Stuffed Grapevine Leaves

Stuffed Grapevine LeavesIn Turkish cuisine, there are a lot of dishes that are stuffed with different kinds of mixtures. We can stuff any vegetable or even meat with something. We fill peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, any vegetable that can contain something inside, with a kind of rice mixture or sometimes with cheese. We also fill chicken, some fishes or a part of lamb with some other mixtures. Moreover, we can create the “container” ourselves by kneading different kinds of dough (of flour, ground wheat or semolina).

We use grapevine leaves for a kind of stuffed dish. People generally prefer it with different kinds of rice mixture (we call it grapevine with olive oil), but there are also people adding minced meat into this rice mixture (we call it grapevine with meat).

If you ask me, the one with olive oil (rice only) is better as this is a kind of cold dish. If you make it with minced meat, you should serve it hot. Stuffed grapevine leaves may be eaten as a main dish with a dollop of yogurt near it after a hot soup,  or it may accompany other appetizers near raki (it beacomes an appetizer too). Moreover, it can also be your snack, which is my favorite.

Generally, I don’t prefer making it in small amounts, I make a pot of stuffed grapevine leaves and keep the leftovers in refrigerator. Whenever I feel hungry, it makes me happy to know that I have some stuffed grapevine leaves waiting for me in my kitchen. I think, it’s the same for others. When I open the refrigerator to snack a few stuffed leaves for the second or third time, I always realize that, it’s not just me who is throwing them one by one to my stomach. And most probably, I find the pot empty the next time.

There are even different versions of  that rice mixture filling depending on the regions. Some make it with just rice and onion, some add a lot of greens in it, some add tomatoes and pepper paste, some add currant and pine nut, some add little sugar in it, some don’t, some saute this filling mixture before stuffing the leaves, some don’t. You see, there are a lot of versions, you can add your own ingredient to make it peculiar to yourself.

Yaprak sarma

•    500 gr grapevine leaves (canned or fresh ones)

For filling mixture:
•    2 cups rice
•    5 onions
•    1 tomato
•    2 cloves garlic
•    Half bunch of parsley
•    Half bunch of dill
•    1 lemon, juice only
•    1 tbsp pepper or tomato paste
•    1 tsp dry mint
•    1 tsp salt
•    1 tsp black pepper
•    ½ tsp cinnamon
•    1 cup extra virgin olive oil

If you have canned leaves, you don’t need to do any work on them,  just washing well is enough. But if you have fresh ones, do the following:

Put a liter of water in a pot and boil it. When it boils, put the washed leaves in the pot. And boil them until they change from green to yellowish (about 5 minutes). You shouldn’t keep them in hot water too long, otherwise they get too soft to be folded. Drain them and wash again with cold water and put them aside.

To prepare the filling; first wash the rice and drain it well. Put it in a large bowl. Then chop onions, garlic, tomato, dill, parsley one by one and add them into the bowl. Then pour half of the olive oil and lemon juice in it. Put the pepper paste and stir. Now it comes to spices. You can be as creative as you can in this part. I put black pepper (so important for its flavor in this dish), cinnamon and dry mint besides salt. Combine them well. I don’t cook this mixture, I use it raw whereas some prefer sauting it a little.

Cover the bottom of the pot with grapevine leaves. We’ll put the stuffed leaves on them.


Now we can pass to stuffing and folding part. Take one grapevine leaf, cut its stem and lay it on a plate or counter.  Put its veiny part (the darker colored part) upside. Put some filling mixture on the larger side, the side of its stem. Do not put too much filling, otherwise it may protrude.


Fold one side on the filling, then fold the other side.


And fold the larger parts on these.



And roll it to wrap it up. Put it in the pot. Do the same until you finish the leaves.


Lay the stuffed leaves in the pot side by side, without leaving any space between each.


When you put all of them in the pot lining one above another, put a dish upside down on the top to prevent them from scattering. Pour 1 or  1 ½ cup water, depending on the depth of your pot. The level of water shouldn’t pass over the stuffed leaves, it should be in the middle. And pour ½ cup olive oil on it. Put the lid on the pot and cook it on the lowest heat for about 2 hours. Then check it if it’s done. If the rice in it is cooked enough, that’s fine. Take it from fire and let it cool. Then you can take it on a service plate and garnish it with lemon slices.

Stuffed Grapevine Leaves


  1. says

    I love stuffed grape leaves. I have made them many times, and I too agree with you the cold, rice only version are my favorite (especially with some raki!) Your recipe is a little different from mine I will have to try it.

    Great step by step tutorial you have provided, wish I had that the first time I made them!

  2. says

    Hi Dear, we have a same snack for today :-) I made this with Persian Recipes the only different is there’s no dill – but I will try your recipes next :-) * the way, your leaves look so big, I had hard time to put filling inside because my leaves to small

  3. says

    Regina – How nice, you’re familiar with raki. They go very well together.

    Fitri – We’ve already finished ours :( Could you send us some? And yes, we have big leaves here in Turkey.

  4. says

    hi zerrin: i was just thinking of this dish! i’ve always had them with meat (usually ground lamb) so I will have to try your “cold” version of only rice filling (minus the meat). it looks soooo delicious!

  5. says

    OMG yum!! I love stuffed grape leaves! Where do you buy the leaves? I want to try these…

  6. says

    Wow just beautiful! I would love to give this a go but would most probably have to get the grape leaves on line! Yummy!

  7. says

    oops.I left a comment on your picture on foodbuzz inquiring about a recipe and I found this. I’ll have to try this sometime.

  8. says

    Zerrin, these look so fabulous!! I have never tried them before, but where do you buy them? MMMM…

  9. says

    Nazarina A – Thank you. May be you can find these leaves in an Asian market.

    Nila Rosa – Thank you for stopping by. I’ll be happy if you share the result when you try it.

    Sophie – These grape leaves are sold in supermarkets or open markets here. Maybe you can find them in an Asian market there.

  10. says

    Wow! What a great post.
    My husband loves this dish, I had never cook it before but recently got a Mediterranean cookbook that includes the recipe and my sister send me some canned grapevine leaves. Now I do not have an excuse for not cooking them with these instructions you have here.


  11. says

    Hello Zerrin!
    I am cooking this dish today and would really love to know how long can I keep them in the refrigerator since I am making a lot of them. Also, can the be frozen and if so for how long?


  12. says

    Hi Mely,

    If you put the cooked ones in refrigerator, you can keep them for 3 days. But if you put some uncooked into freezer, you can keep it longer (at least 5 months). I generally put some of them into freezer before cooking. Then it’s so easy to defreeze and cook it later. This method always helps me whenever I have some unexpected guests.

    Please don’t forget to send me some when you finish! :)

  13. says

    Thanks for answering. I added some pine nuts and currants and ground meat, the end results absolutely fabulous. The leaves had a weird smell before cooking but not after cooking. I also made your recipe for the green beans with tomato sauce to complement our meal. Thank you for your recipes.

  14. says

    Well, I halved this recipe, since I only had a small jar of leaves, and I messed it up some. I forgot the garlic and tomato. Oh, well. I still ate them all. I found that the ones in the bottom of the pot were softer and moister than those on top, which seemed a little too dry. I also found that they tasted better the next day!

    Oh, I added a little bit of lentils for some non-meat protein. Do you ever do that? The next batch I made, I used red lentils. I used 2 Tablespoons lentils to 1 cup of rice. Just experimenting…I’ll use more next time, I think.

    I am using wild grape leaves, which are free. They seem good so far. I can tell a difference sometimes in tender and tough ones–the tough ones are edible, just a little stringy. I am no expert yet! I usually see directions to pick in spring or early summer, but this is confusing to me, because my wilf vines are constantly making new leaves, which should be tender. The taste doesn’t change, does it? Do you have wild grapevines in Turkey? I am in the suburbs of Nashville, and I got the idea to start eating them after I saw women in headscarves (probably Kurdish) a few weeks ago picking them from the side of the road.

    • says

      Oh, maybe your dolmas should have cooked a little more. That might be the reason why the ones on the top are dry. Stuffed leaves must be cooked over lowest heat for about 40 minutes or more depending on the size of pan and the amount of dolmas. They will get tender with the steam in the pan. The ones at the bottom are directly exposed to hot water, that’s why they are softer.

      I used green lentil and bulgur together as the filling, which is not traditional here and loved that, but never tried red lentils. I’m sure it will be another great filling when mixed with bulgur or rice.

      I’m not sure about wild grapevines. But I know leaves are picked in these days as I’ve seen very fresh grape leaves at local bazaar these days. They are not sold after June. And mom says you should pick them before they get bigger as they get stringy.

  15. De says

    I made these this weekend and they were amazing! I made a few modifications to the recipe. In the future I think I might just try boiling the pot of stuffed grape leaves, rather than attempting to steam them, because it took about 4 hours, and the top ones still weren’t very well cooked, but the bottom ones that were boiled were great.

    I just hope I get faster at rolling them with more practice!


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