Molokhia (also known as Mulukhiya) is a leafy green vegetable called Jew's Mallow or Jute Mallow, popular in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Its unique flavor and texture make it a favorite ingredient in Middle Eastern stews. In this recipe, we'll be using frozen molokhia leaves to create a delicious and comforting dish that's perfect for any occasion. Whether you're a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, this recipe is easy to follow and will leave you with a satisfying and flavorful meal.
What is Molokhia?
Molokhia is a popular middle eastern green stew made from the leaves of jute mallow (also known as Jew’s Mallow). It's cooked in a flavorful chicken broth with plenty of garlic and coriander. It creates an almost gooey liquid that clings to the spoon as you pour it, and has a slightly slimy texture.
Although molokhia is enjoyed across the Middle East and North Africa, it is believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt. Today, it is consumed in the Levant, Egypt, Sudan, Cyprus, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria.
Each region has its own specific method for cooking molokhia. Some countries like Egypt use minced molokhia leaves, and some countries like Lebanon use whole molokhia leaves.
Throughout the Arab world, it is usually enjoyed with rice or bread. This recipe is the Egyptian version, which uses a whole chicken to make an incredibly flavourful broth with whole spices. This chicken is then served alongside the molokhia, either shredded into the molokhia stew itself or served alongside. I highly recommend serving this specifically with Egyptian rice.
Although many people may be put off by the slightly slimy texture of molokhia, it is arguable the most popular stew across the middle east, serving as the childhood comfort food for many Arabs.
A big shoutout to my Egyptian friend Mariam for this incredibly authentic recipe! As an Iraqi, we don't make molokhia at all. So I had to call in reinforcements to make sure this recipe is the most authentic flavour for you.
Egyptian vs. Lebanese Molokhia
In the Levant, and especially in Lebanon, molokhia is often made with whole leaves into a thick stew, and served with chicken, plenty of lemon juice and fresh cilantro.
In Egypt, it is made with finely minced leaves into a soup, and served with an iconic garlic-coriander ‘tasha’ which gives the soup its distinctive flavor. The coriander used in the Egyptian molokhia is the ground spice as opposed to fresh coriander or cilantro in the Lebanese verison.
Palestinians and Syrians have minced and whole leaf versions within their cuisine, bringing the best of both worlds to their tables.
The most commonly used broth is chicken or meat, but it is also popularly made with rabbit in Egypt, with shrimp in Egyptian coastal cities, and sometimes made using vegetable stock and tomato sauce for those avoiding meat, especially during Lent among Arab Christian communities.
Where to buy Molokhia
Molokhia is typically bought in large bunches, the leaves carefully picked off the stems, washed, dried and sliced to a mince using a uniquely shaped knife called a "Mezzaluna". In most cases, it is only available during the summer, so many families will buy molokhia in large quantities, prepare it and freeze it for use throughout the year
Fresh molokhia leaves are not easy to find outside the Middle East, though they have been spotted at farmers’ markets in the US, so it’s worth looking out for them! I've seen them sold at some local Middle Eastern stores as well.
Luckily, it is sold in frozen form in most Middle Eastern grocery stores, and frozen molokhia works very well in classic molokhia recipes, like this one. There's no need to resort to only the fresh leaves! Take this short cut.
The brand below is the one I typically use with great results. You can find frozen molokhia in both minced and whole leaf versions.
Ingredient's You'll Need to Make Egyptian Molokhia
There are three main parts to this recipe:
- The chicken broth,
- the molokhia and;
- the 'tasha' which is the fried garlic and coriander.
For the chicken broth you will need:
- Either a whole chicken that you cut into quarters, or 4 full chicken legs. I recommend using bone-in chicken for extra flavourful broth, but you can also use pieces of chicken breast if that is all you have on hand
- Whole spices like black peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, green cardamom pods and bay leaves.
- A whole onion, cut into quarters
- Olive oil, ghee or vegetable oil to sear the chicken in
If you already have homemade chicken broth, you can skip making the broth from scratch. I do recommend homemade broth as opposed to store bought as it will defeinitely have much more flavor.
For the molokhia you will need frozen minced molokhia found in the frozen section of your local Middle Eastern market.
Finally, the tasha is simply lots of garlic and ground coriander. It's arguably the most important part of the dish!
How to Make This Recipe: Step by Step
There are several stages to this recipe. Each step is fairly simple and really builds on the flavours we are developing.
Start with making the broth by heating up the olive oil in a large pot and toasting the whole spices for a few minutes. Next, sear the chicken for a few minutes on all sides until lightly golden. Next, add in the water and the onion and allow it all to get to a rolling boil.
TIP: Searing the chicken for broth ensures that there is less build up of "foam" on the surface, resulted in a very clear broth. It also enhances the broth flavour.
Simmer the broth at a steady rolling boil for at least 45 minutes, or for as long as 2-3 hours if you have the time. The longer the broth simmers, the more flavour will develop. Once it's done, remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Strain the broth from the spices to reveal a clear broth.
At this point you will need to taste your clear broth and see if any additional salt or pepper is needed. Always taste along the way at each step!
Next, place the clear broth back into the same pot. Start with only half the quantity of broth and add more as needed to the consistency that you like. Some people prefer a thick molokhia and some a thinner one.
Add the frozen molokhia into the broth. There is no need to defrost it. The broth will be simmering over low heat so the molokhia will defrost and combine with the broth.
Avoid boiling it rapidly and allow it to slowly simmer while you prepare the tasha.
The tasha is a flavour explosion and my favourite part! To make it, combine the whole peeled garlic cloves and the ground coriander in a food processor and blitz until a fine mixture forms. You can also do this in a mortar and pestle.
Then, lightly toast the garlic and coriander mixture in olive oil, butter or ghee. Cook until you notice the garlic is lightly golden and starts to become very fragrant. This should take about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic and coriander mixture back into the molokhia pot and bring it to a boil. Once its at your preferred consistency, turn the heat off.
For the chicken, you can lightly fry the whole pieces to serve alongside the molokhia and rice. Or you can shred the chicken and add it right into the molokhia stew. This is up to your preference.
How to Prepare Fresh Molokhia
While using frozen molokhia is, in my opinion, much easier, some may prefer to make it completely from scratch. If you're lucky enough to find fresh molokhia leaves, here's how you can prepare them:
- Start by picking through the leaves to remove any yellow or dark leaves as well as thick stems. Try your best to pick through all of these and discard them.
- Wash the molokhia really well under running water, several times. The more you wash it, the less slimy it will be in its final texture. Place it in a bowl, fill with water, scrub with your hands, then dump and repeat.
- After washing, wring out the molokhia leaves as much as possible, squeezing out all the water. The more you squeeze out the water, the less slimy it will be.
Is Molokhia good for you?
Molokhia has many health benefits, that if it was discovered by mainstream western media, I'm sure it will be referred to as a superfood. It is a vitamin rich leafy green and contains more phosphorus and calcium than kale! It's said to help with digestion, regulating blood pressure, amongst many other benefits.
What to Serve with Molokhia
The most classic side dish with molokhia is Egyptian rice with vermicelli. You can also serve some bread with it.
Many people also enjoy molokhia with a lot of lemon juice, so feel free to serve it with lemon wedges. I love mine with sliced red onions or sprigs of green onion to bite into.
FAQ's About Molokhia
Can spinach be used instead of molokhia? To replicate the classic molokhia flavours, you cannot use spinach. Using spinach would actually make this a totally different stew that's also made in the middle east.
What is the English name for molokhia? Molokhia is referred to either Jute Mallow or Jew's mallow, a leafy plant of the Corchorus species.
What does molokhia taste like? Some people say it tastes like spinach with a slightly different mouthfeel. The final molokhia stew takes on the flavour of the chicken broth, garlic and coriander.
How do you get rid of the slimy texture of molokhia? If using fresh molokhia leaves, make sure you wash it multiple times, really well, until the water is clear. Also, make sure you wring out as much water as you can. The use of garlic and coriander helps to mask the sliminess as well.
How do you serve molokhia? The most classic way to serve it is with Egyptian vermicelli rice.
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Authentic Molokhia (Mulukhiya)
For the broth
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 5-6 cardamom pods
- 2-3 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon peppercorns
- 1 ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1 medium sized whole chicken cut into quarters, or 4 full legs
- 8-10 cups water enough to cover the chicken
- 1 onion quartered
For the molokhia
- 4-5 cups broth made using instructions for the broth
- 1 cube vegetable stock or bouillon (optional) add ½ cup water if using
- salt and pepper to taste
- 400 grams frozen molokhia (jute mallow) 1x frozen package
For the tasha
- 15 garlic cloves, peeled 45 grams
- 2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ghee or butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the broth
- Start by heating the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat, add in the peppercorns, cardamom, bay leaves, salt and pepper
- Stir together for a few minutes until fragrant before adding and searing the chicken pieces on each side for a few minutes until lightly golden
- Add water and the onion and bring broth to a boil before covering and lowering the heat
- Allow broth to simmer for at least 45 minutes or up to 1-2 hours. You may need to skim off and discard any scum while it is simmering
- Take the chicken out and set aside. Strain the broth to remove the whole spices and onion. Set aside.
For the molokhia
- Add the strained broth back into the pot filling the pot about a third of the way or using about 4-5 cups of broth. It's better to start with less broth and add more as needed to avoid molokhia that is too thin
- If using the vegetable stock cube or bouillon, dissolve in the ½ cup of water before adding it to the broth in the pot
- Season mixture with salt and pepper if needed, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer
- Add the frozen molokhia (no need to defrost!) and mix until it has defrosted and completely mixed into the broth, leaving it at a slow simmer
- Taste again and adjust seasoning if necessary
For the tasha
- In a food processor, blend together the garlic cloves and the ground coriander
- In a skillet, heat up the ghee or butter and the olive oil over medium-low heat
- Add the garlic and coriander mixture to the skillet and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the garlic turns lightly golden and fragrant, stirring frequently to avoid burning
To finish the molokhia
- Pour in the sautéed garlic and coriander over the simmering molokhia
- Scoop up the molokhia and pour it into the sauté pan to get every last bit of garlic and flavour
- Stir together until well incorporated. If you like the consistency, turn off the heat. Otherwise, simmer it to thicken it to your desired consistency
- Lightly fry or broil the chicken pieces in oil and serve alongside the molokhia. Or you can shred the chicken and add it right into the molokhia pot
- Serve hot with Egyptian rice or bread
- This recipe uses frozen minced molokhia. For fresh molokhia, refer the blog post for instructions on how to prepare it
- This molokhia recipe is Egyptian style. Refer to the blog post for how Lebanese style molokhia is slightly different
- Adjust the thickness of the molokhia to your liking, using less or more broth as needed
- Aim to use fresh homemade chicken broth vs. the store bought broth because it has a lot more flavour