My Greek Family’s Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe

stuffed grapes leaves


When I search for a recipe online, it drives me nuts when it’s hidden among paragraphs of narrative. With that in mind, I’ll keep this intro short. I’m often asked for my stuffed grape leaves recipe or, as my family calls them in Greek, dolmades. I find them easy to make and they are gluten, dairy and egg free. Over the years, I’ve made a few adjustments to the original recipe to make life easier and a little healthier. Traditionally served with an egg lemon sauce, avgolemno, I’ve eliminated that in favor of lots of fresh lemon juice.

Stuffed Grape Leaves Recipe


  • 1 jar grape leaves (I use Peloponnese). Blanch to tenderize and reduce bitterness.
  • 1lb ground beef, lamb, turkey or any combination of the three (I use turkey for “light days.”)
  • 1/2 cup white or brown rice, uncooked
  • 1 large onion, chopped (yellow, red or whatever you have in)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley plus ½ cup fresh mint, chopped (original recipe called for less, but I like more.)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Lemon pepper seasoning to taste (I’ve added this and like the extra punch it offers)
  • 2-3 fresh lemons (I like lots of lemon)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees (original recipe cooks the stuffed leaves on the stovetop using plates to prevent the leaves from floating– I prefer oven baking). Gently remove grape leaves from jar. They are tightly packed, but take care not to tear them. Boil for 5-10 minutes, then rinse under cold water. Set aside until ready to stuff.

In a bowl, mix the ground meat, onion, rice and chopped mint/parsley mixture. Add salt and pepper.


ingredients for greek stuffed grape leaves recipe
Cut stems off leaves, chop mint and parsley together, combine meat, rice, onion, mint and parsley


Lay out grape leaves and be sure to cut off stems. Add about 1-2 teaspoon of the meat mixture to each. Do not over stuff or the leaves will break. Use any broken leaves to patch tears. Like a burrito, fold up from the bottom then in from each side and roll tightly. Place rolled leaves in 9 x 13 baking dish or roasting pan, as shown, for a double batch.

Add water to about half to three quarters the height of the grape leaves. Salt the water and add the juice of 1-2 lemons. Leave the rinds in the pan to infuse even more lemon flavor. Cover with foil.


Stages of stuffed grape leaves preparation
Stages of preparation – Always keep an extra jar of leaves on hand in the event you get a bad jar. This batch of leaves was particularly challenging, but I managed.


Bake for 30-40 minutes.

When done, drain water and immediately drizzle with olive oil and more lemon juice. The hot grape leaves will absorb the added lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning. Serve hot or cold – yummy either way. If you’re not devouring these immediately, I like to add more oil, lemon juice and seasoning again just before serving.

I hope you enjoy this stuffed grape leaves recipe!


Optional, but I like the added flavor.
Optional, but I like the added flavor.



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Greek Easter – A Peek at Being Greek

Koulourakia (butter cookie)  - Greek Easter tradition
Koulourakia (butter cookie) Great with tea!


My Big Fat Greek Easter

On Sunday I celebrated Greek Easter. Julia posted an Instagram pic entitled “My Big Fat Greek Easter.” Yeah, it’s kind of like that. This is the one holiday when all of my aunts, uncles, cousins and their children come together with my immediate family. My sister, Karla, and her husband, Bob, host and it’s always a feast of food, family and frivolity.

Greek Easter Traditions

While our current day festivities are memorable, my most significant memories of Greek Easter come from my youth. When I was a kid, our Easter celebration took place after midnight liturgy. At church, we held burning candles and processed outside into the dark of the night.  Back in our pews, we’d wait for the chilling moment when all candles were extinguished and the packed house stood in total darkness and silence. Before that, we could always count on at least one person fainting due to heat, claustrophobia or, according to my dad, staring too long at the flame of their candle. Whatever the case, that thud of someone dropping to the floor, the pitch black church and the cloud of smoke and incense that engulfed us was unforgettable.

What I loved most, however, was leaving church and heading to my YiaYia’s to celebrate. It felt wild to be up until 4:00 am playing with my sister and cousins.

But as traditions go, this one changed and we began celebrating Easter during the day. I still miss the midnight meal and mayhem, but many of our traditions have remained and some have even taken a modern day turn for the better. To begin, Greek Easter would be nothing without certain foods and never do we take a bite without a rousing rendition of the Christos Anesti (Christ is Risen) hymn. And just like when I was little, the kids giggle and make faces at each other while the adults sing passionately in Greek.  Who am I kidding? I still giggle.

Greek Food

As for the food – here is a pictorial of some family favorites.

Dolmathes (stuffed grapeleaves), Kalamata olive and feta, Pasticio (Greek lasagna), Leg of Lamb
Dolmathes (stuffed grapeleaves), Kalamata olives and feta, Pasticio (Greek lasagna with noodles, beef and bechamel sauce), luscious Leg of Lamb. Not shown, but always an all time favorite – Spanakopita or “pita” (spinach pie with filo).


Kourabiedes, Baklava, Mavrodaphne - Greek wine
Kourabiedes (powdered shortbread cookie) and Baklava (nut, honey, filo pastry), Mavrodaphne – Greek wine.


Greek Games – Egg Cracking Contest

One tradition that has held on for as many years as I’ve been alive is the cracking of the red eggs. Greeks dye all of their eggs red in honor of the blood of Christ and we play the game of Tsougrisma (egg tapping). Cracking the egg symbolizes the breaking open of Jesus’s tomb. The game was simple when I was young. You’d randomly find someone with an uncracked egg, hit eggs and the person with the uncracked egg went on to find someone else to hit until there was only one good egg left.  Bragging rights were the only prize.


Red eggs for Greek Easter Tsougrisma
The eggs.


Today, the stakes are higher. Egg cracking is now a contest that includes tournament brackets, a trophy and memorialization on the Easter plaque. If friends stop in, they too join the fun. This year, the new girlfriend of a young family friend went all the way to the final round. If that poor girl had won there might have been a mutiny from those of us who’ve waited a lifetime for the title (John and Suzie, we’ll have our day). Instead, Auntie Carolyn took home the prize and no one could be more deserving!  I know the coveted Ultimate Egg Trophy will hold a special place in her home until next year when we do it all over again.


Greek egg cracking and "The Ultimate Egg" Trophy
The cracking of the eggs and The Thomas Family “Ultimate Egg” Trophy.


I can’t wait for more Greek Easter traditions. Christos Anesti!

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