Beat the Pricey Deli: Roll Your Own Greek Dolmades (Recipe Included)

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I recently saw stuffed Greek-style grape leaves selling at a trendy deli for $1.25. Each. As those who have tasted these “dolmades” already know, they can quickly be addicting and you could eat yourself broke at that price. Originating from the Arabic word “dolma,” meaning “stuffed,” the word evolved into “dolmades” in Greece and is a traditional dish of grape leaves stuffed with rice, meat, lentils and seasonings served as an appetizer or entrée.

With that pre-made price tag as my incentive to find a cheaper alternative, as well as find a vegetarian option to the meat filling, this recipe evolved. A very forgiving ingredient list, feel free to experiment to season and flavor to taste. While this makes a big batch, you’ll be surprised how quickly they disappear. The dolmades will typically stay fresh in the refrigerator for about a week; add a drizzle of olive oil or water if they start to dry out.

Vegetarian Dolmades Recipe


6 T. olive oil

4 medium onions, finely chopped (about 6 cups)

4 c. long-grain rice, cooked

1 c. pine nuts

1 c. currants

½ t. cinnamon

4 bay leaves

8 T. chopped fresh mint (optional)

1 60 oz. jar grape leaves, rinsed & patted dry

4 T. lemon juice


* Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in rice and pine nuts and sauté 3 minutes more. Add currants, cinnamon, bay leaf. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes more. Stir in mint. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

* Cut tough stems from grape leaves. Line large pot with 3-4 leaves.

* Place one grape leaf smooth side down on work surface and set a heaping teaspoon of filling near base of stem end of leaf. Fold end and sides over filling and roll toward leaf point. Set seam-side down in pot. Repeat with remaining leaves and filling, packing close together and layering on top of one another.

* Mix 4 T. lemon juice with 4 c. water. Pour over rolled grape leaves. Cover with 3-4 leaves and invert heatproof plate on top to hold in place. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer one hour. Remove from heat and let stand 2 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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