Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Vegan Stuffed Grape Leaves

Sephardic Jews traditionally serve stuffed foods for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) such as these delicious stuffed grape leaves. I use a simple vegan filling that is also gluten free. It's easy once you get the hang of the rolling, and it's such a delicious lemony delight!

It seems like yesterday that I was on the picturesque coast of Greece, enjoying the scenery and the delicious food. One of my favorite Greek recipes is for Stuffed Dolmades or stuffed grape leaves. They are absolutely worth it,  but they can be laborious to make until you have some practice making them. However, once you get the hang of rolling the grape leaves, you are good to go and will have one of the most delicious naturally gluten free appetizers or side dishes ever!

My husband comes from a Middle Eastern/Greek/Turkish background, so stuffed grape leaves are a staple at all of our all of our holiday meals! My 91 year old mother in law (Nona)  stuffs her grape leaves with meat and rice, my sister in law (Danielle) stuffs some of her grape leaves with meat and some with a vegan stuffing (thank you Danielle ), and I (of Eastern European descent and inexperienced)  used to just open a can of vegan stuffed grape leaves from BJ's or an import from Turkey of vegan rice stuffed dolmades! After all our years of marriage, I've finally learned to make my own.

Of course when I used to open a can, I doctored up the ready made variety. I put the cooked stuffed grape leaves in a skillet, add 1/4 cup lemon juice and a little water and cook them down for 20 minutes until nice and juicy and lemony! The stuffed grape leaves in the can are a great substitute for making the real thing. But- of course they are not as delicious as the real thing. 

99% of the recipes on my blog are always fast and easy recipes; this recipe is the 1% that is not . This recipe can be time consuming for the novice- but worth it! I suggest making a small quantity the first time you try to make them. This is my vegan/gluten free recipe for the real thing when I want to take the time and put out the effort-

One last thing- grape leaves surprisingly are a good source of essential fatty acids and iron!! Who knew??

Judee @ Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Stuffing Prep and Cook Time: 20 minutes
Assembly Prep Time: 30-45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes + 45 minutes to boil the grape leaves initially
Serves: 6 for a side dish (4 grape leaves each)

25 grape leaves ( they are sold in jars in water in some supermarkets or Middle Eastern or Greek ethnic stores)
2 cups of cooked rice ( Basmati, brown, or white)
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 cup finely chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup of chopped onion
2 cloves of chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Optional: 2 Tablespoons of pine nuts
Juice of 1 large organic lemon ( 1/4 for the filling, 3/4 of the juice to cook the stuffed leaves in the skillet)
Cracked pepper to taste


    Open the jar of grape leaves. Remove 25 leaves very carefully so they don't tear. Fill a sauce pan with water, place the grape leaves in the sauce pan, bring to a boil and boil away for about 35-45 minutes. The grape leaves from the jar ( especially from the Middle East)  really need to soften up. If you skip this step, your final product might be tough and chewy instead of soft and flavorful.

    While the grape leaves are boiling to soften them, prepare your filling.

     Filling/Stuffing : 

    In a large skillet, sautee the onions until soft, add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, and black olives and cook for another minute or two stirring constantly. Remove from heat and mix in the cooked rice, parsley, salt, pepper , and lemon juice. Stir well and set aside to use as your stuffing.

    Allow leaves to cool and then get ready to stuff them.

    How to fold the grape leaves: It's like wrapping a present.

    Step 1: Lay one grape leaf flat with the vein side facing up

    Step 2: Place 1-2 teaspoons of filling in the center near the stem

    Step 3: Fold in the two sides and then roll it up tightly

    Step 4: Place the rolled filled leaf in a rimmed skillet ( place  the leaf face down to hold in the filling)

    Step 5: Place the rolled grape leaves in a skillet in a tightly knit circular design- see photo

    Step 6: Cover with lemon juice and water and cook covered for 15 minutes on medium heat ; uncover and cook out liquid for additional 5 more minutes.

    Serve immediately or serve at room temperature.

    Gather and then roll up 
    Place in a circular direction in a large skillet tightly until pan is full

    My notes:

    1. These freeze well
    2. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days ; serve warm or at room temperature
    3. I get frozen spice cubes in the freezer case at Trader Joe's and some supermarkets
        I get frozen garlic, cilantro, ginger, and basil cubes. I just add them to recipes.
    4. Sephardic Jews are Jews that originated from Spain -
        Mizrachi Jews are Jews that were from Middle Eastern Countries-
        Ashkenazi Jews are Jews with origins from Eastern Europe.
    5. My husband and his parents and grandparents were born in Cairo, Egypt- His prior ancestry is from Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, Italy, Turkey and Greece. Stuffed foods, especially stuffed grape leaves,  are popular through out the Middle East.
    Easy Fall Soups that you can make in under 25 minutes

    1. Brussels Sprout Soup in 12 minutes ( my favorite) 

    2. Golden Cauliflower Soup in 25 minutes

    3.  Creamy Avocado Zucchini Soup in 25 minutes

    Pin It Please leave a comment so I know you stopped by. Scroll down to the end of the post and click on comments.

    linked to : Healthy Vegan Friday


    1. These look amazing!!!!!

    2. How delicious! A friend from Iraq used to make stuffed grape leaves for us to enjoy. I haven't had them since we moved away.

    3. Delicious Thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

    4. Hi Judee,
      I had a friend who used to make these and I loved them but never had the recipe. I am so glad you gave us the recipe. Hope you are having a great day and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
      Miz Helen

    5. Really great idea to make your own too! My husband loves stuffed grape leaves and now that he doesn't eat meat I think he's missing them. I'll have to show him your recipe!

      Thanks so much for linking up with us for Healthy Vegan Fridays! I’m Pinning and sharing!

    6. What a fun dish! Thank you so much for sharing this at Allergy Free Thursdays!

    7. Oh I've seen these at restaurants and Whole Foods has them in the hot food bar sometimes. I have never thought to make my own. It does sound labour intensive, but well worth the work.
      Thanks so much for sharing at Healthy Vegan Fridays =)

    8. Judee, I was so interested to read this post! I've always been intimidated by stuffed grape leaves, but not anymore! Your instructions are fantastic and the recipe sounds delicious. Thank you so much for sharing, and for being a part of Hearth and Soul. Sharing on the Hearth and Soul FB page later today.


    Your comments are appreciated. I love knowing who is stopping by to read my posts! Have a great day.