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Vegetarian Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

These vegetarian collard rolls filled with rice pilaf take their cue from dolmades, the traditional Greek parcels of rice, nuts and herbs. Instead of the usual grape leaves, fresh collard leaves become the wrappers. 

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf | Letty's Kitchen

The flavorful filling for these collard and rice rollups begins with brown rice cooked with onion and vegetable broth. When the rice is done, it’s mixed with sautéed garlic and zucchini, fresh herbs, crunchy walnuts and sweet raisins.

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Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf ready to bake, with tomato sauce and lemon slices.

Essential are chopped fresh herbs, your choice which ones. Classic Greek dolmades call for dill and mint. Here I used parsley, basil, and rosemary because, along with the collards, they came in our CSA farm share box. The walnuts and raisins replace classic pinenuts and currants.

The collard leaves themselves get a quick dip in boiling water, to make them pliable for rolling around the rice pilaf filling.

Nestle the assembled rollups in a pan on top of extra rice pilaf, ladle a simple tomato sauce over the rollups and pop them in the oven.

Made with love, these collard rolls with rice pilaf are well worth the effort. To make it easier,break the steps down into several days. The rice filling can be made earlier in the day, or days beforehand. Even easier, use a boxed rice or quinoa mix!

collard greens ready for filling for Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

filling the collard leaves for Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

collard rollups nestled in extra rice pilaf for Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf

Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf recipe notes:

  • Allepo pepper’s fruity undertones provide agreeable spice. Substitute black pepper if you don’t have Allepo. (I order Aleppo pepper from World Spice Merchants in Seattle. Or you can buy Aleppo via my Amazon link here.)
  • Save time and use a boxed quinoa or rice mix for the filling.
  • Cooked rice keeps well in the freezer. And, once assembled, the rolls can be frozen. Let them thaw before baking.
  • These would be fabulous with a simple dessert of thick creamy yogurt and fresh peaches with honey drizzled over.

Here’s another recipe featuring collard greens: Black-eyed Peas and Collards

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5 from 1 vote
Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf
Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf
Prep Time
1 hr 10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
1 hr 35 mins

Serve these Greek inspired rolls with a salad of sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and feta cheese. Makes 8 rolls. Serves 4. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten free
Keyword: collards, rice pilaf, tomato sauce, collard rolls, dolmades
Servings: 8 collard rolls.
Calories: 327 kcal
For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon plus one tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion , chopped
  • 1 ½ cups brown rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 medium zucchini cut in ½-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup currants or chopped raisins
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper , or 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, (see note)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
For the sauce:
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
The collards and garnish:
  • 8 large collard greens (see note)
  • ½ lemon , very thinly sliced, optional
Prepare the filling:
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium flame. Add the onion: cook and stir about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the brown rice. Cook, stirring often, until the rice gets a bit brown and begins to crackle. Add the vegetable broth. Cover the pan. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to the lowest setting possible. Cook without stirring, 45 minutes to an hour. (To check if the liquid has been absorbed or not, tilt the pan to the side.) Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

  3. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium flame. Add the diced zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cubes begin to color. Stir in the minced garlic and cook a few more minutes.
  4. Add the cooked rice, walnuts, currants, parsley, basil and rosemary to the zucchini and garlic. Season with Aleppo pepper and salt. Set aside.
Prepare the sauce:
  1. In a blender puree the diced tomatoes. Stir in the remaining parsley and basil. Set aside.
Assemble and bake the rolls:
  1. Keeping the leaves intact, trim out the lower and thickest part of the main stem of each collard leaf. (see note) You will have a V at the base where the sides connect.
  2. To blanch and soften the collards, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice-cold water.
  3. Blanch the collard leaves in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Immediately transfer to the ice water. (The ice water stops the cooking and keeps the leaves green.)
  4. Drain the blanched leaves on kitchen towels. You can fill and roll the leaves on the towels.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Lightly oil a baking dish.
  6. Place about ¼ cup of the filling on each collard leaf. Fold the sides of the leaf over the filling, overlapping the 2 sides where the stem was cut out. Keeping the sides tucked in, roll up tightly.
  7. Arrange the collard rolls in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining filling around the sides. Keeping the green rolls visible, spoon the tomato sauce over them. Cut the lemon slices in half and place decoratively over the rolls.
  8. Cover and bake 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Serve the rolls on a bed of the filling, garnished with the lemon slices.
Recipe Notes
  • Allepo pepper’s fruity undertones provide agreeable spice. Substitute black pepper if you don’t have Allepo.
  • The collard leaves in our CSA box were huge. I removed the stem completely and filled each side as if it were one large leaf.

Nutrition information is meant to be an estimate only. The numbers will vary based on the quantity consumed, brands used and substitutions that are made.

Nutrition Facts
Collard Rolls with Rice Pilaf
Amount Per Serving (2 g)
Calories 327 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 585mg25%
Potassium 585mg17%
Carbohydrates 51g17%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 848IU17%
Vitamin C 24mg29%
Calcium 84mg8%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  • I love the idea of this. I still remember how delighted I was when I realized I really liked collard greens! Reply · 15 July, 2014

  • Letty, I love your creativity and uniqueness! Reply · 16 July, 2014

  • John Vrabel

    I made my 2nd batch of your Very Herb + Viniagrette dressing yesterday…..very yummy… Thx!!! Reply · 17 July, 2014

    • Letty

      Awesome!!! Reply · 20 July, 2014

  • kathleen

    This looks wonderful, I can’t wait to try it! My collard isn’t quite ready in my garden, might try using swiss chard. Reply · 18 July, 2014

    • Letty

      Thanks Kathleen. Swiss chard will work fine to wrap the filling. Dip in the water about a minute only, though. Reply · 20 July, 2014

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