Aylin Erman This recipe and photo were created by contributor Aylin Erman of Glow Kitchen. Learn more about Aylin and this recipe by checking out her accompanying post, and check out her Greatist bio on our About Page!

One of the best parts about living in Istanbul is being surrounding by Turkish cuisine, which often consists of stuffing vegetables with other vegetables or grains. Stuffed dishes are fun, and can be adapted in so many different ways, you will never get bored. My personal favorite dish is dolma, or stuffed grape leaves. Plus, they're a lot easier to make at home than it would seem and the ingredients are super accessible. Grape leaves are common in many mainstream grocery stores these days (even in the States) and can also be found at ethnic grocery stores.

This is a basic dolma recipe, but feel free to alter it according to your tastes. Add currants for a bit of sweetness, adjust the spices, or replace the white rice for a whole-grain version. Regardless, it makes for a wonderful snack, side dish, or lunch. Enjoy!

Recipe: Stuffed Grape Leaves (aka Dolma)

Stuffed Grape Leaves Photo by Aylin Erman

Makes 24 pieces

What You'll Need:

For the Stuffing: 1 1/2 cups long grain rice (uncooked)
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

For the Preparation: Grape leaves (either raw or pre-prepared)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Tomato sauce or Greek yogurt for dipping
Red pepper flakes for garnish (optional)

What To Do:

  1. Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
  2. Prepare the grape leaves: If you are using raw grape leaves, bring some water to a boil with a dash of salt. Once boiling, add grape leaves and boil for about 15 minutes to soften. Carefully remove and place them in a cold-water bath, leaving them to soak until you're ready to use them. If you are using prepared grape leaves, you’re all ready to go.
  3. Lay each grape leaf flat on your work surface. Place about 1 tablespoon of the stuffing mixture in the middle of the grape leaf (though the size of the scoop will depend on the size of your leaves!). Spread the mix into an even-sized log along the bottom (stem end) of the open-faced leaf, leaving about 1/4-inch space on all sides. This will make folding the leaf easier. Note: If the stem of the leaf still has a little hard stem sticking from it, remove it.
  4. Fold over the mixture from the stem end and tuck in the empty sides toward the center. Keep folding until you have a complete roll. Repeat the same process until the mixture and/or leaves are all used up — whichever comes first!
  5. Layer the rolled grape leaves in a pot, making sure to lay them close to each other. Pour 2 cups of water into the pot, drizzle the olive oil evenly on top of the dolmas, and cover.
  6. Bring the water up to a boil, and then reduce to simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until the rice has cooked. Check every 20-30 minutes – whenever you see the water has been absorbed, add about 1 cup more at a time. While they cook, enjoy the amazing aroma filling the kitchen!
  7. When the dolmas are ready, remove them one by one — they're delicate when hot! Once cooled (slightly, or completely chilled), enjoy aside some Greek yogurt or warmed tomato sauce for dipping.

What is your favorite stuffed recipe? Peppers? Squash? Tell us in the comments below!

Greatist Cookbook