Dolmas are pickled grape leaves stuffed with a spiced meat and rice mixture before being rolled up and simmered gently until you’re left with a deliciously addictive treat.
It’s difficult to have just one dolma-they are so tasty! The combination of savory and tart along with slight bites of sweetness from raisins and rich nuttiness from pine nuts make these irresistible.
There are many cultures and countries that have their own version of stuffed grape leaves. In Palestine, stuffed grape leaves are called dawali. Some recipes use only rice and no meat. Some add veggies or use different kinds of spices. Either way, it’s very versatile!
It may seem intimidating if you’ve never tried making it before, but I have broken into 3 sections. Mixing the meat, rolling the leaves, and finally, simmering them!
The first step is preparing the meat mixture. Start with 2 pounds of ground beef (or lamb). To that, add 2 cups of rice-I use jasmine. Next add olive oil, raisins, and lime nuts. For the spices add cumin, cinnamon, dried oregano, salt, and black pepper. Finally add fresh chopped mint leaves and egg to help bind everything together.
Mix everything together by hand until blended thoroughly.
Filling the Grape Leaves
For the second part, remove grape leaves from the jar and place in a bowl filled with cold water. Gently move the leaves around to unfurl them (they usually come rolled tightly) and to remove some of the pickling brine. Place a grape leaf down on the work surface with the ribbed side facing upward. Place a spoon of the meat mixture and gently press and form into a log shape.
Now to roll, start by cover the meat mixture with any grape leaf that maybe be under it. Then use the left and right sides of the leaves to first place one side of the over the meat mixture, then the next side.
After that, simply roll the meat mixture until all the leaf is used and the mixture is completely encased. You can watch a video on how to do this here.
Cooking the Dolmas
When all the meat is used and the grape leaves have been stuffed, line the bottom of a pot with any leftover grape leaves. Start placing the stuffed leaves along the bottom till completely covered, then continue adding layers until all the stuffed leaves have been added. Add an additional splash of olive oil and lemon juice.
Now cover the leaves with a plate. This will help keep the leaves from rolling around and unraveling when they boil to cook. Top the dolmas with chicken or vegetable stock (or water if you’re in a pinch). Then bring it to a gentle simmer. As soon as it simmers, cover and continue to simmer gently on very low heat for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, uncover, and remove the plate. Using skewers, check one dolma to make sure the rice is cooked through. It definitely should be at this point! In case it isn’t, simply cover and simmer gently for 5-10 more minutes.
Dolmas can be eaten warm, room temperature, or even cold! They are juicy, savory, and nutty, with slightly sweet bursts when you bite into a raisin. Try this recipe if you haven’t yet because they are so much better homemade than anything I’ve ever found at restaurants!
- 2 lb ground beef
- 2 cups jasmine rice
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
- 2 eggs
- 1 16 oz jar grape leaves
- 8 cups chicken stock or water
- Juice of two lemons
1. Combine all ingredients except grape leaves, chicken stock, and lemon juice in a bowl and mix well
2. Place grape leaves in a bowl of water and set aside
3. Place down one grape leaf on the work surface and add a teaspoon of meat mixture on the bottom. Press into a log shape
4. Wrap the meat mixture with the grape leaf. First use the excess grape leaf on the left and right sides of the meat, then roll upwards firmly
5. Continue Step 4 until all the meat mixture has been used
6. Place any remaining grape leaves into the bottom of a pot. Place all dolmas inside in rows
7. Add an extra splash of olive oil and lemon juice over the dolmas. Add a plate on top to keep them down. Then pour in the chicken stock
8. Bring the pot of dolmas to a gently simmer, cover, and continue to simmer gently on low heat for 45 minutes
9. Once the dolmas are cooked, enjoy warm or cool!
*To store dolmas, cool completely, then transfer to a container and store in the fridge for a week
**Dolmas can also be frozen for up to three months