IRAQ: Dolma


60 dolmas

Ready In:

1h 45min

Good For:

Side, appetizer


About this Recipe

By: Ahlam

Found throughout the Middle East and surrounding regions, dolma is a traditional dish that typically consists of grape leaves and other variants of vegetables stuffed with a combination of meat, rice, and vegetables.

iraq on a map


  • 1 c. uncooked rice (basmati or jasmine is best)
  • 1 lbs. lamb meat, minced
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) grape leaves
  • 1 small to medium sized eggplant
  • 1 small head cabbage
  • 2/3 c. olive oil
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 medium to large sized potato
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3/4 c. tomato sauce
  • Spice mix (1 pinch ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. coriander, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. cloves, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. paprika)
  • 6 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • Sugar (as needed, to balance out lemon and salt)
  • 1 can of lima beans
  • Chicken (enough to cover bottom of large pot)

Ahlam is from Iraq. She arrived to Pittsburgh as a refugee in 2016. She loves making dolma for her family and friends. She has been told it is one of her best dishes.

Because dolma is eaten throughout the Middle East, Southeast Europe, and North Africa, each person makes it their own way. This is just one of the many ways to make this delicious dish!

dolma on a plate
ingredients for dolma


Step 1

Prep: Soak rice in hot water for 10 minutes and drain. 

Step 2

Prep: Soak grape leaves in hot water for 20 min. and drain.

Step 3

Prep: Cut stem off cabbage and allow leaves to slightly soften in boiling water.

Step 4

Prep: Brown both sides of chicken and place in the bottom of a large pot.

Step 5

Prep: Core the eggplant; chop up the inside into very small pieces. Save the shell.

Step 6

Prep: Chop up the tomatoes, potatoes, onions, celery, and garlic into very small pieces.

Step 7

In a large bowl, mix together rice, minced lamb, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, parsley, and garlic.

Step 8

In another bowl, mix together the tomato paste, tomato sauce, pomegranate molasses, lemon, salt, seasoning mix, and a little bit of sugar.

Step 9

Combine these two bowls and mix together.

Step 10

Place and roll the rice mixture inside the grape leaves. Place each roll into the pot on top of the chicken to form one layer.

Step 11

After that layer, stuff the mixture inside the eggplant and make another layer on top of the grape leaves. Do the same with the cabbage leaves.

Step 12

Continue to do this, making sure to end the final layer with either grape leaves or cabbage leaves. (It’s best to have fewer layers so that it cooks better.) If you want, you can put lima beans over the top layer.

Step 14

Pour in the oil and pour in enough water to reach 1” below the top layer. You can also add in additional lemon juice, salt, and pomegranate molasses.

Step 15

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 35 minutes or until rice is cooked. (If water gets low and the rice is still uncooked, you can add more water.)

Step 16

Once finished, serve and enjoy!