One word: DELICIOUS!!! I’ve been wanting to post the recipe for a Grape Leaf Dolma for a while, but it gets a little hard to find nicely preserved grape leaves here in the U.S. Often times, I end up buying easily torn, tough older leaves that were picked too late. When the leaves are pickled, they are impossible to eat!
The best way to make Dolma is from fresh grape leaves. It is absolutely a must to start gathering grape leaves while they are new, smaller in size and very fresh. My dad is an amazing gardener and in season we always had young grape leaves in our possession. Now I live in an apartment building and do not have a luxury of having freshly picked leaves. For that reason, my quest for properly preserved grape leaves has been going on for good 5+ years.
Here is the deal – buying preserved grape leaves is very tricky. There are many types of bottled/preserved grape leaves, but not all of them are good, simply because it is hard to take out the densely packed leaves from a tiny bottle. Especially when they are vacuumed with water. Thus, they either get torn in the process, making it impossible for you to use them, or they are so hard that the cooked dolmas are very hard to chew. Not to mention super high acidity and saltiness of the preserves. From my experience of using bottled grape leaves, I can only recommend Mezzetta brand, sold in most of the grocery stores in the United States. Again they are preserved well, but a little on a harder side (and a high price tag!) If you want to utilize your slow cooker, these are a killer deal.
My absolute favorite is “Sera” brand that I recently found in our local Turkish store. I like the fact that they are packed flat, making it easier for me to separate as many leaves as I need. Secondly, these leaves are soft when cooked even without the slow cooker!!! We absolutely loved it.
The recipe I am presenting is my mother’s recipe. Unlike in Turkish cuisine, we always add meat inside our dolmas and mainly cook it in a meaty vegetable broth. This is personally my favorite dolma recipe, as I rarely enjoy other dolmas.
If you can pick fresh grape leaves you cannot just start wrapping the filling in them. Gather as many leaves as you want to use, wash them, place in a larger container and slowly pour boiled water over the leaves. Bright green leaves will start changing color and turn olive green. Carefully take out the grape leaves and set aside until you have the filling ready.
- 2 medium onions (spare quarter portion when cut for the vegetable broth/gravy)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cup rice (I use Botan rice, perfect for this recipe and many more)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 egg
- Grape leaves, depending on the package you’ve bought*
For the vegetable broth/gravy:
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1/2 small onion
- 1/2 green bell pepper
- 1 medium tomato
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 medium carrot
- little bit of cubed beef to make it a beef broth (you can also use tiny bit of meat filling for this job)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp of oil to saute
- 5-6 cups of boiled water
Directions for the dolma filling and dolma rolling:
Thinly slice onions in half circles. Place in a medium bowl, add salt, pepper, cumin powder and give the onions a squeeze. Softening the onions is important, as it aids faster cooking of the onions inside the dolmas without leaving a crunchy feeling.
Wash rice, add to the onions, add ground beef, crack an egg on top of the ground beef and mix all of the ingredients very, very well.
One thing to keep in mind with preserved grape leaves, is that the acidity of these little things is off the roof. Prior to using them please rinse them very well.
Cut the extra stems on top of the leaves. Open each leaf up with more textured side up, horizontally place a TBSP of filling in the center of the leaf, fold one side to the center and then the other side to the center. Make a roll starting from the closest side to you. Set aside on a dish until you are done with leaves allocated. In case you have more filling than the leaves, just make little meatballs out of the filling. You can drop them in the bullion later.
Making the gravy:
Julienne green pepper and tomato, thinly slice garlic cloves, carrot and cut potatoes into small pieces.
If you are using beef, cut it in cubes. In a larger pot heat the oil on high heat. Caramelize the meat and add thinly sliced onions. Once onions turn golden brown add cut tomato. Saute until tomatoes get soft. Constantly keep stirring. Add salt, pepper, cumin and remaining vegetables. Saute for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low.
Immediately start placing wrapped dolmas on top of the vegetables. Try to place them evenly. Add boiled water making sure it somewhat covers the top of the dolmas. As soon as the bullion starts slightly boiling, turn the heat down to low and semi-close the lid of the pot. Cook for about 35-40 minutes. It shouldn’t take any longer for the entire meal to get very well cooked!
Once cooked, first and foremost, remove the dolmas from the pot. Place the gravy in separate bowls (one for each person) and serve dolmas on the side. I usually make either a fresh salad or a yogurt salad as a side.
Bon Appetit! Enjoy :D
These are kind of like Russian Golubtsi. I’ve never had them in grape leaves. They look delicious!
Hi Natasha, thank you for visiting my blog! Your blog is splendid, too. I loved your recipes :)
You are right, these do resemble golubtsi, which I am planning to post next. But the taste is drastically different. Please do try them out and let me know how it all turns out :)
Looks awesome, I am sure tastes even better!
It really does :D
This recipe is fantastic! I am so excited that I plan to cook it as soon as I return home, since now I am on vacation. We also have similar recipes but we use parsley instead of cumin.We also use veal or lamb bones or whole chicken legs in the bottom of the pot and as for vegetables we use only tomatoes.
That’s why I want to cook your recipe, because you cook two different dishes in the same pot.
I have fresh leaves from my garden which I pick during spring and early summer, I wrap them tightly and keep them in the freezer, so when I defrost them they are soft and tender and there is no need to use boiling water. If I use the preserved ones I boil them for some minutes before filling them so they lose their acidity and saltiness.
Also when I cook dolmas I put a heat-resistant dish on top of them in order to prevent possible unwrap of the leaves. It seems funny and strange but it works.
I will let you know the results of my cooking your recipe!
You have some amazing pointers there! Do you mind if I add them to the recipe post above? I didn’t know you could freeze the leaves and reuse them later.
To prevent the filling dropping off or possible unwrap I add 1 egg. That helps a lot to hold things together, too. Plus no hard boiling and placing the dolmas on the pot before adding the water helps a lot.
I am looking forward to hear from you :) I know it all comes out well when Stella is at work :*
Enjoy your vacation!!!
of course I do not mind if you add my remarks to your recipe post(I am flattered).
Yes, freezing the leaves is the easiest and healthier way because no preservatives are used. I make several piles of leaves, I wrap them tightly with aluminium foil and keep the in the freezer. But because as all frozen sensitive things break easily they must be completely defrosted before I unwrap them.
We always put a dish on top of the dolmas because it keeps then down and the do not “dance” while boiling.
Hi,very nice and interesting recipe.Could we use that recipe for bell pepper dolmas?Did you try before?And do you place a dish over the dolmas while cooking?
Elif, they will turn out very well with bell peppers. I often use this recipe with bell peppers :) but you will need to choose very thin skinned and small dolmas (turkish bell peppers maybe?)
I do not place anything over the dolmas. The sole reason why I put the egg into the meat is to keep everything together. As long as the soup doesn’t boil hard, nothing will happen to the dolmas/sarmas :)
Thank you lola,nice news for me.Because bell peppers filling easy than grape leaf :)
Elifcim, let me know how it works out for you :D
These look so good! I used to be able to get fresh grape vine leaves too, not anymore though and sadly the jarred ones are not as good. I’ll try to find to find the Sera brand.
Dear, lindentea, I hope they turn out well for you. Please let me know if you need any help! :)
I’ve never used grape leaves before but this looks interesting. Will try it in the near future.
I’ll have be having a giveaway on my blog in the next couple of weeks!
oh, Jane! Please do try these out. Grape leaves taste great :D These go well as appetizers for a bigger group, too.
My Man's Belly
Growing up in a Polish family we didn’t get to eat dolmas, we ate golabki (stuffed cabbage). Not a fan. But I’ve always enjoyed dolmas. The filling you use in yours is exactly what my grandmother used in her stuffed cabbage recipe…and they were cooked on a bed of vegetables in a tomato sauce. I would always eat the filling, but leave the slimy cabbage on the side of my plate.
I never knew what, exactly, made up the filling of dolmas. Now that I know, I’ve bookmarked your site and I plan on making these this fall. Thanks for the suggestion of which grape leaves to get.
I am glad I could give new ideas to my fellow bloggers and readers :) let me know how your dolmas turn out! I love feedback :)
May have to try this soon. I have access to grape leaves on my land so this should be a doddle for me, especially as you so kindly mention how to prepare freshly picked ones. Thanks.
Awesome, Debs!!! Fresh grape leaves taste so much better than their preserved counterparts. I hope you will like this recipe :)
Beautiful! I made Greek vegetarian dolmades a while back using the fresh leaves from my garden, but I never thought to freeze the leaves and save some for later in the year. Too late now! I will have to heed this advice for next year though, as this recipe looks so delicious and I would love more recipes using grape leaves as I find them quite delicious!
I hear ya, Elizabeth! Unfortunately, this is the only recipe I know which utilizes the grape leaves. At least this is the way I like them most. There are different variations of the dish though, which might count as different recipes :D
Today, as I promised, I made your dolmas recipe. I’ll tell you only one thing.
This is how I will cook dolmas from now on. The BEST recipe ever!
Reading just now the above comment of Elizabeth I will agree with your answer that there are not many recipes using grape leaves. One variation is about minced meat where one can use half beef and half lamb or the one we cook, without meat, only rice, onions, dill and lemon.
YaY!!! I am so, soooo happy that you liked it, Stella! You always make me happy with your feedbacks! Love me some StellaP :D
If I may, I would like to add one more recipe using grape leaves : fresh sardines wrapped in the leaves, cooked in the oven with lemon and olive oil. Different, original and tasty!
I envy Nasim after each your recipes post. He gets to eat each of them.
Ovqat bunaqa chiroyli bo’lishini hich sezmasdan paqqos churvorvurarkanmizade..
I’m going to try this tomorrow! But unfortunately I already bought a long jar of grape leaves.. will see how to take them out. Very detailed recipe.. thanks!! p.s. you misspelled “bouillon” with “bullion”
If you’re looking at picking your own .. it’s best to pick only the 3rd leave (most tender) from the end of the vine. great for a family out we used to spend hours with my Grandmother picking leaves..
I just made these dolmas for dinner tonight. I didn’t have grape leaves so I used blanched swiss chard leaves instead. They were very, very delicious. It was a perfect dinner on this rainy night. I served it with a nice loaf of crusty bread to dip in the delicious broth. I look forward to making them with grape leaves.
It’ll be a challenge to find grape leaves in Wales but i must try this! It looks so yummy!
I am so happy i found your blog :)
Even though you live in an apartment you can have fresh grape leaves. Wild grape vine often lives in waste spaces. Keep your eyes open at the edges of parks, railroad right of ways etc. Wash thoroughly and blanch in boiling water. Another easily found wild food is garlic mustard. It’s an alien invasive weed, but makes a very good green, sauteed in olive oil with a shot of vinegar and salt.
Oh yum, yum. When we lived in Russia, this was always my choice whenever we went out to eat! (besides salmon sometimes). I never even thought of trying to make them myself! Thanks for the recipe, will definitely try it!
I hope you gave this recipe a try. It is very delicious and very filling!
Thank you for this recipe. I have made these before but couldn’t find one where there is meat/the meat is uncooked before rolling. When the meat is cooked before rolling, they fall apart when you eat them.
I cooked it yesterday and that was delicious , My family was delighted with this dish! But I added some small amount of not too crushed pistachios and that was fitting by the taste! I liked it this way! Thank u for ur great recipes! I love ur cooking)
After putting my dolmas in my crockpot and turning it on high for a half-hour before dropping it to low for overnight, for some reason i started looking at more dolmas recipes. If you haven’t found a source for fresh grape leaves, you might post a request on your local bulletin board, at NextDoor.com, or at the library. I live o a very small city lot but have 2 grapevines and would be happy to share my spring leaves with someone who will put them to good use.
Thanks for the hint about using only the third leaf from the end of the vine. I will remember that come spring! and will try your recipe this winter with the rest of my frozen leaves.
Awesome, Pat. I will need to look into NextDoor bulletins.Let me know how yours turned out.
Thanks for the fresh grape leaf processing instrutions! Im visiting my dad and he was getting leaves from his grape vines for his friends turtle. And since I was craving them and couldnt find any in the store. I am now happily making them from scratch. Thanks for that!