Making Malfouf – a super tasty Middle Eastern dish!


What the malfouf?

When I first started dating my wife, I was super picky. When things got serious enough that I was invited to a family party, I was warned in advance that I might not be familiar with the food that was there. I was way outside of my comfort zone and ended up eating nothing but pita bread. Oh, how times have changed. Now when we have family dinners and parties, I’ll often be one of the first people to ask if there are going to be any of the Lebanese dishes that I was once too picky to eat.

One of my absolute favorites is called malfouf. Traditionally, the dish is meat and rice rolled in cabbage or grape leaves, but we tend to opt for the more casserole-like version.

Two specific things to note.

  1. Once you have meat spiced with cinnamon, you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried it.
  2. This is one of those dishes where the left overs are better (I promise).

The below recipe is provided courtesy of my wife and are her words!


  • 1 head of cabbage, chopped, 1-2 inch pieces. Rinse so all cabbage is wet, and largely separated. You want to separate most of the leaves. (For calories, ~1100 g, Cabbage – Raw)
  • 32 oz, Beef, Ground, 90/10
  • 0.50 stick, Butter – Salted
  • 4 cup, Rice – White, medium-grain, semi-cooked (don’t use instant – it gets too mushy)
  • Salt
  • Cinnamon (sorry, no precise measurements here, but you want to shake generously over the pot)


For the rice, you need to partially pre-cook rice in the microwave. It should be about halfway cooked, still firm but not inediblely firm. It will continue to cook with remaining ingredients on the stove. (I used cooked rice measurement—as I make lots of rice in one batch for various recipes).

In a large pot, begin browning the ground beef. Approximately half way through the browning process (some browned some still pink), add the butter, salt, and generously apply cinnamon on the top of the meat, I’m guessing at least one teaspoon.

Once meat is browned, add the rice in a single layer over the meat, do not mix. Generously apply more cinnamon on top of this layer. Add the cabbage in on top of the rice layer. Add ~¾ c water and then more cinnamon. Put lid on, let cook on medium heat until cabbage and rice are both tender. I usually let it cook for 10-15 minutes—then check if more water is needed. You don’t want to burn the meat.

If cabbage is partially cooked, you can begin mixing the layers. Cooking is done when rice and cabbage are both tender. Stir thoroughly. It can be eaten immediately, but truly is better the second day as all the flavors meld together.


Well, how was it?

If you end up making this, please let me know, I’d love to hear your opinion!