You’ve probably tried canned dolmas, grape leaves filled with rice and herbs, but nothing compares to homemade. Stuffed grape leaves are popular in the areas surrounding the Mediterranean, Aegean and Adriatic Seas. Fillings can include a dizzying variety of meats, cheeses and grains.
Fresh grape leaves are best in June when they’re still tender, but you’ll need to blanch them for three minutes to use. Grape leaves from a jar will also require blanching, but can be found any time of year and still taste delicious, so for this recipe we’ll focus on those. The higher-quality ones come trimmed and are generally packaged better with less tearing, which will save you time.
Though this recipe only calls for half a jar of grape leaves, once blanched you can stack and roll the remaining leaves into cigars and freeze them for later use.
Although the process of rolling up grape leaves can be a little tedious, it’s easy to master, and even easier if you have a friend to help. Remember: Don’t roll the leaves too tight. You want the it to contain the filling, but not choke it. The same applies to when the stuffed leaves are packed into the pan. Allow room for the rolls to expand when they cook and rest.
Grape leaves are high in fiber and vitamin A and are a nice departure from cabbage or lettuce wraps. This dish can be served warm or cold, and it reheats perfectly in the microwave. Serve simply with a spoonful of yogurt sauce seasoned with garlic, lemon and olive oil, or tuck some into a pita topped with fresh chopped salad and tahini to make a hearty Mediterranean sandwich.
- 16-ounce jar grape leaves
- 1 pound ground pork
- 2 cups fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 375˚F. Rinse grape leaves in colander and bring large pot of water to boil. Blanch grape leaves in 2–3 batches for three minutes each, and place in ice water bath to cool. Sort larger untorn leaves into pile. Reserve remaining smaller and torn leaves to line pan.
Mix ground pork and chopped mint. Season with salt and pepper. Lay grape leaf smooth-side down and remove stem. Add 1 tablespoon filling along bottom of each leaf. Roll halfway before folding in left and right sides. Finish rolling.
Line 10-inch baking dish with reserved grape leaves and allow some to hang over edge. Arrange stuffed leaves inside. In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, ¼ cup water and chopped garlic. Pour over stuffed leaves. Cover with remaining leaves and fold in overhanging leaves to seal.
Cover pan with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Let grape leaves rest at least 20 minutes. For yogurt sauce, stir ingredients together. Cover and let rest in refrigerator. Serve with yogurt sauce. Makes about 24 stuffed grape leaves.