Dolmades - stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs

Jun 15, 2013

  Vines are probably the only plants in Greece where every part of the plant except the roots are used in cooking.  In May fresh stems are pickled and used in salads or served as a meze and the vine leaves themselves are stuffed with rice (dolmádes), meat or fish.  Juice from unripe grapes is used in mountainous regions as a seasoning early in summer when lemons are not available and, of course wine, is a classic ingredient in cooking everywhere. In February and March, the season of pruning, some of the dry vine branches are collected and are used all year long in a special cooking technique: the dry vine branches are arranged in a layer at the bottom of a baking pan, and the lamb meat is set on them, so that during cooking the juices don't come in contact with the meat. This way the meat browns all over.
     Here I present the recipe for classic dolmádes (ντολμάδες), stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs, a dish cooked in spring with fresh vine leaves or all year long with preserved ones which can be found in any store selling Mediterranean food products. Dolmádes can be served as a first or a main course or a as a meze.


(makes about 60)

1 cup. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup round grain rice (for risotto)
¼ cup long grain rice
4Tbsps  fresh dill chopped
2Tbsps fresh parsley chopped
3 Spring onions chopped
1/2tsp. dried mint
60 grape leaves in brine, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1⁄4cup fresh lemon juice

 Heat ½ cup oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add rice, 3 cups water, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil and cook for 3minutes more. Stir in dill, parsley, and mint. Let cool. 
Coat the bottom of a pot with the remaining oil and cover with 4 grape leaves. 
Set the  remaining grape leaves on a work surface, vein side up. Working with one leaf at a time, flatten the leaf and place about 1 tsp. rice mixture in the center. Fold the bottom of leaf over filling, fold in sides, and roll into tight cylinder. Transfer with the seamed side down (so it does not come apart), to the pot. Repeat. Add lemon juice and enough water just to cover the wrapped dolmádes. Cover them with a small plate to keep them submerged; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until rice filling is tender, 20-30 minutes. Serve dolmádes at room temperature or cold with Greek yogurt.


  1. Hi, am Lebanese and this is probably my favorite food. I usually prefer the one with lamb meat, my mom would layer it with lots and lots of fat between the vine leaves. But I've never heard of it being stuffed with fish. I guess I must try it soon. Is there a specific type of fish to use? Great photos, btw. xoxo, Aya

    1. Hi Aya! this dish is cooked all over Mediterranean and the Middle East countries more or less the same way. Salt cod or fresh cod fillets are also wrapped in vine leaves here in Peloponnese.

    2. Middle east uses tomato paste in their filling.

  2. Your recipe for stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs sure did catch my eye, I found it on the Foodgawker and can't wait to try it. Awesome tutorial as well. I would like to invite you to join us at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:

    I hope you can make it!
    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  3. Oh your dolmades look so beautiful! I make these sometimes but I always get stressed with the vine leaves. The leaves I buy are tightly rolled up in a jar and I find it so hard to get them out without breaking them. And unrolling them without tearing them is very difficult also. Do you buy yours in a jar or are they packaged a different way? I would love to know...

    Your recipe sounds delicious. I haven't tried them with spring onions but will do next time.. if I can master the art of removing the leaves from the jar! :)

  4. Lisa on Spring we have fresh vine leaves from our vine yard that we preserve in brine, a very common ritual all over Greece. When we run out, we buy those in the jar just like you. They are always packed but it helps to unroll them if you let them stand for half an hour in a basin with cold water, then you try to unroll them in the water. I hope it works for you too.

  5. Panos,
    This looks like an awesome recipe. I'm going to try it. I have a question. You say to add the 1 1/4 cups of rice to 3 cups of water and boil for 3 minutes. It doesn't seem that 3 minutes will be enough time to cook the rice and absorb the water. Do you drain the water after 3 minutes? Or do you cook it for more than 3 minutes? Or do you start with cooked rice?
    Thanks for the clarification!

    1. Hi Roger, thank you for your comment. You cook the rice with the herbs just for 3 min. because you want to infuse it with flavors and also make it an idea sticky, so it is easier to use. The rest of cooking in the vine leaves will cook the rice perfectly. Let me know if it worked for you.

  6. A great recipe I can't wait to try out. I love Stuffed Grape Leaves and those adventurous enough to try them! I wish more would.

    I came up with my own version of a Stuffed Grape Leaves, inline with an Arab style. While different from your own, I think mine is a unique take on the dish. I'm new to the Food Blog scene and would love some feedback from a pro like you. Check out my recipe if have time.

  7. Hi can you freeze these would cooked thank you i have made them with rice and peppers and garlic

    1. Yes, of course you can freeze them.

  8. i am going to try this as part of my food tech course

  9. What grape vine plant produces the leaves for dolmades? My family,(from Syria)had grape vine,but I don't believe it produced fruit. Do you know what kind of grape vine to purchase that would be best for dolmades?

    1. All grape vine leaves are edible. The point is timing. Leaves have to be collected early on summer when still tender. All store bought ( canned in brine) vine leaves are fine!