Swiss Chard cake

This is a recipe from Lebanese  chef Marlene Mattar.

I am Lebanese-born, which means that I love stuffed grape leaves.

I hate stringy, rubbery, stuffed grape leaves.

I am appalled at restaurants that are not ashamed to sell them to their customers. They should know better! In Lebanese cuisine, grape leaves are picked when they are tender; the result is that after cooking they will melt in your mouth. The swiss chard leaves are stuffed in the same fashion as grape leaves. The result is the same, meltingly tender.

My point is this: Do not use  grape leaves from a jar,  use fresh young and tender leaves, or use swiss chard leaves. Swiss chard leaves are available year-round and one large leaf will yield at least four rolls. (for the recipe, check here)

In this recipe, Chef Marlene Mattar used the swiss chard leaves to form a cake; the stuffing is the same  traditional rice stuffing used in Lebanese cuisine for cold mezzes. The idea is to save time.


  • 20 large swiss chard leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups of medium-grain rice, such as Sushi rice (or Turkish or Egyptian or Italian)
  • 3 cups of Italian parsley, chopped very fine (stems discarded)
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh mint
  • 3  cups of tomatoes, chopped in fine dice
  • 1 cup of onion, chopped fine
  • 1 Tablespoon red Aleppo pepper or hot paprika (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (optional)
  • 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice (or more, as needed)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • salt, pepper, to taste and a dash of allspice and cinnamon
  • Tomato peel and extra mint leaves for garnish


  1. Using a sharp knife, deftly remove the thick chard stalks, putting them aside to use later for the stalks salad.
  2. Drop the chard leaves in rapidly boiling water for a few seconds; remove from the  water and dry on  towels on a flat surface.
  3. Fill a pot with salted water (about 4 cups) and bring to a boil; as soon as it boils, drop the rice in the water and cook for 10 minutes or until it is halfway cooked, tender but still firm to the bite; remove and drain well.
  4. Sprinkle the spices on the chopped onion and mix well; add the rice to the onion and all the other ingredients.
  5. Take a pan measuring about 9inX3in and cover with foil; lay the swiss chard leaves at the bottom of the pan, about 1/3 of them, making sure the leaves are hanging out (to use at the end to fold them over the stuffing).
  6. Place 1/3 of the stuffing mixture on top of the chard leaves. Cover with a few chard leaves.
  7. Place 1/2 of the remaining stuffing over the leaves. Cover with the remaining leaves.
  8. Place the remaining stuffing and cover with the leaves hanging on the sides. Pour a small cup of water on top.
  9. Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 325F preheated oven for about one hour.
  10. Remove and cool on the counter and then store  in the fridge; serve at room temperature.

NOTE: This swiss chard cake will keep for one week refrigerated.

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  1. Posted March 30, 2010 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    This is gorgeous, clever and delicious looking. And just the thing this Crazy Cook could really dive into this coming weekend! Can’t wait to try it! (And YES, tough grape leaves are so disappointing!)

  2. Posted March 30, 2010 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Joumana, the swiss chard cake with rice filling looks exotic. Every time I visit your blog, I am amazed by the wonderful creations you write about.

  3. Posted March 30, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Which is exactly why I don’t order in restaurants. Once was enough. But now, maybe I can make my own.

  4. Posted March 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Marhaba my friend…
    Sorry for being away from here.. I was sick for the past couple of days, with a bad sinus infection.

    I really love the short cut in this dish…. I love it so much but i find it harder than the grape leaves to stuff… (I have a grape leave tree in the garden, never the jar leaves).
    I love this idea of creating a cake instead of stuffing one by one… This is the last week of Lent, i was planning on vegetarian stuffed grape leaves.. Now iam trying this one instead…
    Today the menu is Sayaddieh if you like to come for dinner.

  5. Pamela
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joumana,

    I’m going to make this dish in the coming days.. But I’m also going to add some minced meat, because it’ll go really well… It looks delicious, and sounds easy enough… Not sure mine will look as pretty as yours from the first time, but I’ll do my best.. :)

    Thanks for sharing the recipe as always…


  6. Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I agree I also dislike old grape leaves served at resturants but machallah yours looks fresh and tender … too beautiful !

  7. Posted March 31, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    That is a work of art! I love swiss chard, this is beautiful, I’m also looking for your fig jam.

  8. Posted April 2, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I am so glad you found my blog, so that I could find yours! I love the idea of serving the stuffed grape (or in this case chard) leaves in cake-form.

  9. Posted April 2, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Now you tell me- I just bought a jar of grape leaves. I have been wanting to make them for so long. I am so excited that you suggested swiss chard leaves. Now it will be more easily done.

    I love this presentation here. You are quite the creator!

  10. Posted April 4, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    What a great tip to use chard instead of jarred grape leaves. . This is one of those show stoppers, just beautiful.

  11. Posted April 4, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    bookmarking this one Joumana……look so good……

  12. Posted April 16, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    What a thing of beauty, this Swiss chard cake looks amazing and wonderfully tasty Cannot wait to try.

  13. Posted June 3, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Is that why I never likes stuffed grape leaves? who would know unless someone explains. I will be more open minded about grape leaves now that I know what makes the difference. Thanks for educating us.

  14. Posted June 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    This is absolutely charming. I love it!

  15. krissanan
    Posted June 8, 2010 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    I would like to know benefit of the Swiss Chard in Thai. hwo can help me to know
    Thank you.

  16. Posted December 26, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a Very Happy New Year..

  17. Posted February 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    My good !!! On dirait du déjà vu, cela m’ est déjà arrivé plusieurs fois de retrouver des produits ou des recettes que je pensais avoir inventées et qui sont sorties des têtes d’ autres artistes comme toi. Le visuel est vraiment étonnamment beau, bien plus que le mien…je craque. Quand je te disais que ton blog était magnifique….bisous et à +

  18. Posted February 25, 2011 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    Tres beau site bravo pour les recettes, j’adore la cuisine libanaise
    merci et bonne continuation
    Amal du Maroc

  19. Annalisota
    Posted March 4, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    This was soooo good!!!! Thank you, again!! You have made my tummy very happy this week.

  20. Posted March 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    This looks awesome, I’m seriously intrigued. A+ presentation!

  21. Richelle
    Posted April 3, 2011 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Made this today and it was a big hit, even with my 9 year old, who isn’t a big fan of veggies. Used rainbow chard from my veggie plot! I added some ground meat, seasoned with Ras-el-Hanout spices and added some golden raisins and used brown rice and about half of the mint leaves. The cake smells heavenly of mint and lemon!
    Lovely and will surely make this again. For a very quick lunch in summer you could just use the stuffing (rice fully cooked) on a salad!

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