Stuffed Grape Leaves

Dolmades are a traditional Lenten food from Greece—vine leaves stuffed with rice and simmered in a little oil, lemon juice, and water. They have been widely popularized in Charleston, largely through the Greek community’s food fairs and festivals, held several times each year. I make the stuffed leaves as an appetizer before a meal of mutton or lamb, using a rice steamer to cook them. Sometimes I simply fill the grape leaves with rice soaked in leftover gumbo or use shrimp or chicken stock to flavor the rice and tuck a freshly peeled small shrimp into each roll as well. (Vegetable stock may be used during Lent.) The following recipe can be made in a pan on the stove or in the oven.For directions for preserving your own grape leaves.


  • 24 fresh or canned grape leaves
  • ½ cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 cup shrimp stock or chicken stock
  • cup olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 24 small shrimp, peeled


Parboil fresh grape leaves for 4 or 5 minutes, until they turn dark, or soak canned leaves in warm water for about 10 minutes. Combine the rice, ½ cup of the stock, the oil, onion, parsley, and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Lower the heat immediately and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Place the leaves smooth side down on a work surface. Place a teaspoon of the rice mixture and a shrimp in the center of a grape leaf. Fold in the sides of the leaf, then roll it up, but not too tightly, because the rice will expand. Repeat for each leaf, arranging them in layers in a heavy saucepan. Add the remaining ½ cup of stock, cover the pot, and cook very slowly until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, adding water if needed. It will take about 20 minutes (or about 45 minutes in a 325° oven).