Make Ahead

Grape Leaves with Rice Pilaf

June 20, 2011
11 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I love stuffed grape leaves. My Grandma taught ESL and had many Middle Eastern students. She made these for them (and us!) all the time. In her attempt to make them feel at home, she created a dish that makes me think of home.

Dolmas are one of my favorites, but I don't always have it in me to carry out the production that is stuffing, wrapping and steaming them. I invented this salad as a shortcut way to get the extraordinary flavor of grape leaves that I often crave in an easy-yet-satisfying salad.

Because the base of the salad is rice, it travels well and can be kept at room temperature for prolonged periods of time, unlike salads that are just veggies or greens. - Anitalectric


Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Anitalectric is a vegan chef and baker living in Brooklyn -- and a longtime Food52er!
WHAT: A mostly-pantry pilaf -- with the zippiness of fresh dill and sugar snaps -- that's both satisfying and elegant.
HOW: Cook your rice, toast your pine nuts, and toss everything together.
WHY WE LOVE IT: We love the use of grape leaves in this pilaf -- it's like a deconstructed dolma. The pine nuts, feta, sugar snaps, and dill add lashings of brightness and texture. This would be a wonderful side dish, or brown bag lunch, or vegetarian main, or snack...basically, we'd eat this anytime. —susan g

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup white or brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped grape leaves from a jar
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill leaves
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup (optional) crumbled feta
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  1. Prepare rice as instructed on package. While cooking, place chopped grape leaves in a sieve and rinse under running water to remove excess salt. Squeeze out excess moisture and add to the simmering pot of rice (without stirring).
  2. Toast pine nuts over low heat for 5 minutes, turning occasionally until they are golden and aromatic.
  3. Stir the cooked pot of rice to combine with the grape leaves. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add all remaining ingredients except for pine nuts. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
  4. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.
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  • Sarah Smith
    Sarah Smith
  • QueenSashy
  • lapadia
  • Anitalectric
I am a self-trained vegan chef, pastry chef and baker. More recently, I founded Anita's Yogurt in Brooklyn, NY. Anita's Coconut Yogurt is now available from coast-to-coast and for nationwide delivery from our website. I still frequently bake desserts for my daughter and post recipe videos on instagram. Currently baking: Kombucha Muffins From Jerrelle Guy, Genius Nut and Seed bread from Sarah Britton.

13 Reviews

dickensthedog October 8, 2017
Here is my version, which has become a family favorite!
Grape Leaf Pilaf (Deconstructed stuffed grape leaves)
2 cups Jasmati or other favorite rice 1 small shallot, chopped
3 cups low sodium or homemade chicken stock
1 jar of grape leaves, chopped (mine came in cigar shaped rolls, which I split lengthwise then chopped width wise), rinsed very well to remove the salty brine they are packed in
2 cups coarsely chopped sugar snap peas
2 lemons, juiced (don’t add the juice all at once in case it is too much) 2 tbl. Evoo
Za’htar to taste
½ cup crumbled feta 2/3 cup pine nuts Chopped fresh parsley Chopped fresh mint Currants for sweetness
(I include chopped prosciutto in my grape leaves, so I may try adding some the next time I make this)

First, cook the rice:

• In a large flat frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat till foamy.
• Add the shallot and cook until clear and translucent, about 2-3 min.
• Add the rice, and stir to combine.
• Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is coated with the butter and is lightly toasted.
• Season with pepper to taste.
• Add the chicken stock, and stir to combine.
• Place the chopped grape leaves right on top of the rice (do not stir them in)
• Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
• Cover with a tight-fitting l id, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 17 minutes.

Transfer the rice and grape leaves to a very large bowl, and add all the other ingredients. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

megarette March 28, 2017
I made this recipe last night, and doubled it because I wanted to eat it as a main dish and have leftovers. The rice turned out crazy sticky and weird. I put the rinsed off chopped grape leaves on top of it while it cooked (in the rice cooker) as described but it seemed to ruin the rice. Maybe not compatible method with a rice cooker. I also had slightly more grape leaves in mine because I didn't want to waste what I had, and it turned out to be crazy salty. Like my insides feel like the ocean. Husband wouldn't eat it. I am going to try to reclaim it by putting it in some pita with hummus and cucumbers today for lunch. I don't get the hype, but also maybe my slight adjustments to the method described were what ruined my attempt.
andrea.muraskin May 25, 2015
I made the following variation:
Used freshly picked wild grape leaves, steamed until bright green
Added some flowers from the black locust tree, also steamed for a few minutes
Substituted pumpkin seeds for pine nuts
Skipped sugar snap peas and feta.
The grape leaves were a little chewy. Might have been better if I actually added them to the rice while it was cooking - I didn't read the recipe thoroughly. Went over well at a cookout for wilderness enthusiasts Memorial Day weekend. Thanks for this simple, healthy and tasty recipe!
Emily April 30, 2022
This sounds great! I am thankful to find lots of wild grapes growing on fences around here. Does anyone know how to prepare them —I think pick smaller ones and maybe stem and then steam/blanch or soak in salt water a bit before cooking with the rice?
Josie M. July 8, 2014
If I use fresh grape leaves do you think I should blanch them first?
Sarah S. December 11, 2013
Made this last night with some changes. I browned some ground beef and added the snap peas, a chopped zucchini, and some golden raisins towards the end to soften them up. I loved it! I can't wait to have it for lunch today!
ldl0607 October 9, 2013
Could I make this with quinoa?
micook July 17, 2013
I made this last night and am enjoying leftovers for lunch. Really good. I think it could use more oil, which I've since added, and maybe a little less pepper, but this is really refreshing on a steamy day. Thanks.
QueenSashy July 15, 2013
Love it! Saved it! Congrats! The end! Cheers!
lapadia August 8, 2011
I seriously don't know how I ever missed these! While in college and beyond my good friend's mom (Lebanese) made these at all the occasions I was invited to, I never made them but I did get started on making pita because of her. Anyway, I love this recipe and have saved it :)
Anitalectric August 8, 2011
I just realized this recipe was an Editor's Pick! My Grandma would be so proud. Thanks, food52! and thank you to Susan G for testing.

I get spoiled living here in Brooklyn where you can get grape leaves at every grocery store. I also live in an old-school southern Italian neighborhood where there are grape vines growing everywhere. A friend of mine has a backyard overrun with them and I have been meaning to go over and pick some to try fresh. Yesterday at the Chinese take-out shop across the street, I peeked through their kitchen and the screen door leading to their back lot and spied a massive amount of gorgeous, huge grape leaves growing over the fence. Such a shame they don't use them. I was sitting there having visions of sticky rice steamed in grape leaves while I was waiting for my fried plantains.

Susan, I love your idea of adding a crunchy, seasonal vegetable. At this time of year I'm thinking diced pattypan squash or string beans would be nice. (I just got some purple ones from the farmer's market and they make salads look so beautiful). Maybe even halved red grapes would be nice and add a touch of sweetness.

I recently made some stuffed grape leaves for Smorgasburg and still have three huge jars that I bought for almost nothing at a Middle Eastern store on Atlantic Avenue. I think I will use them to make this recipe for my birthday picnic this Saturday.

h.c.r. I love your comment. Boris (the dog) is all about affection. We had a roof picnic where I served the pilaf and the only pic I had of it was this one!
HCR July 6, 2011
your photos are the best... i think me and my dog are both as eager to dig in as the dog in the picture is to join the hug.
Anitalectric June 20, 2011
I am waiting on a recipe for almond feta, a delicious vegan alternative. Will post here when I get it!