International Recipes and Cooking Around the World


Dolmathes (Greek grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat)

(Greek grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat)

Image by Rebecca Siegel

Average: 4 (1 vote)

The Greek word dolmathes, or dolmades (ντολμαδες) comes from Turkish dolma, which is a general term for stuffed vegetables. Greek dolmathes, often known simply as dolmas in English, are stuffed grape leaves. This fresh and healthy finger food is also popular in Turkey, the Middle East and the Balkans.

Meat-filled dolmathes are usually eaten warm, while vegetarian versions can be served cold or at room temperature.

Makes 35 to 40 dolmathes


For Filling the Dolmathes

  • Grape leaves -- 1 (16-ounce) jar
  • Oil -- 2 to 3 tablespoons
  • Onion, minced -- 1
  • Ground beef or lamb -- 1 pound
  • Rice -- 1 cup
  • Parsley, finely chopped -- 1/4 cup
  • Dill, finely chopped -- 1/4 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to season

For Cooking the Dolmathes

  • Water or chicken stock -- 2 cups
  • Olive oil -- 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice -- 1/4 cup
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste


  1. Drain the grape leaves, remove them from the jar and place them in a large bowl. Pour in boiling water to cover. Let the leaves soak for about 5 minutes, then drain. Rinse with fresh water and drain again. This removes any briny off flavor.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add the ground lamb or beef and cook until lightly browned and no pink remains.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in the rice, parsley and dill and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven with a couple layers of broken or torn grape leaves.
  5. Lay a grape leaf on a cutting board with the underside of the leaf facing up and the stem pointing toward you. Cut off the stem and fold the two bottom lobes of the leaf into the center.
  6. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the meat-rice filling on the bottom third of the leaf. Fold each side of the leaf in over the filling, then roll the leaf up from the bottom to encase the filling. Don't roll too tightly, or the rice will rip open the dolma as it cooks and expands.
  7. Place the dolmathe in the pot, seam side down, and repeat with the remaining grape leaves and filling, packing the dolmathes together in the pot.
  8. Pour the chicken stock, olive oil and lemon juice over the dolmathes and add enough water to cover them by about 1/2 inch. Place a small plate over the dolmathes to keep them submerged.
  9. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover tightly, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked through and tender.
  10. Remove from heat. Using tongs, carefully remove the dolmathes to a platter and serve while still warm or at room temperature.

Dolmathes Variations

  • Dolmathakia (ντολμαδακια): Dolmathakia are simply smaller, appetizers-sized versions of dolmathes. Use 1 tablespoon of filling instead of the 2 or 3 tablespoons used for dolmathes.
  • Vegetarian Dolmathes: Use 1 1/2 cups of rice, no meat, 1/2 cup pine nuts and add a bit more of the herbs. Use plain water or vegetable broth.
  • Pumpkin Dolmathes: Substitute 1 1/2 pounds of peeled and grated butternut squash or pumpkin for the meat. Saute the pumpkin with the onions as you would the meat until cooked lightly cooked through and wilted.
  • Other Dolmathes Additions: Currants, mint, cumin, cinnamon, chopped scallions.


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