Vegan Dolmas are Naturally Allergy-Friendly Middle Eastern Appetizers


I appreciate my friend Caroline for introducing me to Dolmas. In her Greek-Persian household they’re a tradition, and served at almost every party they host. Sometimes they buy them, but sometimes she takes the trouble to make them. And oh-my, they are delicious! Dolmas are naturally quite allergy-friendly, but they are often filled with meat. This particular recipe for vegan dolmas is completely meat-free, and was shared with us by Chef Jason Wyrick.

Vegan Dolmas Recipe - naturally free of dairy, gluten and soy, with nut-free option. Homemade chef-created recipe.

Vegan Dolmas are Naturally Allergy-Friendly Middle Eastern Appetizers

Jason created this recipe back when he was running the Vegan Culinary Experience e-magazine. These days, he channels his energies into his vegan meal delivery service in Arizona, but he still makes delicious recipes like these vegan dolmas. And, in case you want to make his recipe at home, he has some notes and tips …

Dolmas are a commitment, though well worth the effort [and very fun to make!]. I like to spend a weekend afternoon doing a large batch of them and then snack on them throughout the week.


I like to arrange these in rows on a platter with a hearty serving of olives. You can also garnish these with fresh parsley, diced tomatoes, and lemon slices.

Time Management

Dolmas are a lot of work, but they are easy to make in large batches and they get better as they sit, so I suggest taking the time to make a very large batch and then storing most of them in containers, saving a few to snack on the day you make them.

Complementary Food and Drinks

My favorite way to serve these is as part of a mezze platter with olives, hummus, babaganoush, and tomato stewed green beans.

Where to Shop

All of the ingredients for the dolmas should be commonly available except for the grape leaves. For those, you may have to try a Middle Eastern market or a gourmet market.

How It Works

Often, the leaves are a bit tough when coming out of the can or jar, so they need to be boiled to make them pliable. This also washes away some of the salt on them. For the filling, the onion and sundried tomatoes are minced so you don’t get large pieces of them relative to the small size of the dolmas. The onion is sautéed to soften it and bring out the sweetness. The rice is then added to the pot and toasted for a couple minutes to create a deeper, rich flavor. Then the spices and sundried tomatoes are added with the water to cook down into the rice. The rice will not be completely soft at this point, but that’s good because the stuffed dolmas are going to boil in water and the rice will absorb the rest of the liquid it needs. The stuffed dolmas are boiled to soften them further and to get the flavors to meld. A layer of leaves is placed on the bottom of the skillet or pot so that those will stick to the bottom and not the delicate dolmas. These then rest so they can absorb the lemon juice and olive oil and come down to room temperature.

Interesting Facts

Dolma means “stuffed veggie.” Thus, dolmas can be made from cabbage, eggplant, peppers, etc.
These are often called sarma because the Turkish word dolmak means stuffed and the Turkish
word sarmak means wrapped.

Vegan Dolmas Recipe - naturally free of dairy, gluten and soy, with nut-free option. Homemade chef-created recipe.

Special Diet Notes: Vegan Dolmas

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, vegan, plant-based, and vegetarian.

Vegan Dolmas
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Preparing these in advance, and serving them up with a platter of olives, hummus, babaganoush, and tomato stewed green beans will offer a flavorful spread (with a cool theme!) that is open to most special diets, from vegan to gluten-free.
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Serves: 8 servings
  • 1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, minced
  • ¾ cup uncooked rice
  • 5 to 6 sundried tomatoes, minced
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts (an omit for nut-free)
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoon minced fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 2 to 3 ounces grape leaves
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  1. Heat the 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and sauté for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and ⅜ cup water.
  4. Bring this to a simmer, and cook until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid.
  5. Stir the dill and parsley into the partially cooked rice.
  6. Unfold the grape leaves. If the grape leaves are very briny, rinse them with water.
  7. Boil the grape leaves enough water to cover them by at least 3 inches for about 5 minutes. Remove and let them cool.
  8. Place 1 tablespoon filling along one side of a leaf. Fold over the sides, the roll the leaf into a tight cigar shape. If there are tears in the leaf, you can shore them with other grape leaves. Repeat this with the filling and the other leaves.
  9. Place a layer of leaves in the bottom of a pot. Place the stuffed grape leaves tightly in the pot.
  10. Add 1 cup water to the pot and place the pot over medium-low heat. Place a plate on top of the stuffed grape leaves to keep them from unfurling. Cook the stuffed grape leaves for 20 minutes.
  11. Add in 1 ½ cups additional hot water and simmer for 15 more minutes.
  12. Drizzle the lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil on the finished grape leaves.
  13. Remove them and allow them to come to room temperature.

More Middle Eastern Style Vegan Recipes

Bean Salad with a Creamy Vegan Za’atar Dressing

Middle Eastern-Inspired Bean Salad

Halvah Shortbread

Vegan Halvah Shortbread Recipe

Sweet Potato Falafel Bowls with Tahini Dressing 

Sweet Potato Falafel Bowls Recipe with Quinoa, Kale, and Tahini Dressing - plant-based and dairy-free with vegan option.


About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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