Whether for an appetizer or a light lunch, these stuffed grape leaves with meat and pomegranate (Persian Dolma) are both delicious and satisfying. Find more of my pomegranate recipes.
Stuffing vegetables is a common theme you find in various cuisines from all over the world. In Persian, dolmeh means “stuffed” and is typically referred to stuffed grape leaves. Greeks call the same dish dolmades and Turkish use dolma. They all refer to the same dish.
I just call these little bundles of joy, INCREDIBLE! We, Persians, like to stuff everything: red peppers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and every guest’s bellies until they burst!
Why this recipe is so awesome
Dolmeh come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The vegetable container that holds the stuffing can vary, as well as the stuffing. This recipe is stuffed with ground beef, rice and pomegranate molasses.
You can make almost any kind of stuffing. I even have a vegetarian stuffed grape leaves with raisins. The great thing about dolmeh is that you can stuff it with anything you want.
The key is to not over-stuff (I know it’s tempting!) the grape leaves and to keep the rolls tight as you roll them. It can be a little tricky because the grape leaves can rip if you pull too tightly, which I did, and then you have to discard the torn leaf and use another one.
Ingredients you need
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Ground beef: You can also lighten it up by using ground turkey.
- Fresh herbs: Parsley and mint.
- Pomegranate concentrate: Pomegranate concentrate is pomegranate juice that is reduced down to a syrup consistency. Pomegranate molasses is pomegranate juice combined with a bit of sugar reduced down until the water has evaporated and you have a thick syrup-like consistency. You can make pomegranate molasses yourself, or you can buy it at most middle-eastern stores. You can even purchase it on Amazon. Pom molasses is sweeter than pom concentrate. You can use either, depending on your own personal taste.
- Lemon juice
- Cooked basmati rice
- Grape leaves: You can use canned or jarred grape leaves. Look for large leaves without rips or tears. Because they are soaking in a brine you will need to rinse the leaves in water to remove the excess saltiness.You can also use fresh grape leaves, just be sure to clean and blanch them in boiling water first.
1. In an oven-safe large non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat add 1 tsp olive oil and chopped onions. When onions start to soften, about 5 minutes, add ground beef. Break down the meat as it cooks.
2. When the meat is browned, about 7 minutes, mix in parsley, mint, pomegranate concentrate and lemon juice.
3. Cook for 5 minutes, then stir in cooked rice. Continue stirring until mixed in and remove from heat.
4. On a flat work surface, remove and pat dry grape leaves. Working with one grape leaf at a time, spread a grape leaf flat on your work surface, with the vein side up. Add 1 TBS of rice filling to the center of your grape leaf. Depending on the size of your grape leaves, the amount of filling can vary.
5. Starting with the stem, pull the lower part of the grape leaf over the filling. Tuck the tip under the filling. Remember, your dolma will expand slightly while it steams in the pot. If there are any holes in the grape leaves, stuffing will come out and the dolmeh will crack and break.
6. Keeping the dolma tight, but not pulling so hard that you rip the grape leaf, pull the left flap of the leaf over to the center. Repeat with the right flap of the leaf.
7. Tightly roll the dolmeh into the top of the grape leaf. Place into a 4-quart non-stick pot with 2 tsp olive oil on the bottom. Continue stuffing the grape leaves until all the stuffing is used.
8. Layer the dolma on top of each other. Pour water and lemon juice evenly over the everything. When done, place a plate on top of the dolmeh. This keeps them from expanding and opening up while cooking. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 1 hour.
Recipe tips and FAQs
Dolmeh is quite delicious on its own and a dipping is definitely not required. But I prefer to serve dolmeh with mast-o khiar, Persian yogurt with cucumbers. But you can serve it alone, with lemon wedges and even plain yogurt, if you like.
You can serve your dolmeh warm or cold. I prefer my dolmeh at around room temperature, just slightly warm. A little garnish of fresh herbs and dried rose petals is totally optional, but certainly adds extra flavor.
You can use this stuffing to stuff tomatoes, onions, cabbage and bell peppers.
Again, there are no set rules for the stuffing of your dolmeh. But there is usually rice stuffed inside. Meat by itself would not only be expensive, but also very dense and heavy. Typically, basmati rice is the first choice of rice I use when making dolma. I have also used brown basmati rice, arborio rice and even quinoa.
You can also keep the dolma refrigerated in an air-tight container for 3 days, then reheat when ready to serve.
- 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 cup chopped parsley, packed
- 2 TBS chopped mint
- 2 TBS pomegranate concentrate
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 ½ cup cooked basmati rice
- 26 large grape leaves, canned or jarred
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- In an oven-safe large non-stick skillet, over medium-high heat add 1 tsp olive oil and chopped onions.
- When onions start to soften, about 5 minutes, add ground beef. Break down the meat as it cooks.
- When the meat is browned, about 7 minutes, mix in parsley, mint, pomegranate concentrate and lemon juice.
- Cook for 5 minutes, then stir in cooked rice. Continue stirring until mixed in and remove from heat.
- In a 4-quart non-stick pot add 2 tsp olive oil.
- On a flat work surface, remove and pat dry grape leaves.
- Working with one grape leaf at a time, spread a grape leaf flat on your work surface, with the vein side up.
- Add to the center of your grape leaf 1 TBS of rice filling.
- Depending on the size of your grape leaves, the amount of filling can vary.
- Starting with the stem, pull the lower part of the grape leaf over the filling.
- Tuck the tip under the filling.
- Keeping the dolmeh tight, but not pulling so hard that you rip the grape leaf, pull the left flap of the leaf over to the center.
- Repeat with the right flap of the leaf.
- Tightly roll the dolmeh into the top of the grape leaf. See pictures below for more guidance.
- Place dolmeh into the oiled pot.
- Repeat steps 9 through 17 until all the stuffing is used.
- Layer the dolmeh on top of each other.
- Pour water and lemon juice evenly over the dolmeh.
- When done, place a plate on top of the dolmeh. This keeps the dolmeh from expanding and opening up while cooking.
- Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 1 hour.
- Remove plate.
- Dolmeh can be served immediately warm or at room temperature.
- You can also keep the dolmeh refrigerated in an air-tight container for 3 days, then reheat when ready to serve.
Great as an appetizer or a main course. Can't find grape leaves? Blanch and use fresh cabbage leaves. This filling is also great stuffed into bell peppers, tomatoes and onions.
Serving Size:1 dolmeh
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 87Total Fat: 1.7gSaturated Fat: 0.5gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 134mgCarbohydrates: 10.9gFiber: 0.3gSugar: 0.8gProtein: 6.2g
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