Traditional Romanian Sarmale Wrapped in Grape Leaves, Served with Sour Cream.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Dolma: A Romanian Specialty

Subjective or maybe not, traditional Romanian stuffed meat rolls, alongside mici and papanasi, are one of the most well-known and appreciated dishes of this country, being an emblem of Romanian cuisine.

Now, if things are covered and you know all there is to know about stuffed cabbage rolls and mici, it’s time to teach you guys how to cook minced meat vine leaves, also known as dolma. What exactly is this dolma you ask? It’s a small roll made out of grapevine leaves and filled with a mixture of trimmed meat and herbs.

The Distinct Romanian Dolma

The origin of dolma is quite unclear, some people claim it has Mediterranean roots while others say they originated from India. Many cultures from Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean Basin have their own versions of dolma, but what separates the Romanian Dolma from all the other ones are 3 things, one, the meat choice, second, the unique blend of herbs and third, the wrapping method.

The traditional Romanian dolma requires fat pork meat instead of lamb, the herbs used are dill and thyme instead of basil and mint and the wrapping is more robust and not thin and long. What do they have in common? The use of grape leaves as a wrapper.

Nevertheless, all dolmas are delicious and tasty each with their unique flavor and taste, that’s why dolma found their way into our traditional cuisine and hearts.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Fresh Ingredients for Romanian Stuffed Grape Leaves: Grape Leaves, Uncooked Rice, Herbs, and Ground Meat.
  • Pork Meat – 1 kilogram or 2,2 pounds
  • Grapevine Leaves – Around 60
  • Onions – 2 onions that weigh 250 grams or around 9 ounces
  • White Rice – 150 grams or 5 ounces
  • Tomato Juice – 300 ml or 10 fluid ounces
  • Tomato Paste – 4 tablespoons
  • Carrot – 1 carrot which weighs around 120 grams or 4 ounces
  • Bay Leaves – Some
  • Sunflower Oil – 100 ml or 3,3 fluid ounces
  • Salt – 1 tbsp
  • Water – 2 liters or half a gallon to cook the minced meat vine leaves

Condiment Mix Ingredients

Ingredients for Romanian Grape Leaves: Pepper, Dill, Thyme, and Paprika.
  • Pepper – 1 teaspoon
  • Dried Dill – 4 teaspoons
  • Dried Thyme – 1 teaspoon
  • Sweet Paprika – 1 teaspoon

Serving Ingredients

Sour Cream in a Jar.
  • Sour Cream or Yogurt – 500 grams or 2 cups

How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves (dolmas)

1. Preparing the Base

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

In a pan, heat up 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil and saute the shredded onions for 3-4 minutes before adding the shredded carrot.

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Let this mixture cook for another 5 minutes on low heat.

2. Adding the Rice

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Next, add the pre-soaked rice and let it cook for yet again 5 minutes on low heat to prevent any stickiness.

3. Incorporating Tomato Elements

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

After 5 minutes, add the tomato juice and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.

4. Cooling the Sauce

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Let this sauce cool off to a point you can safely touch it.

5. Mixing the Meat and Sauce

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Next, add the minced meat into a large bowl and add the condiment mix and the freshly made sauce.

6. Forming the Paste

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Start mixing all the ingredients until they form a well-tied paste.

7. Preparing the Pot

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Before you start folding the meat rolls, prepare a vine layer on the bottom of your pot and add the bay leaves. This is a precautionary step so the meat rolls won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

8. Wrapping the Rolls

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Place the leaf in your hand, take the meat with the other hand, and place it on top of the leaf. Roll it then shove the corners of the leaf inside of the roll and it’s done.

9. Preparing the Cooking Liquid

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Now, mix 1 liter of water with 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and pour it over.

10. Boiling the Rolls

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Boil the minced meat vine leaves for 1 hour and a half on the lowest power of your stove.

11. Roasting the Rolls

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Roast them in the oven for another 1 hour and a half again on the lowest power of your stove.

12. Serving the Romanian Dolma

Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Serve them with plenty of yogurt or sour cream that will intensify the tangy taste of the vines.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use fresh grape leaves instead of jarred ones?

Absolutely! Fresh grape leaves are a delightful choice for making stuffed grape leaves. If you have access to grapevines, you can pick young, tender leaves during the spring. Ensure they are free from pesticides and wash them thoroughly. To prepare fresh grape leaves, blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds until they turn a brighter green, then immediately transfer them to cold water. This process softens the leaves and makes them more pliable for rolling. On the other hand, jarred leaves are already softened and preserved in brine. If using jarred leaves, it’s essential to rinse them well to remove excess salt before using.

How do I prevent my grape leaves from unraveling during cooking?

To prevent unraveling, ensure that you roll the grape leaves tightly and tuck in the ends. Placing them seam-side down in the pot and packing them closely together will also help keep them intact during cooking.

Why are my stuffed grape leaves turning out too tough or chewy?

If the grape leaves are too tough after cooking, it could be due to using older, mature leaves. Always opt for young, tender grape leaves. Additionally, ensure you cook them on low heat for an adequate amount of time, allowing them to become tender.

How can I make my stuffed grape leaves more tangy?

For a tangier flavor, you can add lemon juice or pomegranate molasses to the cooking liquid. Some recipes also include a few slices of lemon placed at the bottom of the pot for added zest.


Additional Dolma Recipes


Romanian Dogma: Authentic Stuffed Grape Leaves Dish Ready to Serve.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

Yield: 50
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 40 minutes

Dive into the heart of Romanian cuisine with these savory parcels. Tender vine leaves wrap a flavorful blend of minced meat, rice, and aromatic herbs. Perfectly seasoned and slow-cooked, they offer a burst of rich, tangy, and succulent flavors in every bite. Serve with a dollop of yogurt for an authentic experience.

Ingredients

  • Pork Meat – 1 kilogram or 2,2 pounds
  • Grapevine Leaves – Around 60
  • Onions – 2 onions that weigh 250 grams or around 9 ounces
  • White Rice – 150 grams or 5 ounces
  • Tomato Juice – 300 ml or 10 fluid ounces
  • Tomato Paste – 4 tablespoons
  • Carrot – 1 carrot which weighs around 120 grams or 4 ounces
  • Bay Leaves – Some
  • Sunflower Oil – 100 ml or 3,3 fluid ounces
  • Salt – 1 tbsp
  • Water – 2 liters or half a gallon to cook the minced meat vine leaves

Condiment Mix Ingredients

  • Pepper – 1 teaspoon
  • Dried Dill – 4 teaspoons
  • Dried Thyme – 1 teaspoon
  • Sweet Paprika – 1 teaspoon

Serving Ingredients

  • 500 grams or 2 cups

Instructions

  1. In a pan, heat up 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil and saute the shredded onions for 3-4 minutes before adding the shredded carrot. Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.Let this mixture cook for another 5 minutes on low heat.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  2. Next, add the pre-soaked rice and let it cook for yet again 5 minutes on low heat to prevent any stickiness.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  3. After 5 minutes, add the tomato juice and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  4. Let this sauce cool off to a point you can safely touch it.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  5. Next, add the minced meat into a large bowl and add the condiment mix and the freshly made sauce.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  6. Start mixing all the ingredients until they form a well-tied paste.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  7. Before you start folding the meat rolls, prepare a vine layer on the bottom of your pot and add the bay leaves. This is a precautionary step so the meat rolls won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  8. Place the leaf in your hand, take the meat with the other hand, and place it on top of the leaf. Roll it then shove the corners of the leaf inside of the roll and it’s done.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  9. Now, mix 1 liter of water with 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and pour it over.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  10. Boil the minced meat vine leaves for 1 hour and a half on the lowest power of your stove.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  11. Roast them in the oven for another 1 hour and a half again on the lowest power of your stove.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.
  12. Serve them with plenty of yogurt or sour cream that will intensify the tangy taste of the vines.Process Shots Showing How to Make Stuffed Grape Leaves.

Notes

  • while tomato paste intensifies the taste, it's not mandatory; if unavailable, you can increase the quantity of tomato juice
  • sunflower oil is an optional addition; if the meat isn't as fatty as desired, sunflower oil can be added to make the meat rolls puffier
  • if the meat is not as fat as you wanted, you can compensate with some vegetable oil (preferable sunflower oil and not olive oil). It will make the meat rolls puffier and not as dense and hard as they would result if using leaner mat; just add 2-3 tablespoons while mixing the meat and your dolma will get puffier
  • Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 50 Serving Size: 50g
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 80Total Fat: 5.6gSaturated Fat: 1.6gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 5mgCarbohydrates: 3.2gFiber: 0.1gSugar: 0.2gProtein: 5.1g

    The nutritional information provided is approximate and for reference purposes only. Actual values may vary due to factors such as product brands, preparation methods, and ingredient substitutions. The provided values may not include all nutrients and should not be relied upon as the sole source of nutritional information. Always read product labels and consider individual factors when making dietary choices. We are not responsible for any inaccuracies or adverse effects resulting from the use of this information.

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    Author

    • Diana

      Hey! I’m Diana. a 30-year-old culinary enthusiast with a passion for creating mouthwatering dishes that tantalize your taste buds. With over 15 years of cooking experience under my apron, I’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen honing my skills, experimenting with flavors, and discovering the most delectable recipes.

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