Dolma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

These rolled grape leaves stuffed with spiced meat and rice, drenched in a lemony broth take some work, but they are worth every minute of effort!

Course Dinner
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword dolma, stuffed grape leaves, yabra
Prep Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 595 kcal
Author Deana Kabakibi


Grape Leaves

  • 1 jar grape leaves about 60 leaves
  • 2 cups short grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 lb. 80% ground beef
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper (or 7 spice blend)


  • 1 1/2 cups lemon juice (fresh)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoons salt (to taste)
  • 10 cloves garlic, pressed (or whole or a combo)
  • 1 lb. fatty meat on the bone
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (for serving)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (only if you decide not to include the fatty meat on the bone)


Grape Leaves

  1. Open the jar and drain. The leaves will be folded in 2 bunches. Carefully pull one bunch out at a time so as not to rip the leaves. Unfold leaves, rinse, and lay out flat on a plate for use.

  2. In a medium bowl, add rice, cover with water and soak for 15 min or until rice begins to turn opaque white.
  3. Drain water, leaving a little bit left (to make it easier to mix the meat and work with). Add meat to rice.

  4. Add salt & pepper. Mix well until rice and meat are evenly distributed.
  5. Take each leaf and cut off the stem with a knife or scissor so that it is flat. Save leaves that rip or are odd shaped for later.

  6. Place each leaf vein side up, smooth side facing your counter, with the point of the leaf facing away from you.

  7. Take a small amount of rice mixture and place it centered on the leaf about 1/2" from the edge and mold it into a log shape.

  8. Gripping the bottom edge of the leaf, closest to you, roll the leaf over the rice mixture. Hold the leaf in place, as you fold in the left side and then the right side. Then begin to roll the leaf all the way to the end until it is completely sealed. (If edges poke out, tuck them in as you roll). Repeat with remaining leaves.

  9. Use saved leaves to line the bottom of a large pot. Add meat on the bone first, then position grape leaves on top in a circular, layered pattern.


  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add lemon juice, water, 1 teaspoon salt and pressed garlic and simmer for 1-3 min, just until flavors have a chance to melt together. Add to pot with grape leaves enough to cover. If there is extra, reserve remaining broth.

  2. Place a large plate upside down over the top of the grape leaves, add a weight or jar on top of the plate to press them down firmly.

  3. Bring to a boil. Immediately lower heat as low as possible and allow to simmer for about 45-60 min. making sure the broth stays sufficient. If broth gets low, add remaining broth.

  4. When pricking a grape leaf at the top of the pot is tender, they are finished. Holding the plate carefully in place, drain the broth into a container to save. Place a plate larger than your pot over the pot and flip in one swift motion.

  5. Remove the leaves that lined your pot. Serve with yogurt on the side.

Recipe Notes

If you do not add meat as the first top layer, adding olive oil will help make the dish moist since you will not have the fat from the meat melting throughout. If you do not like things very sour, reduce the lemon juice by 1/2 cup. If you do like things quite sour, add 1/2 cup.

Also, adding some whole cloves of garlic is delicious. 7 spice is delicious instead of plain pepper. Some people add osfour to give it a slight flavor and hint of yellow coloring.