Dolma- A Middle Eastern deliciousness to die for!

Dolma–or stuffed grapes leaves–is a very famous Middle Eastern dish. If you have ever lived or visited the Levant, Turkey or Greece, knowing this dish is a must! However, if you haven’t tried it yet, you are missing out!

As a Middle Eastern who lived abroad for a while, I have always had my stock of grape leaves ready and full! They are such a healthy and delicious finger food to serve at potlucks, gatherings, or even take out on picnics. They also make for an amazing main dish meal either for lunch or dinner. Since pre-made dolmas were expensive and not fresh, I decided to stop buying them and start making them from scratch. If you happen to have access to fresh grape leaves, that would be even better that the canned ones. This is one of my all-time favorite dolma recipes–try it and report back to us!

What is Dolma?

Dolma is basically grapes leaves stuffed with meat and rice or rice, herbs and other vegetables. Common vegetables to stuff include tomato, onion, and garlic.. The stuffing can differ depending on the country whether or not you are serving it as an appetizer or as a main dish.  

How is Dolma normally served?

Meat dolmas are generally served warm and eaten with yogurt or garlic yogurt sauce on the side; meatless dolmas are served cold with a squeeze of lemon on top. Meatless dolmas are much lighter than meaty dolmas, thus they would generally be served as an appetizer (mezeh), finger food, snack or even picnic food. Meat dolmas are served as a main dish, either for lunch or dinner. However, in the Levant, it’s more of a lunch dish, where it is served with either chicken or lamb on the side as well.

Serves 8
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
  1. 2 tbsp. olive oil
  2. 2 onions, minced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  4. 1 1/2 (180 grams) cups uncooked long-grain white rice
  5. 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  6. 2 tbsp. pine nuts
  7. 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  8. 3 tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves
  9. 1 tbsp. dried dill
  10. 1 tsp. ground mace
  11. 1 tbsp. ground sumac
  12. 2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
  13. 1 (8-oz) (230 grams) jar grape leaves
  1. In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add onions & garlic. Sweat the onions & garlic until tender. Add the rice and enough hot water to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat until the rice is half cooked, about 15 minutes.
  2. While the rice is cooking, carefully remove the grape leaves from the jar without ripping them. Drain the liquid and rinse the leaves in warm water and set in a colander to drain. Trim off any stems.
  3. When the rice is ready, stir in all the other ingredients and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool enough so that it can be handled with bare hands. Take one grape leaf and place it smooth side down, veiny sides up. Place about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon (depending on how big the leaf is) of rice mix at the bottom of the leaf. Fold the sides and then roll the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  4. Place a steaming rack in a large pot and arrange the dolmas on the steamer. It is OK to stack them. Place enough water at the bottom of the pot to almost reach the bottom layer of dolmas. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 45 minutes, or until rice is completely cooked.
  5. Remove and place on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil, and if desired, sprinkle with a little sumac or fresh lemon juice. Serve with yogurt on the side.
  1. Add ground beef or ground lamb - cook lightly as they will be cooked more during the steaming process.
  2. Add chopped tomatoes
If this blog made you crave some dolmas and Middle Eastern food, we got you covered! Make sure to check out our chefs who specialize in Middle Eastern cooking. They will definitely satisfy those hungry taste buds!


Photo credit: lesya761 via / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: quinn.anya via / CC BY-SA