Easy, Classic Dolmades

Dolmades are within the reach of any cook in possession of a pot and a grocery store.  So what’s stopping you?

Over 30 years ago, my friend Tammi shared her dolmades recipe with me. She lived in the same townhouse development as we did in the Washington, DC area.  Everything Tammi made was awesome, and she was perhaps my first culinary heroine!  I have faithfully made this dish for decades, only recently adding ground lamb and different spices. 

This recipe makes about 60 dolmades.  They are better on day two.  AND, they freeze very well. (IQF them and then vacuum pack for best results.) 

I used home cured grape leaves for mine.  Yay!  First time, and I was really pleased.  However, a 16 oz jar of grocery store leaves will be mighty fine.  No worries.

All wrapped and stacked and ready for cooking.

Ingredients (makes about 60 dolmades):

  • 16 oz of grape leaves in jar
  • 1 lb rice (I use paella style/medium grain)
  • 1 lb diced onion (one very large yellow onion, about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 lb raw ground lamb
  • 1 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 C EVOO
  • ½ to ¾  C lemon juice (depending upon your taste)
  • ½ C dried parsley (I like it better than fresh for this dish, but if you use fresh, use 1 C)
  • 4 T minced garlic
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T freshly ground cumin
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • ½ t pepper
  • ¼ t ground allspice


  • Soak grape leaves in water for 15 minutes to rinse off brine.
  • With a couple T of EVOO, lightly oil a large cooking pot (with a lid).
  • Line the bottom with a rack or with discarded grape leaves.
  • Use your hands to mix up all the ingredients.
  • Mix rice and onions.
  • Then, add remaining ingredients and mix well.  If you want a vegetarian option, leave the lamb out.
  • Make the dolmades by placing a spoonful onto the veined side of a leaf.  Fold the wings in and then roll into a cylinder.
  • Place the dolmades into the pan (oiled and lined with leaves or rack).  Alternate directions of layers until filled.
  • Place more grape leaves on top if available.  Top with a dish to keep the dolmades submerged.
  • Add 2 ½ to 4 C water—just until water is peeking over the plate.
  • Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes.
  • When done, remove from heat and let set for 30 minutes to allow juices to reabsorb.
  • After this period, remove the dolmades to a platter and reserve any cooking liquid for avgolemono sauce.
  •  Serve with avgolemono sauce or tzatziki sauce. (Look here for a favorite recipe.)
  • Note:  these are even better on the 2nd day!
Yum! The finished dolmades served with avgolemono sauce.
IQF’d (individually quick frozen) dolmades are packed into vacuum bags for the freezer.
What is IQF?

I hope you enjoy these!

Stay briny,



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