This post was originally published on January 16, 2008, and I am updating the recipe today with the video from my new YoutTube Channel – AZCookbook with Feride. Please SUBSCRIBE to it and share it with your friends.
No Azerbaijani table is complete without stuffed grape leaves, dolma, or yarpag dolmasi. They are little morsels of deliciousness, in which tender grape leaves (fresh or canned) are wrapped around a flavorful filling made with ground meat, onion, rice, herbs, and a dash of seasoning.
Many variations of dolma are made in some countries around the world, too, including Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Greece, and others. But at the expense of sounding biased, I have to confess my favorite dolma is the one made the Azerbaijani style. “What makes is different from the rest?” you may ask.
First and foremost, the difference is in the size and shape. Azerbaijani dolma is much smaller and has a round shape (except, in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja, the dolma is slighly oval and is a bit bigger), unlike its foreign cousins that usually have a long, tube-like shape. In Azerbaijan, the smaller the dolma bundles, the better. Tiny bite size.
The second distinct feature is the use of copies amounts of fresh herbs in the filling, including cilantro, dill, and mint. They add so much flavor to the dolma bundles, making them fresh tasting. So good!
I have a feeling you are ready to try making your own stuffed grape leaves. I say go for it! Don’t be intimidated by the leaf-rolling part. It is much easier thank you think. My recipe will guide you through.
So, let’s roll those leaves, shall we?
WATCH HOW TO MAKE AZERBAIJANI-STYLE STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES, DOLMA:
- • 1 pound ground lamb or beef (or a combination)
- • 1 medium onion, passed through a meat grinder or grated
- • ½ cup medium-grain white rice, thoroughly rinsed (do not use long grain rice, such as Basmati!)
- • ½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- • ½ cup finely chopped fresh dill
- • ½ cup finely chopped fresh mint
- • 1 teaspoon salt
- • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- • About 100 small-size or 50 medium-size fresh grape leaves (or frozen grape leaves, or canned leaves (about ¾ of a 16-ounce can)
- • 3 tablespoons clarified butter (ghee) or unsalted butter (add more if meat is lean), or olive oil
- • Plain Yogurt or Garlicky yogurt sauce, to serve (recipe follows)
- First, prepare the stuffing. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the stuffing (add less salt if using briny canned leaves). Mix with your hand until well combined.
- If using fresh grape leaves, boil slightly salted water in a medium saucepan and blanch the leaves in small batches (about 10 at a time) in the boiling water for about a minute (less if the leaves are very tender). This will soften the leaves and make them easier to roll and faster to cook. Remove the leaves from the pan using a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Cut off the stems.
- If using canned leaves, put batches of them in a colander, rinse well under cold water to remove the salt, and drain. If the canned leaves feel too thick, blanch them in boiling water for about a minute, then drain. Otherwise, do not blanch. Cut off the stems.
- Have a medium saucepan ready. If using medium-size mature leaves, cut them in half. Small, young leaves can remain whole.
- If there are any torn or damaged leaves, do not discard—use them to patch holes in other leaves as needed. Also, arrange some of the damaged leaves flat on the bottom of the saucepan. If you don’t have damaged leaves, line the bottom of the saucepan with unused whole leaves to cover.
- Now stuff the grape leaves. Hold a leaf (or half, if cut) shiny side down on the palm of your hand. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of the filling at the stem end of the leaf. Fold the top down, then the sides over the filling and roll up tightly to shape it into a 1-inch round bundle. Arrange the stuffed leaves, seam side down, on the bottom of the pan. Continue until all the leaves and filling are used, arranging the stuffed bundles snugly together in the pan, making several layers.
- Dot the top with butter and pour in water to cover the dolma halfway. Place a small lid or a small ovenproof plate on top of the stuffed leaves to keep them tight and to prevent them from opening. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the leaves are tender, the filling is cooked, and there is little liquid left (if the liquid is completely absorbed at some point during cooking, add more water and continue to simmer).
- Serve immediately with bread and plain yogurt or garlicky yogurt sauce to spoon onto the dolma to taste.
- Garlicky Yogurt Sauce: To make garlicky yogurt sauce, in a bowl, combine 1 cup or more plain yogurt with 2-4 cloves garlic, crushed with a garlic press.
Whoohoo! I am glad you sent me the link. I love dolma! Will roll soon:)) Your pics are so good, too! Welldone.
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!
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!
Wow, this web site rocks! I browse ethnic food blogs alot, but honestly, this is by far the best I’ve seen so far!
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.
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”.
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 .
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
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!
sorry, here’s thelink to the recipe i use hopefully it works this time
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:)
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
The pictures of your process are gorgeous. Makes my mouth water just looking at them.
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
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!
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
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.
Ooops – just noticed that Azerbaijani letters don’t work on your blog. Wonder why? Anyway, you will know the missing letters for sure.
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)
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! 🙂
BIR DAHA TESHEKKURLER! 🙂
YARPAQ DOLMASI MY FAVORIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITE!!!!!!
Hi Farida, Happy coming new year!! I’ll make dolma for the new year party using your receipe ;)) Thanks a lot!! Gunay from Japan.
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!
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.
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!
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.
NIGAR: You can certainly do so.
Hi,i have been following your site,and today we have tried Dolma,and loved me and my wife.thanx…
i love the way you make it ..we have same her in egypt its call by aribic ( WAREK ANAB )..THANKES
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).
P.S.: I also made it with beef. Thanks for the recipe!
Hi Farida, I must say that this dish is real and with us in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is called Japrak.
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!
Looks amazing and mouthwatering.
Should you use pudding rice (yumuru düyü) in it?
gozel xorekler resepti patlayirsinin elinize saglik
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 . 🙂
Thanks for recipe of dolma.
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!!!
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!
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.