Dolma

Dolmas are a family of stuffed or wrapped vegetable dishes in Ottoman cuisine.

Lastest Updated January 6, 2024
Verified by A-Z Cuisines Team
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Fact: The Azerbaijani art of making dolma was inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2017.

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Basic Information

Dolma: Basic Information

Pronunciation

/doll-mah/

Alternative Name(s)

Dolması, tolma, dolmeh, mahshi

Dish Type

Rolls, snacks

Course

Appetizer, Main Course

Mealtime

Anytime
Origin and Region

Dolma: Origin and Region

Origin

Ottoman Empire (modern-day Turkey and North Africa)

Continent’s Region

West Asia, Southern Europe, North Africa

Country’s Region

Unspecified

Associated Region

Unspecified
Turkey Map
A Deep Dive

Popular Dolma Variations

Ingredients and Preparation

Dolma: Ingredients and Preparation

Main Ingredients

Vegetables, rice, and minced meat

Main Cooking Method

Simmering

Preparation Process

Preparing the stuffed or wrapped vegetables and cooking them in broth
A Deep Dive

Dolma: A Deep Dive

Cultural Significance

One of the most popular dishes associated with Ottoman cuisine

Taste

Savory

Texture

Tender and slightly chewy

Aroma

Herby and slightly tangy

Color

Deep green, brownish-green, or olive green

Serving Style

Eaten by hand or with a fork

Serving Temperature

Hot or at room temperatures

Accompaniment

  1. Sauces (especially yogurt-based ones) and dips
  2. Rice and flatbread
  3. Olives
  4. Salads and pickles

Occasions

Festivals

Seasons

Year-round

Special Diets

Gluten-free

Calories

40 calories, according to data of Nutritionix for one dolma (30 grams) made of grape leaves and minced meat

Popularity

  1. West Asia: Turkey, Iran, Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia
  2. Central Asia: Uzbekistan
  3. North Africa: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria
  4. The Balkans: Greece, Albania, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  5. Others: Moldova, Cyprus, Romania, Sweden

Popular Similar Dishes

  1. Cabbage Roll
  2. Chile Relleno

Popular Dining Area

Local households, restaurants, eateries

Dolma, literally “stuffed,” is a collection of Ottoman dishes made by stuffing vegetables or leaf wrappings with various ingredients.

Dolma Overview

More specifically, dolmas refer to both styles, while wrapped ones are often called sarma (literally “wrapped”). Many types of cabbage rolls are famous dolma variations.

Dolmas are widely enjoyed as an appetizer (mezze) or entree in numerous countries that formerly constituted the Ottoman Empire.

This stuffed dish is highly versatile in terms of flavors, ingredients, and accompaniments, with each cuisine having its unique spin on dolmas.

Dolmas are excellent for both everyday and holiday meals, usually served at iftar (the evening fast-breaking meal during Ramadan), Eid al-Fitr (a major Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan), and Nowruz (Persian New Year).

Dolmas are even considered the national dish of Azerbaijan, whose art of making dolma was recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2017.

Keep on reading if you want to know everything about dolmas, such as their history, main ingredients, and well-known variations.

I will also delve into the pros and cons of consuming dolmas, commonly asked questions about them, and similar dishes.

Key Points

  • Dolmas are dishes consisting of vegetables stuffed or wrapped around a mix of savory ingredients.
  • The ingredients for making the exterior and filling of dolmas are very varied.
  • Sarmas refer to dolmas prepared exclusively by wrapping vegetable leaves around a filling.
  • There are many variations of dolmas in countries that were part of the former Ottoman Empire.
  • Dolmas are a healthy dish suitable for every meal and occasion.

Dolma Images

What Is the History of Dolmas?

Many modern dolma recipes were first recorded in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.

However, the precursors of dolmas are stuffed fig leaves that date to ancient Greece and were probably incorporated into Ottoman cuisine after the Ottoman acquisition of Greece in the 15th century.

Since then, dolmas were introduced to various lands under Ottoman control. “Dolma” is a Turkish name, and it became popular thanks to the spread of Ottoman cuisine.

The use of cabbage leaves in making dolmas hails from Ottoman and Persian cuisines, as farmers used them as a winter staple in the past.

In the 18th century, when King Charles XII of Sweden returned from his exile in the Ottoman Empire, he introduced cabbage rolls to his home country.

Now that you have a grasp of dolmas’ history, let’s dig into its main ingredients.

What Are Dolmas Made of?

Most dolmas are created from the combination of the following 7 groups of ingredients:

IngredientsCharacteristics
VegetablesMainly used for preparing the exterior of dolmas

Common options for stuffed dolmas: tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.

Common options for wrapped dolmas: cabbage, grape leaves, chard, kale, etc.

Optional vegetables for the filling: onions, tomato paste, carrots, lentils, etc.
GrainsBasmati rice or barley (in some Jewish dolma recipes)
ProteinCommonly made with ground beef or lamb as the filling

Can feature seafood (like mussels, calamari, or fish) or offal (like spleen and intestines) as an encasing
FruitsCan substitute vegetables with quinces, apples, or plums in sweet dolmas
Herbs and SpicesMint, parsley, cilantro, dill, black pepper, etc.
Cooking LiquidBroth or a mixture of water, olive oil, lemon juice, etc.
Extra IngredientsOlive oil, nuts, pomegranate molasses, tomato sauce or paste, etc.

To see how wonderfully these ingredients combine with one another, you only need to look at the diversity of dolma variations.

What Are Popular Variations of Dolma?

Below are the 27 most renowned dolma variations:

Dolmade

Origin: Greece

Key Ingredients: Grape leaves, rice, minced meat, onions, herbs, olive oil

Greek version of stuffed grape leaves
Dolmeh

Origin: Iran

Key Ingredients: Grape leaves, rice, minced meat, onions, garlic, split peas, herbs, spices

Iranian version of stuffed grape leaves
Tolma

Origin: Armenia, Georgia

Key Ingredients: Grape leaves, rice, minced meat, onions, tomato sauce, herbs, spices

  • Popular variant of dolma in the Caucasus
  • Served with garlic yogurt sauce
Yarpaq Dolmasi

Origin: Azerbaijan

Key Ingredients: Grape leaves, rice, minced meat, onions, herbs

  • Has a smaller size and a round or square shape
  • Served with garlic yogurt sauce
Warak Enab

Origin: Arabic countries, especially Lebanon

Key Ingredients: Grape leaves, rice, minced meat, onions, Middle Eastern spices, olive oil

Arabic version of stuffed grape leaves
Yalançı Dolma

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Grape leaves, rice, onions, herbs

  • Literally means “fake dolma”
  • Also known as yalanchi
  • A vegetarian dish
Pasuts Tolma

Origin: Armenia

Key Ingredients: Cabbage leaves, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, bulgur, onions, tomato paste, dried sour plums, spices, herbs

  • Known as Lenten dolma in English
  •  Armenian version of cabbage rolls
  • A vegetarian dish usually served during Lent and Christmas
Kåldolmar

Origin: Sweden

Key Ingredients: Cabbage leaves, ground meat, potatoes, onions, rice, milk, cream, spices

Swedish version of cabbage rolls
Lahana Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Cabbage leaves, ground meat, bulgur, onions, tomato paste, rice, spices

  • Also known as Lahana sarması
  • Turkish version of cabbage rolls
Kelem Dolmasi

Origin: Azerbaijan

Key Ingredients: Cabbage leaves, ground meat, chickpeas, onions, tomato paste, rice, spices

Azerbaijani version of cabbage rolls
Dolmeh Kalam

Origin: Iran

Key Ingredients: Cabbage leaves, ground meat, chickpeas, onions, tomato paste, rice, spices, nuts (for toppings)

Iranian version of cabbage rolls
Malfouf Mahshi

Origin: The Levant and the Arab states of the Gulf

Key Ingredients: Cabbage leaves, ground meat, onions, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, rice, mint, spices

  • Also known as mahashi malfoof
  • Levantine and Arabic version of cabbage rolls
Mahshi Kuronb

Origin: Egypt

Key Ingredients: Cabbage leaves, ground meat, onions, tomatoes, tomato paste, rice, spices

Egyptian version of cabbage rolls
Halep Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Eggplants, ground meat, rice, spices, sour plum syrup or lemon juice

  • Stuffed eggplant dish
  • Named after the Syrian city of Aleppo
Soğan Dolması

Origin: Bosnia

Key Ingredients: Onions, minced meat, rice, tomato puree, paprika, spices

  • Stuffed onion dish
  • A specialty of the city of Mostar
  • Usually served with yogurt or sour cream
Enginar Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Artichoke hearts, seasoned rice, spices, olive oil

  • Stuffed artichoke heart dish
  • Usually served as a vegetarian dish
Midye Dolma

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Mussels, seasoned rice, spices

  • Known as stuffed mussels in English
  • Popular street food in many Turkish coastal cities
Kalamar Dolma

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Squids, cheese, onions, garlic, bread crumbs, herbs, tomato sauce

  • Stuffed calamari dish
  • Cooked by frying or baking
Uskumru Dolma

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Mackerel, onions, dried fruits, nuts, spices, lemon juice

  • Stuffed mackerel dish
  • Especially popular in Istanbul
  • Made by baking or grilling
Sardalya Dolma

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Sardines, cheese, onions, tomatoes, herbs

  • Stuffed sardine dish
  • Usually served as an appetizer at traditional taverns
Dalak Dolması

Origin: Armenia

Key Ingredients: Spleens, seasoned rice, spices

  • Stuffed spleen dish
  • Often served with local anise-flavored liquors
Mumbar Dolma

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Intestines, mutton, rice, spices

  • A type of sausage
  • Also known as mumbar or bumbar
  • Cooked by boiling and, subsequently, frying
Şekerli Ayva Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Quinces, sugar, spices

Stuffed quince dish
Biber Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Bell peppers, ground meat, rice, onions, tomato paste, spices

Stuffed bell pepper dish
Kabak Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Zucchini, ground meat, rice, onions, tomato paste, spices, herbs

Stuffed zucchini dish
Patlıcan Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Eggplants, ground meat, rice, onions, tomato paste, spices, herbs

  • Stuffed eggplant dish
  • Usually made with dried eggplants
Domates Dolması

Origin: Turkey

Key Ingredients: Tomatoes, ground meat, rice, onions, tomato paste, spices, herbs

  • Stuffed tomato dish
  • Usually cooked by baking or grilling

Since you are well-versed in how numerous dolma variations are, I will introduce you to the advantages and disadvantages of consuming dolmas.

Pros and Cons of Eating Dolma

Dolmas offer many benefits but present several challenges, which are as follows:

Pros

  • Cultural Significance: Dolmas are deeply rooted in many cultures and are associated with family gatherings, traditions, and celebrations.
  • Versatility: This group of stuffed vegetable dishes can incorporate various fillings, including meat, rice, herbs, and fruits. In addition, dolmas are excellent for all meals and occasions.
  • Nutritional Value: Dolma are a source of various nutrients, such as protein from meat, carbs from rice, healthy fats from olive oil, and fiber and antioxidants from vegetables.
  • Dietary Options: Dolma can be easily adapted to fit vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free diets by omitting certain ingredients from the filling.
  • Satiety: Thanks to the diversity of their filling, dolmas are a highly satisfying dish. Even better, the stuffed vegetables are enjoyed in individual pieces, so you can easily adjust your portion size.

Cons

  • Time-consuming Preparation: Preparing dolma from scratch can be labor-intensive, especially when wrapping individual grape leaves.
  • Sodium Content: Many dolma recipes use preserved grape leaves, which can be high in sodium. Additionally, some versions might use salty ingredients in the filling.
  • Potential for Overcooking: The rice inside the dolma can become overcooked and mushy if not monitored closely.

After going through the strengths and weaknesses of dolmas, why don’t you discover other aspects of this stuffed dish in the FAQs section?

Dolma FAQs

Yes, dolmas are a healthy dish since they contain many wholesome ingredients with diverse nutritional values, especially vegetables. In addition, dolmas are cooked by boiling, which is a generally healthy food preparation technique.

Yes, there are many dolma varieties that don’t use meat or other animal-derived products.

Yes, most dolmas are naturally gluten-free. However, some variations in the Middle East may incorporate wheat or bulgur.

Yes, you can freeze both cooked and uncooked dolmas to prolong their shelf life. Frozen dolmas can last 3 months.

Dolmas often contain ingredients that aren’t safe for dogs in large amounts, such as garlic and grape leaves. Therefore, while canines can consume a small number of dolmas, it’s best for them to avoid dolmas altogether.

Dolmas hail from Ottoman cuisine and are popular in Turkey, Greece, and many countries formerly belonging to the Ottoman Empire. But Turkey and Greece offer many famous dolma varieties widely enjoyed in neighboring countries.

Yes, dolmas are a safe and healthy dish for people with diabetes.

Yes, you can reheat dolmas in the microwave or in the oven. In case you choose to microwave dolmas, don’t forget to put the stuffed vegetables in a saucepan with some water.

Fresh grape leaves generally yield more delicious dolmas than preserved ones, but the latter is easier to find.

Similar Dishes of Dolma

Adam Sam

Adam Sam

Senior Food and Drink Editor

Expertise

Food Writer & Recipe Developer, Recipe Tester, Bartender, Cooking-video Maker, Editor In Chief

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  • University of Gastronomic Sciences – Pollenzo (Italy) (MA Food Culture, Communication & Marketing)
  • Johnson & Wales University (US) (Baking and Pastry Arts)
  • Professional Bartender at HNAAu School (Vietnam, International Joint Training Program)

Adam Sam, an experienced food writer and recipe developer, is passionate about blending diverse culinary traditions, national dishes, and innovative beverages, showcasing his proficiency in both traditional and modern recipe testing.

As the Editor-in-Chief, he elevates culinary content from street food to fine dining, focusing on Western cuisine and types of drinks at azcuisines.com, and is professional in creating engaging cooking videos that simplify complex dishes and ingredients.

His passion for food is evident in his writing, where he uniquely merges various cultures, traditions, and contemporary trends, skillfully combining classic recipes with modern cooking methods.

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