Dolmadakia – Stuffed Grape leaves (Dolmas)
It is the season for Dolmadakia! A very tasty Greek appetizer (mezes) with stuffed grape leaves that everyone loves! In Greece, you will often see it provided with a meze plate accompanying Ouzo, Raki, or Tsipouro. Learn all the secrets on how to make it at home!
What is Dolmadakia? (Dolmas)
Dolmadakia (Dolmas) is a Greek traditional appetizer made with Grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs. You will often find them in a Greek meze plate and are best eaten cold with Tzatziki or Greek yogurt!
Depending on the region, instead of Dolmadakia you might hear them being mentioned as Sarmadakia (Sarmas) or Yiarmadakia (Yiarmas). Those two names are used especially for stuffed grape leaves in Greece, whereas “Dolmas” has a broader meaning for everything stuffed and wrapped.
The word Dolmas comes from the Turkish “doldurmak” which means “to stuff” and we use it to describe other Greek traditional dishes like Lahanodolmades which are stuffed cabbage leaves with rice or rice and minced meat.
What rice to use for stuffed dolmadakia (Dolmas)
For delicious Dolmadakia (Dolmas), the grape leaves must be the hero of the dish. In the recipe that you will read below, it is the way I enjoy eating Dolmadakia which, in addition to being very tasty, highlights the grape leaves without overpowering them.
The best rice for this dish is short grain rice but by all means, you can also use parboiled or any other long-grain rice of your choosing.
There is just one type of rice I do not recommend and that is basmati or jasmine rice. This rice is very aromatic and it will overpower the delicate taste of the grape leaves.
How to store the grape leaves
If you buy fresh grape leaves but you do not plan to cook them immediately, there are 2 ways to store them.
The 1st way is to boil them in water just until they change color to a darker green and then put them in the freezer. When you are ready to cook them, you simply thaw them and they are ready for wrapping.
2nd way is to put them in the freezer without boiling them at all. When you are ready to cook them, take them directly from the freezer to a pot with boiling water for 2 minutes, and they are ready to wrap.
If you buy grape leaves in a jar even though the instructions on the package might say that you can use them immediately, I would advise you to blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute before using them.
What goes with Dolmadakia
Dolmadakia is an appetizer (mezes) that is eaten cold and goes well with Greek yogurt or tzatziki, or feta. It is also very popular to pair with Ouzo, Tsipouro, or Raki.
How to wrap Dolmadakia - (stuffed grape leaves)
Grape leaves should not be wrapped very tightly so that they can allow the rice to expand with cooking. Follow the pictures below to achieve the perfect grape leaves wrapping.
Dolmadakia – Stuffed Grape leaves (Dolmas)
- 250gr Grape leaves
- 250gr Short grain rice
- 6 Tbsp Olive oil (3 for the filling, 3 for cooking)
- 2 Spring Onions cut into thin slices
- 2 lemons, their juice (1 in the filling, 1 for cooking)
- 1 large Onion, finely chopped
- 1 handful of finely chopped dill
- 1 handful of finely chopped parsley
- 1/3 Tbsp Cumin
- Salt / Pepper to taste
- Boil the fresh Grape leaves for 2-3 minutes just until they change color, if they are jarred in brine blanch for 1 minute.
- Rinse the rice by changing 3 waters and drain it.
- Finely chop the onion, spring onions, parsley, dill and put them in a bowl with the rice, the juice of one lemon, salt, pepper, cumin, and 3 tbsp olive oil. Mix very well and the filling is ready.
- Wrap the grape leaves with their shiny side placed down and by adding the filling (about 1 tsp) in the middle of the grape leaf. Wrap first right then left, and finally in the center. (See wrapping photos above)
- Cover the bottom of the pot with onion slices, or grape leaves, or even a potato cut into rounds so that the wrapped grape leaves do not rest on the bottom of the pot and overcook.
- Fill in the pot with stuffed grape leaves and stuck them in a circular placement.
- Add water until it covers them slightly, the juice of 1 lemon, 3 Tbsp Olive oil and cover them with a plate so that they are steady inside the pot.
- Simmer at the lowest level for 30 to 40 minutes.
- They are ready when they are fork-tender. Close the heat and leave them to rest for at least 15 minutes.
- If you have the time it will be good to soak the rice for a few hours or overnight first before using it. It will ensure smoother cooking.
- If you plan on wrapping a lot of grape leaves all at once, it is best that you use gloves to avoid green fingernails.
- Grape leaves from a jar are tough and are not the best choice for this dish. If you can find fresh grape leaves it would be better.