Swiss Chard cake

March 27, 2010  •  Category:


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.


77 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Bria says:

    OMG, this is so cool. What a gorgeous and festive special occasion dish–that’s my first thought. Love it! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. anncoo says:

    OMG! I thought is a cake at the first picture. Very beautifully wrapped with the tomotoes roses on top. Too beautiful to eat.

  3. The Little Teochew says:

    Joumana, that is a masterpiece! Oh my … I’m sure you get oohs and ahhs everytime you make this. It’s beyond beautiful. It’s exquisite. I can’t believe it’s rice in there and not a regular cake! It’s brilliant!

  4. Nour El-Zibdeh says:

    This is so cool! I’m with you, grape leaves from a jar are really bad but I don’t live anywhere near a grape trees/vines 🙁 Never thought of using other leaves, but I was reading in a book about Mediterranean food history that in Turkey, they stuff pretty much all kinds of leaves.

    Do you not put ground meat? We call the ones with meat: wara2 dawali, and the ones without: yalanjee 🙂

  5. Sushma Mallya says:

    wow its very beautifully done,seems very healthy and nice…

  6. Bo says:

    I must say this is one of the most beautiful vegetable dishes I have ever seen. I have been wanting to cook stuffed grape leaves…thanks for the tip…I will use swiss chard instead.

  7. Ivy says:

    I would never buy vine leaves from a jar. They taste horrible. I agree with what you say. In Cyprus we also use Swiss Chards at times when there are no vine leaves to stuff koupepia (dolmades), which are the Cypriot stuffed vine leaves and apart from pine nuts and aleppo pepper or paprika the remaining ingredients are the same with your recipe.

  8. Mathai says:

    We buy grape leaves stuffed with rice from our local souk and since they’re fresh its not as rubbery as those from a can.

  9. Maggie says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog & leaving a comment. This recipe is wonderful and I shall surely give it a try. It reminds me of the food we ate at Chez Marianne in Le Marais last weekend.

  10. Trissa says:

    Confession – I’ve never had stuffed grape leaves before – are they called dolmades? I see them in the groceries but always had a feeling they weren’t much good being sold there. Thank you for this recipe. Now I can enjoy something even better! I’ll have to make this soon.

  11. Fouad says:

    Hi Joumana

    First, let me say your website looks great! I’ve been reading it on my RSS reader so I haven’t seen the new design till now! It’s really changed a lot and looks fantastic.

    And, wow, this recipe is a great idea. my brother in law George once said to me that in a few generations, no one will have the patience to roll vine leaves and that our recipe will die out. This makes life so easy, keeping the same flavours. brilliant! thanks for sharing

  12. Cherine says:

    Wow!! i’m speechless! Your cake looks amazing!!

  13. lyan says:

    waaw!! this is a post card you always cant send to my. It look great. Il waith the ingredient is in my garden to make and try.

    Thanks for the idee


  14. MaryMoh says:

    I was surprised to see rice inside. I thought it was a real cake. Beautiful presentation. Makes a great centre piece!

  15. Susan says:

    Thank you for your visit and kind comment on my site!

    I love Swiss Chard when I can get it fresh from the Farmers’ Market in the summer. I would love to try this beautiful recipe then. I see so many tempting recipes here. Your Petit Beurre cookies with Passion Fruit and Sparrows Nest cookies also caught my eye 😉

  16. Muneeba says:

    Whoa, that looks spectacular!! Very creative 🙂

  17. Priya says:

    Omg, wat a beautiful and fantastic cake…love those cute tomato roses..

  18. peachkins says:

    I haven’t tried something like this… It looks really good!

  19. Michelle says:

    OH MY! What a beautiful dish and so perfect for Spring! Always looking for good Chard recipes and this is a keeper.

  20. The Nervous Cook says:

    Wow! That looks better than any sweet cake I’ve ever had. Stuffed grape leaves are one of life’s most perfect little pleasures, and this is an incredible way to enjoy them.

  21. Mary says:

    This is really a masterpiece. I’m not always easy to please, but this is drop dead gorgeous. I’m going to try this the next time the family is assembled. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  22. Stella says:

    You are so full of great ideas, Joumana, and this swiss chard in place of grape leaves is one of them. I don’t like those jarred grape leaves either-not worth it…

  23. nazarina says:

    I would love this Swiss chard delight but only if it came from your wonderful hands! You have really outdone yourself my dear! I used to date a Lebanese guy when I was going to college in Miami. He would always make little delights with grape leaves LOL! I love your rendition of the Swiss chard better! Yummeee!

  24. melrose says:

    It look realy interesting…like one big sarma:)

  25. Faith says:

    This is so incredibly beautiful! Your food is always so impressive and expertly styled…and this sounds delicious too!

  26. kim says:

    I’ve had so many mediocre grape leaves (oversalted, too oily…you name…), but yours look gorgeous!

  27. sophia says:

    This cake is FANTASTIC! I’m totally blown away…the way I always am with your outstanding dishes. I actually happen to have some fresh swiss chard with me…but sorry, I just don’t have the skills to make the same dish as yours!

  28. sweetlife says:

    The first shot is just so lovely..I love the roses on top and the filling is just so flavorful…great job


  29. noobcook says:

    This is the most unique and exquisite cake I’ve seen. and so pretty with the grape leaves and tomato “flowers”.

  30. Cynthia says:

    I’m so glad that you stopped by and assist in my finding your site. I can’t wait to explore!

    Your presentation is awesome, look at those perfectly made tomato roses!

  31. tigerfish says:

    Oh my, you are super creative with this! And it looks so so beautiful 🙂

  32. Robyn says:

    Oh wow – that is just the most BEAUTIFUL presentation… You have a gift! And thank you for giving me permission to use swiss chard instead of vine leaves. I am going to try this recipe soonest!

  33. Mariana says:

    Your blog is beautiful taste of beirut. I need more time to come back and explore your wonderful offerings. I was so very taken with the Lebanese Nachos. I thought I was rather clever coming up with a mediterranean version a couple of years ago, using baked pita wedges, hummus, tzatziki and tabbouleh. Perhaps I am not as clever as I thought I was. I shall be back for sure. Oh, I love stuffed rice too!!

  34. Devaki says:

    Dear Joumana – I am such a fan on dolamades & can stuff my face all day long with the stuff.

    So you can imagine I am sitting here wiping the drool off my face as I read this post. The swiss chard is genius.

    I love your innovation in the kitchen. Fantastic!

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  35. Not Quite Nigella says:

    This is SO pretty! 😮 I thought it was a regular sweet cake especially with the roses on top. Good tip with the vine leaves too!

  36. Viviane, Taste-Buds says:

    I love swiss chard rolls! I mean it is amazing how something that tastes rather bland on its own can become incredibly tasty in a wide variety of dishes! I agree with you about the rubbery grape leaves! Mom picks them fresh in summer and keeps some in jars or in the freezer for winter (after blanching I think) they always come out great and nothing like those leaves you have to chew over and over and perhaps get choked on some string.
    The Swiss Chard Cake is interesting since it is the first time I see chard worked that way. Makes it faster to prepare than to roll each one.

  37. Joanne says:

    This is very cute. That has to be just about the healthiest cake known to man. Excellent concept!

  38. fimère says:

    un seul mot: magnifique
    c’est un chef d’œuvre ce que tu nous propose, je donnerai tous pour pouvoir seulement y gouter
    visuellement il est superbe et côté gustatif il doit être divin, bravo
    bonne journée

  39. Barbara says:

    What a lovely presentation this makes, Joumana! And I love Swiss chard. I’ve never made anything like this and to top it off with the adorable tomato “rosebuds” is just the final perfect touch.

  40. peter says:

    This IS gorgeous, creative and I’m smitten with your salmon and now, tomato rosettes.

  41. Sarah Naveen says:

    Oh My!!!! Oh My!!!! thats looks awesome!!!Love the colors…
    Such a drool worthy cake with swiss chard..fabulously delicious..

  42. Joie de vivre says:

    This is absolutely incredible!

  43. Myfrenchkitchen says:

    Your cake looks delicious AND beautiful too. I’m with you..LOVE stuffed grape leaves, but they are most awful when they are stringy and tough! a good idea to use swiss chard leaves,, I’ll remember this, thanks!

  44. Asmaa says:

    Une découverte pour moi ce plat, il à l’air très bon

  45. andara says:

    Merci pour le commentaire laissé sur mon blog … je vais découvrir le votre !

    Cette recette propose une belle présentation … par contre je ne suis pas sure que j’aimerais ! En tout cas, très original !

  46. tobias cooks! says:

    This is amazing, like a big Dolma. I will show this to my Greek friends, they will love it.

  47. Ann says:

    My goodness, Joumana- have you been hiding from all of us the fact that you are a secret graduate of the Culinary Institute? Your plating is always so professional and amazing.
    I agree with the stringy dolma wrappers. I have eaten so many bad ones at the middle eastern restaurants here that I think I am permanently off that item.
    Using swiss chard leaf is an innovative solution!

  48. Nadjibella says:

    Une réalisation de chef. Bravo mon amie.

  49. Nicola says:

    Wow – this looks amazing and really, a masterpiece! I had a craving at the weekend for Waraq inab which I was not able to indulge; that craving has just returned stronger than ever!

  50. Meeta says:

    Joumana, what a wonderfully awesome looking recipe! For me the perfect alternative to grape leaves! i usually used spinach or kale as I do not get grape leaf so readily here but Chard is awesome. Got to give this a try!

  51. Liz Barrett says:

    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!)

  52. Mona says:

    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.

  53. Margaret says:

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

  54. Arlette says:

    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.

  55. Pamela says:

    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…


  56. heni says:

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

  57. Marie says:

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

  58. Cara says:

    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.

  59. Lori says:

    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!

  60. TastyTrix says:

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

  61. spice says:

    bookmarking this one Joumana……look so good……

  62. OysterCulture says:

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

  63. I Sicilian says:

    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.

  64. Murasaki Shikibu says:

    This is absolutely charming. I love it!

  65. krissanan says:

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

  66. Elegancka Sukienka says:

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

  67. domi says:

    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 +

  68. AMal says:

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

  69. Annalisota says:

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

  70. Jess says:

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

  71. Richelle says:

    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!

  72. Coco says:

    Oh, what gorgeousness is this!?
    I must make it!

  73. Sahana Shyam says:

    Hello, Thanks for sharing the recipe!! I made this from homegrown chard leaves and it was super tasty. Also made gravy to go with this.

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