Dish of the Week: Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’ll be sharing a recipe inspired by this past weekend’s Greek Fest: Dolmades.

From the Turkish verb dolmak meaning “to be stuffed,” dolmades (or dolmathes) are grape leaves filled with rice and sometimes minced meat, herbs and spices.

Stuffed vine leaves or vegetables like Swiss chard and cabbage are common throughout the Middle East and Turkey (where they are known as dolma or dolmeh), though Greece lays claim to the use of grape leaves. According to a 1983 article in The New York Times, the history of the dish is unclear, but folklore will tell you that the origin dates back to ancient Greece in 335 B.C., when Alexander the Great besieged Thebes. Since meat was scarce, the people of Thebes minced what little meat they had and rolled it into grape leaves. 

Today, the leaves are typically stuffed with minced lamb and rice (or with no meat at all) and served cold with a touch of olive oil or yogurt, but they can also be found served hot in a lemon-based sauce called avgolemono. Other fillings may include currants, pine nuts, mint, dill, onions and garlic.

This recipe, from Martha Stewart, is made with a mixture of lamb and beef and served at room temperature. Fresh mint and sliced lemon bring a brightness and tang.

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Ingredients yields about 3 dozen

1/2 medium onion, finely minced
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons uncooked rice
8 ounces ground lamb
8 ounces ground beef
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 heaping tablespoon fresh mint leaves, minced, plus 3 more sprigs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 16-ounce jar grape leaves, rinsed
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
1/2 lemon, cut into 4 slices


Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a bowl, combine onion, rice, lamb, beef, garlic, parsley, carrot, lemon zest, 1 tablespoon oil, chopped mint, salt and pepper.

Place a leaf, vein side up, on a work surface; place about 1 tablespoon filling just below center. Fold bottom of leaf over filling and sides in toward center; roll up. Do not overfill or roll too tightly. Repeat, making 35.

Lay dolmades, seam side down, in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking pan; do not pack tightly.

Combine stock and remaining 3 tablespoons oil; pour over dolmades. Squeeze lemon over dolmades, and place lemon slices and mint sprigs on top. Place another 9-by-13-inch baking pan, half full of water, on top to weigh down dolmades.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Let dolmades cool in cooking liquid, still weighted, for two hours. Serve drizzled with olive oil, or refrigerate for up to two days; bring to room temperature before serving.
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Brooke Viggiano is a contributing writer who is always looking to share Houston's coolest and tastiest happenings with the Houston Press readers.
Contact: Brooke Viggiano