Almost Turkish Recipes

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Groundmeat (Etli Yaprak Sarması)

Sarma refers to a dish that can be prepared with grape, cabbage, or chard leaves. The term sarma derives from Turkish verb "sarmak," which means to wrap or to roll. It can be prepared with rice and spices (vegetarian) or with rice and ground meat. Both are delicious. Sometimes sarma is called dolma, too, yet on the western part of Turkey, rolled leaves are always called sarma.

makes 50-60 stuffed grape leaves
1/2 lb ground meat
1/3 cup white rice
2 medium size onions, grated or chopped finely in a processor
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup dill
1 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp olive oil or 1,5 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp butter
juice of 1/2 lemon
grape leaves

-If you have fresh grape leaves, boil water in a pot. Cook grape leaves ~1 minute in boiling water. Take out and let cool.
-If you are using jarred grape leaves, soak them in cold water for an hour; they tend to be salty.
-Put ground meat, rice, onion, black pepper, salt, parsley, dill, and 1,5 tbsp olive oil in a bowl.
-Dissolve 1 tbsp tomato paste with 3 tbsp hot water and pour this into the bowl.
-Mix all the ingredients.
-Save the broken, faulty leaves. Use them to cover the bottom of a pot with grape leaves to prevent them from burning.
-Take one leaf. Place it on a smooth surface the vein side up/shiny side down. Place a spoonful of stuffing at the bottom center of the leaf close to the stem. Fold in two sides first and then the bottom. Then roll it neatly like a cigar. Keep rolling until all the leaves are gone. If you still have stuffing, you can use it to stuff small bell peppers.
-Stack stuffed grape leaves in the pot tightly layer by layer.
-Add 1,5 tbsp olive oil or butter, juice of half lemon and water to barely cover the sarmas.
-Place a flat-ish plate on top of stuffed grape leaves so that they won't move around. Cover and cook on low for 35-45 minutes.
-Serve with crusty bread and yogurt.


  1. I love this dish. I've only had it in Greek restaurants, but it sounds very similar, although I'm sure you homemade ones are better!

  2. These of course are my favourite snack foods whatever a person calls it in their area:D

  3. This is a dish I am yet to try.

  4. Anonymous11:03 AM

    This is my all-time favorite. In Azerbaijan we make the same dish, and we call it dolma:) I love your site! Great job! Cheers from my Azerbaijani kitchen to yours:)

  5. Mmmm. I don't eat meat but my Turkish instructor brought in the rice-and-spices version today and it was *amazing*. I never liked the Greek version of stuffed grape leaves but the Turkish obviously do it better!

  6. My husband makes amazing Dolmas with ground lamb, pinenuts, rice, golden raisins, dill, mint, etc. The dipping sauce is amazing - egg-lemon.

    The Turkish Dolmas/Dolmathes have more spices than the Greek ones.

    He is always asked to ake these for parties.

  7. Kalyn-Greek ones are a bit different in terms of spices used, but I absolutely love them, too.

    bellini valli-vegetarian stuffed grape leaves are my favorite snack food, especially with lemon juice on top.

    cynthia-let me know if you like them. they are a bit time consuming, but i'm sure you'll like the outcome.


    farida-I loved your site! I'm definetely going to try a couple of your Azeri recipes soon.

    judith-the vegetarian Greek ones I had had lots of dill weed in them, something that Turks use sparely stuffing grape leaves. i love both, but sometimes I really crave that strong dill taste

    gizmo-I've never had dolmas with lamb and raisin (or currant). It sounds interesting. I'll try it when I find a good recipe.

    1. Anonymous4:10 PM

      Greek ones are authentic and most delicious

  8. Anonymous1:01 PM

    The kurdish recipe is similar but we also add yogurt to the mixture to give it new subtle tastes and makes it more juicy too.

  9. One of my favourite foods. In Gaziantep they add aci biber (a hot pepper paste) to the meat mix and I also put sliced lemons in between the layers of dolma as they are cooking.

  10. I am from Adana and we actually put "tirit" into the pan towards the end of the cooking. It is basically a mixture of lemon juice and crushed garlic. Makes the whole thing smell and taste wonderful.

  11. Anonymous7:53 PM

    hi there i love your site recently i ate these and they were stuffed with bulgar and paprika mix they were to die for but my hostess wouldnt part with the recipe i wonder do you have a recipe for them many thanks Pamela

  12. Anonymous2:35 PM

    Do you cook the rice before stuffing?

  13. No. It's uncooked rice.

  14. Anonymous7:15 PM

    The Syrian version is still the best!! You use short grain rice, butter or olive oil, minced meat, salt and baharat (Middle Eastern spices) and roll the grape leaves very tightly like cigarettes. You then cover them with an upside down flat dish plus a heavy stone so they don't move around, water and lots and lots of lemon juice, crushed garlic and yes, dry mint. Leave it for 3 hours to bubble slowly or 30 minutes in a pressure cooker. Your whole house will smell yummy :)))

  15. I have made these a few times the first time my husband ate one he too off the grape leaves and ate the filling l laughed and said it is edible lol these are perfect with ayran

  16. Favorite dish EVER. My mom made this growing up and now when I have time I enjoy it when I can! Now my mouth is watering!