How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

by Beth @ Tasty Yummies

Tutorial Tuesdays // Tasty Yummies How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

This might seem like a beast of a tutorial, but if you grew up Greek, as I did, you will know just how exciting this is the first time you make them yourself. For the past few years, every trip my parents have taken out here to California to visit us, we have planned a day and made a huge Greek feast. Each time we have made the time to use the beautiful grape leaves growing in my yard that are always perfectly in season and we spend the afternoon making homemade dolmades AKA dolmas AKA stuffed grape leaves. These are just like my Yia Yia and my dad’s Yia Yia, had made when we were growing up.

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

The beautiful thing about this stuffed grape leaves tutorial/recipe is how versatile it is. I have made these both vegan and with meat and most recently I have even experimented with cauliflower rice for a grain-free version. I have also made them both with jarred grape leaves and the fresh grape leaves growing in my yard.

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

My dad has stories of his YiaYia (my great grandmother) driving along very specific country roads that she knew had grape vines, all the kids in the car would be instructed to get out and pick the freshest leaves, they would then take them home and she would tie them up to dry out in the attic, so she’d always have them on hand for homemade dolmades.

Thankfully, I have several grape vines growing behind my house, so I don’t have to stalk any local vineyards. In the late spring and early summer as they are just starting to sprout new leaves, I can head behind the house pick the prettiest and most perfect ones, just for making dolmades. If you don’t have access to grapevines, simply buy jarred grape leaves, a little less work but still so delicious.

This tutorial shares options for the filling to be made with or without meat, with rice or with cauliflower rice. Throughout the instructions you will see notes that pertain to the various options. Be sure to read carefully.

Stuffed grape leaves make a great meze (mezethes or mezze) an appetizer or a small dish to share, meant to be served with wine or ouzo. Imagine a plate of these with some homemade hummus, feta cheese and olives, a big bowl of avgolemeno soup, falafel, a big ‘ol Greek salad, the list could go on and on. Whatever you serve these with and however you serve these, hot, warm or cool, you will love them, especially if you make and share them with people you love. This I can very much attest to.

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmades)

Stuffed Grape Leaves
makes approximately 30-40 dolmades, depending on the size of your leaves and the filling you are using

Ingredients:

  • approximately 40 fresh grape leaves or 1 8-ounce jar of grape leaves
  • 1 lb raw ground beef (you can also opt for 1/2 lamb and 1/2 beef), optional*
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice OR approximately 3 cups raw cauliflower rice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
  • 2 lemons

optional add-ins:

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup dried currents, cranberries or raisins
  • olive oil

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves
Prepping the Leaves:

When harvesting fresh grape leaves, choose medium-sized, bright green, tender leaves that aren’t too rough but are large enough to stuff, about 4 to 5 inches wide. The smaller leaves can tend to be too delicate. Select leaves without holes, since holes will tear when you roll them.

Both fresh and jarred grape leaves usually need to be blanched first. Rinse the leaves well, then in a large stock pot filled with water, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer, place about 12 – 15 leaves into the water at a time. Jarred leaves will take about 2-4 minutes, fresh will take about 5 minutes. Immediately take the leaves out and place into an ice cold water bath. Continue with the remaining leaves. Drain the leaves and pat them dry with paper towels. Trim the stems and any hard veins from the leaves.

While the grape leaves are drying, make the stuffing.

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves
Make the Stuffing:
In a large bowl, add the ground beef, rice (or cauliflower rice), onions, fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Add any other optional ingredients, pine nuts, dried fruit, etc.

NOTE: if you are making these vegan and not using any ground meat, I recommend adding an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup or rice, possibly pine nuts or dried currants and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the filling for some fat and flavor.

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

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Assemble the Stuffed Grape Leaves:
Lay the grape leaf shiny side down. Put about 1-2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the leaf. Go with less filling if using regular rice (1 tablespoon max), since it will expand once it cooks.  Opt for more filling if using cauliflower rice, since it will cook down a little and shrink the rolls ever so slightly.

Fold up once, then fold the sides toward the center,  continue rolling the sides in until you reach the end. Don’t make the rolls too tight when using rice, since they will expand and you don’t want them to break open. Squeeze slightly in your palm to secure the roll.

Finished rolls will be approximately 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches long, depending on the size of the leaf.

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

Cooking the Stuffed Grape Leaves:
Line the bottom of a large pan, dutch oven or pot with several grape leaves. This keeps them from sticking or scorching when cooking. Place the dolmades, seam side down into the pot, snugly together. When the bottom layer is completed start a second layer on top of the first. Pour a cup or two of broth or water into the pan, so it reaches about halfway up the bottom layer of dolmades. Use less liquid if making them with cauliflower rice, since it won’t absorb the liquid the way rice will.

Squeeze the juice from 1/2 a lemon over the top of all the rolls. Then take one lemon and cut into slices and lay those on top. Save the remaining half lemon for serving. Finally, place a heavy, heat resistant plate on top of the dolmades to prevent them from unrolling.

Cover the pan with a lid and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and allow them to cook slowly for 30 – 40 minutes, adding more liquid, if necessary as they cook. Cauliflower rice filled dolmades will take less time, more like 20-25 minutes. Dolmades are done when they can easily be pierced with a fork and the rice is fully cooked.

Remove from the heat, drain off excess liquid and serve with fresh lemons and feta cheese, if you’d like. Those can be served warm, at room temperature or chilled.

How-to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Samantha @FerraroKitchen June 23, 2015 at 5:10 pm

This post made me so happy! I have a special place in my heart for grape leaves because my mom would make me roll them for hours and hours when I was little…huge pots of stuffed grape leaves! We make ours with rice and meat and also layer with lemon slices. And I am so envious of your backyard!! If you ever want to have a grape leave rolling party……..

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2 aimee @ small eats July 3, 2015 at 2:13 pm

This is great!!! I love all of the wonderful variations.
If you make this again and need some help eating all of those dolmas… 😉

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3 thefolia April 10, 2016 at 8:40 am

My yiayia would never leave a dandelian in the dirt…she always plucked it and brought it home. Grape leaves were store bought in our house growing up in Chicago those were hard to come by. My favorite part of dolmades is the augolemano sauce…there’s nothing like my moms! Happy harvesting and feasting.

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4 Jennifer Hastert January 29, 2017 at 12:47 pm

I’m curious about jarred grape leaves. I tried to make dolmas a few weeks ago and the jarred grape leaves I found at our local store were difficult to get out of the jar and they were sooooo small that it made it hard to roll them. And, half of the jar of leaves were unusable because of holes, tears, etc. What brand of jarred grape leaves do you use when you go that route?

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