Dolmades, or stuffed grape leaves, are one of the most iconic of Greek dishes. I can eat them for breakfast lunch and dinner!
Thing is, we’ve always had a bit of a running debate about the name in my family. My mom’s side of the family calls them dolmades as do most Greeks. My dad’s side, with his dad hailing from Smyrna, use the more Turkish name of yiapraikia. Whatever you choose to call them, they are phenomenal!
Traditionally made without meat and actually stuffed with corn kernels when rice was dear, dolmades can also be made with many delicious regional additions including dried red currants, toasted pine nuts and golden raisins.
Stuffing your grape leaves couldn’t be easier and after your first few rolls, you’ll be rolling like a champ. I like to stick to about 1 1/2 tsp, or a heaping teaspoonful, of filling per leaf but the amount of filling can safely range anywhere from 1 to 2 spoonfuls. Just remember to keep the amount of filling the same for all your rolls in order for them all cook to evenly.
Today, you can find jarred or canned grape leaves in most large supermarkets and certainly at your local Greek/Mediterranean markets. I’ve found California grape leaves to be consistently a good choice no matter what brand you choose and available more widely. Also, I prefer jarred/canned grape leaves in brine, not olive oil. Lately, I’ve been using Yergat. For all store-bought grape leaves, rinse leaves well and make sure to snip off the short stem ends before rolling. Makes a big difference in finished product!
Herbs are the major player in your filling so don’t be tempted to skimp on them. I like a combination of dill, mint and parsley but certainly, one or even two can be left out. Just keep to the measurements below and you’ll be ok. Chop your herbs as finely as possible so that they flavor the rice with out overwhelmingly it. TIP The rice filling can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to roll 🙂
This is an oven, not stovetop, recipe. The oven method is more often used in restaurants but over the years it’s become my preferred cooking choice as the more even oven temperature give me a more consistently cooked end result than you can get on the stovetop. The leaves are tender enough to be cut easily with a fork and the rice is fluffy perfection.
In the same way you would line your pot with odd shaped or torn grape leaves, so too make sure to line your pan. I line the bottom of the pan with 2 good layers of grape leaves. NOTE I line the bottom of the pan only and do not add a layer of leaves between layers of stuffed grape leaves.
A 9×13″ baking pan will nicely hold 2 layers of 25 stuffed grapes leaves (per layer) snugly and without being overcrowded. I’ve made them many times in the disposable foil pans when they going to travel and it works out well as it’s really best to handle the rolls as little as possible. Remember to tightly cover your pan with aluminum foil and don’t be tempted to pull the foil back while cooking to take a peek. Your patience will be rewarded 🙂
And, bonus, dolmades also freeze very well. After cooking, cool rolls completely and wrap well in a freezer-safe container, bag or (my choice) wrap. You can keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just let them thaw on counter for a few hours and then enjoy at room temperature or gently steam them in a covered pot with a tablespoon or two of water to warm.
Herb Rice Filling
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cups sweet white onions, chopped very fine
- 4 cups long-grain riced, uncooked
- 6 cups fresh herbs – measured before chopping, chopped fine ( I use equal parts dill/mint/parsley)
- 3 tsp salt
- 2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- grape leaves – 1 large 16 ounce jar (approx 60-80 leaves,rinsed well) or hand picked and boiled
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/3 c olive oil
- juice from one lemon
Filling – make up to 3 days ahead
Heat olive oil over low/medium heat (#3 on my glass stovetop) and add onions and cook for 5 minutes.
Add uncooked rice and stir well to combine completely. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add herbs, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
Add broth, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, uncover and mix well to combine all ingredients. Rice should be a bit more than half cooked.
Canned or jarred grape leaves should be rinsed first in a large bowl of very hot water and then in cold water. Lay to dry on kitchen or paper towels.
Fresh grape leaves must be rinsed well and boiled for 10 minutes to soften the leaves.
Place leaf, ribbed side up with the stem side pointing to you. Place spoon of filling at the stem end, see photo above.
Turn up 2 pieces of leaf below the filling then tuck in each side and roll up – gently and carefully – until you run out of leaf. Lay each leaf aside – or directly in pan, with tip of the leaf side down.
Line bottom of 13×9″ pan with 2 flat layers of ripped/weird shaped/sized grape leaves.
Snugly fit 2 dozen rolls in first layer with second layer directly on top of the first one.
Combine cooking liquid ingredients (2 c broth/1/3 c olive oil/ juice from one lemon) and pour over top.
Cover pan tightly with foil paper and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Turn oven off, leave pan covered and in the oven for another hour.
Makes approximately 4 dozen dolmathes. Recipe can very easily be doubled OR halved, depending on your preference.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with fresh dill, a drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon wedges. Now I’m craving these little guys in a very serious way!