Stuffed grape leaves! A favorite and delicious appetizer that many people avoid because of the fuss called "rolling". Below we have a video on how to roll the stuffed grape leaves, as well as how to avoid common mistakes.
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There's even a rolling machine, that some people prefer to use, while others don't even want to hear about it.
Dolmas, yiarmas or sarmas. Dolmadakia or yiaprakia. These are the most common names for this troublesome food, but the taste and unique texture pay off. More than words can say! A traditional food of Greek cuisine originating from the countries of the former Ottoman Empire. Yialantzi (yalancı) in Turkish means fake. A characterization that is used when the dolma does not contain meat. So dolmadakia yialantzi, and only!
Stuffed grape leaves (dolmadakia) yialantzi are usually vegan. They are traditionally cooked in a pot, but in the oven, as well, where they come out amazing! You may only cook stuffed grape leaves or add a few amongst your stuffed veggies . Here we will recommend the quickest, healthiest, most nutritious and delicious way. Steamed! Yes, when steamed, they come out delicious. They keep their nutrients to the maximum, and their taste stands out in the best possible way, as they do not submerge in water.
Our recipe is very similar to the traditional recipe, as we find it in many regions of Greece. Dolmadakia yialantzi are fasting, vegetarian, and of course vegan. So is the béchamel made of lemon, mustard, and tahini! 🙂
If you like, you can also make variations of this recipe. You don't have to be deprived of anything. Neither béchamel nor minced "meat" in case you prefer them that way. In this case, you can add red sauce minced "meat" from anything you want. Such as minced soya, lentils, mushrooms or beans (preferably black or red). For more interesting variations you can add extra chopped or grated vegetables such as red pepper, white or purple cabbage, eggplant, zucchini or even pumpkin.
If you're ready for bolder experiments, you can add fresh ginger finely grated. While we traditionally wrap dolmadakia in grape leaves, we can also use chards instead.
Try them out and we look forward to hearing what you think! If you make a variation of the recipe, we'll be happy to read about it in the comments and even more so if you send us a photo 🙂
Stuffed grape leaves (dolmadakia yialantzi) with vegan béchamel (white) sauce
Ingredients for stuffed grape leaves (dolmadakia)
- 250 g grape leaves (8.8 oz)
- 1 cup rice (uncooked) arborio or basmati
- 1 cup water or vegetable broth (preferably the broth)
- 2 tomatoes grated on the coarse side
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 1 large carrot grated on the fine side
- 2 cups fresh mint finely chopped
- ½ cup dill
- 1 cup fresh parsley finely chopped (optional)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1½ lemon juice (the juice)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp curry
- salt and pepper
Ingredients for béchamel
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 2 lemons (the juice)
- 1 tsp mustard
- ½ cup vegetable broth or water (you might need more, depending on the liquidness you prefer)
- 1 Tbsp dill finely chopped (optional)
- Whenever possible, use fresh grape leaves.
- If you use packed grape leaves, use them as they are, unless stated otherwise on the jar.
- If you use fresh grape leaves, wash them and then immerse them in boiling water only for a few seconds. Half to one minute is enough, depending on how tender they are. We don't boil them for long, because they will disintegrate. Separate the grape leaves that are stuck together (at least so they're not too many stuck together) so that they boil as evenly as possible. Gently separate them as much as you can before putting them in the pot, but also after putting them in, using a wooden spoon. The secret to avoiding sticking to each other is to put two tablespoons of olive oil in the water.
- If the grape leaves are too tender, you can simply wash them and use them directly.
- If you use frozen grape leaves (see notes), remove them from the freezer to defrost completely. Otherwise, they might break while rolling them. When the weather is warm, all it takes is a few hours to defrost them, and when it's cold we take them out the freezer the night before.
- Wash the rice well and strain it.
- In a large pan heat the olive oil, over medium to high heat, and sauté the onion along with the cumin and curry for 2 minutes.
- Then, add the garlic, stir and immediately add the rice, and continue sautéing for another 2 minutes.
- Next, add the water (or broth) and cook over low heat for 1 minute or until a lot of liquid has evaporated.
- Turn off the heat, but leave the pan on, and add all the other ingredients for the stuffed grape leaves (dolmadakia). Mix well and let the flavors set for 5 minutes.
- Taste and add salt, pepper, and lemon, if necessary. Depending on your preferences you can add extra mint, dill, and parsley.
- Instructions on how to roll the stuffed grape leaves (dolmadakia) can be found in the video or written instructions below.
Video - How to roll stuffed grape leaves and how to avoid the most common mistakes:
Instructions - How to roll the stuffed grape leaves and how to avoid the most common mistakes.
- Separate a grape leaf from the rest with gentle movements to avoid tearing it.
- Place it on a flat surface (e.g. plate or cutting board) with its hard side (the one with the leaf's nerves) facing up (i.e. looking at it). Rotate it accordingly so that the stalk side is closer to you and its tip on the other side.
- Using a teaspoon take some filling and place it in the center of the grape leaf and a little lower, towards the stalk. Spread it horizontally, leaving a gap to the right and left. For a medium grape leaf, a teaspoon is enough. Adjust the amount of filling, depending on the size of the leaf.
Wrap tightly and without leaving "holes". To achieve this:
- a) Using both hands, take the two lower "edges" of the grape leaf (right and left of the stalk) and roll them towards the filling. Make sure these two "edges" overlap each other, and leave no space between them, to avoid the filling from coming out during cooking.
- b) Continue rolling it tightly. That is, rolling the bottom of the leaf towards its tip until it's completely wrapped. If at some point it's not easy to roll it upwards, slightly pull the dolmadaki towards you.
- c) As you roll, if you meet "edges" that stick out of the stuffed grape leaf (right and left), fold them inwards, so that they are integrated into the dolmadaki.
- d) Tighten well the small roll that has been created and continue to roll towards the tip of the leaf, keeping it very tight.
- e) Continue rolling very tightly until you reach the tip of the leaf and is no longer visible.
- Place each dolmadaki you roll in the pot or pan you'll cook it in. In concentric circles, if you put it in a pot or in rows, parallel to each other if it is a baking pan. Before proceeding with this step, read the following about cooking.
You can cook them in a pot, in the oven or steam them:
- a) In a potLay a few grape leaves at the bottom of the pot and place the stuffed grape leaves in a circular arrangement (in concentric circles). Add water or vegetable broth to slightly cover them. Put a plate on top of the stuffed grape leaves so that they don't bounce and dissolve during cooking. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Alternatively, lay lemon slices on the bottom of the pot, with or without grape leaves laid out on top, but in this case, the stuffed grape leaves at the bottom will have a more intense lemon flavor.
- (b) SteamedHeat 4 cups of vegetable broth or water in the special utensil that adjusts in the pot, and when the broth/water boils reduce to medium-low heat and place the stuffed grape leaves on top in a circular arrangement. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes.You can also use a food steamer.
- (c) In the ovenLay the stuffed grape leaves in the baking pan in rows, parallel to each other. Add 4 cups vegetable broth or water and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees/392°F for 40 minutes. After 30 minutes check to make sure they still have some water/broth to continue boiling in. If absorbed, add another cup of vegetable broth or water.
- Mix thoroughly all the béchamel ingredients. If you want it thicker, add ½ tsp tahini. If you want it more liquid, add 1 tsp vegetable broth or water.
- In order to have fresh grape leaves all year long, you can buy a large amount of them in early springtime, when they're fresh and most likely not sprayed. Wash them, boil them for 15 seconds, and then lay them on a towel to dry well. Divide them into packages of 250 grams/8.8 oz, or as much as you want, put them in airtight closed bags, and store them in the freezer.
- You can add other vegetables and herbs, such as zucchini, eggplant, spring onions, and red or green pepper, or go for bolder options such as fennel leaves or fresh ginger. But also spices such as smoked paprika, fenugreek, as well as mustard powder, ginger powder, and ground coriander.
- If you have some filling left, keep 4-6 grape leaves, lay them on top of the last layer of stuffed grape leaves and spread the filling on top.
- If you have a few grape leaves left, cook them along with the dolmadakia. They are wonderful as they are, but also with béchamel, or extra lemon and salt.