Molokhia, also known as Mulukhia, is a delicious Middle Eastern dish that is somewhere between a soup and a stew. It’s incredibly tasty and also surprisingly nutritious!
This recipe is the authentic way of cooking Molokhia and the dish has its roots in Egypt. It’s a royal recipe, something that the Pharaohs of the time used to have too! So if it was good enough for the Pharaohs, it’s definitely good enough for us!
But jokes aside, this recipe is rich and the perfect Egyptian comfort food. If you’ve never heard or tried Molokhia before, don’t worry I have you totally covered!
What is Molokhia?
Molokhia is the name for the leaves (vegetable) as well as the dish that has originated from ancient Egypt. It’s an incredibly delicious dish that is a stew but could also be seen as a soup. This recipe is the authentic way to get that beautiful flavor in the comfort of your own home.
Molokhia is a type of leafy plant that is also known as Jews mallow, Jute mallow, Egyptian spinach, okra leaf plant or Nalta. It is said to have originated from Egypt and then spread all over the Middle East. Mulukhia is particularly popular in the Levantine region as well, so Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon.
This dish is also eaten not only in the Middle East, but in other ways across Asia. It’s known as nalta sag in India, saluyot in the Philipphines, bai po in Thailand and moroheiya in Japan! I’m honestly not surprised people around the world love it so much – it’s truly an incredible leafy vegetable!a
Is it Molokhia or Mulukhia?
Many people get confused as to how to pronounce Molokhia, and also how to spell it. So, is it Molokhia or Mulukhia? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s both of them and more!
Other variations of the spelling (and therefore, the pronunciation) you’ll find include Mulukhiyah, Mulukhiyya, Molohiya, Malukhiyah, Mloukhiya.
You’re probably wondering why this is the case. Well, in Arabic the word is written as ملوخية
and when you’re trying to write it in English, it results in a ton of different spelling variations.
Top it off with different Arabic dialects and ways of pronunciation, and you have the various combos you see here. Don’t worry though, regardless of how you’ve seen it being spelled or heard it being called – it’s all this deliciously rich and nutritious stew/soup we’re going to be making today!
What’s the Difference between Egyptian Molokhia and Lebanese Molokhia?
This recipe that I’m going to share with you is the Egyptian way of cooking it. In Egypt, the Molokhia leaves are chopped or minced very finely before cooking.
In Lebanon, on the other hand, whole leaves are used, and the recipe is, therefore, a lot different in the way it’s made.
I’ve had it both ways and the Egyptian one is my absolute favorite. What’s best is that you can also make this with frozen leaves – in fact, that is the way I prefer it since it’s difficult to find fresh leaves in America!
In Lebanon, people tend to prefer having Molokhia with toasted pita squares with a vinegar and onion sauce on the side. In Egypt, it is traditionally eaten with white rice.
The most delicious way to have it is with rice and vermicelli, and I’ve included that in this recipe so you know exactly how to cook it!
What Makes This Dish So Special?
Like I said before, this is the authentic way of making this recipe all the way from Egypt! But I’ve also made sure it’s incredibly easy to make at home, regardless of where you are.
For this reason, this recipe has been adapted to use frozen jute leaves, instead of fresh ones since they’re a lot more difficult to come across here in America. But in case you want to use fresh leaves, check out the recipe notes below.
This recipe also has everything you need to serve this dish in the most perfect way possible – coupled with how to make the rice with vermicelli that Molokhia is commonly eaten with. So, trust me, I’ve got you covered!
One of the tricks that grandmas from Egypt use to make this recipe even more delicious is to add something called taqliya to it. Taqliya is made from sauteing some onions and primarily finely chopped garlic and adding it to the Molokhia stew that is cooking.
While this might seem like a little additional step but trust me it makes a world of difference! It adds that extra something that you might have found missing from other recipes if you ever tried them.
Some people are sometimes worried that Molokhia might have a slimy texture since it’s from the Mallow family, but I’ve included lemon juice in this recipe that counteracts this entirely.
I’ve explained this recipe step by step, so you have no issues making it whatsoever! It’s way easier than you can imagine and taste out of this world!
Is Molokhia Healthy for Me?
Molokhia leaves are incredibly healthy! So much so that it even surprises me sometimes.
The scientific name for this plant is Corchorus Olitorius and in terms of nutrition, it really packs a punch! It has three times more calcium and phosphorous than Kale! It also has four times more vitamin B2 (riboflavin) as well.
It’s high in Vitamin C and is also a great source for Vitamin A, E, and K! It’s rich in potassium, iron, and magnesium, as well as more than 32 other vitamins and minerals. It’ll help you digest your food better and is known to help lower stress and improve vision.
All in all, this dish is not only incredibly delicious but also impressively nutritious! It’s worth every minute to spend cooking it and is truly one of its kind.
Where Can I Buy Molokhia From?
This recipe includes frozen Molokhia leaves that are minced. You can usually find it in your local Middle Eastern grocery stores or online.
You might be able to also find fresh Molokhia leaves in local Middle Eastern stores while it’s in season, that you’ll have to trim off its stems and then finely chop it with a knife. In Egypt, a special knife called a Mezzaluna is used to finely mince the leaves.
If you’re worried you won’t get the same taste with frozen ones, I’m here to tell you that that’s completely untrue! The frozen leaves will give you a delicious flavor, just as the fresh jute leaves do while saving you the time and energy to go out looking for fresh leaves.
If you still wish to use fresh leaves and have come across them, read the recipe notes below which will tell you exactly how to do about using them!
What You Need to Make Molokhia at Home
Making Molokhia at home is incredibly easy and requires really standard ingredients, apart from the Molokhia (jute) leaves themselves. Here’s what you’ll need to make it at home:
For the Molokhia:
Molokhia leaves: This is definitely the star ingredient in this dish, as the dish is even named after it! We’re using finely chopped (minced) jute leaves in this recipe but read the recipe notes and tips below to know how to use fresh ones!
Lamb shanks: I’ve used a kilo (2.2 pounds) of lamb shanks, but you can also use mutton instead if you prefer or even beef.
Spices: This recipe has a host of delicious whole spices that add an incredible flavor and aroma to it. We’ll be using black peppercorns, whole cardamom pods, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks in it.
Onion: You’ll be needing 2 medium-sized onions in this recipe that are chopped. Set two tablespoons of it aside to use in the taqliya later.
Ghee: Ghee adds a beautiful, rich flavor to the recipe. If you don’t have it, you can also use butter but, fair warning, it won’t have the depth of flavor that ghee has.
Bouillon cubes: We’ll be using bouillon cubes for ease in this recipe, instead of making fresh chicken broth ourselves. It’ll still give you that perfectly beautiful flavor though but without the hassle. Since we’re using bouillon cubes, be sure to not add additional salt till you’ve tasted the dish.
Garlic: We’ll be needing minced garlic in this recipe, that along with the 2 tablespoons of chopped onions, we’ll sauté separately to make the taqliya and add it to our Molokhia.
Lemon juice: Lemons and lemon juice counteract the slimy texture that can sometimes occur with Molokhia. So don’t skip the lemon juice!
Water: We’ll need boiling water to cook the Molokhia and create a broth using the bouillon cubes I mentioned above.
For the Rice with Vermicelli:
Rice: Short grain rice is perfect for this recipe and much preferred than long grain, so pick the former if possible.
Vermicelli: Vermicelli is a very fine noodle that’s usually made of ground rice or wheat and is very popular in various Asian and middle eastern cuisines. That’s what we’ll be using today.
Ghee: Ghee adds an incredibly delicious richness to the dish, so see if you can use that instead of substituting it with butter.
Salt: This is to enhance the flavor. My recipe includes exactly how much you’ll be needing but make sure to modify it according to your taste.
Water: We’ll be using boiling hot water to make the rice and vermicelli.
How to Make Molokhia – Step by Step
Making Molokhia is incredibly easy, and if you follow my recipe you’ll have the most delicious tasting, authentic Molokhia ever! Here’s what you need to do:
To Make the Molokhia:
Start off by first defrosting the Molokhia. Place the frozen Molokhia in the fridge until you cook the meat. If you’re using fresh Molokhia leaves instead, see my tips and recipe notes below.
Then, take a large pan and add the lamb shanks, cloves, black peppercorns, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, and 8 to 9 cups of water to it. Bring this to a boil and let it cook on medium heat for 1 ½ hour. After this, remove the lamb shanks from the pot and set them aside. Discard the water and the spices.
Next, in a large pan fry the onions in 3 tablespoons of ghee until the onions turn translucent. Add the shanks and fry them until they turn light brown in color.
Now add the thawed, minced Molokhia leaves to the pan. Stir them until it comes to a boil.
Add bouillon cubes and 2 and a half cups of boiling water to the pot. Stir it all well and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Taste it at this point and add more salt if you feel it needs some more.
Take a separate small saucepan and let’s make the taqliya! Heat some ghee in the pan and add two tablespoons of chopped onions to it. Cook until they turn translucent and then add garlic. Make sure to tilt the pan around to cover the garlic with ghee. Cook this over low heat until you can smell the aroma of the garlic. Be sure not to burn it.
Once you prepare the taqliya, add it to be Molokhia pot while it’s still simmering. Stir for 3 minutes and then add the lemon juice to it.
After the Molokhia boils once, remove it from the heat. Cover the pot with a lid and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.
To Make the Rice with Vermicelli:
Start by washing the rice until the water runs clear. Then soak the washed rice in water for 20 minutes.
In a pan, add the ghee and let it heat up a bit. Once it heats up, add the vermicelli and pan fry it until it turns brown.
Add the drained rice to the vermicelli and fry them on medium heat for one minute.
Pour the boiling water into the pan and add salt to it. When this mixture comes to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest and cover it with a lid.
Let the rice cook for 16 minutes. Once done, remove the cover and fluff the rice, then cover again and continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the water evaporates.
Serve the Molokhia over this delicious rice with vermicelli.
Tips to Make the Best Molokhia You’ve Ever Had
Here are some quick tips to make the best Molokhia ever:
- If you want to use fresh Molokhia (jute) leaves, start by washing the leaves properly several times. Let the leaves dry a little. Ground the leaves using a Mezzaluna. Now you can use it in the recipe the way you would use defrosted, minced Molokhia.
- Most of the time I don’t add salt to the Molokhia since the chicken bouillon has enough salt. However, you should taste the Molokhia and see if you feel it needs more salt. If so, season it with a bit more salt according to your taste.
- Not every recipe includes lemon juice, but it adds amazing flavor to the Molokhia, and it reduces the slimy texture usually associated with this leafy vegetable.
- Although you can use butter instead of ghee, it won’t have the same flavor and richness that ghee has. Butter also has a lower smoke point than ghee so it’ll burn faster, especially when you’re trying to sauté the onions and garlic while making the taqliya. So, it’s best to use oil in that situation instead.
- You can store Molokhia in the fridge for up to 3 days. Since this leafy vegetable has high water content, it’s not preferable to freeze it.
Other Recipes You’ll Love
Yemeni Chicken Mandi: If you want to try another delicious Arabian dish, this is the one – trust me! Chicken Mandi is an aromatic and delicious Yemeni dish that’s popular in all Arab countries, and for a good reason! Here’s the easiest method to make it at home!
Authentic Kunafa (Knafeh): Looking for a delicious and popular Middle Eastern dessert to have a whole feast? Then this Kunafa recipe is the one you need. Kunafa is a delicious dessert with a crunch and buttery flavour, layered with homemade pastry cream. You’re going to absolutely love it!
Zaatar bread (Manakeesh): If you want to try a Middle Eastern starter, then this is the perfect place to start off with! Manakeesh is a mouth-watering bread topped with a Zaatar mix and topped with cheese. It’s perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Do give it a try!
Easiest Authentic Egyptian Molokhia
For the Molokhia
- 400 gm frozen Molokhia Jute Leaves (For using fresh Molokhia read the notes below.)
- 1 kilo lamb shanks or mutton cut into small cubes
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 ½ tablespoon black pepper corns
- 7 whole cardamom pods
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 inch cinnamon stick
- 8 to 9 cups of room temperature water to boil the lamb
- 2 medium onion chopped (keep 2 tablespoons on the side)
- 3 tablespoon ghee
- 3 chicken bouillon cubes
- 2 ½ cups boiling water for Molokhia
- Salt if needed (please read the notes)
- 2 teaspoons ghee for the garlic
- 4 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 to 3 tablespoon lemon juice
For the rice with vermicelli
- 1 ½ cup short grain rice
- ⅓ cup vermicelli
- 2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3 ¼ cup boiling water
- 1 tablespoon ghee
Cooking the Molokhia
- Defrost the Molokhia.
- To a large pan add the lamb shanks, cloves, black pepper corns, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon, and 8 to 9 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil and let cook on medium heat for 1 ½ hour. Remove the shanks and set aside. Discard water and spices.
- In a large pan, fry the onion in 3 tablespoons of hot ghee until translucent. Add the shanks and fry until light brown.
- Add the thawed Molokhia. Stir until it comes to a boil.
- Add bouillon cubes and 2.5 cups boiling water. Stir well. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed.
- In small saucepan, heat ghee. Add two tablespoons onion until translucent. Add garlic. Tilt pan to ensure all garlic is covered with ghee.
- Cook over low heat until aroma of garlic rises. Do not burn garlic.
- Pour the garlic onion mixture on the Molokhia while it’s simmering. Stir for 3 minutes and then add the lemon juice.
- After it boils once remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Cooking the vermicelli
- Wash the rice until the water runs clear, then soak in water for 20 minutes.
- In a pan, add the ghee and when hot add the vermicelli and fry until brown.
- Add the drained rice and fry on medium heat for one minute.
- Pour the boiling water and salt and when it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest and cover.
- Let the rice cook for 16 minutes, uncover and fluff the rice, then cover again and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes or until the water evaporates.
- If you want to use fresh Molokhia, wash the leaves properly several times. Wash the leaves several times, allow the leaves to dry a little then finely cut them, then include them in cooking this recipe.
- Most of the time I do not add salt to the Molokhia since the chicken bouillon has enough salt. However, you should taste the Molokhia and if it needs salt please do season it.
- Not every recipe includes lemon juice, but it adds amazing flavour to the Molokhia, and it reduces the slimy texture usually associated with Molokhia.
- Store the Molokhia for 3 days in the fridge.