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Preserved Grape Leaves

wild grape leaves

Photo by Hank Shaw

If you live in grape country — and most of us do — May through early July is the best time to pick grape leaves to use for dolmas, or stuffed grape leaves, throughout the rest of the year. And just to be clear: When I say “grape country,” I am not just talking about Napa or Sonoma. You don’t need to use wine grape leaves. Concord grape leaves work fine, as do wild grape leaves — and those grow in most of the United States.

Most grape leaves, wild or domesticated, fit well into pint jars. But sometimes you get some really large leaves that are better for quart jars; I have a Mission grape in my yard that has leaves this large. Use your judgment.

This method for pickling grape leaves in an acidic brine comes from an excellent book on canning, Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling, one of the better pickling books to come out in recent years.

Once made these grape leaves will keep in the jar for a year or more.

Makes 1 pint. and can be scaled up.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

  • 20 to 40 grape leaves, stems removed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea.
  2. Get another large pot of water ready — this is what you will can the grape leaves in. Remember you will need something to keep the bottom of the pint jars up off the bottom of the pot. I use a vegetable steamer, but a bunch of canning lids (the rings, not the gaskets) works well as a platform, too. Get a large bowl of ice water ready.
  3. Boil the grape leaves for 30 to 45 seconds, then plunge into the ice water to cool. Drain them once the leaves are all cool.
  4. Take about 6 grape leaves at a time and roll them up into a cigar from the side — not the top or bottom. You will need to fold over the leaf end to fit into the pint jars. Pack the grape leaves into the jar, making sure you have about 1 inch of┬áhead space at the top.
  5. Sprinkle the citric acid into each pint jar. Bring the water you used to cook the grape leaves back to a boil and ladle it into the jars. Make sure the grape leaves are covered with the brine. Wipe the edge of the pint jar with a clean towel and seal the jar. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

More Pickle Recipes

32 responses to “Preserved Grape Leaves”

  1. Inshallah | The Khouriyeh Said What?!

    […] been working inside in the bad weather. I pickled my first grape leaves and canned them, using this recipe. Three pints and it took several hours altogether. They were free leaves, but I have to wonder […]

  2. Jane

    I tried this recipe today, altogether including picking time, I believe it took me 1.5hours for 3 pints. Now if they taste good, I will definitely use this recipe again!

  3. Margareta Spain

    What a great recipe! I have such a lot of wild grapes along in my yard. What a good idea about the lids in the bottom of the pot.

  4. Jenn

    I made these tonight – also 3 pints – and they took less than an hour, including picking and cleaning the leaves. Looking forward to using some and taking the rest to a barter event.

  5. Kathy Constantine

    I would like to know where I can find pickled grape leaves in a grocery store. Which grocery store would carry them?

  6. Juana

    Hi, In western Canada it can often be found in grocery stores like Superstore and Save-On.

  7. Sherrie

    How much lemon juice per pint, please? I know spring leaves would have been more tender but curious to try this.

  8. Sherrie

    Thanks, I wasn’t clear on that. Appreciate the quick response.

  9. Diane

    Thank you for yet another great recipe. I am out in the country in Northern CA and we have so many beautiful grape leaves on four big vines. This recipe was simple, and I ended up making a quart and two pints of them! I wish I had picked more! They are almost done in the water bath as I am writing this. I can’t wait to prepare them with some of our grass fed lamb!! Wondering if I could use some ground venison for dolmas as well?

  10. Jessy

    Hi, I have preserved leaves and today I need to make dolmas. Do I have to boil the leaves before starting to stuffing and rolling them?

  11. Bruce

    Hi Hank
    Recipe sounds perfect. Are the leaves then ready to use? I assume they are. Thanks

  12. Carolyn Trumello

    Hank, I am impressed yet again by all the wonderful goodies you have to offer!! I’ve been wondering since Christmas if we could make Dolmas with large spinach leaves too (thinking grape leaves would be difficult to procure–but I see I’m incorrect on that, yay!). Any opinion about brining and canning big spinach leaves in the same fashion as above?

  13. allen valead

    My grape leaves are all jarred do I need to refrigerate them?

  14. Robert Buttross

    For many years I have stacked 20 – 30 leaves with 1/2 ” stem left on. After washing them I stack them and roll them. Place several rolls into a Jar side by side. Pour the boiling water over them with Lemon Juice and salt in the jar. Seal them and process them. The stems give you something to hold onto when you seperate the leaves when you use them. Snip the stem just before rolling when making the stuffed grape leaf or leave on rolled grape leaf. any not used should be refrigerated. Seems like many recipes make it labor intensive. I personally do not find it necessary. You can purchase jared Grape Leaves for about $6.00 LB. I question the wisdom of doing your own, other then the satisfaction of doing it yourself. Plus, you had pick ALL the leaves you are using. Much better quality.

  15. Nate

    I appreciate this simple recipe. In an attempt to consume invasive plants, I’m going to try this recipe with kudzu leaves.

  16. Angela Petrers

    Thanks, I made these a few nights ago after work, hardly took any time at all, was so quick and easy. only made 2 pints from my backyard grapes. Haven’t tasted them yet, but if they’re as good as their aroma, then I will be making lots more.

  17. DonaldJ

    unroll 2 pickled grape together leaves on baking pan.. (2 layers per unit)..
    make a line of smoked oysters down the middle..
    add hot pickled pepper rings..
    shake lots of parmesan around the perimeter..
    add flakes of blue cheese..
    maybe add bits of crisp bacon..

    side soup dish:
    tin mushroom soup, mixed with tin tuna..
    add 5th cup pickle juice from pepper rings..
    1 cup butter milk..
    lots of fresh ground black pepper..
    do not add pepper rings unless you want it to be over the top HOT..

    toast black pumpernickel to slightly crisp..
    add butter, anchovy paste, and orange marmalade…

  18. Mehmet

    Merhaba. Ben turkiye de yasiyorum. Uzum baglarim var ve salamura yaprak uretiyorum. Arastirin ve dunyadaki en lezzetli yaprak bizde. Tokat salamura yapragi

  19. Lindacay Launius

    Thankyou for your information on processing grape leaves.fantatic

  20. Jennifer

    Do you think lime juice would be a good replacement for lemon juice?

  21. PFL

    You can also preserve after cooking the leaves in brine under cold pressed EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil). Pat the leaves(water leads to bacteria growth) dry prior to placing them into a glass jar that has a proper rubber gasket seal and sieve press to weigh upon the leaves so they remain submerged. When done properly you can keep in cool dark steady temperature storage outside the fridge. When you go to use the leaves ALWAYS remove from the oil using wood chops stick, or tongs do not use your fingers for it will introduce bacteria into the jar. Depending the grape you will find the leaves with induce flavor into the oil and as you use the leaves us the oil as well for salads, cooking etc. Another method to brine is placing the leaves under sea salt ie. capers, olives etc. Make sure to use non iodized sea salt.

  22. Elizabeth Eblan

    When using a quart jar how much lemon juice does one add to the bottle of leaves. Also how much salt does one add, kosher or sea salt?

  23. Annie

    I did not boil my leaves before placing in the brine by mistake! First time I’ve worked with grape leaves and I thought I could just do a quick pickle. Will they be edible still in 2weeks time as stuffed grape leaves?

  24. Debbie

    just wondering….use either lemon juice or citric acid correct? not both?? thanks

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