DOLMADES (dol-MAH-thes) are bite sized finger foods wrapped with grape or cabbage leaves and stuffed with all the goods—rice, meat, and plenty of herbs. Versatility makes dolmades just plain wonderful to keep in your kitchen repertoire. You can top them with a tomato sauce or avgolemono sauce (egg-lemon sauce), serve them plain with a generous amount of lemon on top, or even pinwheel them alongside tzatziki. I love to vary the fillings as well, creating meatless dolmades or stuffing them with whatever herbs and seasonings call my name that day.

As appetizing as they look, these little taste masterpieces can be intimidating to make. Take heart and take your time, because no one wants to be bested by a food roll. Having said that, the intimidation begins with the rolling. Hand rolling comes with the territory, and 20 minutes in you’ll wonder how many more dolmades you have to roll before you can finally dig in. I assure you, the end result is worth every frustration. 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 grape leaves or you’ve attempted it 17 times and the filling still falls out, this classic Greek dish dishes up rewards big time with warm, hearty, savory fillings wrapped in a compact, edible delivery package. I suggest you grab an extra set of helpful hands (aka use your guests as free labor) and get rolling because the dolmades definitely won’t roll themselves.

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Recipe type: Appetizer/Main Course
Cuisine: Greek
Serves: makes 50-60
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.
  • 1 pound ground beef or ground lamb
  • (or an equal amount of each)
  • 2 cups onions, finely chopped
  • ½ cup uncooked long grain rice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon mint
  • ¼ cup pine nuts (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar of grape leaves
For cooking:
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock or beef broth
  1. Rinse the grape leaves and remove the stems. Place 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 roll the dolmades, place one leaf shiny side down on the rolling surface. Put 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. Finish by rolling tightly to the tip of the leaf. Continue until all the meat mixture is gone.
  4. To cook the dolmades, line the bottom of a pot with vine leaves (use the ones that are too small or torn). Pack your dolmades stem-side down tightly in the pot, side by side. Repeat this process for each subsequent layer and drizzle with olive oil. Continue layering until the pot is filled.
  5. Cover with chicken stock or beef broth, plus lemon juice and water.
  6. Place an inverted plate on top to hold them in place while they cook. Cover the pot and let simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour on medium heat.
  7. Once the rice is cooked, and the liquids are absorbed, remove the dolmades from the pot and let them cool for about 20 minutes.
  8. Serve cold as an appetizer or hot as an entrée. Squeeze a lemon over the dolmades before serving.
You can make these in advance and freeze them to cook later. If so, store your dolmades in airtight container, and line each layer with parchment paper so the leaves don’t stick together.


How to roll your dolmades: