How to Make : Stuffed Grape Leaves

By: Ashley Jenkins Altan

Stuffed grape leaves, it is a traditional dish across the middle-east. Versions have been made as early as the 17th century in Persia. Depending on where you live in the world, stuffed grape leaves have a different name. It is dolmades or dolmadakiato the Greeks, sarama to the Turks, Tolma to the Armenians, and yaba to the Syrians. Stuffed grape leaves can be made with meat or made vegetarian. The spices may differ depending on which part of the world you come from.

The filling is generally stuffed with rice, spices like sumac or herbs like parsley, mint or dill. It can also include raisins, nuts, onion, and garlic.

Stuffed grape leaves can be shared among families and local communities within gatherings. Sarma is served as a side-dish at breakfast when expecting guests. Stuffed grape leaves are very versatile and can be eaten hot or cold. It is delicious with a squeeze of lemon or dipped into a garlic yogurt sauce.

So where can you find stuffed grape leaves in America? We don’t have street bazaars with vendors that sell fresh vine leaves, which would be the best way to eat them. However, there is still a delicious way to get these vine leaves, it’s at the local Mediterranean market.

Vine leaves can either be in a vacuum sealed package or sealed in a jar similarly like pickles. It is important to rinse the vine leaves very well when using vine leaves in this way. For this recipe, I will be using vine leaves in a jar. It is important to rinse the vine leaves very well in boiling water for approximately 2-3 minutes.

Here are all the spices you will need: 1/2 tbs salt, 4 cloves garlic, 1 tbs sumac, 1/2 tbs cumin, 1 tbs oregano,  1/2 tbs red pepper, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1/3 cup fresh mint, 1 medium sized onion, chopped, 2 1/3 cup rice.

Mix the spices well with 2 tbs of olive oil. After the spices are well incorporated with the rice, add 1 medium-sized tomato, diced. Mix well, set aside.


Put about 1 tbs of the rice mixture into each leave (less or more depending on the size of the leaf).


After the grape leaves are rolled, add 2 tbs of oil to the rolled grape leaves. Next, add 4 cups of water or vegetable broth.

As a tip, I put a plate on top of the rolled grape leaves to prevent them from unrolling.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Author Ashley Altan


  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 tbso red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic


  1. 1.) Put all the spices and herbs into a large bowl and mix well. Next, add 2 tbsp olive oil and the diced tomato to the mixture and mix once more, set aside.

    2.) Take the grape leaves and boil each leave for approximately  2-3 minutes, Set aside.

    3.) Put approximately 10 grape leaves to the bottom of the pot, this will help the grape leaves no to burn on the bottom). 

    4.) In each grape leaf, add approximately 1 tbsp of rice mixture into each leaf. It can be less or more according to the size of each leaf. Roll according to the 6 steps above.

    5.) After all the leaves are rolled, layer them closely into the pan to prevent them from unraveling during the cooking process.  Add 3 tbsp. of olive oil over the stuffed vine leaves. Add 4 cups of water or vegetable broth, Place a plate over the leaves to prevent them, once again , from unraveling, cook for 45 minutes.



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