Stuffed Grape Leaves, Dolmades!



Succulent little morsels of goodness! These stuffed grape leaves are popular all over the Mediterranean.  There are different variations, most are stuffed with rice. I remember one batch fondly, we used ground lamb and went heavy on the mint. The recipe that is here is my go-to version. It yields party worthy results and is a good starting point to be creative with other ingredients. These dolmades are vegetarian and vegan friendly as well as gluten free, dairy free, soy free.

These little snacks can be twice the party.  Making and sharing these with friends and family is a great experience.  Plan one night to roll the leaves sitting at the table sharing a bottle of wine with friends and plan another night to share the dolmades and other nibbles, hors de vors style. The filling is easy to make in quantity, the rolling technique has a very small learning curve, and to up the quantity is only the cost of the grape leaves.  This can be made even cheaper by foraging your own grape leaves. Wild grape vines can be surprisingly easy to find, be sure to take photos, verify, and re-reference any wild plant than you plan to consume. I know of a large patch of grapevine in the Florida swamp that served my family for many craft and kitchen experiments.

To prepare raw grape leaves, blanch in boiling water until tender. If using jarred leaves then, drain and rinse well.

Prepare the rice filling:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1c raw rice, soaked for 30 min, then drained
  • 1/4tsp allspice
  • 1/8tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 1/4c parsley, chopped
  • 1/4c dill, chopped
  • 2T raisins, chopped
  • 2T pine nuts
  • 2c water


Begin by sautéing onion in 2T oil until translucent. Add the raw rice and cook for one minute more. Add remaining ingredients stirring together before adding water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until rice is tender. Spread rice on a platter to cool completely. *I find that stirring the rice once or twice during cooking will make the rice stickier and easier to roll into the leaves.

To roll the grape leaves:


Lay 1 grape leaf flat, ‘wrong’ side up with the stem toward you. Trim stem off.  Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on the stem edge of grape leaf. Begin to roll away from the stem by rolling leaf onto itself and tucking the side portions of the leaf in. 

Place finished bundles snuggly into a sauce pan. If dolmades stack more than one layer deep, then drizzle olive oil between each layer.

Cover with 1/4c of water, the juice of 1 lemon and drizzle with oil. Place lid on the pan and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.

Serve at room temperature. I like to pair mine with a garlicky yogurt dipping sauce.

These should be stored in an air tight container and will keep for at least a week. Let them come to room temp before serving (or snack cold from the fridge!)  These were on the menu at the Tapas themed potluck this month. I usually make them in stages. I made the rice on Monday, let it cool. Rolled and cooked the grape leaves on Tuesday, and then stored them in the fridge. On Wednesday, an hour before the event, I pulled out the tupperware to bring the dolmas to room temp.  After plating them, I drizzled them with olive oil and garnished with lemon zest.

These travel well (think lunch!), require no utensils (picnic lunch!) and have a low allergy risk when serving to others (invite everybody!).  Make plenty and serve with wine.

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