Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves

James Beard

Author and Educator

Claudia Roden’s recipe for stuffed grape leaves from her 1972 classic, A Book of Middle Eastern Food, inspired James Beard’s adaptation.


  • 3/4 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 to 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, plus an additional tomato, sliced
  • 1 large onion or 12 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons crushed dried mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-pound jar grape leaves, drained and washed
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water, plus additional water as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon


For the filling, cook rice by your favorite method, drain thoroughly, and combine with tomatoes, onions, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix this filling well.

Place the leaves on a plate, vein side up, and put a heaping teaspoon of filling in the center, near the stem edge. Fold the stem end up over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle and roll up like a small cigar. Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand. You’ll get the knack after doing a few. Pack rolls tightly in a Dutch oven or other heavy lidded pot lined with slices of tomato (this prevents the leaves from sticking to the pan and burning), and slip garlic cloves in between them.

Mix together olive oil, water, saffron, sugar, and lemon juice. Pour this over the rolls, then put a small plate on top to prevent their unwinding. Cover the pot and simmer very, very gently for at least 2 hours, until the leaves are thoroughly cooked. Add water occasionally, about half a cup at a time, as the liquid becomes absorbed. Let the rolls cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold with drinks or as part of a table of mezze.


40 to 50 stuffed grape leaves, depending on size