Stuffed Grape Leaves

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 50 min
  • Active: 1 hr
  • Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Stuffed grape leaves, also known as dolma, dolmeh or dolmades, are the perfect complement to just about any meal. Making them is a labor of love, but they are absolutely worth the effort. Vine leaves are packed with a spiced filling, then slowly cooked in a flavorful sauce, often olive oil and lemon. My version, which is Turkish and vegetarian, is made with short-grain rice, onions and spices. I cover the bottom of the pot with tomatoes, potatoes and onions to cook alongside the grape leaves, resulting in tender vegetables that have absorbed all the richness of the sauce.


Grape Leaves and Filling:




  1. For the grape leaves and filling: Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste turns brick red, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Mix the rice, parsley, dried mint, allspice, tomatoes, lemon juice, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, remaining 7 tablespoons olive oil and the reserved onion mixture in a medium bowl.
  3. Transfer the grape leaves to a colander and rinse with cold water to remove excess salt. Place a grape leaf on a work surface shiny-side down and remove the small stem. Place about 1/2 tablespoon of the filling in the middle of the leaf. Fold up the middle, then fold in the left and right sides and roll it up into a thin log. Repeat with the remaining grape leaves and filling. You should have between 80 and 100 stuffed grape leaves.
  4. For the vegetables: Layer the bottom of a large pot with the tomatoes, half of the potatoes and half of the onions. Arrange the stuffed grape leaves in layers packed tightly next to each other so they don’t open up when cooked. Top with the rest of the potatoes and onions.
  5. For the sauce: Mix the olive oil, tomato paste, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cups water in a large measuring cup. Pour over the stuffed grape leaves and vegetables and gently shake the pot so the sauce reaches the bottom. Add more cold water until it reaches the top layer and slightly covers it. Place a plate upside down on top and gently press down (to make sure the grape leaves on the top layer don’t open up). Cook on medium until most of the liquid is absorbed, a knife inserted into one of the grape leaves slides in easily and the rice is tender, about 1 hour 40 minutes.
  6. Transfer the grape leaves and vegetables to a serving platter. Enjoy the grape leaves warm, cold or at room temperature with yogurt.

Cook’s Note

This recipe makes a large amount of stuffed grape leaves. You can refrigerate them for up to 5 days or freeze the leftovers in freezer-safe bags for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight and then heat if desired.