Looking for how to get perfectly rolled, delicious Stuffed Grape Leaves (aka Dolmas or Warak Enab)? Then you’ve come to the right place! This tutorial and recipe are all you need to make perfect, authentic ones each time.
Flavor-packed Grape Leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, fresh herbs, lemon juice, and warm spices. It’s truly the most delicious and perfect vegetarian dish and appetizer ever!
Stuffed Grape Leaves also known as Warak Enab in Arabic or Dolmas/Dolmades in Turkish and Greek. There are two versions of this: The veggies and rice version, and the meat and rice version. Today, we’ll be making the most popular version of it across the Middle East i.e., the vegetarian version.
It’s light and lower in calories too! It’s an iconic dish and millions love it across the world. I’m here to share the perfect recipe with you. I’ve also included step-by-step instructions and a video to show you exactly how to fold them.
My tips section in this recipe post is extensive, and you’ll learn everything you need to do to make perfect Stuffed Grape Leaves every single time.
Excited to learn how to make it? Let’s get started!
What are Stuffed Grape Leaves?
Stuffed Grape Leaves is one of the most popular and iconic Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes out there. It’s called ‘Warak Enab’ in Arabic, which literally means ‘leaves of grape’.
The stuffing is known as Hashweh in Arabic, which literally translates into ‘stuffing’ as well. It is traditionally stuffed with an assortment of things, usually a combination of either veggies and rice or meat and rice.
Dolma dishes are available all over the region and are incredibly popular in Arab, Balkan, Caucasian, Persian, Israeli, Turkish, and even Central Asian cuisines. For this reason, you’ll find various variations of this beautiful dish all around the Middle East and Mediterranean region.
In Turkey, this dish is known as Dolma which is derived from the Turkish word Dolmak which means ‘to be filled’. It’s also incredibly popular in Greece, where is it called Dolmades or Dolmadakia.
It is sometimes also referred to as Mahshi Yabrak which is a combination of the Turkish word for leaf yaprak, and the Arabic term for stuffed mahshi. It is also called Mahshi Warak Enab, which literally means stuffed grape leaves in Arabic.
Regardless of what it is called, it’s all the same delicious dish that I’ll be sharing with you today.
What’s the Difference Between Dolmas, Dolmades, and Warak Enab?
Like I mentioned above, it’s all the same, and absolutely delicious dish that we refer to as Stuffed Grape Leaves.
The reason why it’s sometimes referred to as Dolmas and at other times as Dolmades or Warak Enab is due to the region where it’s being consumed.
This tasty appetizer is popular all over the Middle East as well as the Mediterranean. For this reason, it is called different things depending on the language spoken there.
In Turkey Dolmas is the word for this dish, Dolmades is what it is called in Greek and Warak Enab is what it is called in Arabic.
Where did Stuffed Grape Leaves Originate From?
The exact origins of Stuffed Grape Leaves is still disputed but we have some evidence of where it might have originally come from.
They were actually first mentioned over two thousand years ago when they appeared as food in Crete at Knossos, at the Minoan Palace. Knossos is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site in Crete and has been called the oldest city in Europe. It is currently in Crete, Greece.
It then surfaces back in history when Alexander the Great marched into the city of Thebes (modern-day Egypt) and was amazed at the platters of stuffed grape leaves.
He was said to have been so impressed by it that he incorporated it into his military food. Many people claim that that’s how it traveled across the Mediterranean and the Middle East as it was adopted by the countries Alexander the Great conquered.
It has also been mentioned in Medieval Arabic cookbooks for centuries. The Ottomans started spreading Dolmas starting in the 15th century and it made its way around the Ottoman Empire.
As you can tell, there is a lot of evidence as to where it originated from, but we can’t be sure. The one thing that we do know is that it has been popular for hundreds or thousands of years and it is still one of the most iconic dishes!
When is Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolma/Warak Enab) Most Commonly Eaten?
Dolma (Warak Enab) is an appetizer commonly consumed in the Greek culture and is one of the most iconic and well-known dishes there.
Muslim families across the Middle East and the Mediterranean often serve and eat Dolma as part of their iftar meal during the month of Ramadan. It is also consumed as part of Eid al-Fitr celebrations that mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
In Iran, it is created in large pots for the Novruz festival which marks the Persian New Year and begins from the Spring equinox.
Where Will I Find Grape Leaves For This Recipe?
Many supermarkets now sell jarred grape leaves in brine. You can check out the international food section in your local grocery store or alternatively, you can buy it online.
Can I Use Fresh Grape Leaves to Make This Dish?
If you happen to come across some fresh grapevine leaves, by all means, use them to make these Dolmas (Stuffed Grape Leaves). To use them in this recipe, thoroughly wash them before blanching them in boiling hot water.
Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water and place them in a colander to cool and drain completely. You can then use them as directed in the recipe.
What You Need to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves at Home
This delicious dish requires simple ingredients that you’ll be able to find easily. And don’t worry if you don’t know where to get grape leaves from, I’ll link them in this post as well. Here’s everything you’ll need to make Stuffed Grape Leaves:
Grape leaves: This is definitely the star ingredient of this dish! You can use fresh grape leaves or ones that come in a jar with brine.
Rice: We’ll be using short-grain rice as the base of the stuffing (or Hashweh). It’s best to stick to short-grain rice for this recipe because it is starchier than long-grain rice and will allow the stuffing to stick together. It also cooks up soft and sticky.
Lemon juice: This is what enhances the flavor of the Stuffed Grape Leaves and takes it to the next level. Make sure to taste the lemon juice before adding it to the stuffing. If the lemon was bitter, that bitterness will overtake other flavors in this dish.
Olive oil: Olive oil adds the perfect texture to the stuffing which allows it to stay together. I don’t recommend using light olive oil or olive oil mixed with another oil as this will alter the way your stuffing comes together.
Mint and parsley leaves: Fresh herbs take this delicious dish to the next level! We’ll be using chopped mint and parsley leaves in this stuffing.
Tomato: We’ll need only one large tomato for the stuffing, but make sure to deseed it first before finely chopping it.
All-spice: This spice adds a beautiful warmth and flavor to the dish! But don’t worry if you don’t have it, you can easily substitute it by using ½ teaspoon ground cumin and ½ teaspoon coriander powder.
Seasonings: We’ll be using salt and pepper as the ultimate seasonings to bring all the flavors out.
We’ll also have to add thick slices of potatoes or onions to the bottom of the pan to make sure the grape leaves don’t burn. Additionally, on top of the stuffed grape leaves in the pot, we will add 7 garlic cloves that have been sliced in half.
How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas/Warak Enab) (Step-by-Step)
Making these tasty Stuffed Grape Leaves is easier than you can imagine. It’s incredibly easy but just takes a little bit of assembling. Watch the video in this post to learn more.
Here’s how to make Dolmas or Warak Enab at home step-by-step:
Preparing the Stuffing (Hashweh):
Start by washing and soaking the short-grain rice for 30 to 40 minutes. This will assist the dish to cook faster.
Next, soak the grape leaves in hot water for one minute. Then remove them from the water using a slotted spoon and place the leaves on a paper towel to remove excess water.
In case the grape leaves are thick, then add the leaves to boiling water instead to prep them. Let the leaves boil for approximately three minutes.
Now take a large bowl and add all the ingredients to it (except the grape leaves and water or stock). Let it all sit for 10 minutes then strain the mixture and keep the liquid from the mixture aside to use later.
Folding and Stuffing Dolmas (Warak Enab):
Let’s start assembling the Stuffed Grape Leaves dish! Start by placing the leaves on a working surface. Let the rough side of the leaf face you. Cut the stem if there is any. I’ve shown you exactly how to do this in the video included in this post (and recipe card).
Depending on the size of the leaf, place 1 teaspoon of filling in the area above the stem. If the leaf is big you can place up to 1 full tablespoon.
Time to start folding! Fold the lower right side of the leaf over the filling, do the same to the left side.
Fold both sides of the leaf towards the center and then roll the leaf firmly toward the top.
Cooking the Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas/Warak Enab):
Time to cook your Stuffed Grape Leaves! Cover the bottom of the pan with thick slices of potatoes and add a few layers of grape leaves. Place the stuffed vine leaves on top seam side down. Distribute the garlic cloves on top of the stuffed grape leaves.
When done, pour the liquid strained from the filling previously on the leaves. Now pour the stock or water over the leaves. Place a heavy and heat resistance plate that’s smaller than the pan on top of the leaves. The water or stock should slightly cover the edges of the plate.
Cover the pan and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest and allow it to simmer for two hours and 45 minutes. Check every few minutes to make sure there is enough liquid still left. If all the liquid evaporates then add some more boiling water without seasoning it with salt.
Let the Stuffed Grape Leaves come to room temperature or are at least warm to the touch before flipping them on a serving plate. If you remove the Stuffed Grape Leaves while they’re still hot, they will break.
You can serve these delicious Stuffed Grape Leaves with yogurt or your favorite dip!
Tips for Making the Best Stuffed Grape Leaves
Here are some important tips to make sure you get the most delicious Stuffed Grape Leaves you’ve ever tried:
- Make sure to rinse and soak your rice before using it in the recipe. It is essential to thoroughly rinse the rice to remove extra starch, which causes the rice to turn extra sticky. Then soak the rice for at least 40 minutes, or until one grain of rice can be broken by squeezing it between your index finger and thumb. This method ensures that your rice cooks evenly since the interior of the grain cooks before the exterior loses its form.
- Don't stuff the grape leaves too tightly. Remember that the filling is primarily rice and will expand as it cooks.
- Roll the grape leaves securely enough to prevent them from unraveling or becoming undone while cooking, but keep in mind that rice expands as it cooks, so don't fold too tightly or the rice will not cook correctly.
- Make sure to remove the seeds from the tomatoes before chopping.
- If you can’t get all-spice, then replace it with half teaspoon cumin powder and half teaspoon coriander powder.
- Don’t use light olive oil or olive oil mixed with another oil.
- Taste the lemon juice before adding it to the stuffing. If the lemon was bitter, that bitterness will overtake other flavors in this dish.
- It is best to taste the grape leaves before stuffing them so you know how salty it is and then can adjust the salt in the stuffing.
- Instead of the potato slices, you can add onion slices or a mixture of both onion and potatoes. Some also use slices of meat or chicken. Adding this makes sure that the leaves don’t burn while cooking.
- You can use chicken stock instead of water but make sure that it is low in sodium since there is salt in the filling and there will be some salt in the grape leaves (unless you are using fresh grape leaves.).
- It is crucial that you pour boiling water or stock over the stuffed grape leaves before cooking it, or the cooking time will be much longer.
- While cooking, keep the grape leaves from floating or unraveling. To do so, arrange the grape leaves in the pot with the seams facing down. Then, on top of the gathered grape leaves in the pot, place a small inverted heavy plate to help keep them intact and prevent them from floating while cooking.
- If you have mistakenly added more salt than you wish, drain the excess water from the pot after cooking the grape leaves, and replace it with boiling water. Make sure to cover the cooked stuffed grape leaves with boiling water and then add a plate or a weight on top of it it. Let it boil for 5 minutes and then drain that water and taste the stuffed grape leaves again. Repeat this step if you think the stuffed grape leaves are still salty.
- Allow the stuffed grape leaves to rest for at least 40 minutes before flipping it, this will allow the stuffing and the grape leave to get a little firmer and won’t break.
Are Stuffed Grape Leaves Served Warm or Cold?
Stuffed Grape Leaves that are without meat, as in this recipe, are usually eaten at room temperature or slightly chilled. On the other hand, the ones with meat are usually enjoyed warm.
But it’s entirely up to you how you prefer to eat them. They make for an absolutely mouthwatering appetizer or dish and I’m sure you’re going to fall in love with them.
How to Store it?
Store Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmas / Warak Enab) in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
You can also store them in the freezer. Once cooked and cooled, place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Before serving, let them thaw completely in the refrigerator overnight.
Have any leftover grape leaves? You can save any leftover grape leaves by freezing them in an airtight freezer-safe bag. Their quality can last for roughly a month in this condition. Keep them refrigerated after thawing and utilize them within 3 days.
Stuffed Grape Leaves Made Easy
- 600 grams grape leaves or vine leaves from a jar
- 1 ¼ cup short grain rice Don't use jasmine rice!
- ½ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup mint leaves chopped
- ½ cup parsley leaves chopped
- 1 large tomato peeled deseeded, and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper powder
- ½ teaspoon allspice powder use ½ teaspoon cumin and ½ teaspoon coriander powder as a substitute
- Enough boiling stock or water to cover the grape leaves. Details in the instruction below
- **For the bottom of the pan place thick slices of potatoes or onions.
- ** 7 garlic cloves sliced in half to add on top of the stuffed grape leaves.
- Wash the short-grain rice and soak it for 30 to 40 minutes, it will help the dish to cook faster.
- Dip the grape leaves in hot water for one minute. Place the leaves on paper towel to remove excess water.
- If the grape leaves are thick then add the leaves to boiling water, let the leaves boil for three minutes.
- In a bowl, add all the ingredients (except the grape leaves and boiling water), cover and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then strain the mixture and keep the liquid aside to use later.
- Place the leaves on a working surface. Let the rough side of the leaf face you. Cut the stem if there is any.
- Depending on the size of the leaf, place 1 teaspoon of filling in the area above the stem. If the leaf is big you can place up to 1 full tablespoon.
- Fold the lower right section of the leaf over the filling, do the same to the left section.
- Fold the right section toward the center, do the same to the left section. Roll the leaf firmly toward the top.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with thick slices of potatoes and a few grape leaves. Place the stuffed vine leaves on top seam side down. Distribute the garlic cloves on top of the stuffed grape leaves.
- When done, pour the liquid strained from the filling previously on the leaves.
- Pour the stock or water over the leaves, Place a heat resistance heavy plate that’s smaller than the pan on top of the leaves. The water or stock should slightly cover the edges of the plate.
- Cover the pan and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest and cook for two hours and 45 minutes. Check every few minutes to make sure there is still liquid, if all the liquid evaporates then add some more boiling water without seasoning it with salt.
- Let the stuffed leaves come to room temperature or at least is warm to the touch before flipping it in a serving plate. If you removed the stuffed leaves while hot, it would break.
- When completely cool, place the stuffed leaves in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 7 days and can freeze it for up to 3 months.
- Please read the tips for making the best-stuffed grape leaves from the post above.
- Do not use coriander leaves instead of parsley, the dish will not taste right!
- Instead of potato slices, you can replace them with slices of meat (chicken or red meat).
- Don't use Jasmine rice for this recipe.
- This post was originally published in 2017, and is now updated with a video and more information.