Make Your Own Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves) Recipe

Pickled grape leaves + rice
Susie Cushner/The Image Bank/Getty Images
  • 3 hrs
  • Prep: 60 mins,
  • Cook: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 40 dolmas (40 servings)
Ratings (14)

Dolmas (also known as stuffed grape leaves, dawali, and dolmades) are eaten throughout the world, all with different variations. They can be found in Mediterranean restaurants, but instead of eating out for this healthy comfort food, make it at home. Some recipes for dolmas contain meat; some contain dried fruits; some are eaten hot and others are eaten cold. This version is most closely inspired by the vegetarian rice-stuffed grape leaves of Turkey that are typically eaten cold or at room temperature as a maze.

Ingredient Substitutions and Cooking Tips

These can be served on an appetizer platter or as a side to lunch or dinner; they're easy to cook, easy to wrap, and easy to serve, so they're great for big dinners and parties. Don't be intimidated by the steps; once you've made a batch of dolmas once, you'll fly through your next batches! And, of course, get creative; feel free to experiment with different herbs and nuts in your filling and shake up your meal as a whole with some of the suggestions at the bottom of the recipe. Rice doesn't have to be boring!

When simmering the dolmas, do not bring the liquid to a boil (this will cause the dolmas to burst while cooking). Take care to keep the dolmas covered in liquid; if you notice that the tops of the leaves are exposed while simmering, simply add additional broth or water to the pot to cover (this will keep the leaves moist and succulent and will keep them from drying out).

What You'll Need

  • 1 jar/16 ounces grape leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely minced)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 1/2 cups white rice (long-grain, such as basmati, and uncooked)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup pine nuts (raw)
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (divided)
  • 2/3 cups lemon juice (divided, plus more for drizzling)

How to Make It

  1. Gently remove the grape leaves from their jar, then rinse each thoroughly under cold water, taking care not to rip the leaves. Pat the leaves dry and place on a cutting board. Using a small, sharp paring knife, remove the stems from the leaves. Cover with a paper towel and set aside.
  2. Prepare the filling. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, adding the onion, garlic, parsley, and basil once hot. Stir continuously until the onion is soft and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add the rice and pine nuts and saute, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes longer. Add 4 cups of the vegetable broth, and bring to a low boil. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked, adding water if necessary. Add half of the lemon juice, stirring well to combine, and cook for 2-3 minutes longer or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pan from heat.
  1. Assemble the dolmas. Prepare a dry, clean workspace. Place one of the grape leaves, shiny side down, flat on your work surface. Place 1-2 tablespoon of filling on the lower-middle portion of the leaf, right above where the stem used to be. Fold in the sides of the leaves over the center, then roll the bottom of the leaf over the filling and continue to roll, holding the sides in, until you've rolled the dolma completely and no filling is visible. Place the dolma seam-side down in a large saucepan or pot big enough to fit all of the dolmas in a single layer. Repeat until all of the grape leaves are used, placing one dolma directly next to the other and leaving no space in between.
  2. Drizzle another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the dolmas, followed by the remaining lemon juice. Pour the remaining 4 cups vegetable broth over the grape leaves to cover. Cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 1 hour, adding water as necessary to keep. Remove the pan from heat, uncover, and let the dolmas cool in the liquid for 20-30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the dolmas to a serving dish. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and serve at room temperature or cold.