Photo credit Vered Guttman
Prep Cook Yield Ready In
1 hour 45 minutes 2 hours 15 minutes 8 servings 4 hours

My Grandmother’s Iraqi Stuffed Tomatoes and Onions Recipe

A Middle Eastern comfort dish for Shabbat and holidays.

Stuffed onions and tomatoes are popular around the Middle East. This version is similar to the one my grandmother Rachel, who was born in Iraq, used to make for Shabbat. Stuffed vegetables are a great way to feed a crowd and can be prepared in advance, so I often serve this on Shabbat, too. Preparation is easier than it sounds, especially once you get the hang of it.

The original recipe uses ground beef, but I’ve found that ground vegan beef substitute works really well and gives the dish enough flavor, so don’t hesitate to make this a vegan dish. The stuffing mix calls for tamarind sauce, but if you can’t find it, here are some good substitutes.

The onions in this recipe are separated into layers and each layer is stuffed on its own, so a whole onion yields about 6-7 stuffed onions. It’s best to use a 12-14 inch round pan with a lid so you can arrange the stuffed onions in one layer, but you can also use a smaller pan and arrange them in two layers. 

Photo credit Vered Guttman

A note on rice: The rice is soaked in cold water for at least one hour before the rest of the stuffing is added, to make sure it is moist enough and will not dry during the cooking process. When it comes to stuffing the vegetables with the rice mixture, resist the temptation to overstuff! The rice expands as it cooks and will rip the vegetables if they’re too full.


  • 3 large yellow onions
  • 4-6 firm beefsteak tomatoes (or one per person)

For the filling:

  • 2 cups Jasmine rice
  • 4 oz. ground beef or ground vegan meat substitute
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp tamarind sauce
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • pulp from tomatoes, for stuffing

For the sauce:

  • 2⅔ cups chicken (or vegan chicken-flavor) broth
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt


  1. Soak rice in cold water for an hour. Set aside.
  2. Cut the very top and the bottom of each onion and peel the rough skin. With a sharp knife, make a slit lengthwise halfway through the onion, until you reach the core. Put the onions in a large pot and cover with cold, salted water. Bring to boil over high heat, reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and cover the onions in cold water, then let cool until easy to handle, about 20 minutes.

  3. When the onions have cooled down, separate them into layers and put the layers in a large bowl. 
  4. Use a serrated knife to remove the top of the tomatoes, like a lid. Use a spoon to scoop out the pulp and seeds. Lightly salt the inside. Keep pulp for later.
  5. Strain the rice and mix with ground beef, cilantro, tomato paste, tamarind and salt. Chop tomato pulp and add to the mixture. Mix well.
  6. Spray the pan with oil. Stuff tomatoes with rice mixture ¾ of the way and place in the center of the pan. Stuff each onion layer with a couple of spoonfuls of the filling and roll it back over the filling. Arrange tightly in the pan around the tomatoes.
  7. Put chicken broth, lemon juice, olive oil and salt in a small pot and bring to boil. Pour gently over the stuffed onions and tomatoes in the pan. Make sure the tomatoes are filled with the sauce, you can use a spoon to fill them.
  8. Put the pan over medium-high heat and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook on a very low simmer for 1½ hours. Check from time to time to see that the onion bottoms are not too charred. You do want them to get dark brown, but not burnt. Remove the lid and cook for ½ hour longer, until the sauce has thickened and the onions are caramelized at the bottom. Cover again, and let sit for 30-60 minutes before serving.

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