Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmades) Recipe

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Grape leaves rolled around a filling are traditional food in many Mediterranean cultures, where this food has a different name in each country. Try them and you will understand why they are so widely enjoyed. Although this recipe is somewhat labor-intensive, it is not difficult and can be lots of fun as a family project, especially if this includes gathering wild grape leaves. Can be made ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature to serve.
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  • 48 grape leaves, fresh or brined
  • 2 cups rice, short grain or sushi
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lemon
Container:streamer (can be improvised)
1 hr
1 hr
2 hrs
  • Put rice, water, salt, raisins and mint in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the sunflower seeds.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the grape leaves. If using fresh leaves, blanche in boiling salted water for 3 or 4 minutes, drain and cool. If using brined leaves, rinse well, blanche in boiling unsalted water for 3 minutes, drain and cool.
  • TO FILL THE LEAVES: place a leaf, shiny side down, on the work surface and put about 1 tablespoon of rice mixture near the stem end (trim off any stems with a sharp scissors). The actual amount will vary with the size of the leaf--experiment with the first ones to find the ideal amount. Fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling  (doesn't have to cover filling), then fold each side over the filling and roll towards the tip. Put the filled packet into the steamer, seam side down. ( See TIP for an improvised steamer.) Repeat until all leaves are filled.
  • Set the streamer over a pot of briskly boiling water, cover tightly, and steam for about an hour, checking occasionally to make sure the water hasn't boiled away. Sample one to see if leaf is tender. Older leaves may need to steam longer.
  • Cut the lemon in half. Juice one half and thinly slice the other. Mix lemon juice and olive oil. When grape leaves are done, sprinkle or brush with oil-lemon mixture. Scatter the slices over the packets and serve at room temperature.
  • TIP: To improvise a steamer, use a collander, mesh strainer or other perforated container that can be  suspended in a pan over--not in--several inches of water. Cover with a snug fitting lid or aluminum foil.
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