How to make the best vegan dolma you’ll ever eat- Easy Frugal Recipe

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I absolutely love grape leaves. I can eat them day or night, vegan or with ground beef, even cold or hot. It really doesn’t matter, they still taste delicious in any form. But the process can be tricky and understanding how to roll it, takes practice.

But, I’m going to show you how I taught my 10 and 16 year old to roll like a boss. It gets easier the more you do it. And believe me, if you’ve ever tried a grape leaf, or dolma as the Greek call it, you already know it will be so worth it.

I mention here that it’s a frugal option and it was less than $7 to make this recipe because I’m making the vegan version today. The most expensive ingredient will be the jar of grape leaves, everything else is pennies, literally.

Also, I use the same pot for the whole preparation because, let’s face it…I am a full-time working mom who has no energy to wash a bunch of pots after dinner. I’m sure you can agree. So, not only does this recipe save you money, but it will save you clean up time as well.

Let’s jump in to the recipe!

The ingredients for this yummy dish are:

  • 1/2 jar of Orlando grape leaves (this brand is the best in my opinion and is about $5 at my grocery store. If you can’t find it in store, click on the link to buy it online)
  • 2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use a generic one, you can use vegetable oil if that’s what you have on hand)
  • Tomato, 1 sliced
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 brown onion, chopped finely
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (doesn’t matter the brand, I use the salted variety)
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1/2 bunch of dill
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 cup of white rice rinsed with water until water is clear, long or medium grain will do

Don’t worry, this recipe is a simple one, the hardest part is rolling your first grape leaf.

Step 1: Cook the onion in a large heavy pot with the oil on medium.

Step 2: Add in the can of tomato sauce. Once it starts to boil, cover the pot and let simmer for 7 minutes on low.

Step 3: While the tomato sauce is simmering, chop the parsley, dill and cilantro in a food processor until finely chopped.

Step 4: Turn off the heat, add the washed rice and the chopped herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste. Empty contents into a mixing bowl. Do not rinse the pot.

Step 5: Add the sliced tomatoes to the bottom of the pot to keep the grape leaves from burning and to give them some flavor.

Step 6: Rinse half of the grape leaves and put them in a colander.

Step 7: Cut the stem of the grape leaves and split them in half. This makes the process of rolling easier.

Step 8: Add a small amount of the rice mixture on the grape leaf and spread it to mimic a mini sausage.

Step 9: Fold both sides of the leaf inward and then roll like a cigar (or burrito).

Rolling grape leaves

Step 10: Add them to the pot close together so they don’t get undone while cooking.

Add to the pot 2 cups of water with the juice of both limes and salt to taste.

Lime juice

Put a ceramic plate a little smaller in size than the pot until it starts to boil.

Grape leaves pot

CAREFULLY remove the plate once it boils (I use tongs), cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. There may be excess liquid at the end, but if you taste one and the rice is fully cooked, then you can discard the excess liquid.



I know that you’re probably thinking this recipe is labor intensive, and I agree, it is. But, we usually make it on special occasions and if you bring friends or family, it finishes pretty quickly and can be a fun way to bond.

My girls and I do this together and we sit and chat. Before we know it, the pot is full, the grape leaves are done and we’re enjoying the yummy outcome.

If you try this, I’d love to know how you liked it.

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