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Stuffed Grape Leaves

Stuffed Grape Leaves - Yarpaq Dolmasi

No Azerbaijani table is complete without dolma, the all-time favorite, and my favorite too as a matter of fact. The word “dolma” means “stuffed” in Azerbaijani. Variations of this dish are present in cuisines of other regions and countries, including Middle Eastern, Persian, Turkish, and Greek.

I’ve tried many different versions and liked most of them, but still there is something special about Azerbaijani dolma. There is this irresistible flavor of aromatic fresh herbs mixed with ground meat and rice.

Also, Azerbaijani dolma is smaller and rounder in shape than its foreign counterparts that usually have longer, tube-like shapes. I like my dolma to be of a bite-size, neither too small nor too big. Try it with a scoop of creamy garlic-yogurt sauce on top and you will promise to yourself to make this dish again!

Warning but a harmless one. Rolling grape leaves may require a bit of effort and time – but hang in there as the result is so worth it, I promise.

You can find canned grape leaves in gourmet food stores and in most Middle Eastern/Persian stores. Are you ready to cook? Let’s roll! I mean, let’s roll the leaves:)

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Meat (Yarpag Dolmasi)

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound (450g) ground lamb or beef
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup short or medium grain rice, washed and drained
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
½ cup chopped fresh dill
½ cup chopped fresh mint (you can substitute with 2-3 tablespoons dried)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon or to taste, pepper
80 small or 40 medium size fresh grape leaves or canned leaves (about ¾ of 16oz can)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup water

Garlicky Yogurt Sauce:
cup plain yogurt, mixed with 2-3 gloves peeled and crushed garlic


1. To prepare the filling, in a mixing bowl combine the ground meat, onion, rice, fresh herbs, salt (add less if you are going to use salted canned leaves) and pepper and knead thoroughly.

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Filling

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Filling

2. If using fresh grape leaves, blanch them in small batches (about 10 at a time) in a pot with boiling water for 2 minutes. This will soften the leaves and make it easer to roll them and faster to cook. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and drain. Cut off the stems or any hard veins.

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Blanching

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Blanching

If using canned leaves, put them in batches in colander and place the colander under a sink, then rinse the leaves under cold water and drain. Cut off the stems. If using medium or large leaves, cut them in half. If there are any torn or damaged leaves, do not discard – use them to patch holes in other leaves. NOTE: If canned leaves are too thick, blanch them in boiling water for about a minute, then drain and proceed as directed in the recipe.

3. Hold a grape leaf shiny side down on the palm of your left hand, and place 1 or 2 teaspoons of the filling at the stalk end of the leaf. With your right hand, fold top, then the sides over the filling and roll up tightly.

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Wrapping

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Wrapping

4. Arrange the stuffed grape leaves close together seam side down in a medium non-stick pan, making several layers. If using fresh grape leaves, sprinkle a little salt in between each layer.

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Layered Dolma

AZ Cookbook | Stuffed Grape Leaves Layered Dolma

5. Pour butter over the grape leaves and add water. Place a small lid or a small ovenproof plate on top to keep dolmas tight and to prevent them from opening. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium to low and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the leaves are tender and the filling is cooked. There should be little liquid left, reduced to the oily consistency.

6. Serve hot with garlic-yogurt sauce scooped on top, and fresh salad or pickles and bread on the side.

Leave a Reply

  1. Whoohoo! I am glad you sent me the link. I love dolma! Will roll soon:)) Your pics are so good, too! Welldone.

  2. Farida,I loved the way show the process in pics. It is going to be comprehensive book indeed:-) – with all its pictures, step-by-step instructions. keep up a good work!


  3. wow, halal olsun size! tebrik edirem! that’s so great! hope american girls learn from you how to cook azeri meals:))
    dolma is my favourite..and you present it in a very nice manner!

  4. Wow, this web site rocks! I browse ethnic food blogs alot, but honestly, this is by far the best I’ve seen so far!

  5. Great initiative! Can you put a penny or some other standardized identifiable object next to your dolmas? I want to get an idea of its size. Putting aside personal preferences, I always thought that a smaller dolma held higher esthetic value in Azerbaijani culture ;-)… though it could be a regional or even a family tradition. Thanks for this page! Dolma is definitely one of my all time favs.

  6. Thanks for your comment. About the dolma size, it is not as small as a penny. Maybe the size of a whole walnut without a shell (can’t think of anything else), it all depends. some make it real small and round, some a little bigger. I make it small but kind of “squarerish”.

  7. Farida, dolma is delicious! I see in USA you can find relatively small leaves. Not in Ottawa. Sometimes I have to divide the leaf in three or eve four. Dolma is wonderful! Could you put the recipe of badimjan dolmasi?

    Thank you .

  8. Thank you, Farida, for posting this! The dolmas look yummy. This is one of our family’s favorite treats…. I hope I don’t ruin it for them by trying to make it myself!

    tanti baci, bella, Amy

  9. I started making stuffed grape leaves after reading a recipe here:
    and love them so now I’m looking at some other recipes, that’s how I came across this one. I’m going to try some of the different spices you use. They look delicious!

  10. sorry, here’s thelink to the recipe i use hopefully it works this time

  11. Jeremy, thanks for visiting. Dolma has so many different variations and every country has its own special recipe. I hope you enjoy my Azerbaijani version too. Please let me know how it turns out. All these talks about dolma make me crave for it now:)

  12. I am so excited about your tendir recipe! I lived in bilesuvar for 2 years as an english teacher and miss good bread all the time! I’m in south carolina so we don’t really have grape leaves. it is not so diverse here. I assume that the filling for tomato dolma is the same. But how do i actually cook them and do you have any tips on hollowing those suckers out?

    Also, please take a moment to check out my version of the azerbaijani national anthem

  13. The pictures of your process are gorgeous. Makes my mouth water just looking at them.

  14. my goodness!! this is amazing!!! i just came across your site, and dolma is one of my favourite foods, in the balkans the recipe is similar =D

  15. I LOVE dolmas. They are a family tradition and I just made them myself for the first time last night. My mom adds cinnamon to hers, but the rest of her recipe is nearly identical to yours. I’m going to post my results sometime this week. Hopefully I’ll make my mom proud with my dolmas!

  16. I just returned from a wonderful trip from Baku.I stayed in old town by the “maidens tower”. I had Dolma it was great. So I plan to make it for my next business party as well as stuffed mushrooms with eggplant. The paople of azerbaijan are so kind. I can’t wait to return. The food is great and the sea is beautiful. I loved the “Eternal Flame” and the monuments

  17. Sa? olun, Farida! M?n Bak?da ya?ay?ram. Bu ax?am m?n yarpaq dolmas? bi?ir?r?m – birinci d?f?! Çox q???ng blogdur.

  18. Ooops – just noticed that Azerbaijani letters don’t work on your blog. Wonder why? Anyway, you will know the missing letters for sure.

  19. Hi Farida, I had my first attempt at making the dolma at the weekend. They were a great success and brought back good memories of my visits to Gence. I tried mine with cabbage leaves. I thought they were going to fall apart but they held together well. I will be making them again soon and thought I might try them with chopped mint added – any thoughts? Rob (UK)

  20. Birdaha SALAMLAR eziz Feride xanim! 🙂
    Dolmani siz yazan qaydada hazirlamisham, bir-ikisin yedim sonra fikirleshdim ki gelim birince size MIN KERE CHOOOOOOOOOX sagol deyim sonra gedib yemeye davam edim! 🙂

    Norvec,den- Mesud.


  22. Hi Farida, Happy coming new year!! I’ll make dolma for the new year party using your receipe ;)) Thanks a lot!! Gunay from Japan.

  23. Hi Farida, thank you so much for all the recipes, I’ve tried a couple already and they turned out delicious! Just was wondering, what gives a better result, in your opinion – using beef or lamb for yarpaq dolmasi? I’ve never made doma and want to make it for my mom’s birthday 😀
    Thanks in advance!

  24. LEYLA: Both work great for yarmaq dolmasi. Honestly, I love both variations, but make with beef more often. The family likes it better:) Beef makes it sort of lighter, while lamb is more satisfying and rich.

  25. Thank you for step by step instructions and wonderful recipe, Farida! I have a question:can I roll dolma and refrigerate overnight and then cook the next day? Thank you!

  26. Of course, it is the REAL dolma. Of course, all dishes by Farida are amazing and delicious! I’m not going to affirm in which country and who begun to cook dolma first, BUT: DOLMA, as Farida said already, means in Azerbaijani – “stuffed” – in this case stuffed by meat and etc.
    I would suggest the visitors not to link to other web sites when they have an opportunity to learn from Farida. Why?
    I’ll tell You: I know one guy who went to Spain to study Spanish and these courses were well enough expensive while he had an opportunity to study almost for free in Argentina. May be you know, Spanish in Argentina is completely different…
    And my friend told me: “I prefer to study language from the creators of the language, even it’s expensive!” I think it is really respectable point of view.
    So, learn cooking of Dolma from Farida, daughter of creators of this dish. Good luck for everybody.

  27. NIGAR: You can certainly do so.

  28. Hi,i have been following your site,and today we have tried Dolma,and loved me and my wife.thanx…

  29. i love the way you make it ..we have same her in egypt its call by aribic ( WAREK ANAB )..THANKES

  30. Hi Farida, I made my second batch of dolma, and this time I followed your recipe more closely and it came out a lot better than the first batch! The first time around I skipped the cilantro and didn’t add quite so much butter, the second time I did. Wild grape leaves are smoother and finer and worked better than the ones in my vineyard that was planted, not sure why. Anyway, this time I also threw in some lavender (dried) as seasoning into the meat mixture – it sort of reminds me of mint, and I liked that. Found some volunteer cilantro in the garden, so that was nice and fresh. Then for liquid I used beef stock (from a concentrate) and used all 3 T of butter. It came out a lot more meaty and flavorful this time! Also, I grated the onions this time instead of processing in a food processor (works better grated, makes more juice this way).

  31. P.S.: I also made it with beef. Thanks for the recipe!

  32. Hi Farida, I must say that this dish is real and with us in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is called Japrak.

  33. I am a student in America. I had to make a national food for a presentation of AZERBAIJAN. Your recipe helped me a lot. Thank you so much!

  34. Looks amazing and mouthwatering.
    Should you use pudding rice (yumuru düyü) in it?

  35. gozel xorekler resepti patlayirsinin elinize saglik

  36. Thank you so much for recipe. I live in south Africa and my mom send me a grape leaves from Baku. So excited , I will cook it tonight to present to my SA family.
    Thank you , please don’t stop sharing your recepies . 🙂

  37. Thanks for recipe of dolma.

  38. I’ve visited Azerbaijan twice in the last two years, and grape leaf dolma is my absolute favorite dish. This is the best Azeri dolma recipe I’ve found. I use this recipe at least once every 4 months. This American girl loves her dolma! Thank you!!!

  39. nush olsun!!! Azeri dolma is the best version of dolma that I’ve had over the years. the first time i had yarpaq dolmasi i was completely amazed at how great they were. the fact they are rolled smaller than other types of dolma, really improves the ratio of grape leave to filling. i look forward to making to this!

  40. Thanks dear Farida. I love this dolma so much. When I was living in Baku that was always my big request from mom to make for me dolma. Now in New York I dont make it many times even though I love it so much. But today I am going to make it with your recipe. I am sure it will be a good one. Thanks.

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