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 yogurt.
What I Love About This Recipe
This is hands down my favorite Lebanese meal. 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 jarred grape leaves or fresh grape leaves.
- 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, and garlic powder.
- 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 grape leaf stuffing. Mix the ground beef, short-grain rice, garlic powder, allspice, ground cinnamon, salt, and pepper in a 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 on the time it takes to make if you rope in a willing family member.
Roll the grape leaves. Place about 2 teaspoons of the stuffing close to the bottom of the leave. Fold the bottom up over the stuffing, then fold over the sides.
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 rolled grape leaf 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. Try to tightly fit the grape leaves.
Add chunks of garlic in between the rolled grape leaves. Turn a plate upside down on top of the rolled 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 and continue cooking 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 for rolling 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 rice needs to cook, so the water level needs to cover the leaves.
- 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 in lieu 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 in lieu 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.