Crave-Worthy Turkish Dolma Recipe Perfect for Any Occasion

Welcome to my kitchen! I’m Ehud, an Israeli chef who loves to recreate authentic Turkish recipes. Today, I’m excited to share with you a recipe for one of my all-time favorite dishes – stuffed vine leaves, also known as dolma in Turkish.

Stuffed vine leaves are a staple in Turkish cuisine, and for good reason. This dish is bursting with flavor and packs a punch with its combination of spices, herbs, and tender grape leaves. The savory filling options are endless – from meat and rice to vegetarian or even fruity versions.

The process of making stuffed vine leaves may seem daunting at first, but trust me, it’s simpler than you think. With a few basic ingredients, some kitchen tools, and your bare hands as the ultimate utensil, you’re on your way to achieving a mouthwatering dish that will impress your family and friends.

Are you ready to embark on this culinary journey with me? Let’s get started!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Stuffed Vine Leaves - Authentic Turkish Dolma Recipe
Stuffed Vine Leaves – Authentic Turkish Dolma Recipe

Welcome to my legendary stuffed vine leaves recipe, better known as dolma in Turkish! If you’re looking for the perfect comfort food that will transport you to the Middle East, look no further.

Here are just a few reasons why I know you’ll fall in love with this recipe:

First of all, let’s talk about the filling. Picture perfectly cooked rice studded with earthy pine nuts, chewy currants and fresh parsley. All this is then seasoned with aromatic spices like cinnamon, allspice, and dried mint flakes making it irresistibly fragrant.

And if that’s not enough to entice you, let me tell you about the grape leaves themselves. They contribute a unique flavor profile that’s simultaneously tangy and green—just what we want for balance!

Furthermore, because stuffed vine leaves are served at both room temperature or even chilled, it’s perfect for a dinner party or a potluck. Its vegetarian counterpart is equally delicious and makes for a perfect side dish or main course.

Finally, this is an excellent make-ahead dish! You can store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and they will taste just as good as freshly made. What more could one ask for?

So give this authentic Turkish dolma recipe a try and see for yourself why it has been passed down generations as an essential Middle Eastern staple!

Ingredient List

 Fresh, tangy and savory flavors harmoniously blend in this dolma dish.
Fresh, tangy and savory flavors harmoniously blend in this dolma dish.

Here’s what you will need to make these authentic Turkish dolmas stuffed with meat and rice:

Main Ingredients

  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of dried currants
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions
  • 3/4 cup of chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon of dried mint flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

Spices & Flavors

  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice

Grape Leaves

  • 60 to 70 rinsed and drained grape leaves (or vine leaves), see note


  • 3 cups of water
  • Juice from one lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Tomato paste, see note

Olive Oil (or Butter)

  • 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or melted butter)

Note: If you’re using canned grape leaves, make sure to rinse them well and remove any excess salt. When it comes to tomato paste, you can add it according to your preference. However, adding it will give the dish more flavor and accentuates the spices.

The Recipe How-To

 These stuffed vine leaves are like little green packages waiting to be devoured.
These stuffed vine leaves are like little green packages waiting to be devoured.

Now that you’ve got everything you need to make this Authentic Turkish Dolma Recipe, let’s go through the steps.

Step 1: Preparing the grape leaves

First, drain the grape leaves from their packaging and wash them well in cold water. If the stems are too woody or thick, trim them off. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the grape leaves for about 30 seconds and then transfer them to a bowl of ice-cold water to cool them down. Drain them on paper towels.

Step 2: Making the filling

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of cooked rice, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 tablespoons of dried currants, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, 1 tablespoon of dried mint flakes, 1 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley, and spices like ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and ¼ teaspoon allspice. Mix everything together well.

If you prefer a meaty version you can add about 1/2 pound minced beef or lamb and mix it with the rice. This is optional for those who prefer a vegetarian version.

Step 3: Rolling the dolmas

To roll dolmas, prepare a work surface by lining it with a clean dishtowel or waxed paper. Place one grape leaf on your work surface with its shiny side down and its stem end facing you. Using your fingers or blunt knife, remove any thickened portion near the stem.

Add about 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of the leaf and flatten it into a small rectangle shape. Tuck the sides over first and then roll up towards the pointy end of the leaf.

Step 4: Cooking the dolmas

Heat some olive oil in a deep saucepan and arrange tightly-packed rows of stuffed rolls vertically inside (seam side down) , making use to leave enough space between them so they won’t stick together as they cook.

Add some reserved grape leaves to cover wholly or seal at least some openings between layers (see note). Mix together tomato paste and water in equal parts until paste has dissolved (about two tablespoons per cup of water) and pour this mixture over dolmas whilst till it covers them nearly completely.

Cover with an inverted heat-proof plate that will fit snugly inside (and won’t knock over while cooking). This will help keep dolmas securely in place as they cook. Set heat to low-medium heat till it reaches boiling point then reduce it and let it bubble away for around 30 minutes until the rice has fully cooked.

Step 5: Serving

You may serve your stuffed grape leaves warm or at room temperature with wedges of lemon on top alongside fresh bread/chopped veggies on the side as an appetizer dish followed by any main dish for lunch/dinner times. Enjoy!

(*Note): Using extra vine leaves overtop keeps veg nice ‘n’ juicy + prevents

Substitutions and Variations

 A taste of Turkey in every bite.
A taste of Turkey in every bite.

Are you looking to switch things up with your dolma recipe? No worries, I got you covered. Here are some possible substitutions and variations that can customize your stuffed vine leaves to your preference:

– Vegetarian Stuffed Vine Leaves: If you want the flavors of the dolma without the animal products, you can easily make vegetarian or vegan stuffed vine leaves by omitting the meat and using more rice, lentils or chickpeas instead. Make sure to season the filling well with spices such as cumin, paprika, and coriander.

– Different Fillings: Dolmas stuffed with meat and rice are a classic combination, but feel free to experiment with different fillings that work for you. You can use lamb, chicken or turkey instead of ground beef, or try adding chopped vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes or zucchini into the mix.

– Sauce Variations: While traditional Turkish dolmas are usually served with lemony yogurt sauce or tomato-based sauce on top, you can try other types of sauces to complement your stuffed vine leaves. For example, a tahini-based sauce (made from sesame paste) can add creaminess and nuttiness to your dolma dish.

– Leaf Substitutes: If you can’t find grape leaves in your area or don’t like their taste, don’t lose heart! There are other types of leaves that also work well for stuffing, such as cabbage leaves or chard leaves. Just make sure they are blanched in hot water first to soften them up before stuffing.

– International Variations: Dolmas come in many shapes and sizes around the world. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try out similar dishes from different countries, there are plenty of options too! Greek dolmades (also made with rice wrapped in grape leaves), Lebanese warak enab (stuffed grape leaves with ground beef and rice), and Armenian tolma (stuffed grape leaves filled with meat and vegetables) are just a few examples.

Remember that cooking is all about experimenting and finding what works for you. Don’t be afraid to make substitutions and variations until you get it just right – in this case, until your stuffed vine leaves reach perfection!

Serving and Pairing

 The aromas of herbs and spices wafting from the kitchen will make your mouth water.
The aromas of herbs and spices wafting from the kitchen will make your mouth water.

Now, let’s talk about how to serve and pair this delicious dish. Stuffed vine leaves are a flavorful and healthy appetizer that you can serve as part of a larger meze spread or as a main dish. These dolmas stuffed with rice and meat are already quite satisfying on their own, but you can add some extra depth to your meal by pairing them with some refreshing side dishes.

One of the traditional ways to serve stuffed vine leaves is with a dollop of tangy yogurt on top. The coolness and creaminess of the yogurt perfectly balance out the savory flavors of the dolmas, making for a perfect bite. Alternatively, you can also pair them with a light tomato sauce or tahini dip for an even richer experience.

In terms of side dishes, simple salads or roasted vegetables are excellent choices. I personally enjoy serving my stuffed grape leaves with a fresh Mediterranean-style salad that features cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, and parsley seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice. This salad not only complements the dolmas but also adds some variety and texture to the meal.

For those who want to keep things vegetarian, these dolmas can be prepared without meat, making them an excellent option for vegans or vegetarians. They’re equally delicious served alongside other vegetarian options like hummus, baba ganoush, or stuffed peppers.

Overall, serving and pairing this authentic Turkish dolma recipe is all about creating that perfect balance of flavors and textures. With the right accompaniments, you’ll have a delightful meal that everyone will adore!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 The savory stuffing used in this recipe elevates the tender and delicate vine leaves.
The savory stuffing used in this recipe elevates the tender and delicate vine leaves.

One of the best things about stuffed vine leaves is that they can easily be made ahead of time, stored and reheated later. This makes them a perfect party dish or meal prep option for busy weekdays.

To make your life easier, you can prepare the dolmas stuffed grape leaves a day or two in advance and store them in an airtight container in the fridge. This will allow the flavors to meld together and create even more delicious results when it comes time to serve them.

When you are ready to serve the dolmas, simply take them out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature before reheating. You can reheat them in the oven or on the stovetop with a bit of olive oil to keep them moist and tender.

If you have leftovers, don’t worry! These dolmas stuffed grape leaves will keep well in the fridge for up to one week. You can also freeze any leftovers for longer-term storage. Just make sure to pack them snugly in an airtight container or freezer bag, and they can be enjoyed for up to three months after cooking.

To reheat frozen dolmas stuffed grape leaves, simply thaw in the fridge overnight and then follow the same reheating instructions as above. This way, you can enjoy this authentic Turkish dolma recipe anytime – whether it’s for lunch on-the-go or as part of a dinner party spread.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Each dolma is a work of art that will delight your tastebuds.
Each dolma is a work of art that will delight your tastebuds.

Now that you have all the ingredients of this scrumptious dolma recipe, let me share a few tips and tricks to ensure perfect results every time you make it. These tips are garnered from my years of experience as an Israeli chef and will help you make the best stuffed vine leaves possible.

Firstly, be sure to wash your vine leaves thoroughly before cooking them. Even if they are canned or packaged, they may still have some grit and dirt on them. Rinse them under cold water and then soak them in water with a little bit of vinegar for 10-15 minutes, then rinse them again before using. This will help to remove any bitterness that may be present.

Next, make sure not to overstuff your vine leaves. Overfilling the leaves can cause them to burst while cooking and lead to a soggy filling. Place about one tablespoon of filling in the middle of each leaf and roll tightly before placing in the pot.

When it comes to cooking, use a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid to avoid burning or sticking the dolma. Also, be sure to layer the botton of the pot with extra vine leaves to prevent sticking or burning. Additionally, when adding water or broth for cooking, make sure that it covers the stuffed vine leaves completely.

Cook your dolmas on low heat for about 45 minutes or until the rice is cooked properly. If you like a softer dolma where the rice grains are very soft, then cook for an extra 5 minutes but I would not recommend cooking beyond that.

Lastly, let your dolmas cool for five minutes before serving. This will allow flavors from different ingredients to meld together seamlessly while making it easy to pick up each dolma without getting burnt.

I hope these tips help you make delicious stuffed vine leaves every time whether you’re making authentic Turkish Dolma or trying out its variant such as sarma.


Now that we’ve covered all the basics of this authentic Turkish Dolma recipe, you may still have some questions. Fear not, my dear reader! In this section, I’ll be answering the most frequently asked questions about this dish to make sure your cooking experience goes smoothly. So buckle up and let’s get ready to dive in!

What are Turkish stuffed vine leaves called?

In Turkish cuisine, a dish called yaprak sarmasi is made from stuffed grape leaves and typically includes tomato paste and pine nuts. Meanwhile, the Greek version called dolmades has more herbs like green onions and dill. Both cuisines roll the grape leaves into cigars for this dish.

Which vine leaves are best for dolma?

When it comes to making dolmades, the ideal grape variety to use is the Thompson seedless, which is also commonly called the Sultana grape. Additionally, the leaves of this particular grape variety are also edible and can be included in the dolmades.

Are stuffed vine leaves Greek or Turkish?

Dolmades, the stuffed grape leaf rolls, are a globally-renowned dish that we enjoy eating throughout the year. These Greek delicacies are filled with a flavorful blend of rice, onion and herbs and are particularly popular amongst our vegetarian and vegan guests.

Is stuffed dolma a famous Turkish dish?

The culinary tradition of Turkey boasts of an exquisite variety of dishes known as dolma and sarma. The former can succinctly be defined as a “stuffed thing”, while the latter refers to a “wrapped thing”. These terms are used to describe a vast range of vegetables and leaves that are packed with savory fillings typically composed of meat and rice. The preparation of dolma and sarma is a laborious and time-consuming process.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, if you want to experience the authentic taste of Turkish cuisine, try making this stuffed vine leaves recipe. It’s not only mouthwatering but also nutritious, and perfect for vegetarians looking for delectable alternatives. The combination of spiced meat and rice wrapped in grape leaves is a sensory overload of flavors and textures that will leave you wanting more.

With tips and tricks such as washing the leaves well, arranging them correctly, and seasoning the stuffing mixture well, anyone can make these delicious dolmas. You can even experiment with different ingredients and variations to find your preferred flavor profile.

Finally, enjoy your dolmas stuffed grape leaves with friends and family over a nice glass of wine or with a traditional side dish like Tzatziki or hummus. This dish is versatile and can be served as an appetizer, a main dish, or a snack enjoyed at any time of day!

So why not give it a try? Follow our authentic turkish dolma recipe carefully, and I guarantee that these savory bites will be one of the best things you have ever tasted! Make sure to share your experiences doing this recipe with us. Remember that savoring food doesn’t merely feed your body; it feeds your soul too.

Stuffed Vine Leaves - Authentic Turkish Dolma Recipe

Stuffed Vine Leaves - Authentic Turkish Dolma Recipe Recipe

“Dolma” in Turkish translates to any vegetable stuffed with a rice-based mixture. Lots of spices are used for the stuffing. For me, the most important one is the lemon salt. It gives a nice aromatic taste, which can not be replaced by the combination of lemon juice and table salt. If you can not locate any lemon salt, don’t forget to replace it with only half the amount of kosher salt (two tbsp will be too much) and juice of half a lemon. The process may be a little confusing, you can check out step-by-step pictures at my blog here:
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Prep Time 1 hr 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Cuisine Turkish
Servings 40 dolmas
Calories 299.3 kcal


  • 1 lb pickled grape leaves, pickled in brine then washed and drained
  • 4 medium onions, diced
  • 2 cups rice, washed under cold water and drained
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup dried currant
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint flakes
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of


  • Dice the onions and sauté with 1/4 cup of olive oil.
  • When they turn translucent, add the pine nuts and sauté for 5 more minutes.
  • Add rice and stir constantly for 5-10 minutes until the rice is translucent.
  • Add the spices (dried mint, cinnamon, lemon salt, black pepper, dried currants, sugar and allspice) and chopped parsley.
  • After another quick stir, add 1/2 cup of boiling water and simmer on low medium heat for 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice mixture.
  • Take off heat and let cool.
  • And now, here comes the fun part. Traditionally, you would put a spoonful of the cooled mixture in the center of the top part of the leaf, fold the sides inwards and then roll the leaf like a cylinder. But since I have “The Ultimate Dolma Machine” (follow the link mentioned in the description section), I just placed a leaf on the rubber compartment of the machine, put a tbps of mixture in the middle and with a single slide, there comes my dolma from the other side of the machine. The process was a breeze. It took me only 10 minutes to roll nearly 40 perfectly shaped dolmas. Below is the process fully photographed.
  • As the final step, spread a layer of vine leaves on the bottom of a large and heavy pot (to prevent the stuffed leaves from burning).
  • Lay all your dolmas side by side and tuck very tightly.
  • Transfer the remaining 1/4 cups of olive oil, juice of half a lemon and 2 cups of boiling water, cover with a plate upside down (so that the dolmas don’t move around in boiling water) and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until all the water is absorbed (roughly 45-60 minutes).
  • Transfer to your serving dish and let cool.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 111gCalories: 299.3kcalCarbohydrates: 39.5gProtein: 4.1gFat: 14.2gSaturated Fat: 1.8gSodium: 6.8mgFiber: 2gSugar: 5g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Easy, European, Vegetable
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