Rachel Hunsinger's Dolmas

One day at our studio, Rachel brought us an entire Lebanese lunch. I was flabbergasted. Especially because I had never had dolmades that tasted so incredible before, and I realized I have been eating them all wrong. These, combined with hummus, tabouleh, and fantastic conversation were the highlight of my week. I begged her to share them with me, and now here you go! 

From Rachel Hunsinger, of Shanti Collective.

"One of my favorite recipes is very simple, and it’s actually something I could eat every day if I had too. Lebanese grape leaves, known by some as Dolmas or Warak Arish. The beautiful thing about this dish is that it takes time, as you have to hand roll each one. It is very helpful to have a helping set of hands".

What you will need:

1 large jar of grape leaves (best place to get these is Superstore!)

1-2 pounds of local lean ground beef (if you use less, just add extra rice)

2 cups white rice

½  tsp of cinnamon

¼ tsp of allspice

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Juice of 1-2 lemons ( I like mine lemony so I use 2 lemons)

5-8 slices of lemon (cut on the whole round)

10 garlic cloves


⅓  cup of EVOO

Yogurt dressing:

1 cup thick full fat greek yogurt

1 cup of thinly sliced cucumber

50 fresh mint leaves

Squeeze of lemon

Salt & pepper to taste.

** this recipe will yield you about 100-130 grape leaves depending on how big your leaves are** if you want to make a smaller batch you can easily half this, however they keep well and are awesome to take for lunch!

  1. Drain grape vine leaves and soak them in a large bowl of water. Gently separate and wash the leaves, stack them on a plate and set them aside.
  2. Here is where we use our hands to get into it. Remove any rings. Place your beef, rice, spices and salt & pepper in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands, get in there! Mix well.
  3. Begin stuffing and rolling the rest of the grape leaves.
  4. Place a grape leaf flat with the veins facing up, scoop about 1 heaping teaspoon of the rice/meat  mixture into the end/bottom of the grape leaf and carefully roll and fold in the sides and roll it like you would when making a wrap. Make sure that it is rolled tightly enough not to unravel when cooking, but not too tightly because the rice needs some room to expand when cooking.
  5. Neatly arrange the stuffed and rolled grape leaves in rows, alternating directions, to completely cover the circumference of the pot, in as many layers as necessary until you have rolled and arranged all of them. As you are filling your pot, add garlic cloves in, layering them as you go. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of EVOO between layers and on top.
  6. Top with thinly sliced lemon.
  7. Place a small plate or pot lid directly on top of the leaves, to prevent them from floating while they cook.
  8. Add water, ⅓  cup of EVOO and lemon juice so that it is completely covering the grape leaf rolls and reach the plate or pot lid.
  9. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium and let simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 1-2 hours or until all of the water has been absorbed.
  10. Since cooking time varies by stovetop, taste the grape leaves, and if the rice still seems undercooked, you can add 1/4 cup of water and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat and let cool uncovered until you can handle them with your fingers, then carefully transfer them to a serving dish, one by one.

Dressing: this one's simple.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Serve a large dollop on or beside your grape leaves!