Stuffed grape leaves are a delicacy all over the Mediterranean consisting of spiced minced meat and rice rolled into tender grape leaves. This Lebanese version, aka warak enab, is a delicious dish of rolled grape leaves, lamb chops, cloves of garlic, and fresh lemon juice.
Serve warak enab with a side of fresh pita bread and homemade plain yogurt. Many Mediterranean countries have their own version of stuffed grape leaves. This recipe is a Lebanese meat version however there are vegetarian versions as well.
For more traditional Lebanese recipes, check out the best Lebanese recipes.
What I Love About This Recipe
Lebanese grape leaves are, hands down, my favorite Lebanese meal (maybe it's a tie with kishik soup). It's normally made for special occasions or family gatherings.
Rolled grape leaves take a lot of time, however, over the years, I've found a few hacks (like freezing the rolled grape leaves). I hope the detailed instructions below help you make the best-tasting Lebanese stuffed grape leaves.
- Grape leaves: Use a jar of grape leaves or fresh grape leaves. Fresh leaves are delicate to handle and need to be washed well. Also, fresh vine leaves need the stem end removed. Many jarred grapes leaves have the stems removed already, cutting down excess work.
- Ground meat: Use 90% to 95% ground beef. The lamb has a lot of fat, so I prefer to use leaner ground beef in the stuffing. Some recipes call for fattier meat in the stuffing (like ground lamb or ground chuck), which is fine if you are omitting the lamb chops.
- Short-grain rice: Calrose rice or any other short-grain rice works the best for stuffed grape leaves. Medium grain, like jasmine rice, is suitable however you may need to add more water.
- Spices: The grape leaf stuffing uses allspice, cinnamon, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
- Fresh lemon juice: Freshly squeezed lemon juice is better than bottled lemon juice.
- Lamb chops: Use any type of fatty and tender lamb meat, however, lamb chops are my favorite.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
How To Make Stuffed Grape Leaves
Stuffed grape leaves are made in two phases: rolling the grape leaves and cooking the grape leaves.
Make the Rolled Grape Leaves
Prepare the grape leaves. Clean and remove the stems from the grape leaves.
- For jarred grape leaves: just rinse the grape leaves in water and remove the stems (if any). No need to boil the grape leaves because they are tender and pliable.
- For fresh grape leaves: remove the stems and wash the leaves by soaking them in water. Submerge 20 grape leaves at a time in boiling water for a couple of seconds. Drain and set aside. Boiling the leaves make them more pliable for rolling.
Prepare the spiced ground beef and rice stuffing. Mix the ground beef, short-grain rice, garlic powder, allspice, ground cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl with your hands.
Set up your workstation and get comfortable. It takes about 30 minutes to one hour to roll 100 grape leaves. You can cut down the time it takes if you have willing family members.
Roll the grape leaves on a flat surface. Place about 2 teaspoons of the rice stuffing close to the bottom of the leaf. Fold the bottom up over the rice mixture, then fold over the sides of the leaf.
Roll the grape leaf upwards tightly. The grape leaf should be about the thickness of a finger.
Pro Tip: This size grape leaf is the sweet spot, not too big and not too small.
Place the stuffed leaves in a container with the seam side face down. Once you are done rolling the grape leaves, you can either cook them or store them in the fridge (up to one day) or freezer (up to 3 months).
Cook the Grape Leaves (Warak Enab)
Salt and pepper the lamb chops. Fry the lamb chops in olive oil in a large pot with high sides. Once the lamb chops are browned on both sides, remove them from the heat. Layer the sliced tomato and grape leaves on top of the caramelized lamb chops. Try to make a flat even surface for the grape leaves.
Place the rolled grape leaves with the seam face down in one row facing the same direction. Add a second layer of grape leaves facing the other direction. Place grape leaves in tight parallel rows.
Add chunks of garlic in between the rolled grape leaves. Turn a heat-proof plate upside down on top of the grape leaves to help keep the leaves from unraveling as they cook.
Boil some water. Add about 5 cups of boiling water to the grape leaf pot making sure the rolled grape leaves are covered in water. Cook for 30 minutes on medium to medium-high heat. Keep the water level just covering the grape leaves (you might need to add one or two more cups).
Add the lemon juice. Continue cooking the leaves in the lemony broth for 30 minutes on low heat covered. Flip the pot into a large plate or larger pot. Serve immediately with pita bread and yogurt.
Tips and Tricks
- Roll the stuffed grape leaves tightly. It takes a little practice to roll grape leaves.
- Place the seam side down when layering in the pot.
- Adjust the stuffing amount to the size of the grape leaf. Grape leaves are all different sizes, so add a little more stuffing to large grape leaf sizes.
- Make sure the grape leaves are covered with water when cooking. The water level needs to cover the leaves, so the rice stuffed inside can cook.
- Test a rolled grape leaf before taking it off the stove.
Variations and Substitutions
- Omit the lamb chops. Add a layer on the bottom of the pot to create a barrier for the rolled grape leaves when cooking. You can use sliced tomatoes, potatoes, or onions. Also, add a little fattier meat to the stuffing if omitting lamb chops.
- Use fresh grape leaves. If you can find fresh grape leaves, lucky you! Make sure to wash and prepare the leaves for rolling by removing the stem and boiling them quickly.
- Use ground lamb instead of ground beef. Any type of ground meat is suitable for grape leaves. I prefer lean ground beef if making warak enab with lamb chops.
- Use medium-grain rice instead of short-grain rice. Add a little more water if using medium-grain rice. I don't recommend using long-grain rice because the stuffing will be dry.
- Cutting board and chef's knife to cut the tomatoes and stems off of the grape leaves
- A large pot with high sides and a cover to cook the lamb chops and rolled grape leaves
- Lemon juice squeezer to juice the lemons
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons to measure out the ingredients
Store rolled and uncooked grape leaves in the fridge (up to a day) or freezer (up to 3 months). Store the cooked grape leaves in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Yes, in fact, grape leaves are the main ingredient for stuffed grape leaves. Grape leaves come fresh or jarred. They must be washed well prior to use.
Grape leaves are high in fiber and antioxidants.
Depending on the region, stuffed grape leaves are prepared differently. Typically, stuffed grape leaves consist of ground meat (or herbs), rice, tomato, and spices.
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Lebanese Stuffed Grape Leaves (Warak Enab)
- 100 grape leaves 2 lbs (1kg) of wet weight or 18 oz (500 gr) of dry weight**note 1
- 2 lbs rack of lamb about 8 lamb chops
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium tomato sliced
- 8 whole garlic cloves
- ½ cup of lemon juice about 4 lemons
- 6 cups of water rough estimate, you may need more
- 1 lb of ground beef 90% to 95% fat content
- 1½ cups short-grain rice
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1-½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- salt to taste start with ½ teaspoon
Prepare the Stuffed Grape Leaves
- Prepare the grape leaves. Clean and remove the stems from the grape leaves.
- Jarred grape leaves: The stems might already be removed and the grape leaves are clean. Just rinse the grape leaves in water. Also, the grape leaves are tender and easy to roll, so they don't need to be boiled.
- Fresh grape leaves: Start by removing the stems one by one. Wash the grape leaves by soaking them in water. Boil a pot of water. Dropping a stack of 20 grape leaves at a time, just submerge the grape leaves for a couple of seconds in the boiling water. Drain and set aside. Continue for all grape leaves.
- Prepare the grape leaf stuffing. Mix the ground beef, short-grain rice, garlic powder, allspice, ground cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a bowl with your hands.
- Roll the grape leaves. Get a workstation ready that has the grape leaves stacked and the rice stuffing in a separate bowl. It takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour to roll 100 grape leaves. Grab about 2 teaspoons of the stuffing and place it at the base of the grape leaf. Fold the bottom of the grape leaf upward and then fold over the sides of the grape leaf. Continue rolling the grape leaf upwards tightly. Place the grape leaf with the seam down in a container.
Cook the Stuffed Grape Leaves and Lamb Chops
- Salt and pepper the lamb chops. Grab a large pot that has high sides (the grape leaves expand as the rice cooks). Heat up about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pot. Add the lamb chops and brown on both sides. Take the lamb chops off the stove to cool down for 5 minutes.
- Cut the tomato into slices. Layer the tomato slices on top of the lamb chops. Add a layer of unwrapped grape leaves, trying to make a flat surface to place the rolled grape leaves on. Arrange the rolled grape leaves in the same direction tightly with the seam face down. Place some garlic cloves in between. Make a second layer in the opposite direction with the grape leaves seam face down. Place a few leaves on top of the rolled grape leaves and turn a plate upside down (to help the leaves not unravel while cooking).
- Boil some water. Add about 6 cups of boiling water to the grape leaf pot. Cook for 30 minutes on medium to medium-high heat. Monitor the water level to just cover the grape leaves. Add the lemon juice and continue cooking for 30 minutes on low heat covered. The grape leaves are done when the rice is cooked (about 1 hour total cook time).
- If using jarred grape leaves, this is 2 small glass jars that is 1 lb wet weight or a large jar that's 2 lbs wet weight. Fresh grape leaves can be substituted, however, they must be cleaned well and the stems removed.