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Yabrak – Stuffed Grape Leaves

Middle East style grape leaves stuffed with rice, lamb and spices then simmered until tender. | Share

In late June, I was out for a bike ride on the St. Lawrence recreational trail when I noticed a patch of healthy wild grape vines.  I thought, these young leaves are just perfect for making stuffed grape leaves.  I had in mind a delicious Syrian recipe that I hadn’t had in years.  So, I picked about 60 of the tender young leaves, packed them on my bicycle rack, brought them home and dug through my old recipe box. 

Bike Path
Wild Grapes along the St. Lawrence Recreational Trail.

I got this recipe years ago when I was first introduced to the dish by a Syrian family who immigrated to Canada.  The ingredients in this dish are common to many traditional dishes in Syria and Lebanon.  Most who enjoy mediterranean cuisine will be familiar with the Greek dolmades, or the Turkish dolma which are similar. However these are usually served as an appetizer. This Syrian recipe, also known as yaprak, includes meat and more seasonings. This makes it hearty enough for a main course, especially if served warm.  


How to make yabrak

Not everyone has the ability to forrage for wild grape leaves. And because the picking season is short you’ll need to seek alternatives when they are not available in the wild. Your other options are to pick them in season and freeze them or you can buy them by the jar from a Mediterranean grocer.

Meat options

The lamb may be substituted for beef or even a half and half mixture. For a little extra flavour in the broth, some versions include about a dozen or more chicken wing tips. They are usually placed on the bottom of the pan with the stuffed grape leaves layered on top of them. Raising the yabrak from the bottom of the pan can help it cook more evenly with less chanch of them sticking or becoming damaged.


Yabrak – Stuffed Grape Leaves

Kevin Lamoureux
Middle East style grape leaves stuffed with rice, lamb and spices then simmered until tender.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 35 minutes
Resting Time 20 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean, middle eastern
Servings 8
Calories 300 kcal


  • 60 Grape Leaves
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 cup converted rice rinsed and drained
  • 2 lemons juiced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tbsp allspice ground


  • If using fresh grape leaves, remove the stems, then blanch them in boiling water just until they change colour (about 30 seconds). Drain well and separate and place the leaves on tea towels to dry.
  • Add the lamb, rice, half of the lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper to a large mixing bowl and blend well.
  • Place a layer of the smallest or broken leaves in the bottom of a large pot with a lid (about 10-inch diameter). The pot must be a litter bigger than the plate you will be placing inside later.
  • Place a leaf, vein side up, on a flat surface, then place about 1 tbsp of the stuffing mixture near the bottom centre of the leaf. Tuck in the bottom and sides then roll up tightly like a cigar.
  • Place the rolled leaf, seam side down neatly in the pot. Repeat, placing rolled leaves closely together.
  • Cover the top layer of rolled leaves with a few extra leaves.
  • Pour the remaining lemon juice over the leaves in the pot.
  • Place an inverted plate on top of the leaves.
  • Add enough water to reach the plate.
  • Cover the pot and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for 35 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and allow to cool for about 20 to 30 minutes.


Serve warm or cold. Garnish with lemon, yogurt, tzatziki, or Syrian cucumber-yogurt salad.
Per serving
Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Iron: 2.5mg
Keyword dolma, grape leaves, lamb, yabrak

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