These grape leaves with rice and meat contain my favorite cabbage roll stuffing. Putting the filling in grape leaves instead of cabbage makes them more portable, perfect as an appetizer, or as a potluck dish. Because they contain plenty of protein from beef and pork, this recipe works as an entrée too. You’ll love the versatility of this dish. This finger food is tasty warm or at room temperature.
Here’s one for the folks that liked my unrolled cabbage roll recipe. These grape leaves with rice and meat have incorporated many of the same flavors: beef, pork, rice, onion, herbs. The difference is that this time, I’ve stuffed everything into neat little grape leaf packages.
Because we’re stuffing grape leaves (around 62, to be exact), this is going to take longer than the unrolled cabbage rolls. So, make sure to save this recipe for a weekend or for when you have a little downtime. I was able to get caught up on listening to a few of my favorite nutrition podcasts while I rolled the grape leaves.
Something great about this recipe is that it makes a lot of food. And I mean A. LOT. OF. FOOD. Unless you have a huge family or are taking these to a party, you will have leftovers.
I made these as an entrée one evening and appreciated having the leftovers for lunches over the next few days. Unlike dolmas that are stuffed with a rice/herb mixture only, the inclusion of more protein makes this one entrée-worthy. Don’t forget to add some plain, unsweetened yogurt for dipping!
What you’ll need to make grape leaves stuffed with meat
In my area, it is easy to find jars of grape leaves in conventional grocery stores. The leaves have already had their stems removed and are ready to use in recipes as-is.
Depending on the grape leaves you purchase, you may need to do the extra work of removing the stems. Your leaves may also benefit from getting a bath for a few minutes in hot water to tenderize them.
Uncooked white rice is commonly used in recipes for stuffed grape leaves. Brown rice takes much longer to cook. If you use brown rice, I recommend cooking it until halfway done (20-25 minutes) and draining it before you start this recipe.
Another option is to use a product called “light brown rice.” It can be used exactly like white rice in recipes because it cooks in about the same amount of time. I’ve seen inexpensive bulk packages of Della light brown rice sold at Costco, so it is not too difficult to find.
What is light brown rice?
Light brown rice cooks much faster than regular brown rice because it has been “gently milled.” (That is the wording from their packaging.) Some of the bran is removed in this process, making this less of a whole grain than regular brown rice.
I do not see a Whole Grain Stamp on Costco’s Della light brown rice, but one is visible on the product packaging on Della’s website. I’d think of this product as living somewhere between refined white rice and minimally refined brown rice. It contains 1 gram of fiber per ¼-cup (dry), right in range with the 1-3 grams of fiber per ¼-cup of regular brown rice.
This product can be a great option if you don’t have 45 minutes to cook brown rice. In terms of flavor, we think it is more similar to brown than to white rice.
It looks like brown rice, too. Perhaps this is not surprising, since it technically IS brown rice, just not as whole of a whole grain.
But enough talk about rice options. Don’t we have a recipe to be getting to?
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The calorie information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to this post. Let’s get cooking!
Grape Leaves with Rice and Meat
- 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, sliced
- 60-70 grape leaves (from a jar)
- ½ lb. ground pork (227 grams)
- 1 lb. extra lean ground beef (454 grams)
- ¾ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
- 8 medium scallions, sliced
- 1 cup dry brown rice, cooked halfway OR dry light brown rice (see above post for rice discussion)
- ¾ cup olive oil (divided)
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup chicken broth
- plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, for dipping
- Prepare your grape leaves as needed. Remove the stems and boil them briefly if you need to tenderize them. I did not need to do these things with the jarred grape leaves I purchased.
- Line the bottom of a Dutch oven with the sliced potatoes. I was able to make two layers. The potatoes will keep your grape leaves from sticking to the pot while they cook.
- With clean hands, combine the raw pork, raw beef, parsley, mint, scallions, rice, tomato, onion, and ¼-cup of the olive oil.
- Lay a grape leaf flat on a clean counter or a sheet of wax paper. Place 1 tablespoon of filling into the middle of the leaf. Wrap the edges of the leaf around the filling so that the filling is completely covered by the leaf on all sides. Place the stuffed grape leaf seam-side down in the potato-lined pot.
- Keep filling and wrapping grape leaves, creating a single layer of stuffed grape leaves in your pot. You can create a second layer of grape leaves once the first layer has been completed.
- Pour the remaining ½-cup olive oil, the lemon juice, and the broth on top of the grape leaves. Cover the grape leaves with a large dinner plate to help weigh them down.
- Put the lid on the pot and cook on the stovetop using medium-low heat (i.e., with my oven, this would be setting 3-4 out of 10).
- The last time I made these, my leaves had finished cooking in 1½ hours. Other times they needed closer to two hours. It is a good idea to check on things after an hour and add more broth if things get too dry.
- When you think they are done, cut open a leaf and check to make sure the rice and meat have been thoroughly cooked. They may need additional cooking time if your heat is set lower than mine.
- Serve the stuffed grape leaves warm or at room temperature with plain Greek yogurt for dipping. Enjoy them!
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). The calorie count on this one does not include the potatoes. (And you will have some lovely crispy and lemony potatoes at the bottom of the pot if you cook things low and slow.) Olive oil is 120 calories per tablespoon; all of the oil in this dish brings the calories way up. Yes, olive oil is considered heart-healthy, but the serving size is small. One of the mistakes I made when I was having trouble losing weight was drowning everything in olive oil. Though each stuffed grape leaf is only 53 calories, it can be tough to stop at a few. It can be particularly challenging with this recipe because it makes so much food! I’m listing this recipe as a snack, but in truth, my family is more likely to have larger portions of this as a meal. If you aren’t feeding a crowd, I recommend plating your portion and packing the rest in the fridge right away. The leftovers will keep for several days and are great either warmed slightly or at room temperature.
As always, take a photo and tag me @SummerYuleRDN on your social media if you make these grape leaves with rice and meat. I’d love to see your fine culinary work!