This Mediterranean Leeks Casserole is the perfect Winter casserole made with leeks, rice, onions, garlic, crushed tomatoes, seasonings and more. Don’t forget the lemon juice and fresh lemon slices for that added extra flavor!! Usually we serve this meal with bread and salad!
Growing up in the Mediterranean, winter meals meant lots of cabbage, leeks, and spinach dishes. They’re so versatile, you can cook casseroles or stews if you just add a handful of ingredients. My favorite thing about this specific casserole is that you can adjust it to make it vegan or keto with just few slight substitutes.
Healthy Benefits of Leeks
Leeks are a great source of antioxidants. They are shown to help with heart related issues and have cancer fighting qualities. This vegetable is a great source of Vitamin K and Vitamin B6. Leeks also have lots of manganese, copper, iron, folic acid etc.
I was surprised at how a lot of people I know are unfamiliar with leeks. They look like a green onion on steroids. Even though they come from the same family as onions and garlic, they have a milder taste.
Leeks won’t make your eyes watery and they don’t give you bad breath either. But they still do carry a lot of the health benefits that onions and garlic have!! So load up on leeks!! Casseroles are an awesome way to increase your leek consumption. I also make a Blood Orange & Leeks Salad that is very famous for the Holidays:).
Preparing Leeks for Cooking
Leeks need to be cleaned and prepped before cooking. Because of the way they grow they can accumulate dirt and sand under the layers so that’s why they need to be cleaned carefully. I usually cut the white part, remove a thin slice from the top and then remove a layer or two. I wash each individually, put them in water then slice them in half inch to an inch medallions and add then to water again so they can soak for a while as I prepare everything else.
Then the ‘tail’ part, the green part of the leek is cleaned and washed thoroughly layer by layer. You can choose to include the green part on the casserole or cook them separately for another dish like pispili (shapkat) or Albanian byrek.
Making The Casserole
Start by getting all the ingredients together. It helps to shorten cooking time. Once I am done cleaning and cutting the leeks, then I start chopping the onion and mincing the garlic. I tend to use fresh parsley and crushed tomatoes for this dish.
You can replace fresh parsley with dry and if you don’t have crushed tomatoes, use diced tomatoes or tomato sauce.
Best thing about this dish is that you can add more rice for a bigger casserole or less rice for a stronger leeks taste.
Saute diced onions and minced garlic in olive oil. Add ground beef and brown thoroughly as you mix with an wooden spoon. Slowly add all the other ingredients as seen in the video and described in the recipe card below. Let cook until rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the mix looks like a thick stew.
Transfer the leeks stew into the casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake casserole for about 45 minutes. This Mediterranean Leeks Casserole will be one of you winter favorite meals:).
Recipe Modifications (Includes Keto and Vegan options)
Keto variation – My husband is currently doing a low carb diet so in order not to cook 2 separate dinners, I did the following. I did everything the same until step 7, then before adding rice I separated part of the leek mixture in a separate, smaller baking dish and baked that separately in the toaster oven for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Vegetarian/vegan version – to make a vegan version of this casserole, omit the ground beef, double the rice to 1 cup instead of half a cup and replace the broth with vegetable broth. You can also add more parsley and more herbs for additional flavor.
How to Serve this Leek Casserole?
In Albania we eat this dish with toasted bread and drizzled with fresh lemon juice on top.
You can serve this dish with a fresh salad or a light soup to start with. In that case, chances are you’ll have plenty of leftovers. This dish tastes better the next day because the flavors have had time to really work together. I have never frozen the leftovers so I don’t know if it holds frozen.
My favorite salad to serve this Mediterranean casserole is this green salad made with lettuce, kalamata olives, lemon slices and onions. Add salt, some red wine vinegar and olive oil to salad and enjoy:). This salad compliments the casserole to perfection!
Additional Notes & Tips
This easy leek casserole is amazing!! If you have never tried leeks, it might take you a while to like this dish. But I hope you give it a try. It’s healthy and delicious:).
If you are not a fan of casseroles, there’s a way to make this into a stew instead of baking it. I’ll have to do it again so I can give you exact cooking times. To make it into a leeks stew, use meat chunks instead of ground beef. Don’t include rice in the recipe. Follow all steps pretty closely up to number 8. There’s no point in separating for keto since you’re not adding rice. Add water or broth then cook until ready. Don’t stir too often and cook in low temperatures.
Mediterranean Leeks Casserole – Tave Me Presh
- 1 Porcelain baking dish
- 1 wooden mixing spoon
- 1 Medium size pot
- 8 Leeks
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 garlic cloves add more if desired
- 1 can diced tomatoes (about 14 oz) use fresh when possible
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- 0.5 tsp black pepper
- 0.5 tsp smoked paprika can use regular in the absence of smoked
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 cup beef stock or broth
- 0.5 cups uncooked rice
- 1 cups hot water
- I used 8 leeks for a 10X14 baking glass dish and a smaller personal size dish. I separated the green part of the leek for another dish I’ll cook next week. If you would like to use the whole vegetable, then you might need only 5-6 leeks for this dish.
- Clean and prep the leeks. Remove the outer layer, cut out the top and as much of the green tail as you like. Wash leeks really well in running water. Once washed, cut leeks in cylindrical shapes to make medallions and add them to a bowl of fresh water so they can soak for half an hour or so.
- Mince garlic and chop onion. Chop fresh parsley and set it aside. Add olive oil to a medium size pot. Add garlic and onion and saute until translucent.
- Add ground beef and cook until browned. Use a wooden spoon to keep stirring and mixing so meat is browned and onions don't get burned.
- Add fresh parsley, oregano and smoked paprika. Then add the diced or crushed tomatoes. Mix everything well and let cook for a few minutes over medium heat.
- Add ground pepper and then the water and stock. I like to keep water boiling in a kettle on the side so by adding hot water, you don't slow down the cooking.
- Drain the leeks and add the leeks and rice to the pot. Mix slowly so you don't break down the leeks.
- Let cook for about 10 minutes. Then pour on the baking dish, even out the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.
- For keto option don’t include rice and bake as is. Don’t add the cup of water at the end, so the casserole is not too liquid.
- For vegan option, don’t include ground beef, double the rice and add an extra cup of water. You can replace broth with vegetable broth.
- Other modifications include to replace ground beef with chunks of meat, beef, lamb etc according to preference.
- For Mediterranean Diet – the dish is pretty compliant as is, however if you don’t eat meat or would like to reduce the amount of meat so you can add less ground beef than what I did and add a little more of onion, rice, parsley and tomatoes. You can even add some freshly chopped carrots.
- Leftovers – refrigerate for few days in an airtight container. Warm up next day, leftovers taste even better:).
If you would like to save this Leek Casserole recipe for later, please save the below image to Pinterest:
Other Mediterranean Recipes:
If you would like to check my other Mediterranean recipes please check out the below links:
- Stuffed Peppers
- Mediterranean Asparagus Soup
- Tarragon Chicken In White Wine Sauce
- Mediterranean Potato Salad
- Baked Mediterranean Branzino
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can! It’s healthy and it makes for great dishes. In my native country of Albania, we usually include the green part of the leeks in making filling for byrek. You just have to wash each strand carefully because the green part can be dirty and the sand will ruin you meal.
After I wash and clean leeks the first time around, then I cut them in medallions and let the soak for about 20-30 minutes.