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Molokhia

It’s a wonder I haven’t posted this recipe earlier. I’ve been making it for many years and it’s considered on of our favorite healthy go-to soups, but I wasn’t sure how many others would be interested to know how make it.  After numerous requests, I had my answer. I really hope you’ll make it at home, too…

Molokhia (soup with chicken and jute leaves)  

Not generally well-known in the U.S., this popular Middle Eastern dish isn’t even found too often on the menus of Middle Eastern restaurants here. It’s also not something you’ll find {yet} ready-made or frozen, though it is a really simple soup to make, there is just one ingredient that may be a challenge to find: the molokhia, also known as jute leaves or Jew’s mellow. I was first introduced to this dish by Middle Eastern friends in college who would discuss its origins, including the debate over whether or not it ‘invented’ by the Lebanese or the Egyptians. All I knew at  the time was that it was something I’d never seen before and the taste like nothing I’d had before.

Frozen Jute Leaves

Jute leaves are not commonly found fresh, but I have seen them dried in a Mediterranean grocery market. Once. Most commonly, you’ll find it in the freezer section of an international or Middle Eastern market. There are Middle Eastern brands (recognizable with Arabic writing on the package); recently my store just didn’t have those but I did find packages from the Philippines (see above).  The only difference I have found is that this type/brand isn’t as chopped or as viscous as the others I’ve used; instead the leaves are larger.

jute leaves packaging

While molokhia may look a bit like many other leafy greens, it’s definitely not the same. For example, you really wouldn’t be able to substitute spinach or kale leaves for the jute in this dish and still call it molokhia.  The jute leaves have a distinct flavor and once inserted into the broth, they add a bit of a slimy texture, similar to okra.

top view molokhia

I prefer molokhia with chicken, so I’m going to show you how to make it with boneless or bone-in chicken just because once you add the leaves, it’s really a mess to deal with the meat and you want to be sure to take care of  that beforehand. So, you can start with 2 pounds of boneless, skinless thigh and cut it into small pieces, or you can use two large chicken breasts (bone-in, skin on).

use two pounds boneless thigh, cut up

This is the boneless, skinless thigh added to a large Dutch oven after onions have been sautéed in olive oil.

continue to saute the chicken

Then add spices like cumin, cinnamon, ground cloves, salt, black pepper, white pepper. It smells amazing and it’s really the simpler route to go when it comes to the cut of meat used.

chicken thigh cut up and sauteed

If you use chicken breast, sauté on one side first, for about 5-6 minutes or until nicely browned.

saute chicken

Then flip and do the same thing on the other side.

brown chicken

For either cut of chicken you use, you’ll need to then add broth.

Saffron Road artisinal broth for molokhia

I use about 4 cups of Saffron Road’s chicken or vegetable broths, all of which are halal.

keep pouring for molokhia

This amount serves about 6 people.  Of course you can always add more broth if you like.

pour broth into molokhia

Bring to a boil and then reduce to low heat, cooking the chicken for about 35 minutes.

let it cook

If using the bone-in chicken, remove it after cooking and allow to cool on a plate.

let the chicken cool

Pull the chicken apart into small pieces, which you’ll then add back to the broth.

pull the chicken apart

Then proceed to remove the skin and the bones (great for making your own small amount of broth later).

debone chicken

See how rich and beautiful this broth looks already? Rich in vitamins and minerals and calcium, which is what makes this soup so healthy.

remove chicken to cool this is the broth

 Add the chicken back in, then open up the packages of molokhia (2-3 packages) right into the pot.  It will defrost and separate on its own, but you can also stir it up a bit to make it go quicker. Once it starts cooking, grab a small pan and heat up some olive oil. Sauté about 6-8 cloves of chopped garlic.

garlic in saute pan

You can mince it, too. I just like the larger chunks.

saute the garlic

Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until the garlic gets golden brown.

brown the garlic

Watch it carefully- don’t walk away and start doing dishes or gabbing on the phone. If you burn the garlic, you can’t use it or it’ll ruin the whole dish you worked so hard to make.

brown the garlic

Once the garlic is done, pour it directly into the pot of chicken and molokhia. I add the oil, too, but if you don’t want the extra oil, just leave it out.

another side view molokhia

Serve in bowls and with rice on the side. Some people like to spoon it out over the rice and eat that way; others like to add rice right into the bowl. I recently made this dish without any rice and we enjoyed it as-is.

Molokhia

Molokhia is often served with rice, but you can simply have it as a soup with fresh bread on the side, too. 

Serves 6

Ingredients

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup diced yellow onions (about 2 small onions)

2 split breast of chicken, skin-on OR 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 tablespoons ground cumin (or kepsa, spice, a Gulf style spice blend)

2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or 2 whole cinnamon sticks

4 cups Saffron Road Artisan Roasted Chicken Broth

2-3 packages frozen jute leaves (6-8 cups fresh leaves), or more if desired

6-8 cloves garlic

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions

1.  In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Sauté the onions until translucent or slightly browned.

2.  Add the chicken and sauté for about 2-3 minutes then add the spices. Continue to sauté until the chicken is nicely browned on all sides.

3.  Add the broth and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 35 minutes.

top view molokhia

4. If using boneless chicken, skip this stip. If using bone-in chicken, remove the chicken pieces and let cool. Once cooled, remove the skin and bones and pull the meat apart. Add back to the broth.

5. Open up the packages of molokhia and drop directly into the pot. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small sauté pan for the garlic. Cook until nicely browned, about 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly.

6. Add the garlic directly into the soup. Serve in small soup bowls with rice and fresh lemon on the side for squeezing.

molokhia side view

5 comments

  1. This is an interesting take Yvonne on molokhia, I’ve never tried it with the leaves cut up rather than pureed. Would love to try making this version. Interestingly, we Egyptians don’t think of it as a soup, but rather as a “vegetable” that we eat over rice, or by dipping bread.

  2. JZK for your online MCNA program yesterday. Enjoyed all the good tips and advices :) Never heard of molokhia, worth tryong Insh.

  3. @Reem- thanks, I have never pureed the leaves even when I used the other brand. Do you puree the fresh ones?

  4. @Arshiya- you’re so welcome, I am really glad you enjoyed it!

  5. I don’t have access to fresh molokhia leaves here in the US, but I remember when I visited my grandmother’s house growing up, we’d puree it by running handheld choppers over them back and forth. Making molokhia was a day-long event! Here I buy the frozen Egyptian chopped molokhia. I like the Basma brand.

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