Dolmades are a bite-sized dish made from either grape or cabbage leaves and stuffed with all the goods—rice, meat, and plenty of herbs. What makes dolmades so wonderful is their versatility. Dolmades can be topped with a tomato sauce or avgolemeno (egg-lemon sauce), left plain with a generous amount of lemon on top or even served alongside tzatziki (Greek yogurt dip) for dunking. The fillings can vary with the dish as well, by creating meatless dolmades or by stuffing them with different herbs and seasonings based on preferred taste. As appetizing as dolmades are though, they can sure be intimidating to make.
The intimidation begins with the rolling. Hand rolling dolmades comes with the territory of making the dish, and 20 minutes in you’ll wonder how many more you have to roll before you can finally dig in. I assure you, the end result is worth every minute. You’ll even discover making dolmades is actually quite simple once you get in the groove and get the process down.
Whether you’re a newbie to the art of rolling dolmades or you’ve attempted 17 times and the filling still seems to fall out of your grape leaves, this classic Greek dish is for anyone looking for a delicious meal. I suggest you grab an extra set of helpful hands for some company (aka use them as free labor) and get rolling because the dolmades definitely won’t roll themselves.
-1 lb ground beef or ground lamb (or a combination of the two)
-2 cups finely chopped onion
-½ cup uncooked rice
-¼ cup olive oil
-6 oz tomato paste
-2 Tablespoons dried dill
-1 tsp mint (optional)
-¼ cup pine nuts (optional)
-1 tsp salt
-1 jar of grape leaves (drained and rinsed)
-3 lemons, juiced
-2 to 3 cups chicken stock or beef broth
1. Rinse the grape leaves and remove the stems. Set aside and leave the leaves in a colander to drain.
2. In a large bowl, mix together meat, onions, rice, olive oil, tomato paste, dill, mint, pine nuts, and salt.
3. To start rolling the dolmades, place one leaf (shiny side down on the surface) and place 1 Tablespoon of the mixture near the stem end. Don’t overfill the leaves, as the rice will expand when cooked. Fold the lower part of leaf over the filling, and then fold the left and right sides into the center. Then, finish by rolling tightly to the tip of the leaf. Continue until all the meat mixture is done. (Refer to picture at the bottom for easy to follow step by step rolling).
4. To cook the dolmades, layer the bottom of a pot with vine leaves (use ones that are too small or torn apart). Place the dolmades stem side down and tightly pack each in the pot side by side. Before adding dolmades to the next layer, squeeze lemon juice over the entire layer. Continue until the pot is filled, and drizzle the top layer with olive oil.
5. Pour the chicken stock (or beef broth) over the dolmades and add water or lemon juice to finish covering the dolmades. Place an inverted plate over the dolmades to hold them in place while they cook. Place a lid over the pot and let simmer for about 1 hour to 90 minutes.
6. Once the rice is cooked, and the water has been absorbed, remove the dolmades from the pot and let cool about 20 minutes.
7. Serve dolmades cold as an appetizer, or hot as an entrée. Squeeze a lemon over the tops of the dolmades before serving, and enjoy!
NOTE: You can also freeze dolmades to cook later. If so, store in a Tupperware, and line each layer with parchment paper so the dolmades don’t stick together.
How to roll your dolmades: