Lebanese Molokhia with Chicken
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How to make Lebanese molokhia – a nutritious, warming jute mallow stew made with simple seasonings and chicken broth then topped with chicken and served over vermicelli rice.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I was in Lebanon for a while living a foodie’s dream (aka trying new foods all day every day) for my current major “project” I’m working on. As part of this project, I’ve started sharing all my favorite authentic Lebanese recipes from my childhood, including hearty stews like carrot and pea stew (Bazella), butter bean stew (fasolia), okra stew (bamya/bamia), and this Lebanese molokhia with chicken and served over a bed of vermicelli rice!
What is Molokhia?
To say that this is a dish with many names would be an understatement. Molokhia, mulukhiyah, mloukhieh, mulukhiyya, mulukhiyyah, all refer to a type of leaf (used as a vegetable) that also goes by many names: jute mallow, Tossa jute, jews mallow, mallow leaves, etc. Regardless of what you call it or how you spell it, though – these are all a single dish!
So, what is molokhia? It’s a popular Middle-East/African stew made with jute mallow. The leaves themselves are slightly bitter and, when boiled, can become slightly “viscous” (in a similar way that okra does). However, when prepared correctly, they also make for a delicious Lebanese molokhia stew!
Combining the leaves with chicken stock and chicken, this is a simple, nutritious chicken stew. Serve alone or with a side of rice and lemon wedges for a simple, wholesome meal. While there are several versions available across different regions, this is one that I learned from a Lebanese family member and follows the Levantine method. This version uses whole molokhia leaves (rather than minced, like the Egyptian version) and cilantro leaves. I’ve used dried jute leaves in this recipe, though you can use fresh, dried, or frozen (whole) for this Lebanese molokhia.
Once cooked, this prepared Lebanese molokhia is packed with nutrients (including various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) and makes for a great warming stew any time of the year! Although, I should note that the stew has a very viscous ‘gooey’ texture, thanks to the mloukhieh leaves. So, it can be an acquired taste if you aren’t used to it.
Where can I buy Molokhia?
This will depend on where you’re based. For example, in Middle Eastern countries, you can often find them sold fresh at roadside stands when it’s in season (the summer). However, they’re also found globally in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean stores (or online), either in frozen or dried form.
For a traditional Lebanese molokhia, always look for whole leaves (which may be tricky when buying frozen). Though in a pinch, you can use frozen leaves that aren’t whole – it doesn’t make the same dish, so I tend to avoid doing so.
- Jews mallow: in the UK, this comes best in dried form and was labeled dried Jew’s Mallow/Mloukhiyeah Yabseh) in a Middle Eastern store. You could also use fresh or frozen, though.
Note that dried and fresh leaves have a more robust flavor in comparison to frozen. So you might prefer to use one version over another.
- Aromatics: in this recipe, we use fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), garlic (adjust the amount to taste), and a small red chili (reduce or omit based on how spicy you prefer your food).
- Spices: this Lebanese molokhia recipe uses a simple combination of ground coriander seeds and salt (and black pepper if preferred).
- Oil: any neutral cooking oil will work – avocado, olive, etc. You could alternatively use unsalted butter or even ghee.
- Chicken & chicken broth: for this Lebanese molokhia, we use boiled chicken meat. I used bone-in chicken breasts that I placed in the pot when making my homemade chicken broth. Which I then tore into smaller pieces for this molokhia recipe. Alternatively, you can use store-bought chicken broth or even bouillon cubes.
- To serve: I used vermicelli rice with lemon wedges.
Optional Add-ins and Recipe Variations
I prefer to keep this mloukhieh recipe fairly simple when it comes to the spices/seasonings. However, there are several ingredients you could experiment with if inclined to try.
- Cinnamon: cinnamon is a popular addition to Lebanese meat dishes. For this molokhia recipe, I recommend adding one 3-4-inch cinnamon stick to the dish (or the chicken stock) when simmering. Remove it before serving. Alternatively, you could use 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon (to taste).
- Bay leaf: like the above, it can be added during the slow simmer and then removed before serving for extra depth of flavor.
- Cumin: though not necessarily authentic, several versions of this dish contain cumin (around 1/4-1/2 tsp).
- Lebanese 7 spice: Add around one tablespoon of 7-spice for extra Lebanese flavor.
How to Make Molokhia?
First, you’ll need to prepare the chicken broth – in doing so, you’ll also cook the chicken (I used bone-in chicken breasts this time, and they took around 30 minutes to cook before I removed them from the broth and tore them into smaller pieces.
If you’re using store-bought stock, you’ll have to cook the chicken separately with your method of choice, then slice it into smaller pieces or use a fork to shred – it’s up to you.
Step 1: Prepare the Jute Leaves
If you are using fresh or frozen molokhia leaves, then you can skip this step entirely.
Start by removing any particularly large/thick stems from the leaves and any leaves that are either very yellowy or dark. Then rinse the remaining molokhia leaves well in a sieve under running water. Next, transfer them to a large bowl and cover them with hot water and lemon juice. Let them soak for an hour.
Rinse the leaves repeatedly until the water runs clear. I like to add enough water to cover the leaves (this is easiest if they’re in a sieve within a larger bowl), swishing and squeezing with my hands. Discard the water several times, squeezing excess from the leaves, then fill up the bowl once more. Repeat until the water is clear.
This step can take up to 15 minutes in total but shouldn’t be rushed or skipped. Not only does it clean the molokhia leaves, but it helps to remove some of the slimy texture from the leaves.
Finally, squeeze all the excess liquid from the leaves with your hands. Try to get out as much of the liquid as you can.
Step 2: Sauté the Molokhia Leaves
Add a swirl of oil to a large pan/skillet and heat over medium heat. Then add the leaves in portions with some of the crushed coriander seeds and sauté, stirring often, until they are a little crisp, with a deep green color.
If using frozen molokhia, skip this step and place it in the pan in step 4 with the stock. This step is technically optional but will help further reduce the “slimy” texture of the leaves.
Step 3: Sauté the Aromatics
Meanwhile, as the leaves cook, mince the garlic and finely chop the chili and cilantro leaves.
Heat a large saucepan with a little oil and add ¾ of the garlic. Sauté for two minutes, then add ¾ of the cilantro and all the chili and mix.
Step 4: Add the Chicken
Add the fried jute leaves and salt to the pan and stir-fry for a further two minutes before adding the chicken broth and meat to the pan. Then, cover the pot with a lid and allow it to simmer gently over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, you can prepare your side of choice – I made some vermicelli rice (aka Lebanese rice) and slices up lemons to serve as wedges/slices with the mloukhieh.
Then, add the remainder of the garlic and cilantro and leave it to cook for a final two minutes before removing from the heat and serving.
What to Serve with Chicken Molokhia?
Traditionally, the mulukhiyah is enjoyed with a side of rice (like vermicelli rice or basmati rice) and lemon wedges. However, you could swap out the rice for lower-carb cauliflower rice or a flatbread – like fluffy Greek pita bread, manakish, or naan. I sometimes serve it alongside homemade pita chips, too!
For extra flavor, you could also top the chicken molokhia with some crispy onions.
How to Store
Make ahead: you can prepare the chicken stock/meat 2-3 days in advance and store them (separately) in the fridge in airtight containers. The stock is also freezer-friendly for up to 3 months.
Storing: store any leftover mloukhieh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days OR the freezer for 1-2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Like many soup and stew recipes, this Lebanese molokhia stew tastes even better on day two, so I recommend making enough for leftovers!
Reheating: you can reheat the chicken molokhia either in the microwave (in 30-second intervals) or in a skillet (with a splash of water for moisture) until piping hot.
Yes, just make sure to look for whole leaves, not minced. When using frozen, the easiest way to do so is by adding it directly to the pan after sautéing the cilantro and garlic. Allow it to thaw ¾ of the way before adding the chicken broth.
Absolutely! Make sure to remove any stalks if needed along with any loose debris and wash them well.
Yes, though it obviously won’t taste the same – you could use spinach instead (or a combination of spinach and molokhia if you can only access small amounts of the latter). If you want to mimic the viscous texture of the dish, then cook some okra too and blend the okra and spinach into a slightly more combined mixture.
Honestly, I find it fairly similar to spinach but just “not quite”. As raw leaves, they are quite bitter. But once cooked they are mild and leafy like spinach, but with a viscous texture.
Recipe Notes and Top Tips
- Using the right molokhia: it’s traditional in the Lebanese molokhia recipe to use whole leaves (fresh and dried). So check the label if you can only find frozen options as many aren’t whole.
- Adjust the thickness: simply adjust the amount of chicken stock used in the dish based on how soupy vs. thick you want the mloukhieh to be.
- Adjust the texture: if you prefer a soupier consistency, you could use an immersion blender/blender to break up the leaves lightly. When using dry molokhia leaves, you could even break them up before rehydrating them. However, note that the Lebanese chicken molokhia version traditionally uses whole leaves.
- Adjust the aromatics: you can also easily adjust any of the aromatics to personal taste (more/less garlic, chili, etc.). You can omit the chili entirely if preferred.
- Optionally, add lemon to the dish: I like to serve the mulukhiyah with lemon slices. However, you could also add lemon juice directly into the stew for an extra “bright” flavor. Adjust the amount to taste.
- For a vegetarian version: you could use homemade vegetable stock and some tofu or shredded jackfruit in place of the chicken (or another vegan chicken alternative like seitan).
More Simple Lebanese Recipes
- Lamb Kofta Recipe (Kafta/Kofta Kebabs)
- Okra Stew (Bamya/Bamia Recipe | + Vegan Version)
- Spinach fatayer
- Sfiha (Lebanese Meat Pies | Lahmacun | Lahm bi Ajeen)
- Lebanese Lentil Tabbouleh (Vegan Lentil Salad)
- Stuffed makdous (eggplant)
- Simple fatteh (pita with chickpeas and yogurt)
- Vegetarian stuffed carrots
- Gluten-free muhammara
- Lebanese Chicken Shawarma (Wraps/Platter/Plate)
- Middle Eastern Chicken Shish Tawook Recipe (Chicken Shish Kabobs)
- Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew Recipe
You might also enjoy browsing through my complete collection of Lebanese recipes!
If you try this Lebanese molokhia recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Lebanese Molokhia (with Video)
- 10.5 oz dried Jew’s Mallow Mloukhiyeah Yabseh
- 1.53 lb chicken meat see how to boil chicken
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 2.6 oz garlic 3 large peeled garlic heads
- 9 oz fresh cilantro chopped
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 red chilli
- vermicelli rice to serve
- lemon juice plus extra wedges/slices, to serve
Prepare the Chicken and Broth
- Warm a large saucepan with some oil and sear the chicken breasts on a high heat. Remove, then follow the recipe instructions to make your chicken broth.
- Add the chicken breasts back into the pot while the chicken broth is cooking and allow to poach for 30 minutes before removing and tearing into smaller pieces.
- If using store-bought stock, cook the chicken separately in a frying pan or the oven, then shred.
Prepare the Jute Leaves
- If you are using fresh or frozen molokhia leaves, then you can skip this step entirely.
- Remove any large/thick stems from the leaves and any leaves that are either very yellowy or dark. Rinse the leaves well in a sieve under running water, then transfer to a large bowl and cover with hot water and lemon juice. Let soak for an hour.
- After an hour, rinse the leaves. Use your hands to submerge the leaves in water, squeezing and squishing, then discard the water. Repeat this until the water is clear, then squeeze any excess liquid out of the leaves.
Cook The Leaves
- Add the oil to a large pan/skillet and bring to a medium heat. Add the leaves in portions with some of the crushed coriander seeds and sauté, stirring often, until they are a little crisp, with a deep green color.
- If using frozen leaves, skip this step. This is optional but will help reduce the 'slimy' texture of the leaves.
- Meanwhile, as the leaves cook, mince the garlic. Finely chop the chili and cilantro leaves.
- Heat a large saucepan with a little oil and add ¾ of the garlic. Sauté for two minutes, then add ¾ of the cilantro and the chili and mix.
Assemble The Molokhia
- To the saucepan, add the fried jute leaves and salt. Stir-fry for a further two minutes, then add the chicken broth and meat. Cover the pot and allow to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Before serving, add the remainder of the garlic and cilantro and leave it to cook for a final two minutes before removing from the heat.
- Serve with vermicelli rice and lemon wedges.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.