Stuffed Grape Leaves

Now that the holidays are over we need some mental recovery time and some quality time just the three of us. I decided to make a batch of my favorite snack: stuffed grape leaves, or dolmas. I have so many amazing memories of eating grape leaves. When I was young my mom’s kind, loving, happy, full-of-life friend Maureen, who has since passed away from breast cancer, served them to us when she visited us at Cape Cod one summer. I always think of her when I have them. I also think about sitting outside all night smoking hookah in warm Singapore with my husband, snacking on dolmas and hummus and deciding whether to fly to Phuket to dive or to Hong Kong to eat. I ate them constantly with my friends in DC in college, usually at 4 am when we would discover the answers to all of our problems. Stuffed grape leaves take about an hour or two to make but always create something magical when they are served. It’s just what we needed. Here’s a quick post, and feel free to comment if you have any questions.

I am constantly changing this recipe but this was my most recent batch and was really good. It’s more about the happy vibes than anything else, but their deliciousness is a major bonus.


  • 2 1/2 cups rice (any kind but instant)
  • 1 jar of grape leaves (This batch made half of a jar. Store any leftover leaves in water in the fridge)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (any kind)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil (or heat water in a tea kettle). Rinse rice under cool water. Place in a large bowl and cover with boiling water for 20 minutes. Strain when finished. The rice will not feel cooked at all, this just helps soften it and lowers cooking time.
  2. Rinse grape leaves since they are brined and can be gritty. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 10 minutes.
  3. In a small pan combine 1 tablespoon of oil, tomato paste, garlic, salt, and herbs. Cook until the tomato paste is “dry” … It will be darker in color and a bit firmer. This removes some of the acidity.
  4. Combine tomato mixture with the strained rice.
  5. Lay out a grape leaf, veiny side up (it won’t ruin your batch if the “wrong” side of the leaf is facing up) and place a small amount of rice in the middle. Roll up like a burrito- not too tight because the rice will expand when it cooks.
  6. Place the grape leaves in a large sauté pan on some oil (they will stick and burn if you don’t use some oil… Trust me), leaving some room between each one for expansion.
  7. Add water about halfway up the dolmas (too much water will make them float and unroll… Aka grape leaf casserole.) Cover and cook about 1 hour on medium heat, until rice is cooked and the leaves are tender. Check on them every 10-15 minutes to refill water.
  8. When they are done let the water get very low (don’t burn them!), remove from heat and let sit, covered, about 30 minutes. Make sure there isn’t any, or very much, water in the pan or they will get soggy and maybe fall apart. Either remove from pan or keep in pan, depending on how much room you have in the fridge, and pour lemon juice all over. Cover and cool over night or for a few hours or minutes or however long you can wait. Overnight is best.