an Arab house…but man, oh, man was this easy. Hardest part (well let me use the word “time consuming”) is the rolling. But I put on a good show and rolled up a jar of grape leaves in two episodes 🙂 . Haifa inspired me to make these when she posted it on her IG page, and I made the next day. Absolutely delicious! The flavors of this, especially the burnt potato (those are the best part), where phenomenal. My mother taught me to make this with just the meat and rice, but all the extras and flavors really brought this to life. I would make this daily if I could. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  4. These are absolutely delicious! Best grape leaves recipe I’ve ever tried honestly! Simple, easy and flavor packed! Thank you for sharing this gem of a recipe, it’s the kind you pass down generations! I need your book in my life! Will definitely be trying out more of your recipes!

  5. This recipe was delicious! My whole family devoured these and the step by step on how to roll the leaves really helped!

  6. Such a tasty recipe! I love the way you lay out the ingredients and step by step directions! You have such a passion for what you do and it really is displayed in your work!

  7. I wish I could give this recipe 30 stars. I’ve been wanting to make grape leaves for years now but everyone warned me how difficult it was. This was so easy, and having tried hundreds of varieties of grape leaves in my life, this is EXACTLY how I like them) tangy and full of flavour and so delicious. I’m floating I’m so happy! Thank you for this incredible recipe. As usual, you don’t miss.

  8. AMAZING recipe. So easy to follow!!! My family said these were the BEST stuffed grape leaves they had ever had.
    Thank you Heifa for another perfect recipe!!

  9. This is the best grape leaves recipe ever ! It’s so tangy and so good especially with the red bell peppers. I substituted shatta for jalapeños and it was good . Thanks for the recipe !

  10. They are always a hit when I make them, especially when having guests. Was always intimidated and never wanted to make it but when I found this recipe with exact step by step instructions and measurements it made it so much easier and reassuring, especially when you never made it. Juicy, tangy and so delicious- a must try!

  11. I criticize my mom all the time for making her grape leaves so blandly lol your recipe is just incredible. Probably the only recipe I now proudly make better than my mom 😂

      1. 5 stars
        Thank you so much for this amazing recipe 👍🏻👌🏻😋 i love you a lot no words can describe ❤️💐🥰

  12. I made the recipe for this from the cookbook and it was downright amazing. Added in a couple rack of lambs and it was the perfect comfort food. Every recipe I try is downright amazing.

  13. 5 stars
    My husband and I are not big meat eaters so I was eager to try this! We didn’t miss the meat at all! It is so flavorful and robust with all the vegetables. I took Heifa’s advice and use whatever veggies I had on hand. My husband devoured them! Can’t wait to make this one again 🙂

  14. 5 stars
    Made these Warak dawali for iftar today made 3 jars one for my family and one jar for each my sisters.
    This recipe was delicious my favourite Warak dawali recipe by far.
    Thank you so much

  15. 5 stars
    These were excellent. I’ve only ever made just meat and rice stuffed grape leaves and wanted to make a vegetarian version. They were flavorful, tangy, and addicting.

  16. 5 stars
    When I first saw vegetarian grape leaves I thought “what in the world no meat!” Then I made these and omgggg I never went back to meat grape leaves . These are so amazing and delicious they have a kick to them from the jalapeños and red bell pepper gives it that extra flavor! So good this was a win in my family thanks so much.

  17. 5 stars
    I have been following her from Instagram and this blog that has quickly become my go-to destination for authentic Palestinian recipes, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. And her passion for sharing the rich and diverse flavors of Palestine shines through every post, and I can’t help but feel a deep connection with each dish.

    One of my absolute favorites has to be the grape wraps – an exquisite creation that beautifully captures the essence of Palestinian cuisine. The delicate balance of flavors and textures in each bite is a testament to the blogger’s dedication to preserving and showcasing the culinary heritage of Palestine.

    What truly sets this blog apart is the her unwavering commitment to authenticity. With each recipe, there’s a sense of respect for tradition and a genuine desire to share the true essence of Palestinian cooking. It’s evident that every dish is crafted with love, and that love translates directly to the plate.
    I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the cultural significance of each dish. It’s like embarking on a culinary journey that goes beyond the kitchen, allowing me to connect with the heart of Palestine itself.

    I can’t thank her enough for the time and effort poured into this blog. It’s more than a collection of recipes; it’s a testament to the power of food in bridging cultures and fostering understanding. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a curious beginner, this blog is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to experience the soulful flavors of Palestine.

    In a world where authenticity is often diluted, this blog is a beacon of genuine cultural representation. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who shares a love for Palestine or simply wants to explore the magic of Palestinian cuisine. Thank you for sharing your passion and heritage with us through these exceptional recipes. Love, Zehra!

  18. 5 stars
    Best grape leaf recipe! I made it for iftar, it was absolutely delicious. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

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