Little bites of heaven! A great vegetarian appetizer made from tender vine leaves wrapped into little rolls and stuffed with rice and fresh herbs. This is an authentic Greek dolmades recipe (Dolmathes) for you to recreate this delicious traditional delight from scratch.
These extra juicy stuffed dolmades, often served as part of a meze platter, are the ultimate bite-sized appetizer and my personal favorite! I always have a few as a delicious side to my traditional Greek Moussaka!
So read along to discover my authentic recipe, step by step photos, variations and tips and tricks for how to make them to perfection!
What are Greek Dolmades?
Dolmades (Dolmathes) refers to Greek dishes made with either cabbage or vine/ grape leaves, stuffed with a delicious herb-y rice mix, shaped into little rolls and boiled until wonderfully tender. Some dolmades recipes, besides rice, herbs and seasonings, also include minced meat (beef and/or pork).
- It looks stunning: rolling the leaves does take a little getting used to but once you do, you have an impressive looking dish that tastes just as good as it looks.
- You can vary lots about it: this is a traditional style of dolmades but there are so many ways you can change it up to make different versions from the herbs and seasonings to the meat you use.
Dolmades Key Ingredients
- Vine leaves: I used 60 in the recipe to make a plate full of Dolmades but use however many you want for the size of the dish you are creating.
- Filling: Rice is mixed with onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper and herbs to stuff into the leaves.
- Seasoning: Once the leaves are rolled, you will need some lemon juice and salt and pepper to drizzle over them while cooking.
Where to Find Grape Leaves
Depending on where you live, getting grape leaves may be difficult. Look for a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean specialty shop near you; these shops frequently have grape leaves.
If you can’t get them in your local shop, you may always buy them online. The grape leaves will be brined in a jar. You’ll need to boil some water and soak the leaves in it for a few minutes. This will make the leaves more delicate and appealing. After draining them, rinse them thoroughly to remove any remaining salty brine.
If you live in wine country or near a vineyard, you may prepare fresh grape leaves from the vine. The harvesting of grape leaves for preservation is best done in late spring.
Key Preparation Steps
There are four key steps to creating this recipe:
- Preparing the leaves
- Preparing the filling for the leaves
- Stuffing the leaves
- Finishing the dish
Preparing the dolmades leaves
To prepare this traditional Greek dolmades recipe, begin by washing the vine leaves. You may use ready-to-eat or fresh vine leaves for this dish (if you’re lucky enough to come across them).
If you use leaves from a jar, place them in a bowl of cold water and let them soak for a few moments before draining. If using fresh vine leaves wash them thoroughly, remove the stems, and blanch them in boiling water. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and place them in a colander to cool down completely.
Prepare the filling for the dolmadakia leaves
Rinse the rice in a colander, then drain it in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/3 cup olive oil and chopped onions to a big saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the onion in olive oil until it’s translucent (but not browned). Add the rice and sauté for 1 more minute. Pour 2 cups of warm water and half lemon juice, then add the rice. Simmer for about 7 minutes, until almost all of the water is absorbed.
Season the dolmades filling with salt and pepper, then add the herbs. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes before adding it to the rice mixture.
Stuffing the dolmades leaves
Grab a large pot and layer the bottom of the pot with some grape leaves. I prefer using the ones that are slightly torn as they would go to waste!
Then start rolling your dolmades. Place one vine leaf (shiny side down) on a flat surface and add 1 tsp of filling at the bottom end (stem). Keep the dolmades from overfilling by using caution when adding the rice.
Fold the bottom section of the leaf over the filling and towards the middle; bring both sides in toward the middle and tightly roll them up.
Finishing the dish
Place the stuffed vine leaves (folded side down) on the bottom of the pot and fill in tightly. When cooking, avoid leaving any gaps between the dolmades to avoid them from cracking open.
Drizzle the stuffed vine leaves (dolmathes) with the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice, then add salt and pepper. Pour enough water in to just cover them and place an inverted plate on the top.
Place the lid on and simmer the dolmades for 30-40 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed and only the oil remains.
Remove the lid and plate, then let the dolmades stand for at least 30 minutes before serving.
The most popular meat dolmades variation is the Lahanodolmades (Greek cabbage rolls), which are best suited as a main course. Meat dolmades are served warm and usually garnished with egg lemon sauce (Avgolemono), while meatless vegetarian dolmades are served cold or at room temperature with a last-minute squeeze of lemon juice and some thick creamy yogurt. And did I mention that they are the perfect recipe for lent!
Making ahead of time and storing
Stuffed grape leaves should be kept in an airtight container and refrigerated. Warm them or eat them straight from the fridge. They’re ideal for a party, as a light supper, or as a midday snack. However, as they contain rice, you should use them within 2-3 days at most.
How can I freeze these?
Place the dolma in a freezer bag, stacked on top of one another, and freeze for up to three months. Simply heat them in a microwave or place them in a saucepan with just a few tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer. Alternatively, you may simply thaw them overnight in the refrigerator.
Most people add some lemon and plain yogurt to this dish. Some butter may be heated, then a little amount of pepper is added and the red melted butter is drizzled over the yogurt before serving. Dolma of different kinds is usually served as a part of a mezze platter together with some tzatziki, hummus, pita breads, spicy feta dip, fava (yellow split peas pure) and aubergine dip.
And if you love my dolmadakia, check out my favourite meatless recipes:
- Greek Gemista
- Fasolakia (Greek green beans)
- Briam (mixed roasted vegetables)
- Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice)
- Vegan tzatziki sauce
Little bites of heaven! This Greek dolmades recipe (stuffed vine/ grape leaves with rice) is the ultimate vegetarian appetizer! Dolmathes or dolmadakia are made from tender vine leaves wrapped into little rolls and stuffed with rice and fresh herbs.
- 60 vine leaves, drained and rinsed
- 250g rice (1 cup)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 cups warm water
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 tbsps dill, chopped
- 1/2 a cup parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
- To make this traditional Greek dolmades recipe (stuffed vine/ grape leaves), start by preparing the vine leaves. For this dolmades recipe, you can either use vine leaves sold in jars or fresh (if you are lucky enough to find them). If you use the ones in jar, rinse the vine leaves, remove the stems and leave them in a colander to drain. If using fresh vine leaves, wash them thoroughly, remove the stems and blanch them in boiling hot water. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and place them in a colander to cool down completely.
- Prepare the filling for the stuffed vine/ grape leaves (dolmades). Place the rice in a colander and rinse with running water. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, add 1/3 of the olive oil and the chopped onions. Sauté the onions, until translucent (but not coloured). Add the rice and sauté for 1 more minute. Pour in 2 cups of warm water and half lemon juice and simmer for about 7 minutes, until the rice absorbs all the water and is parboiled. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the herbs, remove from the stove and set aside to cool down for a while. This will be the filling for the dolmades.
- Layer the bottom of a large pot with some vine leaves (use the ones that are little bit torn) and start rolling the dolmadakia. (This is probably the most difficult part of the traditional dolmades recipe). Place one vine leaf (shiny side down) on a flat surface and add 1 tsp of the filling at the bottom end (stem). Be careful not to overfill the dolmades, as the rice will expand during cooking. Fold the lower section of the leaf over the filling towards the center; bring the two sides in towards the center and roll them up tightly. Place the stuffed vine leaves (fold side down) on the bottom of the pot and top in snugly layers. Be careful not to leave any gaps between the dolmades to prevent them from cracking open when cooking.
- Drizzle the stuffed vine leaves (dolmathes) with the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Place an inverted plate on top to hold them down when cooking and pour in enough water just to cover them. Place the lid on and simmer the dolmades for about 30-40 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the dolmades remain only with the oil.
- Remove the pot from the heat, remove the lid and plate and let the dolmades cool for at least 30 minutes.
- Serve this delicious Greek appetizer cold or at room temperature with a squeeze of a lemon. Give this traditional dolmades recipe a try and enjoy your own fresh homemade stuffed grape leaves (dolmades)!
- Serving Size: 1 dolma
- Calories: 42kcal
- Sugar: 0.4g
- Sodium: 39.9mg
- Fat: 3.8g
- Saturated Fat: 0.5g
- Unsaturated Fat: 3.1g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 2.2g
- Fiber: 0.4g
- Protein: 0.3g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: Dolmades, Stuffed vine Leaves with rice, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Greek Dolma, Dolmathes recipe