Try out this traditional recipe for Greek Dolmades with Avgolemono Sauce. Savoring this delicious, homemade dish of stuffed grape leaves with a rich egg-lemon sauce will evoke your senses and make you feel like you're indulging right in the heart of a Greek village!
When I made these Dolmades my husband was eating them like candy. It's virtually impossible to just have one!
Stuffed grape leaves from the vine, otherwise known as Dolmades [Ντολμάδες], are a staple in Greek cuisine. You have likely come across different spins on the name and variations of this Mediterranean recipe. Regardless, one thing remains consistent across the board - plan on making a big batch of these Greek Dolmades with Avgolemono Sauce because you’re going to wish you had more!
This dish is most commonly referred to as Dolmades, pronounced "dol-mah-thez", or Dolmadakia (the smaller version). You may even hear them referred to as Yaprakia [Γιαπράκια], a traditional identifier in certain regions of Greece, Fylla [Φύλλα] (Kalymnos), or Koupepia [Κουπέπια] (Cyprus). In Middle Eastern culture, they are typically called Dolmas, simply meaning "something that is stuffed".
Dolmades can be served as an appetizer or part of the main course. They are one of the most highly anticipated dishes to be enjoyed at Greek restaurants and at annual Greek food festivals. However you choose to serve them, plan on them being quickly devoured!
Keeping the Traditions Alive
There was something sentimental and nostalgic about the process of putting together this recipe.
In my family, we have always held our grandmothers (γιαγιάδες) and great grandmothers and their cooking in the highest regard. To take you back, my dad would tell us stories about how his grandmother would send him out to help her pluck wild grape leaves from the yard when he was young. Though, when making her own recipes, she was such an expert in her craft that several were not written down. Since we weren’t able to track down a copy of her original Dolmades recipe, my mom helped put together a recipe that mirrored the one he grew up loving to take him back to those childhood memories.
Paying Homage to My Mom's Dolmades Recipe
To give you a little background, EVERYONE adores my mom’s cooking. Just like my dad’s grandmother, somehow everything she creates comes out amazingly, perfectly consistent every single time despite her hilarious forms of measurement (e.g., "a heaping cup of this", "not too much of that", "one pot full", etc.)...you get the gist!
I’ve witnessed her brilliance for years, but I knew recreating this recipe would be impossible without her help. So, I took her best advice and put pen to paper to bring these Dolmades to life.
It started out as a bunch of notes jotted down - full of scribbles, stains, and those measurements that came straight from the heart; followed by trips to the grocery store and several test runs in the kitchen. Despite many humorous trials and errors along the way, here we are now! I think you'll be really pleased with the end results.
Continuing the culinary traditions of my family and our Greek heritage is a huge motivation for me, so it was really special how my mom helped me document her legendary Dolmades recipe. Hopefully now this recipe can now be shared with future generations, and made time and time again. It's been so fulfilling, literally & figuratively 🙂
Here come the age-old questions. Do you prefer your Dolmades served hot or cold? With meat or vegetarian? Drenched in Avgolemono sauce or dipped in Tzatziki?... I’m going to give you a peek at this tried and true traditional recipe that I just can't seem to budge from! Here's a list of everything you'll need:
Greek Dolmades & Filling
- Better Than Bouillon
- Grape leaves
- Ground Beef
- Lemons/Lemon Juice
- Long grain basmati rice
- Mint (freeze-dried)
- Black Pepper
- Sea Salt Flakes
Blanching Grape Leaves
- Ice water
- Boiling water
Greek Dolmades with Avgolemono Sauce Video:
Finding the Perfect Grape Leaf to Make Greek Dolmades
Fresh grape leaves are the bomb! I get so excited this time of year when our garden is full of leaves ready to be picked. This is the third summer we've attempted to harvest them. They tend to grow really fast!
You can certainly make Dolmades with grape leaves from a jar, but if you can find them fresh it's very much worth it. If you don't grow them yourself, I'd strongly advise you to make friends with any friends or neighbors who do!
The best way to identify a grape leaf is by its three lobes, essentially forming the leaf into the shape of a heart. When you are picking the grape leaves off the vine, the best ones to harvest are the bigger, bright green ones as opposed to those that are dark green. The brighter ones are newer leaves and more tender, whereas the darker leaves are tougher.
Look for leaves that gauge in size about 5 inches (12-13cm) long so that they have an adequate surface area to effectively enclose the filling. Avoid any leaves with holes or tears. The size of the leaves used will ultimately determine how many Dolmades the recipe will make. Bigger leaves will require more filling, and smaller leaves need less filling.
Getting Ready to Blanch
I typically wait to pick the grape leaves as close as possible to when I plan on making the Dolmades so I can blanch them while they are fresh. Before blanching, also make sure the stems of the leaves have also been removed.
There are two things you’ll want to have set up for the process of blanching the grape leaves.
- A large stock pot or dutch oven filled ⅔ of the way with water
- A large mixing bowl filled ⅔ of the way with water and ice cubes
The Blanching Process
Put your pot of water on the stovetop and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, place in several leaves. You can add in a bunch at a time with a Skimmer Spoon/Strainer Ladle, it does not necessarily need to be one by one. Press the leaves down gently with the ladle to ensure they are fully submerged in the boiling water. Continue to press down lightly if the leaves float to the top.
Let the leaves sit in the boiling water for a minute, or until the color has changed to a greenish-brown hue. The leaves will become slightly wilted but should still have a firm enough texture. After that minute, or until the color has changed, remove the grape leaves from the boiling water with the Skimmer Spoon/Strainer Ladle and immediately submerge them in ice water to stop the heat from continuing to cook the leaves. This is the art of blanching!
Remove the leaves from the ice water and put them on a plate. Pat the grape leaves with a paper towel to blot them dry. Separate the leaves to be filled individually. Repeat these steps until all of the leaves for your batch of Dolmades are blanched.
Blanching the leaves in boiling water is also intended to eliminate any bacteria on the leaves through the process. It is not recommended that this recipe is made without blanched leaves.
Preserving/Freezing Grape Leaves
When cooking dolmades right away with fresh leaves they won’t need to be brined, simply blanched, before rolling and cooking. If you do not plan to utilize the grape leaves you have picked right away, you have two options. You can either freeze the grape leaves in a freezer bag, or preserve them in brine.
If using store-bought or preserved grape leaves such as the Krinos brand there is no need to boil or rinse prior to use because they have been blanched and are preserved in brine. You’ll want at least 2 pounds to make the quantity for this recipe!
Mixing the Dolmades Filling
Prep these three items to most efficiently prepare the filling:
- Remove stems from dill and finely chop
- Dice the onion
In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef and pour in the lemon juice. Then, crack two whole eggs and add them to the mixture. Season with freeze-dried mint and combine ingredients by hand; do not overmix.
The second phase is to add in the dill and onion you have chopped. Sprinkle in the sea salt flakes and once again combine the ingredients by hand. Again, do not overwork so that the filling doesn’t become too dense.
Lastly, add the uncooked rice and mix by hand until all ingredients are combined.
If you don't want to mix by hand, another option is to use a Kitchen Aid or stand mixer to combine the ingredients!
Rolling the Dolmades
- To begin assembling, open the leaf and lay it flat on a solid surface. Remove all stems at the base of the leaves.
(Special Note: There are two sides to grape leaves, a rough side, and a shiny side. Place the shiny side of the leaf facing down; the veins of the leaf should be facing up. Once the Dolmades are rolled up, you will see how this makes for a nice presentation). Drop a tablespoon or so of the filling in the center of the leaf. You will see Dolmades in a variety of sizes, but depending on the size of the leaves I prefer to make mine hefty with substantial filling.
- Begin rolling the bottom portion of the leaf up over the filling.
- Turn the lobes on both sides of the leaf inwards towards the middle (right, then left) to secure the filling.
- Tuck in any extra part of the leaves that are sticking out, so that you will have a nice, even enclosed roll to ensure no filling spills out. Continue rolling tightly until you reach the top of the leaf. Essentially, you'll want the roll them to be taut in a cylinder, shaped like a mini cigar.
Repeat these steps until you have used all of your filling & grape leaves!
How to Cook Greek Dolmades
Once you have rolled the grape leaves and filling into perfect cigar-shaped rolls, melt butter in your stock pot or dutch oven over low heat. Pack the rolled Dolmades together in single layers in the pot. The trick is to have them hug each other tightly so they don’t unwrap while cooking. Mix Better than Bouillon with water to make stock to cook the Dolmades in. Cover all of the layers of Dolmades completely with the stock and cook for at least an hour. If the size of the Dolmades are larger, they may need slightly little more cook time. Ultimately, ensure the Dolmades reach an internal temperature of 160°F.
It is important to cook the Dolmades at a low simmer for minimal pressure on the leaves. A rolling boil has too much pressure and may cause the Dolmades to break apart or contents to spill out. When you’re working with fresh leaves they are tender and pliable, but resilient. So, when I took them out of the pot, fortunately not a single leaf had torn.
When done cooking, remove the Dolmades from the heat, but retain the broth for the Avgolemono Sauce. Gently remove the rolls from the pot and place them on a serving platter or, once they have cooled down, in a storage container.
How to Make Avgolemono Sauce
I've been serving the Dolmades with an avgolemono sauce. Its fragrance is so fresh and it pairs exceptionally well with the Dolmades. I highly recommend setting a few extra minutes aside to prepare it.
*Mix together ¼ cup of cold water with cornstarch until all clumps have subsided and it becomes a milky liquid; set aside.
On the stovetop, fill a stock pot or dutch oven with the broth used to cook the Dolmades. If you need to supplement to make 3 total cups, add in some additional water and supplement with Better than Bouillon to add to the flavor. Let this warm up and come to a simmer.
In a separate mixing bowl crack one whole egg and one egg white (reserve the yolk) and beat the eggs with a hand mixer to give the sauce an extremely smooth texture.
While beating the eggs, add the lemon juice. Continue beating the mixture and add in ten egg yolks one at a time. The color of the combination will begin to change to a shade of pastel yellow. Add in the water & cornstarch* mixture and continue beating.
Tempering the Eggs for Avgolemono Sauce
Begin to temper the eggs by slowly adding the hot broth in to the egg-lemon mixture, one ladle-full at a time. Continue to beat the mixture simultaneously. You will want to add in the hot liquid at a slow and steady pace so that the eggs do not scramble.
Repeat a handful of times until the egg mixture begins to warm up. The key is to keep continually whisking/beating as you combine the broth with the light and fluffy egg mixture! Once the mix is smooth and warm, add the combined egg and broth mixture into the pot with the remaining broth on the stovetop. You will need to make sure the mixture is hot enough to thicken. Add salt and/or black pepper to your preferred taste and continue to whisk all ingredients to combine.
I really can’t emphasize enough how good this is on top of the Dolmades and other dishes as well!
Putting Greek Dolmades with Avgolemono Sauce All Together
Now that the Dolmades are cooked and ready to be served, it's time to greet your guests with this decadent dish. Time to dig in!
Dolmades can be served heated up, at room temp, or chilled; Drizzled with Avgolemono Sauce (my personal favorite) or dipped in Tzatziki; and, garnished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or olive oil.
Can I Freeze/Reheat the Dolmades?
If you make a large batch and want to save some of your cooked Dolmades for a later date, they freeze super well! Once they have cooled from cooking, pack them in an air-tight container or a freezer bag and place them in the freezer. They will store well for several months.
When you're ready to bring them out to serve, let them defrost completely before heating up again. Think of it in terms of a meatball, since that's essentially what the filling is made up of. You would normally heat the up in a sauce, right? So in this case consider the broth as the sauce. They reheat best when cooked in broth, either by warming them up in a pot or by simply adding a little broth to a frying pan and sauteeing them.
Can I use any type of plant leaf?
I was asked a valid question if maple leaves could be exchanged for grape leaves in tI was asked a valid question if maple leaves could be exchanged in place of grape leaves for this recipe. My simple answer is no. You don't want to use just any type of leaf. It wouldn't have the same flavor notes, or do the Dolamdes justice. If you’re feeling adventurous, one safe alternative is to cook this recipe with brined cabbage leaves. This version of the recipe is called Lahanodolmades (Λαχανοντολμάδες).
More Greek-Inspired Recipes
I adore Greek food and if you love the tastes of Greece as much as I do, please let me know in the comments below! I would love to keep bringing you traditional recipes! You can find some other Greek recipes I've been inspired to recreate below:
- Greek Chicken Marinade
- Greek Turkey Meatballs & Tzatziki
- Spanakopita (Greek Spinach and Feta Pie)
- Mediterranean Flatbread
*This post may include affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Greek Dolmades with Avgolemono Sauce Recipe
- 40 large grape leaves, blanched OR 2 jars of grape leaves in brine
- 2.75 lbs ground beef 80/20
- 1¼ cup long grain basmati rice uncooked
- 2 large eggs
- 2 large lemons about 9 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 large onion finely diced
- 1 bunch dill finely chopped & stems removed
- 1½ tablespoon freeze dried mint
- 1½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 9 cups water
- 3 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon chicken base
Blanching Fresh Grape Leaves
- Ice water
- Boiling water
- Blanch the grape leaves, if freshly picked.
- Remove stems from dill and chop finely.
- Dice the onion.
Blanching the Grape Leaves
- Fill a large mixing bowl filled ⅔ of the way full with cold water and ice cubes.
- Fill a large pot ⅔ of the way full with water and bring to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, place several leaves in the pot with a skimmer spoon or strainer ladle. Press the leaves down gently with a ladle to ensure they are fully submerged in the boiling water. Let the leaves sit in the boiling water for a minute, or until the color has changed to a greenish-brown hue.
- After a minute, or until the color of the leaves has changed, remove them from the boiling water and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the heat from continuing to cook the leaves.
- Remove the leaves from the ice water with the strainer ladle and put them on a plate. Pat the grape leaves with a paper towel to blot them dry.
- Repeat these steps until all of the leaves for your batch of Dolmades are blanched.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef and pour in the lemon juice. Crack two large whole large eggs and add them to the mixture. Add in the freeze-dried mint and combine all ingredients by hand; do not overmix.
- Add the chopped dill and onion to the mixture. Sprinkle in the sea salt flakes and once again combine the mixture by hand. Again, do not overwork so that the filling doesn’t become too dense.
- Add the uncooked rice to and mix until all ingredients are combined.
- To add the filling to the grape leaves, lay each grape leaf flat and add a spoonful or so of filling.
- Roll each individual grape leaf with filling (see notes in text).
- Melt butter in a pot and pack the grape leaves tightly and layer. Cover with broth, created by mixing water & Better than Bouillon, and cook at a low simmer for at least an hour or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F.
- Once cooked, remove Dolmades from pot to serve and drizzle with Avgolemono Sauce.
- Pre-step: Mix together cold water with cornstarch until all clumps have subsided and it becomes a milky liquid; set aside.
- Fill your pot with the broth remaining from the cooked Dolmades. Supplement with water and Better than Bouillon if additional liquid is needed. Let this warm up and come to a simmer.
- Crack a large whole egg and an egg white (reserve the yolk to use later) in a separate mixing bowl and beat the eggs with a hand mixer until a smooth texture is achieved.
- While beating the eggs, add in the lemon juice.
- Continue beating the mixture and add in eight egg yolks, one at a time.
- Add in the water & cornstarch mixture and continue beating with the hand mixer.
- Begin to temper combining the hot broth into the egg-lemon mixture, one ladle full at a time. Continue to beat the mixture simultaneously.
- Repeat the tempering process a handful of times until the egg mixture has warmed up. Once warm, slowly pour the mixture into the pot with the hot broth on the stovetop.
- Add salt and/or black pepper to you preferred taste and whisk all ingredients until they are smooth and fully combined.