Stuffed Grape Leaves

You Can Call ‘Em Dolmas, If You Want


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    2 to 4

Appears in

Well Fed 2: More Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat

Well Fed 2

By Melissa Joulwan

Published 2013

  • About

I’ve probably eaten thousands of stuffed grape leaves in my life, and about 99 percent of them were made by my dad. We always called them “stuffed grape leaves,” never dolmas, and we’d soak the leaves in the sink, never in a bowl. Then my dad and I would divvy up the responsibilities: one to scoop filling, the other to roll and place in the pot. This recipe comes together quicker than you might think, but it can also inspire lingering with friends and family. It’s amazing how quickly the pot fills with rows of rolls when the stories and laughter are flowing.

Heads up! This recipe requires you to do something in advance; plan prep time accordingly.

Prep 35 Min.
Cook 30 Min.


  • 1 8-ounce jar grape leaves (I like Mezzeta.)
  • ½ head raw cauliflower (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons raisins or currants (optional)
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ½ medium raw onion
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 2 teaspoons Lebanese Seven-Spice Blend
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2-3 cups water, boiling hot
  • 2 fresh lemons
  • 2 large egg yolks (optional)



Remove the grape leaves from the jar and place in a large mixing bowl. Cover with hot water and soak 15 minutes. Meanwhile, break the cauliflower into florets, removing the stems. Place the florets in a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower looks like rice. This takes about 10 to 15 one-second pulses. Place rice in a large mixing bowl and return the food processor bowl to its base; no need to clean it.

Heat a dry skillet over medium high heat, then add the pine nuts and raisins, stirring often and cooking until the pine nuts are lightly toasted, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop. Add the nuts and raisins to the rice in the bowl.

Place the lamb, onion, mint, Lebanese Seven-Spice, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of the food processor and purée until the ingredients form a paste. Add the lamb paté to the rice and mix well. The easiest way to do this is with your hands: run them under a little cold water and dig in.

In a 3-quart saucepan, place a few reject leaves to cover the bottom of the pan. Drain the water from the rest of the leaves and get ready to start rolling…

Place a leaf on a flat surface with the shiny side facing down, snip off the stem, and place 1 tablespoon of lamb/rice filling on the end of the leaf closest to you. Roll from the bottom, fold in the sides, and keep rolling until you have a cigar shape. Roll them tightly so they don’t come apart during cooking. Place the rolls in the pan and cuddle them up against each other.

Cut one of the lemons into thin slices and arrange on top of the dolmas in the pan. Place a plate or saucer on top of the dolmas and press down, then pour boiling water into the pan to cover the plate (about 2 cups). Put the lid on the pot and simmer. (Keep an eye on it; you want a few bubbles but not a rolling boil.) Cook 25-30 minutes, until the leaves are tender but still snappy.

Carefully remove the plate and drain the water from the pan. Cover with the lid so they stay hot. In a small bowl, whisk the juice from the remaining lemon with the egg yolks until frothy. Pour over the dolmas, then put the lid back on the pot. The hot dolmas gently cook the egg/lemon sauce to create a tangy coating.

Remove the dolmas from the pan, place covered in the fridge, and wait until they’re chilled. They taste great cold, room temp, or hot – but are best if reheated, rather than eaten immediately when they come out of the pan. I like to eat them cold with a sprinkle of coarse salt, za’atar, and a tiny drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.